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Writing practice for investigative biography or historical fiction authors

Novels (paperback) by Anne Hart.

 

Would you like to write high-velocity projects that tap current cultural issues? Or is historical fiction more to your preference when it comes to writing projects? Investigative biography writing based on fact-checking research and interviewing others, or penning fiction in stories, novels, plays, or scripts based on researching your information from documents and various historical publications? When you write fiction or investigational biography, you don't have to put anyone 'down' in the work to' lift' yourself, your attitude, or your main character up.

 

Writing often is about making choices and/or transcending those decisions and moving on to a place of universal values such as caring, sharing, and repairing. The message, if any, in an investigational biography or work of fiction set in any time, place, or galaxy, can be what the characters choose, why they make those choices, and what the outcome, purpose, and intent is for all concerned.

 

Looking for some techniques to practice when writing investigative biography or fiction based on a first-person diary novel or historical tome of fiction (or even science fiction, adventure, and mystery)? Here's a practice assignment if you're fishing around for a theme on which to drape your story and main character's choices. For your own practice, you may wish to write a vignette of 450 to 500 words.  The vignette will consist of a power-packed title and the opening two pages of a biography, memoir, life story, or autobiography.Here's one example: 

 

NONE BELOW THE ______ CAN HAVE THIS WOMAN 

Or (None below the Denisovan can have this Neanderthal woman)...locate your fiction in prehistoric times when Neanderthals and Denisovans admixed with Homo Sapiens somewhere in time and place about 54,000 years ago. You might even research the Altai cave findings. You may wish to see the article, "For what they were... we are: Neanderthals, Denisovans and everything else."

As an exercise, use an example from your own life story. Or if you choose a biography rather than your own memoirs, choose a character you want to research. 

 

If you have no one in mind to write about, do this exercise.

Fill in the line: NONE BELOW THE _______CAN HAVE THIS WOMAN

It can be NONE BELOW THE GREAT KHAN CAN HAVE THIS WOMAN

NONE BELOW THE KING CAN HAVE THIS WOMAN

NONE BELOW THE PRESIDENT CAN HAVE THIS WOMAN

NONE BELOW THE CHIEF CAN HAVE THIS JOB

NONE BELOW THE BOSS CAN HAVE THIS WOMAN

NONE BELOW THE BOSS CAN HAVE THIS VACATION

NONE BELOW THE CEO CAN HAVE THIS INCOME, VACATION, RETIREMENT PLAN, AND PENSION 

GET THE PICTURE? 

ON THE NOTE OF NONE BELOW THE ______PRESIDENT CAN HAVE (YOU FILL IN WORD) TO INSPIRE YOU TO WRITE a powerful personal memoir: 

 

You might also wish to see another title. This book, published in 1996 is (at this date) listed online at the Amazon.com website: Sleeping With the President: My Intimate Years With Bill Clinton.  (Note: Gennifer Flowers put this title on her memoirs book.) The Anonymous Press, Inc. published her book. To research your investigative biography, if you choose to write one of your own, you might wish to check out the publishers that specialize in publishing high-velocity projects that tap current cultural issues.  

 

They specialize also in powerful biographies and autobiographies. Another one of their popular books is  The Elvis Cover-Up by Gail-Brewer-Giorgio. This book explores the secret lives of Elvis Presley and his connection to law enforcement agencies. 

HOW ABOUT THE TITLE WEEPING WITH THE PRESIDENT INSTEAD OF SLEEPING WITH THE PRESIDENT? OR SUBSTITUTE ANOTHER WORD: REAPING, LEAPING, SWEEPING, CREEPING, WITH THE PRESIDENT (OR BOSS, CHIEF, KHAN, KING, YOU FILL IN WORD). 

 

This exercise gets you started on writing biography. You may also choose your favorite celebrity or someone who was a celebrity in the past. Or your war experience, living through the economic downturn of the thirties, or your experience with any facet of society. How did you survive World War Two? Vietnam? Living where you do? Your vacation? Toxic Parents? An angry marriage? Or searching and finding healing through love? Or faith? Or opening new doors?  

 

If you want to be an INVESTIGATIVE BIOGRAPHER, you may choose to do an authorized or unauthorized biography. Unauthorized means that you don't have the approval or permission of the person you're writing about to write the book the way you want. It's easier to pick someone out of history long gone and interview descendants or research archives and a variety of historical records. 

 

You may also get permission to write a biography of someone who wants a biography written. If you choose to do so, let that person know you are writing an authorized biography in which case you'll have to ask the person for approval with every chapter. Keep two tape recorders going as you interview the person and/or relatives and friends. You'll probably need to interview 100-150 people who knows or knew the person. 

 

So your first assignment is to pick a person to write a biography about, from any period in history. Decide whether you want to write a biography for children and let me know so I can give you specific practical tips on what the publishers want in a biography for children and who is publishing children's biographies. If your biography is for adults, there are publishers who specialize in these types of biographies. 

 

The person you pick may be yourself. You may choose to write a memoir, an autobiography, a journal, or a diary type of book or feature article about an event in your own life. Or  you may start an introduction to a book about yourself and your life experiences starting where you want the action to begin. Do not begin the book with yourself in transit on a plane or train, ship, car, or bus. Start it when you arrive at your destination, unless your story is about what happens on a ship, such as a disaster or the cruise where you had the experience about which you want to write. 

 

When you use dialog in a biography or autobiography, use tag lines. Here's an example. He aimed a smile over his shoulder. "For you, I would try anything." Use these frequently to give the reader a break from reading "she said," or "he explained." 

 

You can also use phrases such as "Yes," he huffed. But don't use these variations too much as it's the sign of an amateur. He said, she said is fine. You don't have to put your dialogue or thoughts in quotation marks if you are talking to yourself. In an autobiography use dialogue in quotation marks when you talk to someone else. Example below: 

 

"You've turned me into a fava bean of a man," he sobbed, but Jenny walked out with the two golden retrievers tossing him a dime over her shoulder. Jenny thought to herself that she's lucky to be taking the next flight to _______."

 

You can turn this into a first-person novel, story or other work of fiction that reads like investigative biography. Or research and write an actual investigative biography based on interviews and fact-checking the sources and resources.