An autobiographical essay is just an essay about something that you have experienced. Still, writing one can be challenging. You could write it for a class, an application, or just for your personal use. Whatever the reason, there are some key concepts and strategies that you will want to keep in mind as you write. Read on to learn more about writing an autobiographical essay.
Part 1 of 3: Plan the Rehearsal
Step 1. Pick a story you want to talk about
One of the best ways to write a good story is to choose one that you really want to tell. Remember, you should write about a specific aspect of your life, not the whole of it. The story of your whole life could fill the pages of a book. Instead, choose a topic that you can discuss in detail during the course of the essay. Some alternatives you can consider are:
- An achievement like winning an award, getting a job, or graduating from high school
- An ordeal such as a difficult class, an injury, or the loss of a loved one
- A meaningful experience like discovering a hobby, meeting your best friend, or going camping
Step 2. Define your purpose for writing
Think about what you want to achieve with your autobiographical essay. Why do you want to tell this story? What do you hope to achieve by telling it?
- If you are writing an autobiographical essay for an application, be sure to read the instructions carefully. If the request includes a suggestion or message that you need to respond to, make sure the story you want to tell responds to this message or question.
- If you're writing an autobiographical essay for a class, be sure to read the homework guidelines well. Make sure the story you want to tell is appropriate for the task. If you have any questions about it, ask your teacher.
Step 3. Consider your audience
Think about who will read your essay. Consider the needs and expectations of your readers before you start writing. Write down some of the things to keep in mind about your readers as you write your autobiographical essay.
- If you're writing your essay as part of an application, consider what your readers will be most interested in.
- If you are writing the essay for a class assignment, think about what your teacher will expect you to include.
Step 4. Generate ideas for your autobiography
Before you start writing your essay, take some time to develop your ideas and put a few things down on paper. Invention activities such as listing, free writing, grouping, and asking questions can help you develop your ideas.
- Create lists. List the ideas you have for your autobiography, and then review the list you made and group the ones that are similar. Expand the lists by adding more or using another prescribing activity.
- Use free writing. Write non-stop for about 10 minutes. Write whatever comes to mind and don't edit it. Then check what you wrote. Highlight or underline the most useful information for your autobiography. Rewrite freely using the passages you underlined as a starting point. You can repeat this exercise many times to continue refining and developing your ideas.
- Try idea grouping. Write a brief explanation of the subject of your autobiography in the center of a sheet of paper and circle it. Then draw three or more lines extending from the circle and continue developing the grouping until you have explored as many connections as possible.
- Ask questions. On a sheet of paper write “Who? That? When? Where? Why? How?". Write the questions two or three lines apart so you can write the answers. Answer each of them in as much detail as possible.
Step 5. Make a summary
Once you've put some of your ideas down on paper, organize them into a draft before you start writing your essay. You can write a draft to plan the entire essay, develop more ideas, and determine if you have forgotten anything.
Part 2 of 3: Write your essay
Step 1. Write in the first person
When writing your autobiographical essay, use the first-person perspective. In an autobiographical essay, you will need to share your own experiences, so use the first-person perspective.
Don't use second-person perspective or between the first and second person. Use the first-person perspective throughout the essay
Step 2. Start with an interesting phrase that starts your story
The introduction should begin immediately by telling your story. Think about what you will discuss in your essay so that you can determine what to include in your introduction. This should also identify the main idea of the autobiographical essay and act as a preview of your story.
Go straight to history. One way to start a story is to immediately describe something that happened, even if it happened in the middle of your story. You could start with something like "There I was, standing in front of the whole class reading a story I had written."
Step 3. Describe the setting
Use vivid details to describe the setting of your autobiography to readers. Provide the context and background they will need to understand the rest of the essay.
- Say something tempting to the reader. For example, you could start with something like "I never expected to be as happy as I was that day" or "Many things have happened to me in life, but this was the worst." Just make sure the opening matches your theme.
- Avoid starting with something too general or broad. Never start with "From the beginning of time …". This kind of opening doesn't help the reader understand what your story is about. Also, "very general" openings are boring.
- Avoid starting with a quote, unless it is meaningful to you and relevant to the story. If you want to include a meaningful quote in your autobiographical essay, it must be related to the story. You should talk about what it means when you mention it.
Step 4. Skip the introduction to your story
After you've written your introduction and engaged your readers, you'll need to move on to telling the story. End the introduction with a phrase that will get your readers excited to keep reading.
You could say something like "After these circumstances, I started the most challenging year of my life" or "Before this happened, I had no idea that I could do something so great." Choose a transition that fits your introduction and ties in with the ideas in the next paragraph
Step 5. Tell your story
After you've entered your story, you will need to tell your readers what happened, step by step. The second paragraph and those that follow will be based on what you say in the introduction. Make sure you don't leave out important details that your readers might need or want to know.
Step 6. Write a conclusion for your story
The conclusion must be memorable and interesting. You should end the story in a way that covers loose ends and provides a reflection on the experience.
- Talk about why the story is meaningful to you and what you learned from it.
- In the last part, refer to the beginning of the story by mentioning a situation or person that was central to the introduction.
- Tell readers about something unexpected that emerged from this experience.
Part 3 of 3: Improve the essay
Step 1. Include lots of details and vivid dialogue whenever appropriate
Vivid details and dialogue will help make your story interesting to readers. Describe the people, environment, and other relevant aspects of your bio.
- Instead of saying your teacher wore a blue dress, say it was aqua blue with a white bow on the sleeves.
- Instead of saying that you were feeling nervous, describe your shaking hands, the knot in your stomach, and the feeling of weakness in your knees.
- Instead of saying that you talked to your teacher about something important, write the conversation you had as a dialogue.
Step 2. Consider organizing your story in a non-chronological way
Telling your story in the order it came about is effective, but there are other ways to organize an autobiography. Consider different organization patterns before choosing one.
- Use a chronological organization if you want to start at the beginning and describe your story in the order in which it occurred.
- You can start in the middle of the story if you want your readers to dive into the middle and then go back to the beginning.
- You can start at the end if you want to tell your readers how the story ended and then explain how you got there.
Step 3. Be yourself
One of the worst things you can do when writing an autobiographical essay is to represent yourself in a way that doesn't reflect who you are. Make sure your essay reflects your experiences and personality.
Don't be afraid to show your sense of humor as long as you don't think it will interfere with the tone of your essay. In other words, if you are telling a sad story, using sarcasm or telling a joke about something serious might not be appropriate
- Be concise. When writing a story about your life, it is best to keep it simple and direct. Avoid stuffing your autobiographical essay with unnecessary information. Just include the most important details and describe them well
- Share your work with supportive friends and family. Ask them for feedback on what they like and how you can improve your story.