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About Writing a Biography

 


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The “unauthorized" biography of Steven Spielberg starts like this:

The power of the popular American culture is in the straightness of the message, simple and limited in significance and scope . . . Steven inherited that tradition. It is a biography by John Baxter and there is no other visible structure in the book than the 19 chapters.

Writing a biography is a process. You start writing or gathering information in a chronicle way. That is the easiest way to start. But a biography has to add something to this timeline. Like a character in a novel you could ask where did he change? Or, did he at all?

The Biography of George Soros also unauthorized and written by Michael T. Kaufman, is structured like this:

  1. Roots
  2. Make money
  3. Donate money

The added value of this structure is that it outlines the main ingredients like a summery. This serves as a guide for the reader. The disadvantage is that you could decide not to read the book, because you know the summery. But you will miss important details like in this case about the role of philosophy in his life.

The biography of Bill Gates isn't structured either and the book finishes with: the process of the century. We all know about this process. This biography is written in a chronological way.

If you think about your own life you come up with all kind of geographical information. Where have you been, Where have you lived, What environmental factors have influenced your life? Besides these contextual influences the family life is a main force behind someone's biography. The “Roots" of George came from Erzebet and Tivadar. You could extent this with the family life when growing up. In case of Henry VIII it could offer a presentation of the eight women in his life.

More information that comes up from someone's biography should fit somewhere in the final work. As it is a process, the last of the work is the real understanding. What kind of woman or man was he or she?

A new biography of Bill Gates could fit in the same structure of that of George: Roots, Make money and Donate money. But at the same time this structure will not really fit. Soros was a financial investor, Gates an Entrepreneur. The safest way is to offer no structure at all. It would be a pity if structure of your choice doesn't fit the character you have described. . .

© 2008 Hans Bool

Hans Bool writes articles about management, culture and change. If you are interested to read or experience more about these topics have a look at: Astor White .

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