Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Sat Dec 06, 2014 10:40 am

Thanks, Jan. These examples are very helpful. :)

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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by tracynunes » Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:01 pm

Thank you Jan! I've learned so much from the these genre challenges and from your lessons. Feeling grateful for you! And here are some cookies, as requested. :wink:

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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by Milly Born » Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:29 pm

One more question that came up. Can the author of a biography explicitly express his own opinion about his MC? Or should he write as neutral as possible?
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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by glorybee » Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:51 pm

Milly Born wrote:One more question that came up. Can the author of a biography explicitly express his own opinion about his MC? Or should he write as neutral as possible?
This is an excellent question. You shouldn't put yourself into the narrative in any way ("I think Gerturde Gork was the greatest inventor of her time...") However, biographies will definitely reflect the opinions of their writers. Imagine a biography of President Obama, for example, written by someone who is an ardent Republican, and one written by an equally ardent Democrat. The books will be very different, because the writers will choose what events to feature and which ones to downplay, They will also differ in their interpretation of those events and on Obama's influence on history and on contemporary American life.

Back to Gertrude, with different interpretations of the same event:

Gertrude's invention of orthodontic rubber bands caused untold misery for hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren. The bands were painful, and food collected in them, causing embarrassment and bad breath...

Gertrude's invention of orthodontic rubber bands solved several problems. Children who used them faithfully cut the average time of braces-wearing from four years to two years, and they no longer had to wear bulky and unattractive headgear...


So if you admire the subject of your biography, you'll show that admiration in your choice of words and in the events that you highlight.
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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Wed Dec 10, 2014 12:48 am

Just two final questions:

1) Can a biography have any dialogue? Or is it best to rewrite any dialogue I intended to use, as narrative?

2) Does the material need to be footnoted within the body of the entry. Or is it okay to just list the sources in the author's notes?

Many thanks.

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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by glorybee » Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:05 am

Cinnamon Bear wrote:Just two final questions:

1) Can a biography have any dialogue? Or is it best to rewrite any dialogue I intended to use, as narrative?

2) Does the material need to be footnoted within the body of the entry. Or is it okay to just list the sources in the author's notes?

Many thanks.

Cinnamon Bear
You can certainly use the words of your biographical subject, if they are known, and those would go in quotation marks. Otherwise, you can recreate dialogue. Just beware of slipping into a tone that sounds more like storytelling.

You could have something like this:

When Gertrude Gork accepted the Nobel Prize for her invention, she surveyed the crowd solemnly. "Many of you," she said, "would have had better lives with orthodontia."

Or something like this.

Gertrude and her assistant, Dexter Dottweiler, often worked long into the night, perfecting the elasticity of their tiny rubber bands. On the night of August 5, 1955, Dexter called her over to their model skull with its full set of braces.

"Look," he said. "With your rubber bands, these teeth shifted a full millimeter over night."

When she was interviewed later about that pivotal moment, she said that she was stunned. "I suspected that Dexter had fudged the data," she admitted.

But something like this reads more like historical fiction:

"Gertrude, look!" called Dexter. "The teeth shifted a full millimeter over night."

Gertrude rushed to his side. "I can't believe it!" she said. She stooped over to examine their model. "Did you enter the numbers correctly?"

Dexter swung her off the floor in a jubilant embrace.

***
The second and third examples have subtle differences in tone. I hope that helps!

You can certainly list your sources as authors' notes rather than within the text. That way is preferable, in fact, as in-text citations tend to interfere with the flow of your narrative.
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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Wed Dec 10, 2014 11:29 am

Thanks, Jan. Your examples are very helpful.

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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by Deb Porter » Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:18 pm

Jan, you crack me up. I want to read Gertrude's full biography. STAT.

:lol:
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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by DustBSH » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:31 am

Ha, it took me some struggles to get this entry in. I had written a nice biography, I thought, but after reading the discussion here, I had to toss it out, as, although it did contain a fair number of facts, I had interwoven these with fictional conversations between the characters. I was quite pleased with the result at first, but after reading the discussion here, I could only conclude, my entry was no good.

Where would such writing fit? It wasn't just fiction as the narrator glued the dialogue together with clear historical facts and writing. But neither would it qualify as biography.
I am interested to know.
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Re: Be A Better Writer -- BIOGRAPHY

Post by glorybee » Thu Dec 11, 2014 11:08 am

That would be historical fiction, and that's a genre that lots of people love. If you enjoyed writing it, maybe you'll pursue this genre further!
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