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Write Your Autobiography

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by Matthew (subscribe)
WEN Editor
Published May 12th 2011
Photo by SuperLifeCharger
Walking the Path of Life - Photo by SuperLifeCharger

For many self-absorbed individuals, composing your own biography probably couldn't be easier. After all, it's all about me, me, me and me too just to quote Agent Smith from the popular Matrix movie.

The basic structure that underlies just about any biography would have to be starting at birth and finishing up at your present state in life. It also helps to write in the third person for the sake of humility. That rule certainly applies a lot more if you are renowned for such spectacular accomplishments, or if you don't happen to be some sort of obscure, less than average derelict.

Usually include date of birth, place of birth, and name of parents, followed by the names of pre-existing siblings (if any). If one or both of the parents have passed away, explicitly acknowledge this by writing "dec." in brackets, which stands for "deceased".

For example, you could start off in quite a solemn fashion, "Joe Blow was born on Thursday, December 09, 1971 in a backyard tent somewhere in Mildura, Victoria to parents Ross (dec.) and Kath."

Try not to place too much emphasis on schooling and educational history, unless those things are quite significant in your life. A teacher or university academic, for instance, would obviously write in depth about how they found life at school. But that's not always the case. One exception to this rule for non-academics would be if you were constantly bullied or were Mr. or Mrs. Popularity in the schoolyard, only to lose all your friends later on in life.

And that's what makes fantastic biographies reversals. Who doesn't love to read a classical rags to riches story, or a zero to hero narrative? If your life is one of them, it might be best to include as much pertinent information as possible about both sides of the reversal(s). That is, provide intricate details about your life prior to the event(s) that changed it forever, and perhaps contrast your life now with your dark past in the wilderness.

Ensure that you personalise the story of your life. If you're the serious type with a Type A Personality, write your biography to that effect, using emotive language. Adopt a formal tone, with the occasionally aggressive style reserved for pivotal life-changing events (such as a fall from glory).

If you're the laidback type with a Type B Personality, perhaps structure the biography to include a conversational tone. Adopt an informal, lively kind of style and write as if you and the reader are long time friends having a chat about your life experiences. Lighten it up. Attempt to limit doom and gloom words when it comes to vivid descriptions of traumatic events, but also don't portray such things in jest. Strike some sort of balance. It's your life, after all.

The channel nine show, This is Your Life (hosted by Mike Munro) has a brilliant method of presenting the significant events in the lives of its guests through a relaxed, often humorous, atmosphere.

Although the written word is very different to television settings to the extent that general ambience is not included many remarkable writers have a knack for stirring up emotions in readers.

It's not surprising, then, that biographers like Bill Clinton (or their ghost writers you be the judge) produce very lengthy books loaded with meticulous detail. The former US president's biography (My Life) tops one thousand pages, according to Wikipedia. But he used to be a politician, so he's got the gift of the gab.

Finally, as much as possible, try to factor in your target audience. Who do you think would take interest in your life story? Is it going to be single mothers, war veterans, arcade junkies? The list is pretty much endless, and you'd do well to find your myriads of admirers.
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