How can I start off my autobiography with something meaningful and thought-provoking that will catch the attention of my teacher?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Writers often begin with what is termed by Bailey and associates in The Practical Writer as a "motivator"; namely, some idea or question that will intrigue the reader enough that she/he will eagerly continue reading. Now, motivators can be several things:

  • A motivator can be a question relative to a broad idea or a particular idea.
  • A motivator can be a reflection upon the meaning of an abstract or concrete concept
  • A motivator can be a quotation that is relative to the rest of the paper.
  • A motivator can be a little-known fact or statistic that is relative to the paper.
  • A motivator can be a pulled passage that centralizes the idea to be the focus of the paper.

So, in writing an autobiography, the writer can use any of these types of motivators, or, since an autobiography is a narrative of sorts, the author can begin with a significant episode (a pulled passage) in his/her life--beinning in media res, so to speak--and focus the rest of the narrative of his/her life around this significant moment.  If one chooses to use such a flashback of a meaningful life event, he/she should carefully select one that is a bit curious/puzzling/interesting, yet thematic to the rest of the autobiography.

Perhaps, there has been a point at which one has had an "ephiphany" of sorts, an alteration of perspective on life. For instance, one could write something like this:

It was not until I was ---years old that I understood the meaning of my father's words, "_____________"


It was on a particularly dreary, cold day in January when I was ___years old that I first discovered real sunshine in my life. 

As another choice, if using a quotation, choose one that is existential, or philosophical.  Here is an example of one that could have an extensive meaning:

"A man's errors are his portals of discovery."

As a final idea, browsing through introductions to autobiographies of famous people (there are many in any library or book store) may help in generating ideas for an intriguing beginning. See the link below on writing an introduction for additional ideas. After reading all these ideas, taking a walk really helps to put ideas together and even generate new ones.


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