ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Commercial & Creative Writing

How to Write an Autobiography (Pattern & Plot)

Updated on October 24, 2013

Writing an autobiography can be a daunting task. Most writers including accomplished authors can write about many issues comfortably but when it comes to writing about themselves, there is always some hesitation. This is a normal and natural. As human, we tend to have a problem subjecting ourselves to objective analysis. In fact, writing an autobiography has many pitfalls and can lead to serious criticism because of this inherent inability to be objective, neutral and provide verifiable facts. This is well illustrated by this excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams,


“It is said that Zaphod Beeblebrox's birth was marked by earthquakes, tidal waves, tornadoes, firestorms, the explosion of three neighboring stars, and, shortly afterwards, by the issuing of over six and three quarter million writs for damages from all of the major landowners in his Galactic sector. However, the only person by whom this is said is Beeblebrox himself, and there are several possible theories to explain this.”


Thus, when tracing our lifelong patterns one must follow some simple steps. Specific attention must be paid to three areas;


• Ideas
• Language
• Plot

Language

When tracing lifelong patterns, you always do so in first person singular. “I did”, “I saw”, “I said”. Sample this opening sentence from the Confessions of J.J Rousseau by Jean Jacques Rousseau,

“I have entered a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.”

Not only do you use first person singular, but for the autobiography to be compelling the language should be highly descriptive to capture the reader’s imagination.

Plot

One may wonder what the plot has to do with autobiography. Well, to produce a great autobiography, you must tell it the way Hollywood tells it.

Stories are not merely sequences of events; they have an overall form, which at minimum requires, as Aristotle put it, a beginning, a middle, and an end. Many scholars of narrative have elaborated on this basic characteristic of plot.

Stories have an initial orientation in which the context (time, place, situation, and participants) is specified. There is then some complicating action, some event or events that create dramatic tension. Finally there is a resolution, a concluding action in which the tension is resolved.

Examples of autobiographies that use complicating action to trace life long patterns include; “Life on the color line” by Gregory Howard Williams and “Maus” by Art Speigelman. The former is an autobiography of a white boy who discovered he was black and the trials and tribulations he went through as a consequence. The latter is a biography by the author, Art Spiegelman, on the life of his father, a holocaust survivor. “Maus” is a graphic novel and the plot is developed using animals to represent various nationalities.

Ideas

As with any narrative, you must begin with pre-construction. Pre-construction begins with the most reportable event and proceeds backwards in time to locate events that are linked causally each to the following one.

Put down your ideas and categorize them in terms of people, places and events. Organize lists of events in chronological order. Make sure to have as many interesting facts as possible. Facts must be real events that occurred. For formative experiences during childhood, it is best to consult with people who knew you from infancy such as parents and relatives. Where the autobiography is on someone else, interview your subject and obtain as much information as you can. Go back for clarifications and deeper information as often as you can.

A proper compilation of ideas gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire plot and instructs the language that you shall use to put together the autobiography.


You Don't Have To Be Famous: How to Write Your Life Story
You Don't Have To Be Famous: How to Write Your Life Story

Would you like to record your life story for future generations? Do you want to write your life story to fulfill a personal need or desire for creativity? So why haven't you started?

 

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Not Telling profile image

    Not Telling 8 years ago from Eastern Nowhere

    Thanks for this no-nonsense approach to the autobiography. This is great advice for anyone who wants to write any kind of story.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)