Why is the question “So what?” important when writing an autobiography? If you want to interest the reader, you must consider whether or not the reader will be asking that question. If he will be, then the autobiography needs some work.
When writing an autobiography one has to offer anecdotes, dialogues and instances which are relevant to the general history of the autobiography. It has to be something the reader can understand and hopefully relate to. If it’s an instance that only you understand, then I suggest that you exclude it from your autobiography.
When you write an autobiography, you have to think first and foremost about the reader. The book has to be centralized around the reader. If you write the book for yourself, it’ll never sell well. You have to write stories and dialogue, etc., that draw in and entertain the reader. Continue reading
Solomon Northup was a free black man who live in the 1800’s; the time of slavery. He lived in New York State. He had a wife and three children. He also played the fiddle, which would sustain him through the years that were to come.
On account of his fiddle, he was hired one day by two men who took him to Washington to play the fiddle. There he was taken sick (I think he was mildly poisoned) and kidnapped by a slave dealer named Burch. Northup always thought that the two men who had hired him were in cahoots with Burch, but he had no proof.
He was whipped badly the next day when he insisted that he was a free man. He was held in a slave pen across from the Capitol Dome for a few days. He was then shipped down the river on a brig called Orleans along with a woman and her two children and a few other men. Continue reading
John Thompson was a black man who lived in slavery for all of his early life. He escaped when he was in his twenties, so he saw and knew the entire system. This adds interest into his autobiography and it excites the sympathy of the reader.
He grew up surrounded by hardship. His sister was sold when he was very young. He describes how sad his mother was. It is a touching scene.
He described the beatings and whippings that took place almost daily, depending on the master. He got whipped a few times. His mother got whipped. His father got whipped. His descriptions are vividly horrific. If it truly was like that, I can understand why the Civil War was fought.
He learned to read when he was a young boy. He carried the books of a white boy to school, and the white boy taught him how to read and write. This later proved both useful and life-threatening. Continue reading
An autobiography, if properly written, is a record of your life. It is an insight into the way you thought, the way you acted. It reveals what kind of person you are, for, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Whatever language you use, you will never be anything but what you are.”
An autobiography is a memento, a living legacy of who you are and what you did. It is an opportunity for other people to learn about you. It is an opportunity to spread ideas about whatever you believed in. It is, if written well, you, the person, condensed into a book.
If it sells well, you get royalties. That is somewhat promising.
Also, if you become an important person, people will appreciate your autobiography. For no matter how good a biography can be it will never compare with an autobiography, for who can write about you better than yourself?
Mark Twain, as you probably know, was a very famous writer. He was very well known, and he was very rich. But he was a very depressed man. This shines through clearly in his autobiography.
In the beginning of the autobiography he relishes in the fond and sunny memories of childhood. But as you progress into the book, you start to wade deeper and deeper into the muddy swamp. He was a very skeptical kid, and he carried that throughout his life. When he was a kid in school he prayed for a piece of gingerbread that the teacher had. Of course, the gingerbread didn’t lift off the desk and fly to him, so he lost all faith in religion.
He talks about several instances in his childhood and early teens. About the minstrel shows and the hypnotist and the swings that broke. He talks as though he wished he were a kid again, for although he had a successful life in the material sense, Mark Twain was not happy. He missed something in his life. Something that was just beyond the reach of his fingertips. And that something was love. Continue reading
George Washington Plunkitt was a politician who lived in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. He belonged to Tammany Hall—a Democratic political machine that was long known to be corrupt. He served as a Senator for many years and he was the district leader of the Fifteenth District in New York.
Plunkitt’s autobiography is most remembered for his ideas and talks about honest and dishonest graft and the civil service examinations.
Honest graft, as explained in the book, is the process of getting rich by honest means. Dishonest graft is the process of getting rich by cheating and stealing and being dishonest.
The civil service examinations were examinations that men took to get into political offices. They were hard examinations to pass. They included college-level material and specifics that perhaps only a few knew by heart. Plunkitt hated the civil service examinations. Continue reading