“In the beginning ...” “Once upon a time ...” “When I was a kid ...”
These great openings have all been taken. No author wants her book--especially the opening paragraph--to be cliche. So, how does an author write a unique opening for a memoir or autobiography?
When writing about your life, it can be difficult to decide where to begin. Understanding what a memoir and an autobiography are can help. A memoir is the story of how a particular person, place, thing, experience, or event affected you. The readers discover your personality and the lessons you learned as they read about an impactful time in your life. An autobiography is the story of your entire life, although it might not necessarily be told in chronological order. Here, many experiences throughout your life are woven together to take the readers on a journey that ultimately leads them to a lesson or moral you have learned.
Writing the opening of a book of any genre can be challenging. However, when you have a plan for your book, getting started can be much easier. Your plan will define the theme of your book, who the audience is, and what you hope the readers will get from your book. Once you’ve determined these three points, coming up with an attention-grabbing opening should be easier. If you still need some inspiration, here are a few ways to start your memoir or autobiography that are a slight variation on the usual:
Drama. Hone in on a dramatic moment in your life that relates to the theme of your book. It could be the day your father died, the moment you discovered that your lover ran off with your inheritance, or the time when your mother told you she never loved you. In drama, there is tension, disappointment, emotion, and sometimes suspense. These are the hooks that keep readers turning the pages.
Celebrity. Have you ever met a celebrity? Could your encounter with a celebrity be tied to the theme of your book? If so, begin with that story. Describe how you happened to meet the celeb, what was said, and how the encounter impacted you later in life.
Comedy. If something funny happened to you that is central to the theme of your book, consider opening with that scene.
Suspense. Readers like mystery and suspense. They like to imagine the scene, consider the characters, and figure out “whodunnit!” If your life includes a mystery or a suspenseful event that could be tied to the theme of your book, try opening with that story.
Historic event. Was there a particular event in history that shaped your life? Think about national or worldwide events that are etched into the memories of the people who were alive at the time. If that event impacted your life, it could have also had an effect on the lives of your readers. Including specific or popular references will help readers remember the event and recall where they were when it happened.
There are many other unique ways to start your memoir or autobiography. Be creative and choose an opening that hooks readers and leaves then hungry for more of your story.