Writing About Yourself and Writing About Others

When writing nonfiction, you’re faced with two choices: you can write about yourself, or you can write about others.

I recommend writing more about others than yourself, but it’s your choice.

When you write about yourself (i.e. first-person autobiography or anecdote), employ humility without sounding too self-deprecating. Nobody likes someone who is too hard on himself. Present the facts, even the ones that don’t make you look so hot.

When writing about yourself — this is extremely important — avoid making yourself the main character. It’s hard not to think of ourselves as the protagonists of our own stories, but sometimes we’re not. Sometimes, we’re the supporting character. Sometimes, we’re the narrator.

So many people are talking about themselves; be different, and make someone else the hero. If you do this well, people will be drawn to the stories you tell.

When you write about others (i.e. in a third-person story or article), illuminate the person’s strengths, but also bring to light her weaknesses. Don’t trash their reputation by any means, but make them real. Give them flesh. Make them human. People will relate more with truly flawed characters — they will find themselves in the story, instead of as just a bystander.

In all of these things, your goal is authenticity. A story is nothing (even if it is nonfiction) if people do not believe it.


3 Comments on “Writing About Yourself and Writing About Others”

  1. theoates says:

    These are all good pieces of advice and hold true to fiction writing as well

  2. Jeff Goins says:

    Thanks – I agree that these definitely work for fiction, too. Good call.

  3. Jeff,
    This is good advice. I am just beginning my freelance career and will take this to heart.

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