April A to Z Day 2: Biographical

Biographical information is an important element of writing, for many different reasons.

Click for A-Z blog list

Click for A-Z blog list

If you’re carefulnot to make too much of it, the biography of an author might tell you something about his or her work. Biography can be a powerful nonfiction technique, and it can also generate some interesting fiction.

One of my favorite fictional biographies is Bjorn Larsson’s Long John Silver: The True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure as a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy of Mankind, which includes references to the events of Treasure Island from Silver’s perspective. In one of my favorite nonfiction books, The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of the Old Order, 1905-1922, Edmond Taylor uses a lot biographical information on important turn-of-the century European figures to explore the causes of World War I.

Then we have autobiography. I often incorporate autobiographical information into my blogging, especially when I’m talking about a big issue or a set of abstract ideas. I find that readers respond to those posts more positively if I can find a way to personalize them. In this post, for example, I explain my vision for the blogs I’m involved with. I frame it as a conversation between Diana and I because I think that makes it more interesting, and above all, more readable than it would be otherwise.

I consider most autobiography to be creative nonfiction, because when one is writing about oneself, it’s nearly impossible to keep from taking at least a small amount of license with the facts as they actually occurred. Many of my favorite blog posts are pieces that read like memoirs.

image by Kindovermatter.com, pinned by Part Time Monster.

 

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18 thoughts on “April A to Z Day 2: Biographical

  1. I’m not a huge fan of reading straight-up biographies, but reading a fictional biography might be fun. However, I enjoy reading autobiographies (memoirs, usually) because it is cool to see how authors give insight into their own lives and experiences.

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  2. I pretty much read only non-fiction right now, including biographies. I will have to check out that one you mention above!

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    • I mostly read nonfiction myself, these days. I take the fiction in spells. Sometimes I’ll read nothing but fiction for months, but at the moment, I’m mostly reading for information.

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  3. I love the ideas you pose (well in the two or three posts I’ve read so far). I think biographies are dryer than the driest spot on earth. But I love when a biographical information and experiences are used in a fictional account like In the Shadow of the Banyan. Memoirs are okay, at least they are readable as compared to a biography. (I really can’t get past a bare listing of facts.) Cheers. http://perspectiveofawriter.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/b-brimstone/

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  4. It’s funny how many people say they don’t like biographies, because biography and military history are the two evergreen history genres. (Also the two that most historians don’t gravitate to writing.) It must be a niche.

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    • Well, as long, complex projects go, biographies would seem to be easier and more straightforward than most, as long as you can find enough primary source material. I did not know they were evergreen.

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      • I’ve always found biographical papers to be the easiest to write, but not really the most fun to research or read. Probably that holds up for longer projects. (My personal preference is thematic stuff, things like “Forks in History” or what-have-you.) I don’t have a theory for why they’re the most popular historical genre though, except that obviously the average person doesn’t want to read a book about corn symbolism in 1500s Mesoamerica or whatever.

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  5. B is for Behind in my Reading!

    Great post! I think one of the great autobiographical fiction fantasies still in the works right now is Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles.

    Speaking of Pat Rothfuss, actually, you should check out the show he ran over on Geek & Sundry on YouTube called The Story Board. They only did about 8 episodes, but the conversations were with storied writers (pun intended!) and were pretty good. Actually, not sure I watched all of them…

    https://www.youtube.com/user/geekandsundry/search?query=the+story+board

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  6. Pingback: Posts I loved this week | Taylor Grace

  7. Pingback: Things I know now that I didn’t know on April 1: An A to Z Reflection | The Writing Catalog

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