8 junio, 2024

Autobiography: what it is, characteristics, parts, how to do it, example

The autobiography is a literary genre of non-fiction, what is told is true, not invented or imagined. In it, a person narrates his own life, generally from his birth until the moment the biography is written.

It is said that it is a non-fiction literary text because although the facts that are narrated may be true, they are not necessarily exact, since they are biased by the memory and opinions of the person who narrates.

A clear sign that it is a subjective text is that generally the story is narrated in the first person singular (“I was born in Madrid on July 12, 2010”, for example), although autobiographies written in the first person plural can be obtained. or in third person.

Another significant detail is that it is a genre to which we all have access, since we all have a life to tell.

When a student, child or adolescent, makes his own autobiography, he writes the most important and significant events of his own life, from his birth and first months of life, up to the present moment.

Characteristics of an autobiography

Autobiographies have a series of characteristics that differentiate them from other narrative genres:

narrated in first person

Because it is a genre where life is narrated by the author of the writing, it is natural that it is almost always told in the first person singular, although there are autobiographical authors who can refer to themselves in the plural, or in the third person.

Narrative text

Generally it is a narrative text, since you are “recounting” or “counting” your life. Autobiographies work like traditional novels and short stories, with an introduction, a development, and a conclusion or ending.

Extension

There is no limit to the length of an autobiography, which can range from half a page to thousands of pages, depending on the level of detail assumed by the author of the text.

For example, the aforementioned Borges autobiography has about a hundred pages, while one by the French writer George Sand (1804-1876), Story of my life (1854) has almost five hundred, and only the first part of the autobiography of Mario Vargas Llosa (1936), A Fish in the Water (1993), has 538 pages.

Style

The style may vary according to the time and the literary and cultural influences of each person. However, the tendency is to use language that is clear and as understandable as possible, without flourishes or excessive adjectives.

Parts of an autobiography

There is no formal structure for writing an autobiography, not even the need to follow the temporal thread, since you can start at the end and then refer to the first years, or to events in the intervening years.

However, in general, memoirs and autobiographies follow the following structure:

1- Introduction and early years

In this section, the reasons why it has been decided to write the autobiography are generally stated, the family history (fathers, mothers, grandparents) is mentioned, and the reader is located historically and geographically.

It talks about the first memories and the events and characters that impacted the author during those initial years. If there is any special situation that will determine the biography, it is mentioned in this first part.

For example, Mario Vargas Llosa begins with a chapter titled «That man who was my dad,» and narrates how he found out, at the age of ten, that his father was not dead, as he had been led to believe, on the same day. that you will meet him.

2- Studies and training

Autobiographies generally use studies and professional life as a narrative axis, adding more intimate information (family relationships, love affairs, trips, removals, etc.).

For example, in the first part of his autobiography, George Sand places all the weight of his story on the rivalry and struggle between his mother and his father’s mother (his grandmother) for their affection and loyalty. Around this fight he recounts his life and studies him until he was sixteen years old.

3- The body of the text. Development

The most important or relevant events and reflections for the author are exposed. It generally begins when he begins a life independent of the family nucleus and develops his personal and professional life.

In the example of Vargas Llosa, the autobiography contains two plots or developments: on the one hand, his fight with his father over his desire to become a writer, and on the other, his candidacy and the electoral campaign of 1990, to be president of Peru.

4- Achievements, conclusion or outcome

An autobiography, like life itself, does not always have clear and defined endings or closures. Generally, the text can be concluded by exposing the achievements and indicating future objectives.

Following the memories of George Sand and Mario Vargas Llosa: the first manages to balance and understand the love she felt for both her mother and her grandmother, and discovers her vocation as a writer; Mario Vargas Llosa discovers himself and manages to establish himself as a writer, and ends up retiring from politics after being defeated by Fujimori.

How to write an autobiography step by step

The fact that we are still in the school stage does not mean that we cannot write an autobiography. We may think that we have little to tell, but it really is not. The steps to write our autobiography are as follows:

1- Collection of information

Interview your parents and close relatives about family history and salient facts. Make a draft with important dates and places: births, deaths, places where you lived, schools.

If possible, create a file with the help of your parents, with papers such as birth and baptism certificates, registration in educational centers, identity document, registration in sports teams, etc.; and arrange them in chronological order.

2- Organization and schedule

Sort the collected information and select the data you want to highlight. Consider relevant data and characters such as: date and place of birth, name and occupation of your parents and other characters you consider important in your life (grandparents, friends, fellow students, teachers).

You should also include the educational centers where you studied, the cities where you have lived (if you have moved), and events that are relevant.

3- Selection and start

Make a selection of the events and people you want to include in the autobiography, and choose the moment from which you want to start the story, which may well be at the beginning. Here are two ways, one conventional and one informal:

“I was born in Mexico City on May 20, 2005. My parents are…”.

“I will never forget the day that mom announced without preamble that we were going to Madrid, it was the beginning of an adventure that ends today, now, ten years later…”.

4- Eraser

Leaning on the chronology of your life, prepare a first draft, with a simple and entertaining language, that attracts the reader.

Some writers say that when writing about yourself there are two temptations: blame yourself for everything, or blame everything on others. You have to find a balance, not ignore the achievements, but neither hide the errors or mistakes. Life usually has everything.

5- Points of interest

You must highlight the most important moments and people that marked your life or caused some change, and in the case of the autobiography of a teenager, it would be interesting to conclude by exposing your ideas and future projects.

6- Review and reworking

After you finish your first draft, rest for a few hours or more, if possible, and then read it aloud again (so you can correct the use of commas and periods). It is possible in this way to see if something was missing to be counted, or if something is superfluous.

If family and friends join you in this reading, they are likely to contribute new facts and observations.

Example of an autobiography

Here is an example of an autobiography of a teenager. To facilitate its understanding, each part is indicated, although if you have to make an autobiography for school, it is not necessary to delimit them.

Introduction

My name is Leonardo González Rojas, although everyone calls me Leo. I was born on February 2, 2006 at the ABC Hospital in Mexico City. In this great city, which is the capital of Mexico, I grew up accompanied by my parents, María Rojas and Jesús González, and my three sisters, whose names are Mariana, Ximena and Valeria.

childhood studies

My parents took several weeks to decide which school I had to study at. We visited several and finally decided that the best one was the Frida Kahlo Mexican Children’s School, where I could learn English and it only took 20 minutes to get there from my house.

Development

I have always been the younger brother and have been treated like this, pampered by my sisters and my parents. Sometimes I got sick (I had mumps and flu), and I was very bad at the games my schoolmates liked, especially soccer. I also really liked music.

My sisters played guitar and violin, and they were all enrolled in the city’s youth symphony orchestra. In order to enter, I had to learn to read and write, so I had to wait until I finished the first grade at school.

It was a disaster: according to the orchestra instructors, he had no musical ear and was unable to play even the simplest melodies. I continued to be bad at sports and apparently deaf to music, although I loved listening to my sisters play classical melodies or typical Mexican music.

But at least I was a good student, and I was already studying in high school, at the Gabriela Mistral Institute, when a great change took place in our lives. My father had to change jobs and we moved to Buenos Aires, where we arrived on a flight taken from the International Airport of Mexico City.

We have lived in Buenos Aires since then, here I study at the Juan Montalvo School of Commerce, in the Caballito neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where I had to repeat a year and where I once again tried to learn to play an instrument, without success. And he was still bad at soccer, which is not exactly an advantage in this country.

Outcome

Do you believe me if I tell you that the confinement due to the coronavirus helped me in a certain way? In 2020 the pandemic locked us in the apartment, the four of us continued with distance classes, but we had a lot of free time and my sisters taught me to play the guitar.

Mom says I was about to drive them crazy, practicing up to eight hours a day every day, leaning on the girls and the internet, until my hands, my fingers, began to understand and make music.

And now I am here, sitting among other children, about to take a test to enter the conservatory and humming in my head a song by Serrat that my parents always sang, and that they sang again while we flew: “and not to forget of what I was / my homeland and my guitar I carry with me”.

I’m going to learn it.

autobiography format

References

Sand, G. (1960). Story of my life. General Manufacturing Publishing Company, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Vargas Llosa, M. (1993). A Fish in the Water. Seix Barral, Barcelona,…

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