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.

Quick Answer

One good way to begin an autobiography is by immediately diving into a particularly significant or meaningful incident from your life. You might choose to describe a life-changing or unusual experience, the first time you discovered something you love, or any story from your life that is important to you. Beginning in the midst of the action with specific, descriptive details can help you hook your readers and make them want to keep reading.

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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"

kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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 themselves, "what is happening here?" In journalism they refer to that as the "lead"; it makes the reader want to read the entire story.

Example,

The sun was high in the sky 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...

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

kkosach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

 

mdteacher1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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

Example 1: Making other people double-over with laughter is my ambition in life. One day, I hope to be a stand-up comedian and then, maybe Saturday Night Live.

Example 2: I've always been fascinated by graveyards, as I view loved ones grieve for a family member. One day, I hope to bring solace to hurting families in the funeral business....

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

Hope this helps. Godspeed to you.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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 much of North America, 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. 

a0542959 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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."

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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)

lelz | Student

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 | Student

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 you have had in your life? Try to start by telling that story. 

Hope this helps!

Wiggin42 | Student

Think about the most interesting aspect of your life story. 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. Write what you'd like to read. 

mchandrea | Student

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 cliche and I think you could twist them a bit to make your writing more interesting. 

chrisyhsun | Student

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 | Student

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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cripley61 | Student

I wouldn't work on the introduction to your autobiography first. Instead, I would write a few notes on what you want to include in your autobiography. I would write a few body paragraphs first. What information about your life are you going to include? Once you do this, you can more easily draft your introduction. You can start with a scene from your life, and go from there. The tough thing about writing is there are no true correct ways to start, but you have to know where you are going before you can write an introduction.

hannaberry | Student

A good way to introduce your autobiography may be to start by asking the reader a question. The question could be an affective hook. Example: How did it come to this?

florine | Student

I can only imagine a beginning that involves a reading with a circular pattern. Once you've reached the end, you are under the impression that you've come full circle and you want to start again and then you realize what was written at the beginning takes on a completely different aspect. 

Just like the books you read in your childhood, like Gulliver's Travels, that you read again as an adult and you find it's an altogether different book simply because you're a different person. 

casperbg60 | Student

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.

Can you tell me more? I am a high school student and I am having trouble writing my autobiographical essay.

zaap | Student

Out in the woods of (name of your village), a child was born to Mr. and Mrs. (last name) in the year (e.g. 1998). This lovely baby was named (your name). And that’s me!

             OR

Life is but a football match, sometimes very rough as a result of losing and other times exciting. But all in all, I think the battle has been a great success.

OR

Sometimes I feel like I am dreaming, but reality hangs on. I went through the turbulence of life, yet safely arrived in the promised land!

lavc | Student

I like a pithy quote that in some way reflects what you want to say about yourself. For example, "a grapefruit is a lemon and had a chance" would be a good opener for someone who wanted to explain that they have had good chances and take advantage of them.

Another example of a quote might be "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" to lead into a personal story that reflects 2 sides of that issue i.e. being asked to and dance and not having a drivers license, or the money for new outfit etc.

amcniece07 | Student

Dear future me, I have a prompt for you to think about.... Who are you? 

Dear past me, I know you'll never read this but I'm going to answer your question with a better question. What are you, what has made you the person you are today. 

what am I? Lets start with something simple. I am ____. 

Then explain 

prerna1234567 | Student

When you start writing an autobiography, first of all you should introduce yourself and start with a story. For example: My name is Mank. One day I was sitting near a river and .......

vivienliz | Student

You can also start off with an oxymoronic statement or description of yourself. e.g.  

Ever since i was little, I never had a lot of friends, & I never went out to play much. But this doesn't mean that I'm shy.

ybusse | Student

Start in the middle of the story, with an event that is particularly poignant or telling about you. Stories do not necessarily have to be linear, and starting from somewhere other than the beginning is a cool move.

cwinber | Student

"In the meadow of the land, in a dwarfish sight," this phrase will help you so much.