Writing Prompt: Now It’s Your Turn

by Matilda Butler on October 28, 2014

Writing Prompt LogoPost #195 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts and Life Prompts – Matilda Butler

First Paragraphs

For the past several weeks, we’ve been announcing the winners of our First Paragraph Contest. And if you have been following the posts, you’ve now seen the published first paragraphs of the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Grand Prize winners. We hope the paragraphs have inspired you in your own writing.

I’m wondering. Are you are one of those who says, “That’s a good idea. I should work on my opening.” But then you get busy and don’t quite get around to it? If so, you’ll appreciate today’s memoir writing prompt because it gives you a chance to focus on just one paragraph — the first one in the memoir or vignette you’re working on.

You Don’t Get a Second Chance at a First Impression

When I was young, my mother often reminded me that I didn’t get a second chance at a first impression. And she assured me that first impressions mattered. It might all sound a little trite, but if you want to have the opportunity for more impressions, even as a writer, you need to get the first one right.

Memoir Writing Prompt

1. Open your current writing document to the first page and focus on your opening paragraph.

2. Quickly write a couple of sentences that explain what your memoir (or vignette) is about.

3. Read your first paragraph out loud.

4. Pretend you are a reader of your story rather than its author. Read the opening paragraph again.

5. Now ask yourself (as the reader):

  • Will this be an interesting story that I want to continue to read?
  • Does the paragraph seem to foreshadow a tale I want to learn more about?
  • Is the main character introduced? Can I see her (or him)?
  • Do I care about the main character?


  • 6. Become the author again and ask yourself:

  • Where have I chosen to start my story? Backstory? Action scene? Ending (and then I go back and tell how I got to there)? Is this the best place to start my reader?
  • Look at my words. Have I used powerful words? Consider alternatives and see if there are better choices.
  • Have I used dialogue? Would it help me engage the reader?
  • Am I “showing” or “telling”? Either works although showing is a better way to bring a reader into a story.
  • Have I taken advantage of relevant sensory details?
  • Is time or place important in my story? If so, does the reader know where I am and when?


  • The answers to the questions are not predetermined and the response of authors will be different. I just pose them to get you thinking about alternatives so that your first paragraph can be a powerful as possible.

    { 0 comments }

    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Grand Prize Winners Revealed!

    by Pamela Jane BellOctober 21, 2014
    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Grand Prize Winners Revealed!

    Join us for the announcement of the Grand Prize Winners of Women’s Memoirs First Paragraph contest. Pamela Jane Bell comments on each of the winning entries.

    Read the full article →

    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Gold Winners

    by Pamela Jane BellOctober 14, 2014
    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Gold Winners

    Want to see effective book openings? Pamela Jane Bell comments on the first paragraphs that won Gold Awards in Women’s Memoirs First Paragraph Contest.

    Read the full article →

    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Silver Winners Revealed

    by Pamela Jane BellOctober 7, 2014
    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Silver Winners Revealed

    Pamela Jane Bell announced the Silver Award Winners of our First Paragraph Contest. We hope you’ll expand your awareness of effective ways to open a memoir or novel.

    Read the full article →

    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Bronze Winners, Part 2

    by Pamela Jane BellSeptember 30, 2014
    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Bronze Winners, Part 2

    Inquiring minds want to know: “Who else won a Bronze in Women’s Memoirs First Paragraph contest?” Check out this article to see who won, what they wrote, and what Pamela Jane Bell reveals about their paragraphs.

    Read the full article →

    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Bronze Winners, Part 1

    by Pamela Jane BellSeptember 23, 2014
    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Bronze Winners, Part 1

    Pamela Jane Bell announces the first half of the Bronze winners of our First Paragraph contest. Join us in celebrating these women’s entries and learn from them about writing your own openings.

    Read the full article →

    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Honorable Mention Winners

    by Pamela Jane BellSeptember 15, 2014
    WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Honorable Mention Winners

    Join Women’s Memoirs in congratulating award winners in our 2014 First Paragraph contest. And come back each Tuesday as we continue to publish more winners.

    Read the full article →
    Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category StoryMap Category StoryMap Category StoryMap Category Writing and Healing Category Writing and Healing Category Writing and Healing Category Scrapmoir Category Scrapmoir Category Scrapmoir Category Book Business Category Book Business Category Book Business Category Memoir Journal Writing Category Memoir Journal Writing Category Memoir Journal Writing Category News Category News Category News Category