Biographies: Whom should you write about?

Biography is a detailed description of a person’s life written by someone else. If you are that ‘someone else’ planning to write a biography, you need to keep certain points in mind before deciding on a subject.

Since the market for biographies has remained steady so far, publishers are happy to sign up biographers who write about monumental subjects and have high name recognition. If you are a reporter, a journalist or someone with authority on the subject, you can approach the publisher with your topic and easily get their approval before starting the research. On the other hand, if you are a first time author, it’s going to be difficult to find a publisher after having written the biography. You might end up investing a lot of time and energy to write a biography and then go door to door in search of a publisher. So it’s safer to discuss the topic with a publisher before putting in the effort required for the thorough research to write the biography. If the proposal for a biography is sharply focused and well-written, you can surely find an enthusiastic publisher.

Now the question arises, whom should you write about?

Write about intriguing and likeable figures. The reading public has an endless fascination for them. There are certain people that the public just doesn’t care about. Avoid such topics because the books will not sell even if they are well written. The formation of a human connection with the readers is essential. The story should resonate with the readers. Everyone has thoughts, desires and motives that are universally accepted. If you still choose to write about an unlikable character, find an element of their life that has a universal appeal, something that readers can connect to. Otherwise why would a reader care to go through the 200-300 pages of someone else’s life if it doesn’t invoke his interest?

Write about a person who inspires you or who inspires others. Feel a connection with the person you are writing about. You should be affected by his/her extraordinary presence. The point when the character gets under your skin, as if they are looking over your shoulder while you write about them, that’s when you can be sure that you have stumbled onto something solid, the right topic for your biography.

Complexity is the most important element for choosing the subject of your biography. If the subject’s life is simple, it won’t be interesting for the readers. Just as in fiction, a biography needs a conflict to make it more dramatic and capture the attention of the readers.

Or write with the intention of shining light on a particular aspect of history. What do you want the world to know from the past that hasn’t been thoroughly uncovered yet? Who is the person behind that thread of history that went unnoticed so far? History can be fascinating but it becomes more interesting through the eyes of the people being affected by it. Giving a face to history makes the topic more appealing.

Whatever topic you choose to write on, make sure to differentiate the biography you write with the ones already written on that subject. Relate the person’s life to the historic events affecting them. Or write about their family life or any aspect that hasn’t been explored before. Or write the biography through the eyes of the people who knew the subject. Or focus your biography on a certain time period of the subject’s life. This can differentiate your biography from the ones already available on the same topic.


Also read What to keep in mind while writing a Biography.


Image copyright with the photographer.


2 thoughts on “Biographies: Whom should you write about?

  1. Really detailed info. Thanz. I was planning to write a biography for a long time now but had no guidance, hence no courage. But thanz for giving me information and guideline, along with encouraging people like me.

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