Amazing Kids! Magazine

Writing a Biography

By Olivia Pineda, Assistant Editor


Sometimes, in school, we’re asked to write a biography about a family member or a famous individual, like George Washington. It is easy to open an encyclopedia and simply list dates, facts, and names about this person. However, some of the best biographies that I’ve read have talked about a person in-depth, and helped the reader become acquainted with the subject on a much more personal level. How did this person act around his friends? Did he have a fondness for chocolates? Why didn’t he like dogs? If you happen to be placed in the role of a biographer for a school assignment, be inquisitive; learn about your subject’s personality, passions, and likes or dislikes. If you happen to be writing a biography on George Washington, imagine that you had the opportunity to eat dinner with him. What types of questions would you ask him?

As an example, let’s take Harry Potter, a fictional character that I’m sure many of us have read about. Here is a first attempt at a biography about Harry:

Harry Potter was born on July 31st, 1980, in England, to parents named James and Lily Potter. However, he spent much of his life with his aunt, uncle, and cousin: Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and Dudley. At age 11, he received a letter from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, asking him to attend Hogwarts. Once there, he made two close friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. During his time at Hogwarts, he learned many spells, faced many challenges, and in the end, won many of them. He lives happily ever after with his wife, Ginny Weasley (Ron’s younger sister) and his children.

What I have just written is a completely acceptable biography; I talk about what happens during Harry Potter’s life. However, the reader never learns about Harry’s unique personality, or the strong relationships he made with many people at Hogwarts. This is a very two-dimensional perspective of Harry.

Humility. If there is one word that can best describe Harry Potter, “humility” would have to be it. From the beginning of his life as a student at Hogwarts, Harry was labeled by many as the “chosen one”; he was chosen by a prophecy to vanquish many forms of evil from the wizard world. However, despite his success as a student at Hogwarts and his renowned aptitude for many difficult spells, Harry never fails to remain humble throughout his life. Many witches and wizards are often quick to credit Harry for many of his accomplishments; yet, Harry continually says that he could never have achieved such accomplishments without the help of his friends, among who are Ron and Hermione. Harry is a constant advocate for teamwork and collective effort, as evidenced by the formation of “Dumbledore’s Army,” a group of students he asks to help him in his efforts. Harry knows that he didn’t become a great wizard without the help of his friends, and often says that he couldn’t have gotten to where he is today without them.

Instead of simply listing dates and names, I did my best to describe who Harry is as a person. By using one descriptive adjective, “humility”, I tried to paint a metaphorical picture of Harry’s personality.

I hope that you’ve found my Writer’s Tips about biographies helpful – and that you’ll be able to apply one of these tips when you need to write your own biography!