Thursday, May 19, 2016

Did you know Beethoven loved maracroni and cheese? Kathleen Krull on writing biographies

One of Kathleen's titles

While this list was intended for students, there's some great stuff here for those of us writing biographies for young readers. Here are three of Kathleen's ten tips:

Look for juicy details to make your information come alive. What did they wear? what did they do in the middle of the night? How weird was their family life? (Many geniuses come from troubled backgrounds, proving through history that it's possible to make something great out of your life anyway.) What did they crave? While researching Beethoven, I found out one day that his favorite meal was macaroni and cheese, and this tidbit helped me focus on other concrete details.

After you've soaked up all your information, don't use it all. Being selective is the magic key. Use only the most savory, cream-of-the-crop stuff, plus the facts that move your narrative along. Look for the arc, or shape of the person's life. Athlete Wilma Rudolph's life had the most dramatic arc possible, from her childhood with every disadvantage, her golden moments of Olympic triumph. But every life story has a beginning, middle, and end. Aim for the most dramatic part and tell what led up to it. what traits enabled them to over-come what obstacles?

Try tweaking your story by taking a point of view other than the standard third-person omniscient. You can use bystanders, or the neighbors as in "Lives of . . .". You could take the "warts and all" approach of a critic, divulging faults as well as redeeming qualities. Or, how would they tell their own story? How would one of their children? How would one of their teachers? How would a space alien?

Thanks, Kathleen!

Illustrate and Write On,

1 comment:

mona said...

Thank you for the teaser...great information!