I started Rainn Wilson’s autobiography, The Bassoon King, yesterday. It leads with one of the best opening lines I’ve read in a while.
Chapter 1: What Shall We Name Baby Fathead?
“I had the biggest, fattest head of any baby that was ever born into the human species. My head was–and remains–a combination of the head from the alien in Alien and a prize-winning albino casaba melon from the Iowa State Fair.”
Well done, Rainn, well done. I love this opening for multiple reasons.
First, it begins quickly, without long-winded introductory remarks or caveats. When readers begin Chapter 1, they’re ready to begin. So get going. Lead with fireworks.
Second, it’s vivid without being pretentious. The language is descriptive but not obscure. Nearly all of his readers will read the words “biggest, fattest” and hear echoes of their own childhoods, wherein something or somebody was a “big, fat” something. By the time readers reach his fourth and fifth words, they already know how to track his story. It fits in with their own childhood experiences.
Finally, and most notably, self-deprecating humor is almost always a good idea. We know Wilson is writing this book because he is already a famous and successful actor. (Dwight Schrute wrote the Foreword, by the way. Brilliant move!) Leading with self-deprecation allows him to be something else–vulnerable, personable, and endearing. In less than two seconds, I read his opening lines, laughed, and decided I liked him. Turns out, there’s a big, fat head in all of us.