The opening sentence of a memoir is such a brain-freeze that many people give up the goal of writing an autobiography simply because they cannot come up with a satisfactory first line. Even country crooner Willie Nelson resorts to launching into his life story, The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes, with the cop-out, “They say writing the first line of a book is the hardest part.”
Fortunately, other celebrities make up for Willie’s appalling lack of originality. Consider this Chapter 1 first sentence: “My father was a very wise man who hated dishonesty more than he hated stupidity.”—from Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining, by television’s Judge Judy Sheindlin (written with a co-author).
Judy’s opening is followed by an anecdote from her youth that not only gives an example of how her dad chastised Judy when she tried to spin a bit of a tall tale, but also reveals her father’s influence on her own moral development as well as explaining the origin of her autobiography’s title. From there, Judy jumps to her first day as a judge, because her career is the focus of this memoir. The transition is deftly achieved, but there’s still a formula to it that you can borrow: begin with a statement that gets the reader curious, offer a pertinent anecdote and then make the connection to what you really want to talk about. More celebrity first-liners next time. Tune in!