Doreen Rappaport’s Rules for Writing Biographies

Doreen Rappaport is the author of numerous biographies, including Martin’s Big Words, Eleanor, Quiet No More, Jack’s Path of Courage, Abe’s Honest Words, and John’s Secret Dreams. Her most recent work, Helen’s Big World, is the centerpiece of our program at CS 21, where students are perfecting the art of writing biographies. Here are Doreen’s top 5 tips:

1. Good writing is about showing, not telling. Telling is vague and general. Showing is immediate, relatable, and engaging to the reader.

2. Use details. Details are what separates showing from telling. Details bring a story to life.

3. Choose your words carefully. Stick to words you know well. If you are unsure of a word’s meaning, look it up and consider incorporating the definition into your writing to help your reader. Think about using words that belong in the period.

4. Have a focus for the piece. Find the moment you want to write about, then tell the story of that moment. Avoid making lists; although they’re great for research, they’re often not interesting to the reader.

5. Don’t give the outcome in the title. Titles should tantalize, draw the reader in. Learning the final outcome is the reader’s reward for finishing the story.

Working on your own narrative writing? Share your own tips in the comments!


One thought on “Doreen Rappaport’s Rules for Writing Biographies

  1. Pingback: Matt de la Pena visits the Community Health Academy of the Heights – Behind the Book

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