Generally, the best way to start an essay is to use a story that leads up to the question you are going to ask. The story can be true, or it can be made up. You can use scenes from movies, books or even the news. For your first topic, you can choose a person from history who overcame a hard past and became something different. You can start the paper by describing a situation in the difficult time of their life without giving their name. Then, end the first paragraph with the question, "does your past determine your future?" Afterward, you can share who this is and what they accomplished in spite of their past. Your thesis sentence would be something like, "No one has to be defined by their past if they don't want to be because..." You would then give three reasons why your past doesn't define you. Those three ideas would make the topic sentences of the body of your paper. End the essay with a final example, and tell your reader how they can get away from things they don't want to define them, or you can end it with another story.