How To Start An Autobiography
Autobiographers are free to shape their life story in whatever manner they choose. They are at liberty to select what they want to include or omit. They can simplify or amplify an event. Or they can leave out the skeletons in the closet if they desire (Bates 3; Porter and Wolf 5). As Bates puts it, “he [the autobiographer] will often be enlarging on special aspects of his life, including the influences that moulded him…or the services that he rendered to what he most cared about;…a vindication for this world;…he may…turn his book into…a laundry for the dirty linen of his dirty soul” (Bates 3). The way he or she organizes and arranges the events of the story shows what the author considers important.”,The author depicts truths about himself through his experiences and the way he or she describes them. the writer illustrates past events says much about “who he thinks he is” (Porter and Wolf 5). ,”Because autobiography is, as Anderson puts it, a public exposure of the private self,” self-accounting and self-reflection are integral parts of the autobiography (Anderson 7). The author desires to justify his or her past actions to the reader. Quigley says that a “related but not identical narrator and protagonist” are integral to the means of self-justification (Quigley 107). The author establishes relationships to him or herself in order to show causality. For example, because the narrator and the protagonist are not identical, the narrator has “the ability to treat the self as other…creat[ing] the occasion for self-regard and editing…[because of] the distance between self-now and self-then” (Quigley 107).
There is also a relationship between the reader and the author. By judging past actions as right or wrong, the narrator establishes to the reader that they share common norms.introduction of autobiography The narrator speaking in the autobiography “is always moral, regardless if the protagonist of the narrative is not” (Quigley 107). This relating is then evaluated socially according to whether actions are appropriate or inappropriate or surprising or normal (Quigley 64, 106-7, 155).Other interactions that the narrator establishes are relationships with other characters in the story. This allows the speaker to present the self as either “an experiencer or recipient of actions, where in actuality the self is seen as an objective static entity” (Quigley 152). The speaker may narrate an event in such a way that the self does not have to accept the responsibility for the outcome. It can be described as happening to the protagonist because of the actions of others (Quigley 106-7, 52). Autobiography is a kind of introspection. When authors come up with their past, it’s not free from emotions.
Revealing character’s intentions, thoughts, and emotions is another way that the narrator evaluates why events occurred as they did. By explaining what happened in the past, the author is able to express to the reader how the self evolved. The self-now is the person he or she is because of the events of the past. William Maxwell said: What we refer to confidently as memory-meaning moment, a scene, a fact that is subjected to a fixative and so rescued from oblivion-is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. (Quigley 193).Autobiography is a popular genre. Writers of memoirs and life stories never lack an audience. Anderson says that “autobiography [is] a form of witnessing which matters to others” (Anderson 126).
People are interested in the actual lives of others and want to know about others’ pasts and feelings and desires (Anderson 5-7; Quigley 2-15). a quote from Olney in Anderson’s book reveals the appeal of autobiography. Olney says “the explanation for the special appeal of autobiography is a fascination with the self as well as its profound, its endless mysteries” (Anderson 5). Autobiography is a solution to organize the story of a life and reflect on yesteryear in order to better understand the present. “Works Cited,”Anderson, Linda R. Autobiography: New Critical Idiom. New York: Routledge, 2001.Bates, E. Stuart. Inside Out: An Introduction to Autobiography.
New York: Sheridan House, 1937.Berryman, Charles. “”Critical Mirrors: Theories of Autobiography.”” Mosaic (Winnipeg) 32.1 (1999): 71.Hughes, Alex. “Recycling and Repetition in Recent French ‘Autoficion”: Marc Weitzmann’s Doubrovskian Borrowings.” The Modern Language Review 97.3 (2002): 566-76. Porter, Roger J., and H.R. Wolf. The Voice Within: Reading and Writing Autobiography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1973.Quigley, Jean. The Grammar of Autobiography: A Developmental Account. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2000.“Serge Doubrovsky.” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 299: Holocaust Novelists. Ed. Efraim Sicher. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev: Gale, 2004.
70-6.Asia on September 09, 2019:”,amazing!!,”Valsala Baby on March 29, 2018:”,An important and useful article for students of literature. Thank you for the effort.,”SANDEEP M SAPKALE on November 24, 2017:”,thanks a lot dear bacon. very helpful research article for me. me also researching autobiographies in indian literature.,”Netra Atom on November 12, 2017:”,I found this article interesting and factual.,”Davina on February 03, 2017:This was helpful information, God told me to write an autobiography…and I had no idea what aspects of my life to include…or how to organize my writing. Thank you.Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on March 12, 2016:”,An interesting read! I came to see what you had to say because I am finishing writing my autobiography for which I have had the proposal accepted by my publisher.,”Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on May 06, 2012:”,kedar singh jat – Autobiography is an important genre. Even a lot of fiction has autobiographical elements. So learning about it is essential for people studying literature. I might post more in the future. Glad it was helpful to you.,”kedar singh jat on May 02, 2012:”,this is very important to learn about autobiographical for literature student .lot of thanks for give many definetion and ideas i will hope that you have provide more information…..i.e………. thanks,”Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on February 09, 2012:”,GoodLady – Thanks so much! Hooray for Google!,”Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on February 08, 2012:”,You have written such a helpful informative Hub. Thank you.,I found you on Google!,Bookmarking this and voting up etc.,”Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on April 25, 2010:No, Maupassant’s hopes for the future didn’t come true for him.
Sadly, he contracted syphilis and eventually went insane. His later works were semi-autobiographical and have been viewed as a sort of picture of his decent into madness.”,You are right that the various points of view in autobiography are fascinating.,”Laurel Rogers from Grizzly Flats, Ca on April 18, 2010:Do you know if Maupassant’s rendering of his future came true? This is an astoundingly fascinating hub, cocopreme. The author/narrator/protagonist trilogy is really so obvious, yet not intuitive at all!”,Thanks for such a superior hub!, “Right now, this new York Times bestselling non-fiction charts are filled with memoirs — from Tara Westover’s Educated, about growing up in an abusive home in Idaho, to Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should keep in touch with Someone, about her relationships and career as a therapist in L.A. Some of us tend to enjoy a memoir more than a novel because there’s extra intrigue if we realize the shocking events and twists actually happened to someone.What if you’d like to write a personal essay or a memoir yourself, but you didn’t grow up with a father who believed he was God, or overcome addiction, or date someone famous? What if you didn’t discover, in your mid-fifties, that the person you always believed was your biological father was not? (That’s the subject of author Dani Shapiro’s recent work Inheritance; amazing that such a story fell into her lap, if confusing for her as well.)I’ve had many people tell me, upon finding out that I was a writer, that they’re working on a book too. “It’s about me…and my experiences,” they often say, sounding a bit overconfident. But maybe they’re not. I believe that the average person has had many essay-worthy experiences; they just have to be framed properly in order to be publishable.”,The average person has had many essay-worthy experiences.,”( Here is one of the essays I’ve published in Medium’s Human Parts, about eighth-grade bullying in New Jersey.)If you wish to come up with an incident from your life, sometimes the “plot” isn’t as important as how it’s told.
And how well it’s told depends more on what you leave out than what you put in.Take a controversial memoir that’s now one of my favorite books — Joyce Maynard’s autobiography At Home on earth, published in 1998. When it was first published, the book drew condescending criticism by those who hadn’t even read it, because Maynard dared to fairly share a few facts about her relationship with reclusive author J.D. Salinger.As a teenager, Maynard was a precocious student and another of the first women to attend Yale University after it became co-ed. During her freshman year, she published an essay in the New York circumstances magazine. This compelled Salinger to start sending her letters. He charmed her into dropping out of her sophomore year of Yale to live with him in New Hampshire.Following nine months of his control and emotional abuse, she left. It took her a quarter of a century to finally tell her story, and it’s a compelling read — told not with blame or any exploitative details, but with tact, courage, and caution. She centers around her early life and the details of her time with the older author that affected her life for decades afterward, not anything extraneous or salacious about him. There was still much we still don’t know when we finish reading, but we feel as though we realize enough.She writes dispassionately of Salinger’s put-downs, and never having to tell us to disapprove. From the words and scenes she chooses, we realize how the then-19-year-old Joyce perceived everything, and how she perceives it today.This, I believe, is the big lesson in memoir writing — choosing what to leave out is as important as what to place in. You’ve lived so many stories. Which incidents and scenes tell your story best?”,Choosing what to leave out is as important as what to put in.,”Narratively, a on-line publication that focuses on articles and personal essays, asks writers who pitch them to tell the editors what the “takeaway” is.
In other words, which themes should a reader come away thinking about? Your own personal story should be relevant to other people, even if they didn’t experience the same thing.Maynard’s story compels us to think about how, even without breaking the law, an individual in a position of power can manipulate and damage someone else forever. It turns out that Salinger groomed and manipulated a series of young women in his life; At Home on earth went beyond Maynard’s experience and told a story that had universal relevance.”,But can you find a personal story to come up with even if you haven’t gone through anything truly shocking? There’s one memoir that stands out in my mind because virtually nothing happens — but the author is a gifted enough story-teller that his book is a riveting read nonetheless.,”The book is Lads, published in 2004 by David Itzkoff, who now writes for this new York circumstances. The book chronicles his entry-level magazine jobs after graduating from Princeton, particularly as a writer for Maxim in the 1990s. Now, how on earth could that be a book? Why would anyone but another writer even care?”,Itzkoff manages to spin the smallest details into stories. Here’s how he describes the fact that his co-worker’s back went out:,”“Jim Kaminsky’s thirty-nine-year-old back was a carefully calibrated piece of machinery … and like all other works of man, it was on a set course toward an unrecoverable state of disrepair. He had thrown it out of alignment while playing with his baby boy — one moment he’s giving the kid a horsey ride and the next he’s on his ass — and had missed three days of work.””,“Jim Kaminsky’s thirty-nine-year-old back was a carefully calibrated piece of machinery.” — Dave Itzkoff,” Most of us, when our co-workers have a medical problem, hide under our desks and hope it doesn’t mean extra assignments. Itzkoff describes how this single incident sends ripples through the universe, stuns us along with his poetry.Ironcially, I was less engaged in his folowup memoir, about his father’s cocaine addiction, which you’d think would be more compelling.
It’s all how you tell the story.There is a takeaway in Itzkoff’s tale, too; perhaps his book is called Lads for the same reason the series Girls was named by doing this. At what point does a young person truly become a grownup? When does a lad become a man? Lads is a story about a part of post-college coming-of-age.I’ve published all sorts of personal essays with different takeaways, such as the one linked above on Medium’s Human Parts vertical. A lot of people have had some experience with bullying. But it’s also about how subtle bullying really can be, and what adolescence was really like in the 1980s (in the place of the film version).I’ve been able to publish greater than a dozen personal essays over the years, including in the Atlantic and New York circumstances, despite my relatively unexciting life. I did grow up with a mentally ill parent and lived in a car or truck for a number of summers (and I’ve got a memoir brewing — for which I’ll soon be looking for an agent, hint hint), but the point is, if I am able to find incidents to write about from the quieter times, so can you.”,So what’s the takeaway from the particular essay that you’re reading — my final piece in a summer series on publishing for the Writing Cooperative?,”It’s that you are an expert in your own experience, and likely can find a way to write about it so that it helps or at least intrigues others. There may be situations you aren’t ready to come up with yet (trust your gut until it feels right, especially if you think publishing your story can hurt someone). There may be incidents you don’t truly understand yet. But there’s probably at least one experience of yours that’s worth publishing.”,You are an expert in your own experience.,”In 2017, Jia Tolentino penned a controversial essay in New York Magazine, “The Personal Essay Boom is Over.” While exploitative pieces are over ( like this infamous one about a woman who found cat hair in her, well…), readers love memoirs. It’s quite possible that the story you might think is your best one is not the one that will be most compelling to others.
You just have to keep writing, and figure out what to place in, but more importantly, what to leave out.Speaking of essays, this is the final installment of my summer series for the Writing Cooperative, “Out of the Reject Pile.” I penned it in order to demystify the publishing process a bit, and hopefully entertain.