Biographical Sketch: Change of FocusWritten by Scott Dreyer
In our Advanced Writing class, we are working on writing a biographical sketch. The textbook* gave us a list of several key events in the life of American pioneer Daniel Boone. However, writing an interesting biographical sketch is not just writing a boring "laundry list" of events. (Doing that can make it sound like you are writing an encyclopedia.) Instead, the challenge is to make the story engaging and readable, and one way to do that is to pick a FOCUS. The textbook* suggested one of these four themes to focus on:
- Boone as a soldier
- Boone as a hunter/explorer
- Boone as a family man
- Boone and the Native American tribes
* Writing with Skill, Level 1, Susan Wise Bauer, p. 258.
Take a look at what this student wrote. He took the list of events from the life of Daniel Boone and wrote two sketches. Look carefully; which of the above four themes does Essay 1 focus on? Essay 2?
Daniel Boone. A legendary man. A soldier and pioneer who left behind boundless legacies and served as an inspiration for many. Born in 1734 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Boone lived in a colony under British rule. As a young boy, he was already familiar with firearms, having received his very own rifle at the mere age of 12. Time would prove how crucial his early mastery of firearms was to his later successes.
As time passed, it seemed he was born to be a soldier. As a young man, he had grown to become a man of remarkable stature-- broad chest, muscular arms, and a strong frame. He fought numerous battles and war, having actively participated in the French and Indian war and fought against the “Cherokee Uprising.” It was also during this time he married the love of his life, Rebecca Bryan, and settled on the Yadkin River in North Carolina. For the young Boone, his life was full of nothing but hopes and aspirations.
However, during the aftermath of the Cherokee uprising, Boone was forced to leave North Carolina. Indeed, it was a difficult moment, leaving his house and past behind to face the daunting unknown. This turn of events, however, seemed to have presented new opportunities. In 1769, Boone decided to embark on a two-year expedition into Kentucky, which was then a land of wilderness. A true pioneer, Boone started a settlement. He was met with fierce opposition from the Shawnee tribesman, who deemed his action a transgression of the sovereignty of their land. After a lengthy conflict, Boone and his fellow colonists finally prevailed, allowing them to establish settlements for other American pioneers to reside in.
His troubles did not end after he established his colony, however, as Boone and other colonists still faced constant aggressions from the Native Americans. After the US gained its independence, the Shawnees allied with the British empire to attack Boonesborough, Kentucky, Boone’s settlement. During this fight Boone was shot in the leg, yet survived. With sheer grit and determination, the colonist once again prevailed.
Boone, in his middle age, was still keenly interested in adventure. He was promoted lieutenant in his local militia and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782, one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War. The American hero published the stories of his adventures in 1784, a culmination of his unique experiences. He later moved to Missouri, famously stating, “Too much crowded-- too much crowded-- I want more elbow room.” It was in Missouri where this legendary adventurer and brave man who seemed to defy all odds finally succumbed to father time. In 1820 he died at age 85. His legacy will live on forever.
-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan
When talking about legendary American adventurers, one cannot help but think of Daniel Boone. However, what most people do not know is that Boone was also a loving father and a considerate husband. Born in 1734 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Boone lived in a colony under British rule. As a young lad, he had all kinds of dreams of exploring the unknown. Later, the determined Boone, a step at a time, fulfilled his childhood dream, traversing thousands of miles, fighting against different enemies, and most importantly, fulfilling his own destiny.
Boone was a man of remarkable appearance-- a handsome man with a muscular frame, always donning his favorite hunting attire. Despite his unprecedented achievements as a pioneer, soldier, and adventurer, surprisingly, Boone never neglected his role in his family. In 1756, Boone married the love of his life, Rebecca Bryan and settled in North Carolina. He and Rebecca were eager to start a family. Not long after, they were blessed with their baby son James. Unfortunately, the eruption of the “Cherokee Uprising,” which ultimately resulted in Boone’s exile from North Carolina, signified the shattering of his dream of stable home life. However, Boone never gave up. Never did. Eager to find a new home for his family, Boone moved to Kentucky, an undeveloped land, but also, a land of infinite possibilities.
The start was difficult as Boone and his fellow explorers were met with hostilities from the Native Americans. Boone was determined to settle on the land with his family. During this period of time, Boone never faltered to care for his family and children. He, a wild spirit, “was compelled to take extended trips in his search for less-frequented places…. As early as 1764–65 Boone was in the habit of taking with him, upon these trips near home, his little son James, then seven or eight years of age. . . .Frequently they would spend several days together in the woods during the
autumn and early winter.” As a father, he was eager for James to grow to become a great man. His adventures with James culminated a powerful father-son relationship that transcends bounds.
Boone’s family was never short of challenges, but again and again, Boone seemed to defy all odds and helped his family overcome them. The single most challenging obstacle came at 1776, which is, ironically, the year that the US signed the Declaration of Independence. Native Americans, furious at the colonists’ transgression of their hunting ground, decided to kidnap children, one of which was Boone’s daughter Jemma. A man of mettle, Boone did not back down, nor did he falter. He chased the Natives relentlessly and captured the girls back, saving them from a fate that might be too horrible to describe.
Boone, the legend, the explorer, moved one last time in his exhilarating life of adventure to Missouri. It was there where he finally passed away. Beloved by his family, admired by all, Boone closed his eyelids for the last time, at age 85, knowing that his legacy would live on for eternity.
-- Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan
Do you see the shift of focus? Essay 1 is based on "Boone as soldier." Tim tells us that in paragraph 2 sentence 1. Essay 2 is based on "Boone as family man," as we see in paragraph 2 sentence 2.
A licensed teacher in the US state of Virginia since 1987, Scott Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. Dreyer lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008. Dreyer and his wife and their four adult children make their home in the beautiful Roanoke Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.dreyercoaching.com/en/about/scott-dreyer
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