I’m torn between writing a full-blown biography or an impressionistic  memoir!

To me a biography is a rather formal, comprehensive, chronological documentation of a person’s life with highlights on the major characters, events and achievements that have helped to shape this life. A biography is usually set against the family and socio-cultural background, educational and scholastic pursuits, choice of careers and interests, and the political milieu of the times. The whole of this life is laid out for the readers to view and to assess.  

A biography therefore presupposes that the life is worthy of the writing and the writing is indeed worthy of the life! Although I’m inclined to believe that no life story is unworthy of being told, I’m realistic enough to admit that there must be readers out there who will be interested to read about it. Otherwise why would writers bother to write biographies!

The biographist is obliged to do detailed and relevant research in order to accurately represent the protagonist, including meeting and interviewing people who know him/her if he/she is alive or knew him/her if he/she has passed on. If the person is/was a public figure or a celebrity it becomes all the more important that no stone is left unturned or skeleton left  undiscovered at the research stage. At the writing and editing stage the selection of materials depends very much on the focus of the writing and the particular stance of the writer. The writing style and choice of idioms and expressions can add lustre to a dull life or turn mediocrity into excellence.

A memoir, on the other hand, can be more contemplative or at once introspective and  retrospective, personal and emotional. Chronology is not a key consideration as the writer chooses particular highlights or meaningful moments in the person’s life and adds a personal reconstruction of them and their impact.

The writer of a memoir has much more freedom in his choice of genre and style, story and setting, events and characterisation, imagery, irony and symbolism, flashbacks and foreshadowing – all making for a more vivid piece of writing. A memoir need not lay out the person’s whole life but rather,  can select particular eras, times, moments that are meaningful and poignant both to the person and to the people around him/her.


Perhaps, for a daughter or son who has dreams of describing their parents’ legacy, the memoir offers a more subjective genre of writing where they can be as biased or as soppy as they like – bearing in mind of course the readability and saleability of their treatise.

The problem is –  finding a publisher who sees the potential of a private project. The solution is – setting up your own private publishing company! Then you can write, write, write! And publish, publish, publish!


2 Responses to “”

  1. September 9, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Dare I say we are on the same page in this endeavour? I attended a few writing workshops at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August, and has given more impetus to write. The big question to be answered is “why should this book be written?” and secondly “what is the best way to tell the story?” Then the doyens say start writing and keep on writing . . .

  2. 2 ninitalk
    September 9, 2009 at 5:52 am

    How wonderful Fareeda! I remember saying to you once “We are daughters of fathers”!

    Actually, I’ve gone through the preparation and research stages but am now having second thoughts about how I want the the book to turn out. I don’t want it to be a pretentious, presumptious account that nobody wants to read! I don’t want to make my father more than the man that he was!In the end a memoir will probably be more difficult to write because you have to be more selective about everything!

    Best of luck to us then! Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

September 2009
« Aug   Oct »



%d bloggers like this: