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Elements of Autobiography


Autobiography is the type of writing in which authors tell about events in their own lives


Characters are well developed in detail and are true-to-life.  They are revealed by what people in a story do, think, and say; what other say about them; and how others interact with them. Characterization is the author’s development of characters. It is the way in which a writer reveals a character’s personality.  The writer may do this by telling us what the character says, thinks, or feels; by telling us what other characters think or feel about the character; or by telling us directly what the character is like.



Setting is described vividly.


Details are interesting.  Writers of autobiographies use objective and subjective details and anecdotes to tell their life stories.

             Objective details can be proved.

             Subjective details are based on personal feelings and opinions and cannot be proved.


Anecdotes are short, often humorous, stories that enliven writing and illustrate a point.


Chronological order is the order in which real-life events occur and the order in which most writers of autobiographies tell their stories.  Often events are arranged from childhood to adulthood.


Point of View is the perspective from which an autobiography is written.  Since autobiographies are written by their subjects, they are told from the first-person point of view and use the pronouns I, me, and mine.  Readers experience events through the writer's eye-- knowing only what they think and feel about any given experience.

·       An autobiography is told from the writer’s perspective, or point of view.  The first-person point of view reflects only the writer’s thoughts, feelings, opinions, and biases.

·       The third-person point of view can be used to reflect the opinions, feelings, thoughts, and biases of multiple characters.

·       Third-person limited point of view is limited to the experience and consciousness of single character.

·       Third-person omniscient point of view is told by an all-knowing narrator who understands and can reveal the thoughts and feeling of all characters.



Author's Purpose is the author's reason for writing.  Authors of autobiographies often want to make sense of events in their lives and to communicate an important personal statement about life.  They may also want to give credit to people who influence them.  Controversial individuals often write autobiographies to explain or justify their actions.


 HumorAutobiographies often use short, humorous anecdotes (stories) to enliven the story and illustrate a point. Some humor is verbal (jokes or play on words), some physical (slapstick humor), and some require readers to use their imagination. There are some standard criterions for creating humor:


Irony is an _expression of the opposite of what is expected or the opposite of what is meant. Example: “Shut up and listen to me,” he roared. … (pg. 84, last paragraph in the 1st column).  This   particular kind of irony is humorous because it casts light on a person’s foibles (minor flaws; weaknesses) in a gently teasing way. There are three types of Irony:

Descriptive details create a picture with words that appeal to one or more of the five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell.


Prefix is a word part added at the beginning of a word.  It changes the meaning of the word to which it is added.  Example: unwound and impatient.  “Un” and “im” are both prefixes meaning “not.”  Unwound means “to reverse the process of winding up” and impatient means “not patient.”  Other prefixes that mean “not” are in-, non-, and mis-.


Drawing Conclusion Strategic readers draw conclusions when they take small pieces of information about the characters or events and use them to make a broad statement.



Types of Folklore


The folklore of a culture includes the stories, songs, and poems that people pass along from generation to generation.  Works that survive by word of mouth become part of a culture’s oral tradition.  When it first appeared in print in the mid 1800s, the word folklore meant “the Lore of the People.”  It included all rituals, customs, traditions, and beliefs of unknown origin that expressed the concerns of ordinary people.


For different types of Folklore – see pg. 197


      Myth often describes the actions of superhuman heroes or heroine.

Motif is a main element, idea, or feature – sometimes a repeating one – in a story.  Certain motifs are typical of fairy tales. Example:  princes and princesses, the wrinkled old wise man, and things occurring in threes.


Parody imitates a literary work or an author’s writing style for a comic effect.  A parody often includes humorous twists on familiar plots, events, characters, and dialogue.


Drawing Conclusions involves forming decisions about characters, events, settings, or other elements of a story, based on information and reasoning.  Drawing conclusions is a useful skill to help strategic readers better understand a story.


Theme is the central message or idea about life presented in a story, novel, poem, or play.  Writers can present a theme directly, by stating it; or they can present a theme indirectly, through plot, characters, or setting.  More than one theme can be introduced and developed in a story. Sometimes a theme can be introduced in the beginning of a story. 


Problem and Solution- story characters often face difficult problems.  Finding the solutions to these problems drives the story.  Plots that rely strongly on a problem-solution format are characteristic of folk tales.  


Making Judgments and Decisions involves evaluating information.  Strategic readers often make judgments and decisions along with a story character, assessing the judgments the character makes and deciding what course of action a character should take.


Multiple-Meaning Words can have the same spelling and sound.  However, these words have different meanings.  Strategic readers study the context in which a multiple-meaning word is used to figure out which meaning is correct.  The context can be the sentence in which the word is used or the surrounding sentences.