Your Autobiography - Part 1 (9-12)
by Hilda and Henrietta
Sometime this school year, you're sure to get an assignment where you'll need to write about yourself. If you're like most young people, you probably consider your life far too drab to include anything worth writing about. After all, you aren't a famous actor, author, or politician and nothing as far as you can recall about yourself is very exciting.
Think of the assignment this way. Everybody else in the class is in the same boat. (Apologies for the cliché, but it fits so nicely.) Your classmates aren't exactly famous, are they? So your teacher isn't expecting you to write about how they or you won the Nobel Prize in physics or were nominated for the Heisman Trophy. He or she wants you to write an interesting essay about your life, and you can make it interesting by the way you write it and the content you decide to include. Envision your grandmother telling her friends about you. In your essay, you won't be so braggadocio, but you should transfer some of Grannie's enthusiasm for the subject to your writing.
Most teachers will simply ask you to write an autobiography and tell you the length it should be. Others will give you a list of topics that are suggested or required for the essay. Sometimes teachers will specify a type of autobiography. If they do you'll need to structure your work to what your teacher expects.
Several Types of Autobiographies
- The Traditional Autobiography or Personal Essay– includes information your on life and events in it. Unless otherwise specified by the teacher, it can include your goals and dreams.
- The Fantasy Autobiography–a fictional account of your life. This may be a restructuring of your life's story so far or dream about your future. (We'll be tackling this type of autobiography in Part II)
- The Memoir– includes a focus upon your memories and feelings as well as the events in your life. It may history told through your personal experiences.
- The Reflective Essay– details an event or some sort of learning experience in your life and what you thought about it.
- The Epiphany–for this one, you need to come up with something that happened in your life that meant a great deal to you. How did it change the way you think? The way you feel? Did it change your life? All of the sudden, once you had this experience, you …. You get the idea.
NOTE: Most of the ideas we've included for you target the traditional autobiography/personal essay. If you need to write another type of autobiography, this information will be useful to you. However, you'll need to narrow your focus as you concentrate upon the type of essay you are writing.
Some Topics to Consider for Your Essay*
Name, age, and what you are like
*These topics are suggestions only. You'll want to pick a few to consider for your autobiography. If your essay is a good one, you won't be able to cover them all–unless your essay is very long indeed.
Where you were born, your birthday
Your family — brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, others that you'd like to mention.
What is unique about your family.
Things you remember from the past
Your neighborhood, where you live today and lived in the past if you've moved
Your church, your synagogue, your mosque or other place of worship
Your talents–what do you do best?
What you like best about yourself
What you'd like to change about yourself
Things you have problems with–what is hard for you to do?
Your school and past teachers
What you like to do
What you don't like to do
Sports you like to play
Your favorite music
Your favorite books and movies
Things that make you happy
Things that make you sad
Your favorite quotes. Your slogan, if you have one.
People you admire
Where you want to go to college
What you want to do for a career
Your goals in life
Your goals for this year
The most important thing in your life at this time
Other topics of your choice
There are tons of other topics you could cover in your autobiography, but you're not writing an entire book about yourself. Why not start by opening your word processor and typing in ideas that come to your mind? Arrange the ideas in groups according to topic (like the topics listed above). (If it helps, copy and paste the list we did and add to it or delete things you don’t want to include.) Put all the information about sports together, all the information about your relatives together, and so on. You can do this by making lists or outlines in your word processor, or you can use a graphic organizing program such as Inspiration to help you.
If you get stuck and run out of ideas, ask your parents for some help. –And email your grandparents or other close relatives. As you know, grandparents and favorite aunts and uncles like nothing better than telling stories about you. They'll send you lots (probably more than you want to know) about what you don't remember about yourself. Some of it will be great for your autobiography, but some you may not use because you consider it too embarrassing. Keep in mind, however, that some embarrassing moments can be turned into really funny stories and will be certain to catch your teacher's attention and get you an A. –Like when at age two, you screamed at Aunt Sally's wedding as a soloist with a screechy voice sang about true love. Or when, at age five, you decided to take a walk on your own in a department store, and your Mom thought you had been kidnapped.
To help you get started with your writing, type in your name and under it write about some adjectives that you think describe you. Maybe you put down words like: nice, tall, athletic, quiet, easy-going. Use these adjectives to write the beginning of your assignment and to give you ideas for a catchy title. For example:
That's the Way I Am
Being tall can have its advantages and disadvantages, but there's not much I can do about it. I, Harry J. Hastings III, age 16, am the tallest person in the Class of 2006 and always have been. "He's a little giant," the doctors told my mother while measuring me at the hospital. My height is great for playing basketball, reaching top shelves, and feeling superior–sometimes. What's bad about it is that people always think you're older and should know things you don't. That's not too much of a problem for me, for I'm the silent type, and as my chatty grandmother would tell you, "a nice, easy-going guy." "Stretch," I'm called by my parents and friends, but Gran calls me Harry III, which I am, of course.
Once you have your beginning, you can start to tackle the rest of your life. Make the paragraphs flow one into another. For example, the next paragraph after the sample above would probably be about Harry's family. You won't be telling everything from the moment you were born until now. You'll have to decide what you want to write about. Look at your brainstorming list of topics and check off the ones that you want to include, but always make sure that what you are doing fits what your teacher assigned.
Sometimes writing the last paragraph is really difficult. Teachers usually tell you that it should sum everything up. That's not actually a great idea, though, because that would be like rewriting the entire thing. Just put in some important parts that relate to the rest of the story to create a good ending. Here's how Harry might have ended his:
On Saturday, I'll be playing in the State Basketball Championships with my team. All of my family, even Gran, will be there. I'll walk out onto the court tall and proud and a bit nervous. My teammates will look at me, and I'll look at them, knowing we can count upon each other. We’ll do our best. That's what's important. Sure, we'd like to win, but no matter what this will be one of the highlights of our lives–my life. I'll remember it even after college and medical school. Yes, I will. Dr. Harry John Hastings III, former basketball star. Stretch.
When you've written and checked the rough copy of your autobiography, have your parents or a friend read it. It's always a good idea to have someone else read your work before you hand it in. If you have a computer that will read your work to you, be sure to use that computer function. It's a great way to evaluate and edit your own writing. –Remember, in addition, that there's more to checking your work than running the spelling checker!
Give Your Autobiography Some Pizzazz!
Here are some ideas you might try to jazz up your autobiography, but be sure to check with your teacher to make sure what you decide to do is acceptable for your assignment:
- Add some digital pictures to your essay. You can scan in old photos of you and your family. (If you have photo-editing software like Adobe PhotoShop Elements (you can get a free 30-day demo at http://www.adobe.com/products/tryadobe/main.jsp), Paint Shop Pro or Microsoft Digital Image Suite, you might want to give your photos some special effects.)
- Using a computer paint program, add your own drawings to your autobiography.
- Create a computer slide show of your life. Include both text and picture.
- Produce a digital video about you and your family.
- With a graphic organizer-type program like Inspiration, design a page (or pages) that show your life.
- Create a newspaper story about yourself.
- Consider adding music to your work if you create a slide show or a digital video.
That's about it. You should be able to write your autobiography now. We know it will be a good one!
Here are some sites to give you some help with your writing.
Write an Autobiography
Short description of what should go into an autobiography.
Writing an Autobiography
Detailed information on writing an autobiography.
Web English Teacher
Includes information about writing autobiographies and biographies.
In Part II, we'll work on a fantasy about your life Maybe it will be what you want to do for a career or maybe it will be a creative writing experience.
View Computers and Homework Archive