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Even with an essay, you want to grab the reader’s attention right away. You do need to honor the structure. The first paragraph needs to contain your topic sentence and generally introduce the essay. However, there is NO reason why you can’t start with something catchy.
Think about interesting or unusual angles on your childhood. Even if you can’t think of anything you find interesting (most of us think our childhoods were ‘normal’) you can express it in an interesting way. For example:
There was only one dog on our street, and it had to be mine.
“This I have never seen before!” the doctor said as he pulled 5 peanuts from my nose.
As the youngest in my family, I was the guinea pig for all my siblings’ experiments.
The light filtered dimly through the leaves, casting shifting patterns across the pages of my life.
You get the idea. A great first sentence will both catch the reader’s attention AND get you thinking about interesting ways to tell your tale.
Whatever you do, do not start your essay with "Once there was a liitle girl...." Boring openings spell disaster for any writer. As a teacher, if my student does not catch my attention in the first paragraph of an essay, he or she automatically loses points. I want my students to draw me in to their story. I want to be able to feel like I do not want to put this story down until I have finished it. My best advice to you is to remember that your teacher is your audience and will be paying you for your writing through your grade. You, as the writer, need to entertain your audience, capture and keep their attention. You need to appeal to your teacher and keep him or her engaged in your story. Whatever you do, do not just tell facts. Use anecdotes, humor, and details to draw and keep attention. An engaged reader, no matter who he/she is, is a happy reader.
For more free writing help, please see the eNotes Topics pages listed below.
To write an essay about your childhood, start as you would start any essay: start from within and from without. By "start from without" I mean start outside of you. What is the essay for? Is it for yourself, or for a class? If it is for a class, does it have specific goals? Does it need to be a specific length? And so on. By "start from within," I mean start with what is most important to you about your childhood. Use basic prewriting techniques—make lists of key events, free write, free associate, brainstorm, etc.—until you've got a sense of the special moments in your life. Then select several of those and build a thesis around them. Focus on a single thread or theme running through them.
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