An autobiography is a self-written account of the life of a person. Your autobiography should contain the basic framework that any essay should have, like an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement, a body containing several paragraphs, and a conclusion. But the trick is to make your life story an interesting narrative with a theme.
- Be sure to keep things short and sweet.
- Shoot for a minimum of two pages (or one page front and back) but don’t limit yourself if you feel inspired to tell a deeper story.
STEP ONE: Write out your life timeline.
Start writing your autobiography by conducting research on your own life. Creating a timeline of your life is a good way to make sure you include all the most important dates and events, and it gives you a structure to build upon. You can consider this the “brainstorming” phase, so don’t hesitate to write down everything you can remember, even if you don’t think the memory will make it into the final version of the book.
- Your autobiography doesn’t have to begin with your birth. You may want to include some family history as well. Write down information about your ancestry, your grandparents’ lives, your parents’ lives, and so on. Having information about your family history will help readers get a sense of how you became the person you are.
- What happened when you were a teenager? What led you to make the decisions you made?
- Are you going to college? Write about those transitory years, too.
- Write about your career, your relationships, your children, and any big life-altering events that occurred.
STEP TWO: Identify the main characters.
Every good story has interesting characters, friends and foes who help move the plot along. Who are the characters in your life? It’s a given that your parents will play a role, along with your spouse and other close family members. Think beyond your immediate family to others who have affected your life and should play a role in your autobiography.
- Teachers, coaches, mentors, and bosses are extremely influential in people’s lives. Decide whether someone who has been a role model (or the opposite) for you will figure into your story.
- Ex boyfriends and girlfriends might co-star in some interesting stories.
- What enemies have you had in life? Your story will be boring if you don’t include some conflicts.
- Offbeat characters such as animals, celebrities you’ve never met, and even cities are often points of interest in an autobiography.
STEP THREE: Pull out the best stories.
The story of your entire life would start to get pretty long-winded, so you’ll have to make some decisions about what anecdotes you’re going to include. Begin drafting your manuscript by writing out the main stories that will be woven together to create a picture of your life. There are a few main topics that most autobiographies cover since readers find them fascinating
- The childhood story. Whether your childhood was happy or traumatic, you should include a few anecdotes that give a picture of who you were and what you experienced at the time. You can tell the story of your childhood by breaking it down into smaller anecdotes that illustrate your personality – your parents’ reaction when you brought home a stray dog, the time you climbed out the window at school and ran away for 3 days, your friendly relationship with a homeless person living in the woods . . . get creative.
- The coming of age story. This heady and often sensual period in a human’s life is always of interest to readers. Remember that it’s not about writing something unique; everyone comes of age. It’s about writing something that resonates with readers.
The falling in love story. You could also write the opposite of this, the never-finding-love story.
- The identity crisis story. This usually occurs in the 30s or 40s, and is sometimes referred to as a mid-life crisis.
- The story of facing down some force of evil. Whether its your battle with addiction, a controlling lover, or a madman who tried to kill your family, you’ve got to write about conflict you’ve experienced.
STEP FOUR: Write in your own voice.
People read autobiographies to gain insight on what its like to be someone else. Being authentically you is a sure way to keep people engaged. If your writing is formal and stiff, or if it reads like a college essay instead of an expose on your life, people will have trouble getting through the book.
- Write as though you’re opening your heart to a trusted friend, in prose that’s clear, strong and not too cluttered with vocabulary words you rarely use.
- Write so that your personality is revealed. Are you funny? Intense? Spiritual? Dramatic? Don’t hold back; your personality should come through in the way you tell your story.
STEP FIVE: Be revealing.
You don’t have to be explicit, but it’s important to reveal truths about yourself and your life in an autobiography. Don’t let the book become a list of your accomplishments, with all the negative material carefully kept under the rug. Present yourself as a whole person, sharing talents and flaws alike, and your readers will be able to identify with you and hopefully root for you as they make their way through your story.
- Don’t always cast yourself in a positive light. You can have foibles and still be the protagonist. Reveal mistakes you’ve made and times when you’ve failed yourself and other people.
- Reveal your inner thoughts. Share your opinions and ideas, including those that may spark controversy. Be true to yourself through your autobiography.