Writing a Testimonial Biography
By Brenda B. Covert
1 Do you know why gossip is popular? People love talking about and hearing about other people. We are curious about their lives. When an author writes a book about someone's life, it's called a biography. When a person writes about his or her own life, that is called an autobiography. Biographies and autobiographies are popular books.
2 There are many different kinds of biographies. One type is the testimonial [test-ih-MOAN-ee-uhl] biography. When people testify in court, they have to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A testimonial, then, is the truth concerning what a person thinks about another person. A testimonial biography will be filled with the thoughts of other people about the person who is the subject of the biography.
3 For example, if an author were to write a testimonial biography about your local mayor, the author would speak to the mayor's family and friends. The author would also speak to people who had worked for or with the mayor. Most of the article or book would focus on what all those people had to say about the mayor. The author would probably add his own comments between the statements made by family, friends, and co-workers. In the end, the reader would get a good idea of what a lot of different people thought about the mayor.
4 Today you will begin to write a testimonial biography. This will be an article, not a book. Whom will you choose to be the subject of your article? Think about the people you know. You may want to write about someone in your school. You may write about someone in your family or neighborhood. You may want to write about a person involved in sports, such as a coach or an athlete. You may also choose a subject from your place of worship. Whomever you choose, the person should be well-known by a number of people who are available to talk with you.
5 To begin, list the names of at least three people about whom you would like to write.
6 Of those people, which one is known by the greatest number of people? Which one would you most like to write about? Think it over and make your choice.
7 Next, decide which people to interview. Who knows your subject well? Who will be happy to talk to you about that person? Who will give you some good material to use in your article? For our purposes, you will need to interview six people. List possible candidates for the interview here. You may list more than six and decide later which ones to approach.
8 You need to plan some questions to ask. You don't want to ask questions that can simply be answered with a yes or no. You want details! For example, you could ask, "Do you like Mayor Smith?" You are likely to get a "yeah, sure" response. Instead, you could ask, "What do you like about Mayor Smith?" The response you get will be longer, giving you more material for your article. It will also be more interesting because each person you speak to may have different reasons for liking Mayor Smith!