How to Write a Creative Autobiography
A dictum of journalism is that there are no boring stories, only boring writers. With that in mind, everyone's life contains episodes and anecdotes that could add to a creative autobiography. The important ingredients of a compelling life story are authenticity, voice, emotion and flow.
Author Your Autobiography
Read. To write creatively you must immerse yourself in creative writing. There are tens of thousands of autobiographies and biographies that can offer examples of the best and worst. Read the famous and the newly famous. Contemporary authors who have penned memoirs that captivate include J.R. Moehringer ("The Tender Bar"), Kelly Corrigan ("The Middle Place") and Jeanette Walls ("The Glass Castle"). Theirs are not celebrity tell-alls, but rather the tales of American life--its trials and triumphs.
Begin in the middle. Instead of starting your story from your birth or before, grab your readers with a highlight they can identify with. Capture their attention from the start and they will want to go back to your beginnings with you as you weave your full life story.
Be honest. Scandals abound of authors telling their "true" life stories only to be discovered as frauds--James Frey ("A Million Little Pieces") Herman Rosenblat ("Angel at the Fence")--when journalists and readers press for details. Whether your end goal is family distribution or publication, the truth resonates.
Be yourself. In line with honesty, it is important that your autobiography be told in your voice. Not only does this lend the work authenticity, but it can also endear you to your readers.
Don't shy away from unbelievable stories that are nonetheless true. Support for the mantra "you can't make this stuff up," can be found in newspapers every day as people put themselves in crazy predicaments. The difference between bland and bold may well be in that tale of your crazy uncle really doing whatever it was that seems the substance of fiction.
Interview the people in your life. While it may seem an unnecessary time killer, gathering recollections of events in which you were present is an important way of triggering memories, filling in blanks, and enhancing your overall story.
Use humor if you have a knack for it. Simple, observational humor can have your readers chuckling as they turn the pages or nodding in recognition at perhaps identifiable human foibles.
Add details. Regardless of the story, the details are what render it believable and pull your readers into a scene. If you describe a day at the beach and your reader unconsciously finds himself smelling the sea air, you've succeeded in having him connect to you and your story.
- Regardless of your creativity, your work needs to be structurally sound. If you cannot do it yourself, have your work professionally edited upon completion.