A biography is simply the story of a life. Biographies can be just a few sentences long, or they can fill an entire book—or two.
- Very short biographies tell the basic facts of someone’s life and importance.
- Longer biographies include that basic information of course, with a lot more detail, but they also tell a good story.
Biographies analyze and interpret the events in a person’s life. Biographies are usually about famous, or infamous people, but a biography of an ordinary person can tell us a lot about a particular time and place. They are often about historical figures, but they can also be about people still living.
Many biographies are written in chronological order.
Biographers use primary and secondary sources:
- Primary sources are things like letters, diaries, or newspaper accounts.
- Secondary sources include other biographies, reference books, or histories that provide information about the subject of the biography, usually by people who were not there at the time of the event. They are reporting what they have heard or been told.
To write a biography you should:
- Select a person you are interested in (For this U.o.I. we will be looking at a Significant Person)
- Find out the basic facts of the person’s life. Start with books. They will be at your reading level and easier to read and understand.
- Think about what else you would like to know about the person, and what parts of the life you want to write most about. Some questions you might want to think about include:
- What makes this person special or interesting?
- What kind of effect did he or she have on the world? Other people?
- What are the adjectives you would most use to describe the person?
- What examples from their life illustrate those qualities?
- What events shaped or changed this person’s life?
- How did he or she overcome obstacles? Take risks? Get lucky?
- Would the world be better or worse if this person hadn’t lived? How and why?
- Do additional research at your library or on the Internet to find information that helps you answer these questions and tell an interesting story.
- Write your biography. We will follow a NON-FICTION WRITING STRUCTURE to do this.
You can browse these short biographies of Selected Figures from Recent History.