Memoir Basics 4: Writing an eye-catching opener

Introduction

Openers work hard to keep you reading

The opening paragraph of a memoir (well... any story, really) has to work hard to keep you reading.

It should:

  • introduce the plot
  • show some of the themes of the story
  • give a sense of the style of writing
  • possibly include some sort of interesting detail to hook you in
Plots and themes. What’s the difference?

Let’s look at how Trevor Noah opens his memoir. Think about how it gives you a taste of plot, themes and style. What interesting details does he use to hook you in?

I was nine years old when my mother threw me out of a moving car.

It happened on a Sunday. I know it was on a Sunday because we were coming home from church, and every Sunday in my childhood meant church. We never missed church. My mother was—and still is—a deeply religious woman. Very Christian. Like indigenous peoples around the world, black South Africans adopted the religion of our colonizers. By “adopt” I mean it was forced on us.

It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: (YA edition)Trevor NoahSource
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Our thoughts...

Whether you want to continue reading Noah’s memoirs would depend on what you like in a story, but this introduction gives you a snapshot as to what you can expect if you go on.

Moving car

Let’s look at some other openers.

Like what you see?