How To Start An Autobiography

What would be a good autobiography start out sentence? Please give me a few. I just need a good introduction or opening sentence for my autobiography.

Asked on by mank

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kkosach's profile pic

kkosach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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The thing about an autobiographical essay is that you DON'T want to start out with a cheesy beginning.  In that case, be sure you DON'T say, "Once upon a time," or "I was born on November 13, 1974," or "In this essay, I am going to write about my life."  Is this an autobiography of your entire life?  If so, you could start with, "When I was young, my family and I lived in ____."  Or, "Things were good/bad/boring/exciting in my early life."  Something like that will do.  If this is an autobiographical essay about one incident that happened to you, start with something like, "I never expected to be as happy/sad/shocked/angry/embarrassed as I was on that day."  Or, "Many things have happened to me in my life, but this was the best/worst/saddest/funniest."  Hope this helps.

a0542959's profile pic

a0542959 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Another great idea would be to allude to something that happens later in your autobiography. "The day I got married was the most insane day of my life. Everything went wrong. But I suppose that's jumping the gun a bit."

Or you could begin with a significant moment in your life, "I remember the first time my father put a fishing pole in my hands. He sat me down on the end of the dock and said, if that bobber goes under the water you jerk. Within moments it sunk under the water--I jerked, excitement coursing through me--and caught my first bass. That day I realized how much I enjoyed the peace and quiet of being on a lake."

kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Beginning a piece of writing in which you wish to grip the audience is best done 'in medias res' - in the middle of the action. You can engage really well by giving the impression something is overheard, or incomplete, then the reader's curiosity takes over as your events unfold. Beginning in the middle of a memorable event gives you the opportunity to tell what happened at the time, and reflect on it. Ideas could be:

' "Aaah!" I screamed as the bicycle wheel flew over my head...'

'There was paint everywhere - the walls, the ceiling, my hair..'

Think of three key events which shaped you as a person and try this technique to formulate your beginning.


billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite subject in school?

What is your least favorite subject?

What is your favorite musical group?

Who is your favorite author?

Who is your favorite actor?

Who is your favorite actress?

What is the name of your favorite book?

What would you like to do when you graduate?

Where would you like to travel?

What is your favorite food?

What is your favorite pastime?

Who is your best friend?

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

mlgendron7's profile pic

mlgendron7 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Treat it like any other "hook." You want to grab your audience's attention so that they want to read your paper.

A few good ways to start any paper include the following:

1. using a startling statement - shock your audience or use an appalling statistic

2. using a relevant quotation - make sure to provide proper attribution

3. ask a question - make sure to avoid second person in formal writing

4. an anecdote - a short story that appeals to the audience emotionally (may be a funny story)

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

You might want to begin with an observation that relates to

your experiences ("It takes years for a house to become a home.");

to the location(s)("Like most of North American, Philadelphia is cold and wet in the winter.");

of your personal history "(My passion for sports developed late. My first passion was art.");

or to human nature. Tolstoy begins his great novel Anna Karenina with this line:

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

You could come up with a similar insightful generality that has bearing on your own history. 

mdteacher1's profile pic

mdteacher1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Think about who you are or what you want to become in life and rip us with a really exciting start sentence. For example:

Example 1: Creating stomach cramps from laughter is my ambition in life. One day, I hope to play the Improv as a stand up comedian and then Saturday Night Live.

Example 2: The graveyard has always gripped my attention as I view loved ones grieve for a family member. One day, I hope to bring solace to hurtin families in the funeral business....

Example 3: From the emergency room again, my Dad was right there to comfort me. Quite the "stunt man" as a child, I would give my parents many scares.

Hope this helps. Godspeed to you.

kimfuji's profile pic

kimfuji | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

It's nice to start out a story with a specific example of something that happened to you. It should be an incident that you describe in detail, something that would make someone laugh or cry or just be intrigued, like they would ask themselvs "what is happening here ?". In journalism they refer to that as the "lead"; it makes the reader want to read the entire story.


The sun was high in the sky the day when I woke up on the deck of uncle Bob's yacht. I sat up. The hot sun was in my eyes. I looked down at my legs. They hurt. There were scratches stretching the whole way down the front of my legs, from my thighs down to my ankles. I looked around but couldn't understand where I was. I didn't recognize my surroundings. My ears felt like they were plugged. I couldn't hear well...

Anyways, that's just an example of a detailed description of a specific event.

billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It seems to me that it would be difficult for most young people to write complete autobiographies. They haven't been around that long, and most haven't done much except grow up and go to school. I would suggest that, with the teacher's permission of course, it would be better for a young student to write about a single memorable incident in his or her life. A fairly detailed description of that incident ought to give a pretty good impression of the writer's background. If you were to write about a single incident in your life, then the first step, it seems to me, would be to jot some of the incidents that stand out in your memory, and then to zero in on one of them as your project. You can find some excellent examples of the kind of essay I am suggesting in collections of James Thurber's short pieces, particularly in My Life and Hard Times and in The Thurber Carnival, which contains selections from My Life and Hard Times. Here are a few titles of his autobiographical essays:

"The Night the Ghost Got In"

"The Night the Bed Fell"

"The Dog that Bit People"

lelz's profile pic

lelz | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I like the ideas the other answers are giving you here, you could even do:

"Sitting here and looking back, I dont know where to begin. My life..."

or something like that. You can begin from the Present and travel back.

thewanderlust878's profile pic

thewanderlust878 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 3) Salutatorian

Posted on

It's awesome that you want to write an autobiography. I believe that an autobiography is a great way to tell the world your story. And everyone's story should be told. 

On to the question... I agree with a few others on the prospect that you should not start it with "once upon a time" or "my name is" etc. This will bore your reader and they very well could put the book down as soon as they read that. 

Try to think of something captivating to enrapture your reader. Was there a scary or very interesting experience your have had in your life? Try to start by telling that story. 

Hope this helps!

Wiggin42's profile pic

Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

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Think about the most interesting aspect of your autobiography. Perhaps you could start with some out - of - context dialogue that is totally bizarre. This could grab your reader's attention. Just don't be cheesy and write what you'd like to read. 

mchandrea's profile pic

mchandrea | Student, College Junior | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

The introduction will always have a big impact in whatever piece of writing. If you are writing an autobiography, you could start with a quotation you very much believe in like "Never be late."  or a short witty story about an unforgettable experience like "that time I went to... " or a leading question could be used too like "What am I doing with my life?" . 

Using the phrases "My name is... I was born... My parents are..." are a bit too cliche and  I think you could twist them a bit to make your writing more interesting. 

chrisyhsun's profile pic

chrisyhsun | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

I think a big part of the opening sentence should depend on the tone of the rest of the autobiography. For example, if you were going to write the entire thing in a formal tone and treat it like a history book, maybe start out with a more dry statement and maybe even in third person. An example of this would be "(first name) (last name) was born on (birthday) to (parents)". On the other hand, if the autobiography is somewhat fun and quirky, perhaps a better approach would be a really blunt statement of something extraordinary. For example, it could be a very very short summary of some really exciting anecdote like "My life almost ended at that Brooklyn crosswalk. I'm glad it didn't though, because then I wouldn't be able to tell you about it". As you can see, this approach is much more conversational and fun, and therefore sets up the entire autobiography in the same manner.

mrsmayo's profile pic

mrsmayo | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Begin with something personal.  A secret, a wish, a dream, a quote, a belief, a fear, a love. A favorite first line in a movie I liked was, " did I ever tell you about the time I almost died?" Hook the reader! You are interesting, something in there will catch fire once you open up and put it down on paper! 

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