Genre tips

Today’s #AtoZChallenge Topic: Biography Genre

A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post every day except Sundays during the month of April on a thematic topic. This year, I’ll cover writing genres.

Today’s genre:

A TO ZBiography


A biography is an account of someone’s life or an event in a person’s life, written by someone else.

a to zTips

  1. Make sure your subject merits an entire book.
  2. Write the story of the person’s life (or event), not a chronologue of what happened when.
  3. Include fascinating details–insider knowledge–that make readers happy they selected your book.
  4. Ask lots of questions. You won’t print it all, but it will shape your thinking.
  5. Look for autobiographical records. Read as many of these as possible to provide context.
  6. Follow every lead. Again, even if it becomes a dead end, it’s context for the fullness of this person’s life or event.
  7. Analyze as well as interpret events. Make logical conclusions.
  8. Make it interesting, not dry. Add drama. crises. Make the characters fascinating.

Popular Books

  1. A Moveable Feast — about Ernest Hemingway
  2. Out of Africa — about Karen Blixen’s life in Africa
  3. Churchill: A Life — about Winston Churchill
  4. The Double Helix — about James Watson’s discovery of DNA
  5. Steven Jobs — about the life of Steven Jobs and his creation of Apple
  6. Plutarch’s Lives –about the influential Greeks who shaped Western thinking
  7. My Bondage and My Freedom — about Frederick Douglas, from slavery to freeman
  8. An Unfinished Life — about John F. Kennedy

Click for complete list of genres

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for May 2017. Click to follow its progress.

55 thoughts on “Today’s #AtoZChallenge Topic: Biography Genre

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  5. I love reading biographies! It’s also important that the writer not be some sleazebag doing a sensationalistic hack job, such as the infamous Albert Goldman, Geoffrey Giuliano, or Kenneth Anger. I remember how shocked I was, in my early twenties, to discover Albert Goldman’s The Lives of John Lennon was almost all either made up or wildly sensationalistic. I’d read it at age fourteen, and innocently believed these stories because biographies are supposed to be factual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve made such a good point, Carrie-Anne. We do think of biographies as nonfiction. They’re supposed to be. And publishers should ensure that! I didn’t read that John Lennon book, but I too would have been surprised and disappointed.


  6. Biographies are tricky ones, both as authors and as readers. I think any life can be written in an engaging way, if we find a thread through it.
    If you don’t find that thread, the most intersting of lives may sound dry.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There are historical figures I would read a biography about including world leaders or presidents. But as far as celebrities I do not consider them of enough importance or difference than average people to take in their stories.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi Jackie – these are the sorts of books I enjoy … but I tend to veer towards historical narrative, rather than one subject – I’ve read the Jobs book … and some of the others I’ve ‘looked at’ – but not read … Out of Africa and Anne Franks … one could do shorter chapter type stories I guess … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I like the succinct definition of biography with just enough description to make clear the genre, and I like the list of titles at the end. I’ve read the first 3 books, but I think the Diary of a Young Girl is actaully autobiography since the book is excerpts from Anne Frank’s actual diary. I know her dad did some editing.

    Liked by 2 people

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