Memoir Basics 4: Writing an eye-catching opener

Introduction

Plot, themes, style and hooks

Not everyone gets thrown out of a car by their mother! Trevor Noah’s memoir is only one example of how a memoir can start. 

Before you start writing your own, let’s look at a few more memoir openers. See what you can predict about the story they might tell and look for interesting details they’ve used to make you want to keep reading.

THEME GUIDE - What themes are common in memoirs?

In Hitler's Germany, my Germany, childhood ended at the age of 10, with admission to the Jungvolk, the junior branch of the Hitler Youth. Thereafter we children became the political soldiers of the Third Reich. 

A Child of HitlerAlfons HeckSource
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I was at the video shop with my twelve-year-old son when he rented Kikujiro, a tough-guy/little-boy Japanese film whose charming, twitching hoodlum is played by an actor named Beat Takeshi. How could I have known where this would lead?

Wrong About JapanPeter CareySource
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When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

Angela’s AshesFrank McCourtSource
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So you can see how much they all pack in!

In this lesson, we’re going to look at five opening paragraphs to memoirs. We’ll look at how they introduce plot, themes, and style, and add interesting details to keep you reading. 

For each of them, you’re going to write your own version of each paragraph. The final paragraph you write will be your checkpoint piece.

You don’t have to write about being thrown out of a moving car in this lesson, but you can:

  1. write something true about your life 
  2. make something up about your life, or
  3. imagine someone else’s life.

Let’s go!

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