1. divided_crown

    divided_crown Member

    Oct 4, 2010
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    Aberystwyth, United Kingdom

    Writing an Autobiography (for someone else)

    Discussion in 'Non-Fiction' started by divided_crown, Jul 27, 2013.

    Note: I might even have gotten the terminology wrong. This *might* be more of a memoir, but please forgive the inaccuracy.

    My father is 70 years old, and has so far lived a very interesting life. He is very fond of telling his life's story, and remembers even minor details and weaves them together in quite interesting ways. Now, this a project I have been thinking about for a very long time (from my desire to preserve his story for my children, since I know my life will be quite boring in comparison), and one which I am very determined to start on pretty soon.

    The problem: I'm a fiction writer. I've never done 'true' nonfiction, nor have I ever attempted anything remotely biographical (except for fictional biographies.

    I am therefore turning to you, dear WF community, for help. Can you recommend any guides/books on writing an autobiography or interviewing someone for the purpose of biography? I'd also appreciate any personal experiences, do's and dont's, and so forth.
  2. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Mar 17, 2013
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    Isn't autobiography a biography written by the person whose life is depicted in the book? Like, say, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers?
    You could also start by reading memoirs and biographies to learn more about the approach(es). Angela's Ashes and 'Tis by Frank McCourt are very entertaining and introduce several goals for the reader to look forward (like Frank planning to move to the US and his struggles to make enough money, the conflict of not wanting to leave his mom alone with a child army or wondering whether the dead-beat dad does come back to take care of them, etc.). Google is probably your friend here if you want to find guides for the subject, but I'd imagine the same goes with biographies as in fiction: you want to pick up the relevant, the interesting, and put them together into a more or less coherent whole with a story arch (or several).
  3. sanco

    sanco New Member

    Mar 4, 2013
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    You should read "The Fiftieth Gate" by Mark Raphael Baker.
  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    If it's someone else, it's a biography. I suppose if you wrote it in first person, it would have the feel of an autobiography, but I think it would be more interesting if you wrote it through someone else's point of view; someone such as your actual self.

    Do you really like to hear someone ramble on about himself? Autobiographies have that characteristic. "Hey, this is my life, isn't it fascinating?"

    Usually not, unless you already are fascinated by the person. Your father is undoubtedly fascinating - to you.

    If you want others to see him as fascinating, and he isn't already famous, why not show him through your on eyes? What about his life inspires you to write about him, apart from the familial aspects.
  5. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    first, the terms:

    an 'autobiography' is a person telling about his/her entire life, from birth on...

    a 'biography' is someone writing the entire life story of another person...

    a 'memoir' is a person telling about a significant period in his/her own life...

    if you write the first or third as a ghostwriter [someone who does the writing for a person who can't write it himself], then it's written in first person, as if you are your father telling about 'your' life...

    if you write the second, you would write it in third person...

    as for books to help you learn to do any of those, you don't need to read 'guides' or 'how-tos'... just read/study the best-written books of that genre, to see how the best writers did it... you can learn all you need to know that way...

    i've ghostwritten/rewritten some, so if you need any help/info/advice along the way, feel free to email me any time...

    love and hugs, maia

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