Whose biography do you want to write? Is it someone famous you don’t actually know? I asked a famous politician once and received a kind but firm reply in the negative. So how do you choose a subject?
It seems to me there are three possibilities.
- The person you write about has to be famous enough for people to want to read about them.
- Another option is to write so well that celebrities desire your attention and publishers line up to take your work.
- If these opportunities do not come your way, look for such a remarkable life story that people will be pleased to read it.
Perhaps there is a half-formed mystery hiding in the back of your mind. Perhaps you have questions that are too vague to put into words. Perhaps the pointers are there and you just have to step down the path. For me, it was making contact with the
in . Winchester, UK
The thing to do is to start looking. Start with the mundane, the facts about your character. Gather your papers, photos, documents, books. Decide on your time and space frame: that is, rule up a time line and draw a map. Search the internet for historical and genealogical information. Read history within your time frame; in the world, the country and the locality of your setting to determine what would affect your character. Love and hate, war and peace, birth and death are compelling themes in any story.
When your facts are in order, find out all you can about the person’s character. Even if this is someone very close to you, like a parent, get to know them all over again through other people’s eyes. You need to be emotionally engaged as well as objective.
I wrote my parents’
little by little, over about six months, each week including another instalment
in my family letter. I work best by reaching regular deadlines. You may be
different and achieve your goal in a continuous burst of white heat like George
Frideric Handel writing The Messiah. China
If you have a great story to tell, but are not confident of your writing and reporting skills, take a course in journalism. I am thankful that I was able to study journalism via the internet. You need research and reporting skills, as well as the ability to sift essential from peripheral information.
If your story is incomplete, start looking and see where the path leads you. I got to know my father as a young man, before the horrors of war scarred him. My search led me to
via Inland China! No one is more
surprised and pleased than I am. Buckingham Palace
I have loved expressing myself and communicating through writing since childhood; letters, school compositions, club contributions and the odd story. In a life-time of ministry, I have had ample opportunity to write for local congregations as well as the wider church. I have written columns on parenting edited a newsletter for ministers’ wives. I wrote “Recover the Family”; the results of a questionnaire from 70 Australian Christian families; as well as various desk-top published family and church histories.
I longed to write a book about my parents. The catalyst that defined my task was a bundle of old letters that my cousins sent me. These told me more than I ever expected to know about my parents’
years. Together with my mother’s memoirs and many old China China photos I put together an account of their years.
Then I started looking for information about my father’s war service. That was
when my information exploded. The Lord God gave me the desire of my heart and
before long I had a story worth sharing. China