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How to Write an Autobiography Introduction


Remember how you felt when your fifth grade English teacher asked you to write your autobiography? Now, as you look back over the years and assess your distinguished accomplishments, don't be surprised if you find your mind wandering back to that schoolroom. Perhaps getting started seems hard because many readers judge the merit of an autobiography by its first few pages and you don't want to disappoint. That's why the tips in this article can get you off to such a great start.

Imagine the face of a single reader before you begin. If necessary, tape a magazine photo to your monitor that best represents what you imagine your reader will look like. If the autobiography is intended for the family, post a relative's picture nearby. Write directly to that person as you work.

Decide if you will write in first or third person. If you are writing a narrative--telling your autobiography as if you were writing about someone else--stick to that format. You will have to become comfortable with referring to yourself by your name and pronouns. If you're writing in first person, your story should read as though you were making entries into a personal diary.

Try drafting your autobiography's introductory paragraph using each of the three approaches suggested in the following steps. See which sounds best and use it as your model. Employ this technique: Write all three, put them away for at least a day, then revisit them to see which one your gut picks as the best of the bunch.

Write a paragraph that starts with the story of something unique that has happened to you that distinguishes your story from those of all other people. Perhaps you won an award or traveled to an exotic land. This story can grab the reader's attention as you invite them into your life.

Compose a paragraph that uses a chronological start--where you were born and the circumstances under which you were born. Was the world at war? Were you the fifth child born to the family? Did your doctor deliver you under unusual circumstances? Each gives the reader a taste of what they can expect as you grow older between the pages of your autobiography.

Draft a third paragraph that begins before you were born. This type of introduction sets the stage for your entry into the world and allows the reader to get a feel for your heritage and roots. To use this technique, you will need information on your ancestors to begin writing.

Use the introduction you choose to establish the style of the rest of your autobiography. For instance, if you choose the chronological start method, you might begin each chapter with a time and date place keeper so your story coordinates with your introduction.

Don't share your introduction with anyone else. Family and friends will ask to read what you're writing, but uninvited feedback given by well-meaning folks can dampen a writer's enthusiasm. Tell everyone they can read the introduction when the work is complete, then let them keep guessing whether or not they're included in your autobiography.

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.