Autobiography is a non-fiction literary genre, 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 . In this article we will let you known about the Characteristics of an autobiography.
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, as they are biased by the memory and opinions of the person who narrates.
A clear sign that it is a subjective text is that the story is generally told 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 the third person.
Another significant detail is that it is a genre that we all have access to, 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 the 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 autobiography authors who can refer to themselves in the plural, or in the third person.
Generally it is a narrative text, since you are “recounting” or “telling” your life. Autobiographies work like traditional novels and stories, with an introduction , a middle, and a conclusion or ending.
There is no limit to the length of an autobiography, which can range from half a page to thousands of them, depending on the level of detail assumed by the author of the text.
For example, the length of the aforementioned Borges autobiography is around a hundred pages long, while one by the French writer George Sand (1804-1876), Historia de mi vida (1854) has almost five hundred, and only the first part of Mario Vargas Llosa’s autobiography (1936), The fish in the water (1993), has 538 pages.
The style can 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 frills or excesses of adjectives .
Parts of an autobiography
There is no formal structure to write 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 the memoirs and autobiographies follow the following structure:
1- Introduction and early years
This section generally sets out the reasons why it has been decided to write the autobiography, the family background (fathers, mothers, grandparents) is mentioned, and the reader is historically and geographically located.
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 entitled “That man who was my dad”, and tells how he learns, at the age of ten, that his father was not dead, as he had been led to believe, on the same day that you are going to know it.
2- Studies and training
Autobiographies generally use studies and professional life as their narrative axis, adding more intimate information (family relationships, love affairs, travel, moving, etc.).
For example, in the first part of his autobiography, George Sand places the full 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 struggle, he recounts his life and his studies until reaching the age of sixteen.
3- The body of the text. Developing
The events and the most important or relevant reflections for the author are exposed. It generally begins when he begins an independent life from 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 struggle with his father for his desire to become a writer, and on the other, his candidacy and the 1990 electoral campaign, to be president of Peru.
4- Achievements, conclusion or outcome
An autobiography, like life itself, does not always have clear and definite endings or endings. Generally, the text can be concluded by stating the achievements and pointing out future objectives.
Following the memoirs of George Sand and Mario Vargas Llosa: the former 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 is discovered and manages to impose as a writer, and ends up retiring from politics when he is defeated by Fujimori.
How to make an autobiography step by step
The fact that we are still in school does not mean that we cannot write an autobiography. We may think that we have little to tell, but it really is not so. The steps to write our autobiography are as follows:
1- Collection of information
Interview your parents and close relatives about family history and highlights. 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, enrollment in educational centers, identity document, enrollment in sports teams, etc .; and organize them in chronological order.
2- Organization and schedule
Sort the information gathered 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 that 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 facts 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 …”.
Based on the chronology of your life, prepare a first draft, with simple and entertaining language, that attracts the reader.
Some writers say that when you write about yourself there are two temptations: blame yourself for everything, or blame everything on others. It is necessary to look for a balance, not to ignore the achievements, but neither to 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 rework
When 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 there was something missing to tell, or if something is left over.
If you are accompanied by family and friends in this reading, they are likely to contribute new data and observations.
Example of an autobiography
Here is an example of an autobiography of a teenager. To facilitate understanding each part is indicated, although if you have to make an autobiography for school, it is not necessary to delimit them.
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.
My parents took several weeks to decide which school I had to study in. We visited several and finally decided that the best was the Frida Kahlo Mexican Children’s School, where I could learn English and it also only took 20 minutes to get from my house.
I have always been the younger brother and I have been treated like that, spoiled by my sisters and my parents. Sometimes I fell ill (I had the mumps and the flu), and I was very bad at the games that 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. To get in I had to learn to read and write, so I had to wait until I finished first grade at school.
It was a disaster: according to the orchestra instructors, he had no ear for music and was unable to play even the simplest melodies. I was still 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 occurred in our lives. My father had to change jobs and we moved to Buenos Aires, where we arrived on a flight from the Mexico City International Airport.
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 tried again to learn to play an instrument, without success. And he was still bad at playing soccer, which is not exactly an advantage in this country.
Do you believe me if I tell you that 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, relying on 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 have always sung, and that they sang again while we flew: “and so as not to forget me of what I was / my country and my guitar I carry in me ”.
I’m going to learn it.