instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

~ Writing a Biography ~ STALKING THE ELEPHANTAbout Writing Biography and Imagining a Life

SARA BARD FIELD: LINKING THE OUTER AND INNER STORIES

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.
***

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.  Read More 
Be the first to comment

TO FIND THE STORY, START BUILDING AN INTERACTIVE TIMELINE


    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. Read More 
    4 Comments
    Post a comment

    SO WHAT'S THE STORY?

    "Unwritten Story" (© Reproduced by permission of Hiroko Yoshimoto.)
    That joke in the sidebar about the sculptor and the elephant may be an old saw (no pun intended), but it's a perfect analogy for carving a story from what may at first seem a daunting and, often, seemingly disconnected body of research.

        Being able to define and project a story about the subject is among the biographer's first and most urgent tasks. For one thing, even in the early stages, having at least a hypothesis about the particular story you want to tell is the best way to get a grip on all that research. If only for that reason, understanding what "story" means for biography is critical.  Read More 
    1 Comments
    Post a comment

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

    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.

    *

    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.  Read More 
    Be the first to comment

    ROBERT MASSIE: BIOGRAPHY'S KEY INGREDIENTS (TBC REPORT)

    Robert Massie: Storytellers have "three ingredients" to think about. (Photo © Alex Remnick)
    Robert K. Massie, the journalist and historian whose gift for vivid narrative has made him the preeminent American biographer of Russian royals, makes his job sound easy. “I am a storyteller,” he explains modestly, adding that he writes biography because “telling stories about people in the past is important to everyone trying to understand  Read More 
    Be the first to comment

    STAYING ON TRACK: THE RED THREAD OF THE NARRATIVE

    To stay on track, keep an eye on the red thread of your story. (Image via photos-public-domain.com)
    As my favorite literary parable suggests (see sidebar), telling the story of a life is a lot like carving an elephant from a block of stone. The "elephant" is the story of someone else's life in potentia, while the block of stone is the mass of unprocessed research in which the story is hiding. Here and in future posts, I want to discuss the creative process of rendering the elephant visible, not only to the eye of the reader but in the mind of the writer.  Read More 
    3 Comments
    Post a comment

    • AN ELEPHANT IS A MOVING TARGET

    (Credit: Hayward Public Library)

      For me, nothing about writing biography is more difficult than remembering that I'm tracking the long, slow evolution of a human being. (Two human beings, actually: in a sense, Erskine is as important to SARA AND ERSKINE as Sara herself; maybe more, in some ways.) Which means that the elephant  Read More 
      2 Comments
      Post a comment