Series on How to Write About Someone – Part 2

This is the second part in a series of articles about writing a biography, or a story on someone’s life. This series of articles will discuss what a biography is, how to prepare for writing a biography, and helpful strategies for good biography writing.
For the first part of this series see Writing a Biography – Getting Started.

2. Find out the Basics About The Person

Series on How to Write About Someone – Part 2The aim is find out some basic facts and information on the person’s life. Try to come up with a timeline of events.

  1. When were they born (and died if they are no longer alive)
  2. Where did they grow up
  3. Where did they live
  4. Family information
  5. Major accomplishments in his/her life
  6. Important events in his/her life
  7. Effects or impact of person on society

These are basic facts that can usually be found via articles or Internet sites (if the person is well known). If the subject is well known by the author then they may already know these facts and can note them down.

3. Get Researching

Research is a vital aspect to preparing for writing a biography. No matter now well a subject and subject matter are know, research can provide the detail that supplements and enhances the biography.
With some preliminary information, the biography writer can now get digging. If the subject is famous it’s possible that books have already been written about them. Consider other people that might have known them and refer to their biographies and autobiographies.
Search the Internet and catalogues at libraries for recently published books and other material on your subject. This might include newspaper and magazine articles, internet material, book, films, and television footage.
Good note taking is essential. Research can turn into a lot of files and paper and it can be difficult to find notes or return to publications at a later date, without good notes.

4. Get Personal

Good sources of personal information include letters, diaries and photographs. These can provide information beyond basic facts, such as how the person was feeling and other events that may have been going on at the time.

5. Get Talking

If it’s possible, people who know or knew your subject are great sources of information and material. Arrange interviews with people who can provide facts and details. This will greatly supplement research material. Consider also others who have an interest in the subject: perhaps museums, special interest groups, historical societies, colleges and universities.
Good Interviewing Techniques will improve the quality and value of your research.

6. Understand the Time Period

When writing a biography it’s important to also understand the time period in which the person lives or lived (or it could be just a period of his or her life). This helps bring the writing to life for the reader and puts the writing in historical context. What else was going on during this period? Did any major events have an impact on the subject?