Writing biographies

Biographies try to trace the life of a person, his experiences, his actions, desires and feelings, and make them comprehensible to the reader. There is no royal road to the optimal biography, because the writing styles and the methods used are as diverse as the life paths that are to be described.

It is no longer just the politicians, the military, the entrepreneurs or the celebrities whose biographies arouse interest. Everyday history has also long since established itself as a historical discipline in its own right, and it is often interesting contemporaries who want to tell their story.

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Personality and biography

The distance of the author from the person whose biography is to be written can vary. Historical-scientific biographies should strive to be as objective as possible, while popular-scientific or deliberately emotional biographies have their justification and their own market – someone who buys a biography of a musician usually has different expectations in terms of writing style and emotionality than someone who wants to read a biography of a politician.

In the best case, a biography succeeds in one way or another to do justice to the life of the person described. She must describe, she may also speculate, judge and evaluate to a certain extent. She should, however, take care to remain fair – especially when dealing with controversial personalities.

Planning a biography

A biography will never be able to reflect a person in his entire essence, but must focus on some aspects. This also applies to the description of developments: Emphasis must be placed, otherwise authors risk getting lost in a flood of documentary material, impressions and statements.

Planning a biography requires not only access to the material, but also an idea of how to arrange it in the most meaningful way. Here one can orient oneself at the interests of the possible readers. Thus, the biography of a person who happened to witness a moving event will be laid out differently than that of a musician who gradually discovers and develops his skills.

Biographies and ghostwriters

Biographies arise from private acquaintances, but also from the general enthusiasm for personalities and their life paths or the need to tell an individual life story. But for a biography to be interesting for the reader, it is not enough to simply describe the events. Readers today, in a largely professionalized market for biographical writing, expect an exciting and true-to-life text that in some cases also condenses and thus elaborates meaning. Biography ghostwriters are mostly avid readers of biographies themselves, they are familiar with a variety of life stories and have a sense of reader expectations. The activities of ghostwriters can take many forms – whether it is a matter of interviews, the material of which is incorporated into the book, or the processing of an estate, from which the personality of the deceased is to be reconstructed, is up to the client.

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