Dona Munker: Writing a Biography

      ~ Writing a Biography ~
      STALKING THE ELEPHANT
      About Writing Biography and Imagining a Life

SARA BARD FIELD: LINKING THE OUTER AND INNER STORIES

November 12, 2015

Tags: Beginnings, Daughter of Persia (book), Research, Sara and Erskine (book), Sara Bard Field, Telling the story

Sara Bard Field on tour
    I haven't talked much on this blog about my own work. But a couple of months ago someone sent me some good questions about choosing a subject, researching and writing a biography, and the kinds of challenges biography can involve.
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1. What initially drew you to the subjects you've chosen to write about?

   I tend to become obsessed with stories that can give me and my reader insights into human psychology and social change, especially if I can tell the story from the subject's perspective. I'm happiest writing from the inside out, so to speak. (more…)

TO FIND THE STORY, START BUILDING AN INTERACTIVE TIMELINE

January 3, 2015

Tags: Beginnings, Research, Telling the story, Writing process


    This is the third of four articles on how story and narrative work together in biography.

    Anyone who wants to write a biography that's more than just an encyclopedia article or a laundry list of the main events of the subject's life has to decide early on what story to tell and how the arc of the narrative will advance it.

         Elsewhere on this website, I discuss what what a story is in biography and the importance of the "red thread" for selecting what to include in the narrative. In this post, I'll describe what I consider the most important tool for identifying the story and keeping it on track as your interpretation of it becomes refined by new information and insights. (more…)

    MANAGING YOUR RESEARCH: A "DEEP CHRONO" TIMELINE CAN HELP

    June 26, 2013

    Tags: Beginnings, Research, Telling the story

    I know I promised to get back to the subject of organizing primary research in biography, and I'll return to talking about data files and headnotes soon. Before that, however, I'd like to pass on an idea that comes to us courtesy of—get ready—the CIA.

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    First, a brief but relevant digression. In a post last year, I discussed the essential "red thread" of narrative and how important it is to keep an eye on it at all times. (more…)

    GETTING ORGANIZED, 4: LOCKING IN THOSE THRILLING DISCOVERIES

    June 11, 2013

    Tags: Research

    Call me a hopeless nerd, but for sheer mental excitement, I've never found anything better than discovering something new about my characters or finding a clue to their story. To me, that's what archival research is all about.

    In my first and second posts on organizing research, I discuss using MS Word to set up a chronologically-based folder system (more…)

    GETTING ORGANIZED, 3: WRITER-FRIENDLY SOFTWARE.

    June 4, 2013

    Tags: Research

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away—the one where I convinced myself that I could write a biography and still have time to blog regularly—I promised to continue with the subject of how to set up a seat-of-the-pants filing system for storing, retrieving, and keeping track of research (more…)

    GETTING ORGANIZED, 1: WE BRING ORDER TO CHAOS

    November 13, 2012

    Tags: Research


      Whether you're writing your first biography or your tenth, a simple yet flexible filing system can make storing and accessing information simpler, help you remember things, and generally make writing a book a lot easier. This post is the first of two about setting up a computer filing system for primary research in a biography. Or, as the Borg Queen on Star Trek might say, it's about bringing order to chaos. (more…)

      AND NOW, A WORD ABOUT FILING. AGAIN.

      November 10, 2012

      Tags: Research

      One of the occupational hazards of writing biography is that you may develop an intense preoccupation with—well, with filing.

      This is a sort of dirty professional secret akin to wanting to know about the inner workings of mechanical clocks. All any normal person who isn't a clockmaker really wants to know is (more…)

      ELEPHANT STALKERS ARE ORGANIZED, PART 2: Setting Up a Filing System

      July 2, 2011

      Tags: Research

      From orderly tablets, serenity—my desk before I went on vacation.

          Since a number of people who attended the Compleat Biographer Conference in May requested it afterwards, in this post I'll cover the glamorous subject of filing—that is, physically organizing your research. Every project is different. Still, any good filing system will do (more…)

        ELEPHANT STALKERS ARE ORGANIZED, PART ONE

        June 28, 2011

        Tags: Biographers International, Research


              I'm an avid member of Biographers International Organization, the acronym of which, amazingly enough, is BIO. Anyone with an interest in writing (or reading) biography, narrative nonfiction, or history should join BIO, though it's mostly for practicing long-distance elephant stalkers like me.

              Last month I went down to (more…)


              The disciple of a famous sculptor came upon his master carving an elephant from a huge, shapeless chunk of stone. "Master," cried the disciple, "What splendor! What realism! What insight! How do you do it?" "Simple," replied the sculptor. "You just cut away everything that isn't elephant."

              Stalking the Elephant is a blog about creating an elephant from a chunk of stone, a.k.a. writing a biography.

              It's also about the biographer's writing life (well, mine, anyway) and a work in progress, SARA AND ERSKINE, AN AMERICAN ROMANCE. This is an intimate reconstruction of the life of SARA BARD FIELD, a World War One-era minister's wife, suffragist, and poet, and her extraordinary affair with an outspoken attorney, philosophical anarchist, and Renaissance man CHARLES ERSKINE SCOTT WOOD.

          Subscribing is easy.

              This couple takes up a lot of time (not to mention a lot of oxygen), and since I don't have a regular posting schedule, the best way to receive updates is to sign up to be notified when I post something new.

               Here's how: On the blog page, click on the RSS button of your browser. (In Firefox: Go to the Bookmarks menu and select "Subscribe to This Page.") You can then check to see if there's been an update in the RSS feed of your browser's toolbar.




          Visit the RESOURCES page and take advantage of a growing list of links, blogs, and books for anyone interested in biography and writing lives.


            Sidebar Photo Credit: Elephant Country Web


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