Start Your Autobiography with a Powerful First Line

“I was born in [name your year] in [name your town].??? Sure, you can begin your autobiography with that sentence. But, really, why would you? Be creative, and make the first line of your memoirs drive the reader to want to learn more about you.

How? You can throw a little intrigue into your first sentence—make it mysterious in some way. An example comes from singer Janis Ian’s 2009 work, Society’s Child: My Autobiography, which reads, “I was born into the crack that split America.??? A sentence like that leads the reader to wonder what it means exactly and, thus, encourages further reading. Or, you can make a statement that, while deceivingly simple, also startles: “I was born in a house my father built??? is the first sentence of Richard Nixon’s memoirs. A third example, a multiple-sentence lead written by artist Salvador Dali, speaks for itself in giving the reader a good idea of the author’s personality: “At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.???

You might want to wait until you have several chapters of your memoirs written before you tackle your opening line. Or, start from the beginning and write your first line, but keep an open mind that you might want to change it as you get a feel for your own story and style of writing.