Writing Family Biographies

One of my current projects is to tell the story of my grandmother’s life and I am struggling with how to go about it. First and foremost I write fiction. Most of my completed works are short stories. I have completed one novel and have another in progress. I have tried to stay away from articles and books that deal with writing your family history because this is not simply Uncle Joe and Aunt May got married and had Cousin Sally. This story is about a young German woman during World War II who met a handsome young man who became the father of her three children and led a double life as a very well connected spy who made an attempt to assassinate Hitler and was eventually kidnapped and murdered. It is a very important story that the family would like to have written down so I am looking for suggestions on how to go about it. Should it read like a novel or a biography? If a novel, how does one go about creating and developing characters based on real people that you have never met? Suggestions?

I suppose it might be time to reread another family autobiography. My father’s second cousin Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale and his wife Sybil wrote the story of his capture and imprisonment during Vietnam. The book is titled In Love and War: the Story of a Family’s Ordeal and Sacrifice During the Vietnam War and was later made into a television movie.

I am open to your comments and suggestions as I research this project. Please chime in!


About Susan Warren Utley

Susan Warren Utley is a wife and mother living and writing in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her stories are inspired by the unexpected twists and turns of real life and by her muse, a feisty Jack Russell Terrier who occasionally answers to the name of Lucy. View all posts by Susan Warren Utley

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