Writing a Biography: 6 Things I Learned about the Pre-Planning Phase

Writing a Biography: Pre-Planning

If you have the urge to write a biography of a famous or not-so-famous person, your first task is to choose the ideal subject who will interest you and your readers. If you have chosen to write on an individual who is not classified as a "celebrity," then see if you can dig up some general background information on the subject. Don't worry if not much information exists. As a biographer it is your duty to develop research and interview methods to capture and connect factual information about the subject.

How do you find a subject who will interest you and  your readers? You can peruse published articles, memoirs, historical documents, archived news pieces, diaries, and so on. Once you have done some basic research, ask yourself if this subject stirs your interest and curiosity. If not, decide on choosing a different subject.

Here are six things I learned about pre-planning a biography:

1) Research your subject's gender, social class, native language, religion and ethnic background. In addition, research the subject's location, educational background, occupation, and view of politics.

2) How did the subject's life accumulate personal qualities (personality, wit, attitude, appeal), as well as simple and specific sociological dispositions (social rank, sex and race). Think of how your subject might have traversed from one chapter of his/her life to the next.

All of the above attributes will help you write the biography in a context that matches the lifestyle of the subject.

3) Sometimes it is not practical to cover the entire lifespan of your subject. You can focus on a specific period of time or a specific event.

4) Seek out special extraordinary events that happened in your subject's life to help you plan a storyline and/or plot for your biography. Extraordinary events will add depth and personality to your subject's life.

5) For research material, you can use published, unpublished, and audio/video sources. Just be sure each is credible and factual.

6) The key to writing a fantastic biography is to thoroughly enlist your imagination, creativity, and resourcefulness. Solid research and writing skills are essential, but so is having fun during the process.

I welcome your comments or additional tips. Use the Comment form below.

Brian Scott