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Last updated on Oct 31, 2022

10 Personal Narrative Examples to Inspire Your Writing

Personal narratives are short pieces of creative nonfiction that recount a story from someone’s own experiences. They can be a memoir, a thinkpiece, or even a polemic — so long as the piece is grounded in the writer's beliefs and experiences, it can be considered a personal narrative.

Despite the nonfiction element, there’s no single way to approach this topic, and you can be as creative as you would be writing fiction. To inspire your writing and reveal the sheer diversity of this type of essay, here are ten great examples personal narratives from recent years: 

1. “Only Disconnect” by Gary Shteyngart

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Personal narratives don’t have to be long to be effective, as this thousand-word gem from the NYT book review proves. Published in 2010, just as smartphones were becoming a ubiquitous part of modern life, this piece echoes many of our fears surrounding technology and how it often distances us from reality.

In this narrative, Shteyngart navigates Manhattan using his new iPhone—or more accurately, is led by his iPhone, completely oblivious to the world around him. He’s completely lost to the magical happenstance of the city as he “follow[s] the arrow taco-ward”. But once he leaves for the country, and abandons the convenience of a cell phone connection, the real world comes rushing back in and he remembers what he’s been missing out on. 

The downfalls of technology is hardly a new topic, but Shteyngart’s story remains evergreen because of how our culture has only spiraled further down the rabbit hole of technology addiction in the intervening years.

What can you learn from this piece?

Just because a piece of writing is technically nonfiction, that doesn’t mean that the narrative needs to be literal. Shteyngart imagines a Manhattan that physically changes around him when he’s using his iPhone, becoming an almost unrecognizable world. From this, we can see how a certain amount of dramatization can increase the impact of your message—even if that wasn’t exactly the way something happened. 



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2. “Why I Hate Mother's Day” by Anne Lamott

The author of the classic writing text Bird by Bird digs into her views on motherhood in this piece from Salon. At once a personal narrative and a cultural commentary, Lamott explores the harmful effects that Mother’s Day may have on society —how its blind reverence to the concept of motherhood erases women’s agency and freedom to be flawed human beings. 

Lamott points out that not all mothers are good, not everyone has a living mother to celebrate, and some mothers have lost their children, so have no one to celebrate with them. More importantly, she notes how this Hallmark holiday erases all the people who helped raise a woman, a long chain of mothers and fathers, friends and found family, who enable her to become a mother. While it isn’t anchored to a single story or event (like many classic personal narratives), Lamott’s exploration of her opinions creates a story about a culture that puts mothers on an impossible pedestal. 

In a personal narrative essay, lived experience can be almost as valid as peer-reviewed research—so long as you avoid making unfounded assumptions. While some might point out that this is merely an opinion piece, Lamott cannily starts the essay by grounding it in the personal, revealing how she did not raise her son to celebrate Mother’s Day. This detail, however small, invites the reader into her private life and frames this essay as a story about her —and not just an exercise in being contrary.

3. “The Crane Wife” by CJ Hauser 

Days after breaking off her engagement with her fiance, CJ Hauser joins a scientific expedition on the Texas coast r esearching whooping cranes . In this new environment, she reflects on the toxic relationship she left and how she found herself in this situation. She pulls together many seemingly disparate threads, using the expedition and the Japanese myth of the crane wife as a metaphor for her struggles. 

Hauser’s interactions with the other volunteer researchers expand the scope of the narrative from her own mind, reminding her of the compassion she lacked in her relationship. In her attempts to make herself smaller, less needy, to please her fiance, she lost sight of herself and almost signed up to live someone else’s life, but among the whooping cranes of Texas, she takes the first step in reconnecting with herself.

With short personal narratives, there isn’t as much room to develop characters as you might have in a memoir so the details you do provide need to be clear and specific. Each of the volunteer researchers on Hauser’s expedition are distinct and recognizable though Hauser is economical in her descriptions. 

For example, Hauser describes one researcher as “an eighty-four-year-old bachelor from Minnesota. He could not do most of the physical activities required by the trip, but had been on ninety-five Earthwatch expeditions, including this one once before. Warren liked birds okay. What Warren really loved was cocktail hour.” 

In a few sentences, we get a clear picture of Warren's fun-loving, gregarious personality and how he fits in with the rest of the group.


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4. “The Trash Heap Has Spoken” by Carmen Maria Machado

The films and TV shows of the 80s and 90s—cultural touchstones that practically raised a generation—hardly ever featured larger women on screen. And if they did, it was either as a villain or a literal trash heap. Carmen Maria Machado grew up watching these cartoons, and the absence of fat women didn’t faze her. Not until puberty hit and she went from a skinny kid to a fuller-figured teen. Suddenly uncomfortable in her skin, she struggled to find any positive representation in her favorite media.

As she gets older and more comfortable in her own body, Machado finds inspiration in Marjory the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock and Ursula, everyone’s favorite sea witch from The Little Mermaid —characters with endless power in the unapologetic ways they inhabit their bodies. As Machado considers her own body through the years, it’s these characters she returns to as she faces society’s unkind, dismissive attitudes towards fat women.

Stories shape the world, even if they’re fictional. Some writers strive for realism, reflecting the world back on itself in all its ugliness, but Carmen Maria Machado makes a different point. There is power in being imaginative and writing the world as it could be, imagining something bigger, better, and more beautiful. So, write the story you want to see, change the narrative, look at it sideways, and show your readers how the world could look. 

5. “Am I Disabled?” by Joanne Limburg 

The titular question frames the narrative of Joanne Limburg’s essay as she considers the implications of disclosing her autism. What to some might seem a mundane occurrence—ticking ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘prefer not to say’ on a bureaucratic form—elicits both philosophical and practical questions for Limburg about what it means to be disabled and how disability is viewed by the majority of society. 

Is the labor of disclosing her autism worth the insensitive questions she has to answer? What definition are people seeking, exactly? Will anyone believe her if she says yes? As she dissects the question of what disability is, she explores the very real personal effects this has on her life and those of other disabled people. 

Limburg’s essay is written in a style known as the hermit crab essay , when an author uses an existing document form to contain their story. You can format your writing as a recipe, a job application, a resume, an email, or a to-do list – the possibilities are as endless as your creativity. The format you choose is important, though. It should connect in some way to the story you’re telling and add something to the reader’s experience as well as your overall theme. 



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6. “Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

While out on a walk in the woods behind her house, Annie Dillard encounters a wild weasel. In the short moment when they make eye contact, Dillard takes an imaginary journey through the weasel’s mind and wonders if the weasel’s approach to life is better than her own. 

The weasel, as Dillard sees it, is a wild creature with jaws so powerful that when it clamps on to something, it won’t let go, even into death. Necessity drives it to be like this, and humanity, obsessed with choice, might think this kind of life is limiting, but the writer believes otherwise. The weasel’s necessity is the ultimate freedom, as long as you can find the right sort, the kind that will have you holding on for dear life and refusing to let go. 

Make yourself the National Geographic explorer of your backyard or neighborhood and see what you can learn about yourself from what you discover. Annie Dillard, queen of the natural personal essay, discovers a lot about herself and her beliefs when meeting a weasel.

What insight can you glean from a blade of grass, for example? Does it remind you that despite how similar people might be, we are all unique? Do the flights of migrating birds give you perspective on the changes in your own life? Nature is a potent and never-ending spring of inspiration if you only think to look. 


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7. “Love In Our Seventies” by Ellery Akers

“ And sometimes, when I lift the gray hair at the back of your neck and kiss your shoulder, I think, This is it.”

In under 400 words, poet Ellery Akers captures the joy she has found in discovering romance as a 75-year-old . The language is romantic, but her imagery is far from saccharine as she describes their daily life and the various states in which they’ve seen each other: in their pajamas, after cataract surgeries, while meditating. In each singular moment, Akers sees something she loves, underscoring an oft-forgotten truth. Love is most potent in its smallest gestures.  

Personal narrative isn’t a defined genre with rigid rules, so your essay doesn’t have to be an essay. It can be a poem, as Akers’ is. The limitations of this form can lead to greater creativity as you’re trying to find a short yet evocative way to tell a story. It allows you to focus deeply on the emotions behind an idea and create an intimate connection with your reader. 

8. “What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew” by Mariama Lockington

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Mariama Lockington was adopted by her white parents in the early 80s, long before it was “trendy” for white people to adopt black children. Starting with a family photograph, the writer explores her complex feelings about her upbringing , the many ways her parents ignored her race for their own comfort, and how she came to feel like an outsider in her own home. In describing her childhood snapshots, she takes the reader from infancy to adulthood as she navigates trying to live as a black woman in a white family. 

Lockington takes us on a journey through her life through a series of vignettes. These small, important moments serve as a framing device, intertwining to create a larger narrative about race, family, and belonging. 

With this framing device, it’s easy to imagine Lockington poring over a photo album, each picture conjuring a different memory and infusing her story with equal parts sadness, regret, and nostalgia. You can create a similar effect by separating your narrative into different songs to create an album or episodes in a TV show. A unique structure can add an extra layer to your narrative and enhance the overall story.

9. “Drinking Chai to Savannah” by Anjali Enjeti

On a trip to Savannah with her friends, Anjali Enjeti is reminded of a racist incident she experienced as a teenager . The memory is prompted by her discomfort of traveling in Georgia as a South Asian woman and her friends’ seeming obliviousness to how others view them. As she recalls the tense and traumatic encounter she had in line at a Wendy’s and the worry she experiences in Savannah, Enjeti reflects on her understanding of otherness and race in America. 

Enjeti paints the scene in Wendy’s with a deft hand. Using descriptive language, she invokes the five senses to capture the stress and fear she felt when the men in line behind her were hurling racist sentiments. 

She writes, “He moves closer. His shadow eclipses mine. His hot, tobacco-tinged breath seeps over the collar of my dress.” The strong, evocative language she uses brings the reader into the scene and has them experience the same anxiety she does, understanding why this incident deeply impacted her. 

10. “Siri Tells A Joke” by Debra Gwartney

One day, Debra Gwartney asks Siri—her iPhone’s digital assistant—to tell her a joke. In reply, Siri recites a joke with a familiar setup about three men stuck on a desert island. When the punchline comes, Gwartney reacts not with laughter, but with a memory of her husband , who had died less than six months prior.

In a short period, Gwartney goes through a series of losses—first, her house and her husband’s writing archives to a wildfire, and only a month after, her husband. As she reflects on death and the grief of those left behind in the wake of it, she recounts the months leading up to her husband’s passing and the interminable stretch after as she tries to find a way to live without him even as she longs for him. 

A joke about three men on a deserted island seems like an odd setup for an essay about grief. However, Gwartney uses it to great effect, coming back to it later in the story and giving it greater meaning. By the end of her piece, she recontextualizes the joke, the original punchline suddenly becoming deeply sad. In taking something seemingly unrelated and calling back to it later, the essay’s message about grief and love becomes even more powerful.

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what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Narrative Essay Topics: TOP 200 Choices for Students

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Imagine yourself facing a blank page, ready to fill it with your memories and imagination. What story will you tell today?

As students, you often have to write narratives that capture people's attention. But with so many stories to choose from, where do you start? How do you find the perfect topic that will grab our readers' interest and make them think?

Join our essay service experts as we explore 200 topics for college where stories are waiting to be told, and experiences are ready to be shared. From everyday events to unforgettable moments, each topic is a chance to connect with your readers and make them feel something.

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Best Narrative Essay Topics: How to Choose the One That Resonates 

A narrative essay is a type of writing that tells a personal story, including characters, plot, setting, and the order of events. Its main goal is to connect with readers emotionally and share a specific message or insight through the retelling of a meaningful experience.

Students write narrative essays as part of their studies for several reasons. Firstly, it allows them to express themselves creatively by sharing their unique experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Secondly, it helps them develop important writing skills like organizing ideas and thoughts effectively.

Narrative Essay topics

Choosing good narrative essay ideas involves looking at personal experiences, interests, and the potential for engaging storytelling. Here's a simple guide to help you pick the right topic:

  • Think about significant moments in your life that had a lasting impact, such as personal growth or overcoming challenges.
  • Choose topics related to your hobbies, interests, or areas of expertise to make your story more engaging.
  • Consider what your audience would be interested in and choose topics that resonate with them.
  • Focus on a specific event or detail to make your narrative more focused and impactful.
  • Look for universal themes like love or personal transformation that connect with readers on a deeper level.
  • Brainstorm ideas and write freely to uncover compelling topics.
  • Decide on storytelling techniques like flashbacks or foreshadowing and choose a topic that fits.
  • Get feedback from friends, peers, or instructors to see if your topics are interesting and impactful.
  • Choose topics that evoke strong emotions for a more compelling narrative.
  • Select a topic that you personally connect with to make your story authentic.

Once you've chosen a topic, brainstorm ideas and create an outline for your essay. Follow your professor's instructions carefully and consider seeking help from our narrative essay writing service if needed.

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Ideas for Narrative Essay Topics

After exploring how students write narrative paragraphs, we've put together a list of narrative essay topics designed specifically for college and school students. This list covers a wide range of subjects, so pick one that speaks to you! If you want to see how to develop a topic into a written essay, check out our narrative essay example . 

Literacy Narrative Essay Topics for College Students

How about delving into captivating literacy narrative essay topics designed specifically for college-level writing? Exciting, isn't it?

  • How did learning to read change my perspective on the world?
  • What was my favorite childhood book and why?
  • How did writing my first story impact my love for storytelling?
  • What challenges did I face when learning a new language?
  • How did keeping a journal help me improve my writing skills?
  • How did my family influence my attitude toward reading?
  • What role did literature play in shaping my identity?
  • How did participating in a book club enhance my reading experience?
  • How did technology affect my reading habits?
  • What was the most memorable book I read in school?
  • How did my favorite teacher inspire my passion for literature?
  • What impact did reading diverse perspectives have on my worldview?
  • How did overcoming a reading difficulty shape my relationship with books?
  • What lessons did I learn from writing my first poem?
  • How did storytelling traditions in my culture influence my literacy journey?

Personal Narrative Essay Topics on Relationships

Take a moment to reflect on your past experiences and craft compelling personal narratives with these essay ideas.

  • How did my relationship with my best friend change over time?
  • What lessons did I learn from my first romantic relationship?
  • How did my relationship with my sibling influence who I am today?
  • What challenges did I face in maintaining a long-distance friendship?
  • How did a conflict with a family member teach me about communication?
  • What role do my pets play in my life and relationships?
  • How did volunteering together strengthen my bond with a friend?
  • What impact did a mentor have on my personal growth?
  • How did a betrayal affect my trust in relationships?
  • What did I learn from a failed friendship?
  • How did traveling with a friend deepen our connection?
  • What role does forgiveness play in maintaining healthy relationships?
  • How did my relationship with my parents evolve as I grew older?
  • What lessons did I learn about teamwork from a group project?
  • How did a disagreement with a colleague teach me about compromise?

Best Narrative Essay Topics on Education and Learning

Consider the beauty of sharing your personal experiences and emotions in a captivating manner through these ideas for personal narrative essays.

  • How did a particular teacher inspire me to excel in school?
  • What challenges did I face while adapting to online learning?
  • How did participating in extracurricular activities shape my educational experience?
  • What lessons did I learn from a memorable field trip?
  • How did studying abroad broaden my perspective on education?
  • What role does technology play in modern education?
  • How did overcoming a learning obstacle impact my academic journey?
  • What did I gain from tutoring a classmate in a challenging subject?
  • How did a hands-on learning experience change my understanding of a topic?
  • What impact did a mentor have on my educational and career aspirations?
  • How did peer collaboration enhance my learning in a group project?
  • What lessons did I learn from a failure or setback in school?
  • How did my cultural background influence my approach to education?
  • What role does self-directed learning play in my academic success?
  • How did participating in a debate or public speaking event shape my communication skills?

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Personal Narrative Essay Ideas on Reflection on Life

Why not ignite your creativity with a range of narrative essay topics, from extraordinary moments to everyday experiences?

  • How did confronting a fear change my view on courage and growth?
  • How do family traditions shape my personal values and beliefs?
  • What does success mean to me, and how has it evolved?
  • Reflecting on friendships as a source of support in tough times.
  • How have travel experiences expanded my global perspective?
  • How do my hobbies and passions bring fulfillment to my life?
  • Exploring the link between self-love and mental well-being.
  • How can challenges lead to unexpected personal growth?
  • Reflecting on the importance of setting and reaching personal goals.
  • What pivotal moments mark my journey to self-acceptance?
  • Investigating how forgiveness resolves personal conflicts.
  • How do cultural expectations shape my idea of success?
  • Reflecting on the significance of self-care for overall well-being.
  • Exploring how technology influences my connections and worldview.
  • What did I learn from facing a life-changing decision?

Ideas for a Narrative Essay on Culture and Society

Engaging your readers with narrative essays on culture and society is a great way to spark interest, offering captivating ideas for exploration.

  • How has my cultural heritage shaped my identity?
  • Reflecting on a tradition or ceremony that holds significance in my culture.
  • Exploring the impact of globalization on local traditions and customs.
  • How does language influence the way I perceive the world around me?
  • Investigating the role of food in cultural identity and expression.
  • Reflecting on a cultural celebration or festival that left a lasting impression.
  • How does media portrayal affect societal perceptions of different cultures?
  • Exploring the intersection of culture and religion in shaping values and beliefs.
  • Reflecting on experiences of cultural assimilation or integration.
  • How do stereotypes impact individuals within a cultural group?
  • Investigating the role of art and literature in preserving cultural heritage.
  • Reflecting on the challenges and benefits of multiculturalism in society.
  • Exploring the significance of storytelling in passing down cultural traditions.
  • How do cultural norms influence gender roles and expectations?
  • Reflecting on the cultural exchange experiences that have broadened my perspective.

Since you're working on essays, we think it's suitable to suggest you learn more about the case study format , which is another common college assignment.

Narrative Writing Topics on Hobbies and Interests

Wow your readers by turning your passions and hobbies into compelling narrative essay topics that will get them thinking.

  • Describe a memorable adventure or experience related to your favorite hobby.
  • Reflect on how your hobby has evolved over time and its significance in your life.
  • Write about a moment when your hobby provided a sense of escape or relaxation.
  • Explore the role of hobbies in promoting mental health and well-being.
  • Share a story of how you discovered your passion for a particular hobby.
  • Describe a challenge you faced while pursuing your hobby and how you overcame it.
  • Reflect on the impact of your hobby on your relationships with others.
  • Write about a hobby-related achievement or milestone that you are proud of.
  • Explore how your hobby connects you to a community or group of like-minded individuals.
  • Describe the process of learning a new hobby and the lessons you gained from it.
  • Reflect on the role of hobbies in balancing work, leisure, and personal growth.
  • Write about a hobby-related project or creation that you are passionate about.
  • Explore the connection between your hobbies and your broader interests and values.
  • Describe a favorite memory or experience involving your hobby.
  • Reflect on how your hobbies have influenced your perspective on life and the world around you.

Narrative Essay Titles on Life-Changing Moments

Life is full of unexpected twists that can lead to life-changing moments. Take a look at these narrative essay titles for stories that have had a lasting impact on your life.

  • How did meeting a lifelong friend change my life?
  • What lessons did I learn from overcoming a major obstacle?
  • How did traveling to a new country broaden my perspective?
  • Reflecting on the day I discovered my passion.
  • How did a health scare transform my lifestyle?
  • What impact did volunteering in my community have on me?
  • How did I find strength in a moment of loss?
  • Reflecting on the decision that altered my path.
  • How did a random act of kindness change my outlook?
  • What lessons did I learn from a failed endeavor?
  • How did confronting a fear empower me?
  • Reflecting on the day I realized my potential.
  • How did experiencing a natural disaster shape my priorities?
  • What insights did I gain from a cultural exchange?
  • How did a mentor's guidance impact my life trajectory?

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Good Narrative Topics on Travel and Adventure

Consider creating intriguing titles for your narrative essay ideas by exploring thrilling travel adventures.

  • What was my most unforgettable travel experience?
  • How did a solo journey change my perspective on life?
  • Reflecting on an unexpected adventure in a foreign land.
  • How did traveling on a budget lead to unexpected discoveries?
  • What lessons did I learn from getting lost in a new city?
  • How did a cultural immersion experience broaden my understanding of the world?
  • Reflecting on the friendships formed during a travel adventure.
  • What was the scariest moment I encountered while traveling?
  • How did volunteering abroad impact my outlook on life?
  • What cultural differences surprised me the most while traveling?
  • Reflecting on the beauty of nature experienced during a hiking trip.
  • How did traveling to a remote destination challenge my comfort zone?
  • What was the most delicious food I tried while traveling?
  • Reflecting on the kindness of strangers encountered during a journey.
  • How did a travel mishap turn into a memorable experience?

Narrative Essay Topic Ideas on Career and Work Experience

College students can uncover captivating narrative essay ideas by exploring potential career paths or reminiscing about past job experiences.

  • What was my first job, and what did I learn from it?
  • Reflecting on a challenging project that taught me resilience.
  • How did a career setback lead to unexpected opportunities?
  • What lessons did I learn from transitioning to a new career?
  • Reflecting on a mentor who influenced my career path.
  • How did a workplace conflict teach me about communication?
  • What was the most rewarding moment in my career so far?
  • Reflecting on the importance of work-life balance in my career journey.
  • How did networking help me advance in my career?
  • What challenges did I face as a new graduate entering the workforce?
  • Reflecting on the decision to pursue a passion versus stability in my career.
  • How did a career change impact my sense of fulfillment?
  • What skills did I develop through volunteer work that helped in my career?
  • Reflecting on the role of mentors in my professional growth.
  • How did a career milestone shape my future aspirations?

Interesting Narrative Essay Topics about Challenges and Obstacles

If you're not sure what to write about for your narrative essay, think back to the tough times you've had and how you managed to get through them.

  • How did I overcome my fear of failure?
  • Reflecting on a time when I felt like giving up but persevered.
  • How did a personal setback lead to unexpected growth?
  • What lessons did I learn from navigating a difficult relationship?
  • Reflecting on a time when I had to step out of my comfort zone.
  • How did I overcome a major health challenge?
  • What strategies did I use to overcome procrastination?
  • Reflecting on the resilience I developed after facing adversity.
  • How did I navigate financial challenges and come out stronger?
  • What did I learn from failing at something I was passionate about?
  • Reflecting on the obstacles I faced while pursuing my dreams.
  • How did I overcome imposter syndrome in my academic or professional life?
  • What role did self-care play in helping me overcome challenges?
  • Reflecting on a time when I had to stand up for myself in the face of adversity.
  • How did I find motivation and inspiration during tough times?

Final Remarks

As we wrap up, our list of 200 narrative essay topics is here to fuel your creativity for your next writing project! Whether you're sharing a memorable event, reliving a childhood memory, or expressing a profound insight, crafting a narrative essay can be an uplifting experience that resonates deeply with readers.

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Telling the Story of Yourself: 6 Steps to Writing Personal Narratives

Jennifer Xue

Jennifer Xue

writing personal narratives

Table of Contents

Why do we write personal narratives, 6 guidelines for writing personal narrative essays, inspiring personal narratives, examples of personal narrative essays, tell your story.

First off, you might be wondering: what is a personal narrative? In short, personal narratives are stories we tell about ourselves that focus on our growth, lessons learned, and reflections on our experiences.

From stories about inspirational figures we heard as children to any essay, article, or exercise where we're asked to express opinions on a situation, thing, or individual—personal narratives are everywhere.

According to Psychology Today, personal narratives allow authors to feel and release pains, while savouring moments of strength and resilience. Such emotions provide an avenue for both authors and readers to connect while supporting healing in the process.

That all sounds great. But when it comes to putting the words down on paper, we often end up with a list of experiences and no real structure to tie them together.

In this article, we'll discuss what a personal narrative essay is further, learn the 6 steps to writing one, and look at some examples of great personal narratives.

As readers, we're fascinated by memoirs, autobiographies, and long-form personal narrative articles, as they provide a glimpse into the authors' thought processes, ideas, and feelings. But you don't have to be writing your whole life story to create a personal narrative.

You might be a student writing an admissions essay , or be trying to tell your professional story in a cover letter. Regardless of your purpose, your narrative will focus on personal growth, reflections, and lessons.

Personal narratives help us connect with other people's stories due to their easy-to-digest format and because humans are empathising creatures.

We can better understand how others feel and think when we were told stories that allow us to see the world from their perspectives. The author's "I think" and "I feel" instantaneously become ours, as the brain doesn't know whether what we read is real or imaginary.

In her best-selling book Wired for Story, Lisa Cron explains that the human brain craves tales as it's hard-wired through evolution to learn what happens next. Since the brain doesn't know whether what you are reading is actual or not, we can register the moral of the story cognitively and affectively.

In academia, a narrative essay tells a story which is experiential, anecdotal, or personal. It allows the author to creatively express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and opinions. Its length can be anywhere from a few paragraphs to hundreds of pages.

Outside of academia, personal narratives are known as a form of journalism or non-fiction works called "narrative journalism." Even highly prestigious publications like the New York Times and Time magazine have sections dedicated to personal narratives. The New Yorke is a magazine dedicated solely to this genre.

The New York Times holds personal narrative essay contests. The winners are selected because they:

had a clear narrative arc with a conflict and a main character who changed in some way. They artfully balanced the action of the story with reflection on what it meant to the writer. They took risks, like including dialogue or playing with punctuation, sentence structure and word choice to develop a strong voice. And, perhaps most important, they focused on a specific moment or theme – a conversation, a trip to the mall, a speech tournament, a hospital visit – instead of trying to sum up the writer’s life in 600 words.

In a nutshell, a personal narrative can cover any reflective and contemplative subject with a strong voice and a unique perspective, including uncommon private values. It's written in first person and the story encompasses a specific moment in time worthy of a discussion.

Writing a personal narrative essay involves both objectivity and subjectivity. You'll need to be objective enough to recognise the importance of an event or a situation to explore and write about. On the other hand, you must be subjective enough to inject private thoughts and feelings to make your point.

With personal narratives, you are both the muse and the creator – you have control over how your story is told. However, like any other type of writing, it comes with guidelines.

1. Write Your Personal Narrative as a Story

As a story, it must include an introduction, characters, plot, setting, climax, anti-climax (if any), and conclusion. Another way to approach it is by structuring it with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should set the tone, while the body should focus on the key point(s) you want to get across. The conclusion can tell the reader what lessons you have learned from the story you've just told.

2. Give Your Personal Narrative a Clear Purpose

Your narrative essay should reflect your unique perspective on life. This is a lot harder than it sounds. You need to establish your perspective, the key things you want your reader to take away, and your tone of voice. It's a good idea to have a set purpose in mind for the narrative before you start writing.

Let's say you want to write about how you manage depression without taking any medicine. This could go in any number of ways, but isolating a purpose will help you focus your writing and choose which stories to tell. Are you advocating for a holistic approach, or do you want to describe your emotional experience for people thinking of trying it?

Having this focus will allow you to put your own unique take on what you did (and didn't do, if applicable), what changed you, and the lessons learned along the way.

3. Show, Don't Tell

It's a narration, so the narrative should show readers what happened, instead of telling them. As well as being a storyteller, the author should take part as one of the characters. Keep this in mind when writing, as the way you shape your perspective can have a big impact on how your reader sees your overarching plot. Don't slip into just explaining everything that happened because it happened to you. Show your reader with action.

dialogue tags

You can check for instances of telling rather than showing with ProWritingAid. For example, instead of:

"You never let me do anything!" I cried disdainfully.
"You never let me do anything!" To this day, my mother swears that the glare I levelled at her as I spat those words out could have soured milk.

Using ProWritingAid will help you find these instances in your manuscript and edit them without spending hours trawling through your work yourself.

4. Use "I," But Don't Overuse It

You, the author, take ownership of the story, so the first person pronoun "I" is used throughout. However, you shouldn't overuse it, as it'd make it sound too self-centred and redundant.

ProWritingAid can also help you here – the Style Report will tell you if you've started too many sentences with "I", and show you how to introduce more variation in your writing.

5. Pay Attention to Tenses

Tense is key to understanding. Personal narratives mostly tell the story of events that happened in the past, so many authors choose to use the past tense. This helps separate out your current, narrating voice and your past self who you are narrating. If you're writing in the present tense, make sure that you keep it consistent throughout.

tenses in narratives

6. Make Your Conclusion Satisfying

Satisfy your readers by giving them an unforgettable closing scene. The body of the narration should build up the plot to climax. This doesn't have to be something incredible or shocking, just something that helps give an interesting take on your story.

The takeaways or the lessons learned should be written without lecturing. Whenever possible, continue to show rather than tell. Don't say what you learned, narrate what you do differently now. This will help the moral of your story shine through without being too preachy.

GoodReads is a great starting point for selecting read-worthy personal narrative books. Here are five of my favourites.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen, the author of 386 books, wrote this poetic story about a daughter and her father who went owling. Instead of learning about owls, Yolen invites readers to contemplate the meaning of gentleness and hope.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. This Holocaust memoir has a strong message that such horrific events should never be repeated.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This classic is a must-read by young and old alike. It's a remarkable diary by a 13-year-old Jewish girl who hid inside a secret annexe of an old building during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1942.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This is a personal narrative written by a brave author renowned for her clarity, passion, and honesty. Didion shares how in December 2003, she lost her husband of 40 years to a massive heart attack and dealt with the acute illness of her only daughter. She speaks about grief, memories, illness, and hope.

Educated by Tara Westover

Author Tara Westover was raised by survivalist parents. She didn't go to school until 17 years of age, which later took her to Harvard and Cambridge. It's a story about the struggle for quest for knowledge and self-reinvention.

Narrative and personal narrative journalism are gaining more popularity these days. You can find distinguished personal narratives all over the web.

Curating the best of the best of personal narratives and narrative essays from all over the web. Some are award-winning articles.


Long-form writing to celebrate humanity through storytelling. It publishes personal narrative essays written to provoke, inspire, and reflect, touching lesser-known and overlooked subjects.

Narrative Magazine

It publishes non,fiction narratives, poetry, and fiction. Among its contributors is Frank Conroy, the author of Stop-Time , a memoir that has never been out of print since 1967.

Thought Catalog

Aimed at Generation Z, it publishes personal narrative essays on self-improvement, family, friendship, romance, and others.

Personal narratives will continue to be popular as our brains are wired for stories. We love reading about others and telling stories of ourselves, as they bring satisfaction and a better understanding of the world around us.

Personal narratives make us better humans. Enjoy telling yours!

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 3 great narrative essay examples + tips for writing.

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A narrative essay is one of the most intimidating assignments you can be handed at any level of your education. Where you've previously written argumentative essays that make a point or analytic essays that dissect meaning, a narrative essay asks you to write what is effectively a story .

But unlike a simple work of creative fiction, your narrative essay must have a clear and concrete motif —a recurring theme or idea that you’ll explore throughout. Narrative essays are less rigid, more creative in expression, and therefore pretty different from most other essays you’ll be writing.

But not to fear—in this article, we’ll be covering what a narrative essay is, how to write a good one, and also analyzing some personal narrative essay examples to show you what a great one looks like.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

At first glance, a narrative essay might sound like you’re just writing a story. Like the stories you're used to reading, a narrative essay is generally (but not always) chronological, following a clear throughline from beginning to end. Even if the story jumps around in time, all the details will come back to one specific theme, demonstrated through your choice in motifs.

Unlike many creative stories, however, your narrative essay should be based in fact. That doesn’t mean that every detail needs to be pure and untainted by imagination, but rather that you shouldn’t wholly invent the events of your narrative essay. There’s nothing wrong with inventing a person’s words if you can’t remember them exactly, but you shouldn’t say they said something they weren’t even close to saying.

Another big difference between narrative essays and creative fiction—as well as other kinds of essays—is that narrative essays are based on motifs. A motif is a dominant idea or theme, one that you establish before writing the essay. As you’re crafting the narrative, it’ll feed back into your motif to create a comprehensive picture of whatever that motif is.

For example, say you want to write a narrative essay about how your first day in high school helped you establish your identity. You might discuss events like trying to figure out where to sit in the cafeteria, having to describe yourself in five words as an icebreaker in your math class, or being unsure what to do during your lunch break because it’s no longer acceptable to go outside and play during lunch. All of those ideas feed back into the central motif of establishing your identity.

The important thing to remember is that while a narrative essay is typically told chronologically and intended to read like a story, it is not purely for entertainment value. A narrative essay delivers its theme by deliberately weaving the motifs through the events, scenes, and details. While a narrative essay may be entertaining, its primary purpose is to tell a complete story based on a central meaning.

Unlike other essay forms, it is totally okay—even expected—to use first-person narration in narrative essays. If you’re writing a story about yourself, it’s natural to refer to yourself within the essay. It’s also okay to use other perspectives, such as third- or even second-person, but that should only be done if it better serves your motif. Generally speaking, your narrative essay should be in first-person perspective.

Though your motif choices may feel at times like you’re making a point the way you would in an argumentative essay, a narrative essay’s goal is to tell a story, not convince the reader of anything. Your reader should be able to tell what your motif is from reading, but you don’t have to change their mind about anything. If they don’t understand the point you are making, you should consider strengthening the delivery of the events and descriptions that support your motif.

Narrative essays also share some features with analytical essays, in which you derive meaning from a book, film, or other media. But narrative essays work differently—you’re not trying to draw meaning from an existing text, but rather using an event you’ve experienced to convey meaning. In an analytical essay, you examine narrative, whereas in a narrative essay you create narrative.

The structure of a narrative essay is also a bit different than other essays. You’ll generally be getting your point across chronologically as opposed to grouping together specific arguments in paragraphs or sections. To return to the example of an essay discussing your first day of high school and how it impacted the shaping of your identity, it would be weird to put the events out of order, even if not knowing what to do after lunch feels like a stronger idea than choosing where to sit. Instead of organizing to deliver your information based on maximum impact, you’ll be telling your story as it happened, using concrete details to reinforce your theme.


3 Great Narrative Essay Examples

One of the best ways to learn how to write a narrative essay is to look at a great narrative essay sample. Let’s take a look at some truly stellar narrative essay examples and dive into what exactly makes them work so well.

A Ticket to the Fair by David Foster Wallace

Today is Press Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, and I’m supposed to be at the fairgrounds by 9:00 A.M. to get my credentials. I imagine credentials to be a small white card in the band of a fedora. I’ve never been considered press before. My real interest in credentials is getting into rides and shows for free. I’m fresh in from the East Coast, for an East Coast magazine. Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish. I think they asked me to do this because I grew up here, just a couple hours’ drive from downstate Springfield. I never did go to the state fair, though—I pretty much topped out at the county fair level. Actually, I haven’t been back to Illinois for a long time, and I can’t say I’ve missed it.

Throughout this essay, David Foster Wallace recounts his experience as press at the Illinois State Fair. But it’s clear from this opening that he’s not just reporting on the events exactly as they happened—though that’s also true— but rather making a point about how the East Coast, where he lives and works, thinks about the Midwest.

In his opening paragraph, Wallace states that outright: “Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish.”

Not every motif needs to be stated this clearly , but in an essay as long as Wallace’s, particularly since the audience for such a piece may feel similarly and forget that such a large portion of the country exists, it’s important to make that point clear.

But Wallace doesn’t just rest on introducing his motif and telling the events exactly as they occurred from there. It’s clear that he selects events that remind us of that idea of East Coast cynicism , such as when he realizes that the Help Me Grow tent is standing on top of fake grass that is killing the real grass beneath, when he realizes the hypocrisy of craving a corn dog when faced with a real, suffering pig, when he’s upset for his friend even though he’s not the one being sexually harassed, and when he witnesses another East Coast person doing something he wouldn’t dare to do.

Wallace is literally telling the audience exactly what happened, complete with dates and timestamps for when each event occurred. But he’s also choosing those events with a purpose—he doesn’t focus on details that don’t serve his motif. That’s why he discusses the experiences of people, how the smells are unappealing to him, and how all the people he meets, in cowboy hats, overalls, or “black spandex that looks like cheesecake leotards,” feel almost alien to him.

All of these details feed back into the throughline of East Coast thinking that Wallace introduces in the first paragraph. He also refers back to it in the essay’s final paragraph, stating:

At last, an overarching theory blooms inside my head: megalopolitan East Coasters’ summer treats and breaks and literally ‘getaways,’ flights-from—from crowds, noise, heat, dirt, the stress of too many sensory choices….The East Coast existential treat is escape from confines and stimuli—quiet, rustic vistas that hold still, turn inward, turn away. Not so in the rural Midwest. Here you’re pretty much away all the time….Something in a Midwesterner sort of actuates , deep down, at a public event….The real spectacle that draws us here is us.

Throughout this journey, Wallace has tried to demonstrate how the East Coast thinks about the Midwest, ultimately concluding that they are captivated by the Midwest’s less stimuli-filled life, but that the real reason they are interested in events like the Illinois State Fair is that they are, in some ways, a means of looking at the East Coast in a new, estranging way.

The reason this works so well is that Wallace has carefully chosen his examples, outlined his motif and themes in the first paragraph, and eventually circled back to the original motif with a clearer understanding of his original point.

When outlining your own narrative essay, try to do the same. Start with a theme, build upon it with examples, and return to it in the end with an even deeper understanding of the original issue. You don’t need this much space to explore a theme, either—as we’ll see in the next example, a strong narrative essay can also be very short.


Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf

After a time, tired by his dancing apparently, he settled on the window ledge in the sun, and, the queer spectacle being at an end, I forgot about him. Then, looking up, my eye was caught by him. He was trying to resume his dancing, but seemed either so stiff or so awkward that he could only flutter to the bottom of the window-pane; and when he tried to fly across it he failed. Being intent on other matters I watched these futile attempts for a time without thinking, unconsciously waiting for him to resume his flight, as one waits for a machine, that has stopped momentarily, to start again without considering the reason of its failure. After perhaps a seventh attempt he slipped from the wooden ledge and fell, fluttering his wings, on to his back on the window sill. The helplessness of his attitude roused me. It flashed upon me that he was in difficulties; he could no longer raise himself; his legs struggled vainly. But, as I stretched out a pencil, meaning to help him to right himself, it came over me that the failure and awkwardness were the approach of death. I laid the pencil down again.

In this essay, Virginia Woolf explains her encounter with a dying moth. On surface level, this essay is just a recounting of an afternoon in which she watched a moth die—it’s even established in the title. But there’s more to it than that. Though Woolf does not begin her essay with as clear a motif as Wallace, it’s not hard to pick out the evidence she uses to support her point, which is that the experience of this moth is also the human experience.

In the title, Woolf tells us this essay is about death. But in the first paragraph, she seems to mostly be discussing life—the moth is “content with life,” people are working in the fields, and birds are flying. However, she mentions that it is mid-September and that the fields were being plowed. It’s autumn and it’s time for the harvest; the time of year in which many things die.

In this short essay, she chronicles the experience of watching a moth seemingly embody life, then die. Though this essay is literally about a moth, it’s also about a whole lot more than that. After all, moths aren’t the only things that die—Woolf is also reflecting on her own mortality, as well as the mortality of everything around her.

At its core, the essay discusses the push and pull of life and death, not in a way that’s necessarily sad, but in a way that is accepting of both. Woolf begins by setting up the transitional fall season, often associated with things coming to an end, and raises the ideas of pleasure, vitality, and pity.

At one point, Woolf tries to help the dying moth, but reconsiders, as it would interfere with the natural order of the world. The moth’s death is part of the natural order of the world, just like fall, just like her own eventual death.

All these themes are set up in the beginning and explored throughout the essay’s narrative. Though Woolf doesn’t directly state her theme, she reinforces it by choosing a small, isolated event—watching a moth die—and illustrating her point through details.

With this essay, we can see that you don’t need a big, weird, exciting event to discuss an important meaning. Woolf is able to explore complicated ideas in a short essay by being deliberate about what details she includes, just as you can be in your own essays.


Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

On the twenty-ninth of July, in 1943, my father died. On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born. Over a month before this, while all our energies were concentrated in waiting for these events, there had been, in Detroit, one of the bloodiest race riots of the century. A few hours after my father’s funeral, while he lay in state in the undertaker’s chapel, a race riot broke out in Harlem. On the morning of the third of August, we drove my father to the graveyard through a wilderness of smashed plate glass.

Like Woolf, Baldwin does not lay out his themes in concrete terms—unlike Wallace, there’s no clear sentence that explains what he’ll be talking about. However, you can see the motifs quite clearly: death, fatherhood, struggle, and race.

Throughout the narrative essay, Baldwin discusses the circumstances of his father’s death, including his complicated relationship with his father. By introducing those motifs in the first paragraph, the reader understands that everything discussed in the essay will come back to those core ideas. When Baldwin talks about his experience with a white teacher taking an interest in him and his father’s resistance to that, he is also talking about race and his father’s death. When he talks about his father’s death, he is also talking about his views on race. When he talks about his encounters with segregation and racism, he is talking, in part, about his father.

Because his father was a hard, uncompromising man, Baldwin struggles to reconcile the knowledge that his father was right about many things with his desire to not let that hardness consume him, as well.

Baldwin doesn’t explicitly state any of this, but his writing so often touches on the same motifs that it becomes clear he wants us to think about all these ideas in conversation with one another.

At the end of the essay, Baldwin makes it more clear:

This fight begins, however, in the heart and it had now been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. This intimation made my heart heavy and, now that my father was irrecoverable, I wished that he had been beside me so that I could have searched his face for the answers which only the future would give me now.

Here, Baldwin ties together the themes and motifs into one clear statement: that he must continue to fight and recognize injustice, especially racial injustice, just as his father did. But unlike his father, he must do it beginning with himself—he must not let himself be closed off to the world as his father was. And yet, he still wishes he had his father for guidance, even as he establishes that he hopes to be a different man than his father.

In this essay, Baldwin loads the front of the essay with his motifs, and, through his narrative, weaves them together into a theme. In the end, he comes to a conclusion that connects all of those things together and leaves the reader with a lasting impression of completion—though the elements may have been initially disparate, in the end everything makes sense.

You can replicate this tactic of introducing seemingly unattached ideas and weaving them together in your own essays. By introducing those motifs, developing them throughout, and bringing them together in the end, you can demonstrate to your reader how all of them are related. However, it’s especially important to be sure that your motifs and clear and consistent throughout your essay so that the conclusion feels earned and consistent—if not, readers may feel mislead.

5 Key Tips for Writing Narrative Essays

Narrative essays can be a lot of fun to write since they’re so heavily based on creativity. But that can also feel intimidating—sometimes it’s easier to have strict guidelines than to have to make it all up yourself. Here are a few tips to keep your narrative essay feeling strong and fresh.

Develop Strong Motifs

Motifs are the foundation of a narrative essay . What are you trying to say? How can you say that using specific symbols or events? Those are your motifs.

In the same way that an argumentative essay’s body should support its thesis, the body of your narrative essay should include motifs that support your theme.

Try to avoid cliches, as these will feel tired to your readers. Instead of roses to symbolize love, try succulents. Instead of the ocean representing some vast, unknowable truth, try the depths of your brother’s bedroom. Keep your language and motifs fresh and your essay will be even stronger!

Use First-Person Perspective

In many essays, you’re expected to remove yourself so that your points stand on their own. Not so in a narrative essay—in this case, you want to make use of your own perspective.

Sometimes a different perspective can make your point even stronger. If you want someone to identify with your point of view, it may be tempting to choose a second-person perspective. However, be sure you really understand the function of second-person; it’s very easy to put a reader off if the narration isn’t expertly deployed.

If you want a little bit of distance, third-person perspective may be okay. But be careful—too much distance and your reader may feel like the narrative lacks truth.

That’s why first-person perspective is the standard. It keeps you, the writer, close to the narrative, reminding the reader that it really happened. And because you really know what happened and how, you’re free to inject your own opinion into the story without it detracting from your point, as it would in a different type of essay.

Stick to the Truth

Your essay should be true. However, this is a creative essay, and it’s okay to embellish a little. Rarely in life do we experience anything with a clear, concrete meaning the way somebody in a book might. If you flub the details a little, it’s okay—just don’t make them up entirely.

Also, nobody expects you to perfectly recall details that may have happened years ago. You may have to reconstruct dialog from your memory and your imagination. That’s okay, again, as long as you aren’t making it up entirely and assigning made-up statements to somebody.

Dialog is a powerful tool. A good conversation can add flavor and interest to a story, as we saw demonstrated in David Foster Wallace’s essay. As previously mentioned, it’s okay to flub it a little, especially because you’re likely writing about an experience you had without knowing that you’d be writing about it later.

However, don’t rely too much on it. Your narrative essay shouldn’t be told through people explaining things to one another; the motif comes through in the details. Dialog can be one of those details, but it shouldn’t be the only one.

Use Sensory Descriptions

Because a narrative essay is a story, you can use sensory details to make your writing more interesting. If you’re describing a particular experience, you can go into detail about things like taste, smell, and hearing in a way that you probably wouldn’t do in any other essay style.

These details can tie into your overall motifs and further your point. Woolf describes in great detail what she sees while watching the moth, giving us the sense that we, too, are watching the moth. In Wallace’s essay, he discusses the sights, sounds, and smells of the Illinois State Fair to help emphasize his point about its strangeness. And in Baldwin’s essay, he describes shattered glass as a “wilderness,” and uses the feelings of his body to describe his mental state.

All these descriptions anchor us not only in the story, but in the motifs and themes as well. One of the tools of a writer is making the reader feel as you felt, and sensory details help you achieve that.

What’s Next?

Looking to brush up on your essay-writing capabilities before the ACT? This guide to ACT English will walk you through some of the best strategies and practice questions to get you prepared!

Part of practicing for the ACT is ensuring your word choice and diction are on point. Check out this guide to some of the most common errors on the ACT English section to be sure that you're not making these common mistakes!

A solid understanding of English principles will help you make an effective point in a narrative essay, and you can get that understanding through taking a rigorous assortment of high school English classes !

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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.

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Narrative Essay Writing

Personal Narrative Essay

Cathy A.

Personal Narrative Essay - Easy Guide & Examples

16 min read

Published on: Apr 18, 2020

Last updated on: Mar 24, 2024

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A personal narrative essay can be a fun way to share your life story with friends and family. However, most students have no idea how to write a personal narrative essay. 

This can be a challenge. On top of that, it's one of the most common assignments in school.

Is this something that you are also dealing with? Fortunately, you don't have to worry anymore! We are here to simplify the process for you.

This guide will walk you through the process of writing a personal narrative essay step by step. Plus, you can find plenty of examples here to help you get started and avoid common writing mistakes. 

So what are you waiting for, take a step forward to make your essay shine!

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Personal Narrative Essay Definition

What is a Personal Narrative Essay? 

A personal narrative essay is also referred to as short storytelling. It depends on the writer's type of story they want to tell the readers. This type of essay can be composed of the personal experience of the writer. 

A personal narrative essay is usually written in the first person participle. It helps to depict a clear narrative that’s focused on a specific moment.

Usually, high school students are usually assigned to write such essays. Writing these essays helps them to enhance creative writing skills. Also, they help to provide insight into a student’s personal life. 

To write a personal narrative essay, the writer specifies a plot around which the entire essay revolves. Moreover, the plot should also discuss the characters that have played some part in the story.

Sample Personal Narrative Essay (PDF)

How to Start a Personal Narrative Essay?  

The personal narrative essay requires a balance between objectivity and subjectivity. To write about an event or situation with significance, you must first identify what's important to share with the readers.

As with other types of writing - there are some guidelines you need to follow some guidelines. These are;

1. Choose the Right Topic 

A good topic can not just make your essay look good, but also it will make the writing process much easier. Since personal narrative essays are written on personal experiences and thoughts, make sure you choose your most interesting experience. 

Keep in mind that the topic you choose matches the intended audience. It is the reader who decides the scope and success of your essay.

2. Choose a Theme 

You can also choose a theme for your essay. This will help you focus on what you want to say. You can use your personal experiences to explore the theme in depth.  For example, if you choose the theme of love, you could talk about your experience of love with your sister(s).  Alternatively, you can start writing out the story and see if any ideas might relate to a bigger theme. When you are writing, pay attention to any ideas that keep coming up. See if they might be related to a bigger topic.

3. Create a Thesis Statement 

The thesis statement is the most important sentence and tells the reader what your essay will be about.  

In a personal narrative essay, the thesis statement can briefly explore the story's events. Or it can tell the reader about the moral or lesson learned through personal experience. The thesis statement can also present the main theme of the essay. 

For example, if you are writing an essay about your personal experience as a refugee. You may have a thesis statement that presents the theme of freedom.

Check out more thesis statement examples to learn how to write one!

4. Create an Outline 

Once you have your topic, it is time that you create an outline for your essay. The essay outline is an essential element of an essay. It keeps the whole composition in an organized order. 

Also, it helps the reader through the essay. With the help of an outline, a writer can provide logic for the essay. 

Personal Narrative Essay Outline

Being a student, you must know how important an outline is for an essay. It provides an organization with the whole content.

To create an outline for a personal narrative essay, you need to follow the following traditional method.


These three major elements of a  narrative essay  are further elaborated down below.

The introduction is the most important part of essay writing. It is the first impression on the reader; by reading this part, the reader decides the quality of the essay. This part should be the most attention-grabbing part. 

It should have an attention-grabbing hook and some background information about the topic. Moreover, it should include the thesis statement, which explains the main idea of your essay.

Keep in mind that the essay introduction should always end with a transition sentence. This will make a logical connection with the rest of the essay. 

Personal Narrative Introduction Example

Body Paragraphs 

After the introduction, the body paragraphs are written. These paragraphs help you to explain the key elements of your personal narrative essay. 

In a standard personal narrative essay, there are usually three body paragraphs. These paragraphs help the writer to describe the subject of the essay in all possible aspects. 

With the help of these paragraphs, the writer describes their point of view to the readers. To support the essay, the time and place of the event happening are also mentioned. Moreover, these paragraphs have all the information about the characters. 

Keep in mind that a body starts with a topic sentence . This sentence is a kind of introductory sentence for that particular paragraph.

Another important thing you need to keep in mind is the order in which you will present the details. Make sure that you use chronological order for this purpose. 

Personal Narrative Body Example

In conclusion, you need to provide the climax of the story. 

In this section of a personal narrative essay, you should wrap up the whole story. Do it in such a way that you provide a summary of the entire essay. 

Your conclusion should be just as impactful as your introduction. End with a memorable sentence or thought that leaves the reader with a lasting impression. You can summarize the main points of your essay or reflect on the significance of the experience in your life.

Make sure that you do not add any new points in this part. It will not give the reader a sense of accomplishment and will leave them in confusion. 

Personal Narrative Conclusion Example

How to Write a Personal Narrative Essay

A personal narrative essay is considered very good when it is expressive, and the reader enjoys your personal narrative. The key to writing an amazing personal narrative is to use sensory details as much as possible.

An excellent narrative essay doesn't tell what happened. Instead, it shows what happened precisely and how you have felt at that moment.

Here is how you can write a personal narrative essay:

  • Start With a Good Hook 

For any type of essay , a hook statement can be a game-changer. But, particularly for a personal narrative essay, hook sentences are very important. 

Usually, the introduction of the essay starts with this sentence. You may use a famous quotation, verse, or an interesting fact for this purpose. This sentence helps to attain the reader’s attention and persuade the reader to read the entire essay. 

  • Vivid Description 

For a narrative essay, it is a must to be vivid enough to let the reader imagine the whole scene. This is why it is necessary that the writer uses as much descriptive language as possible. 

For instance, if you are writing about a visit to the beach, you can describe how the sun felt on your face. On top of that, making use of strong verbs and adjectives will also help to provide an engaging experience for readers.  

  • Use Transition Words 

For any essay, be it an argumentative essay , descriptive essay , or personal narrative essay. It is very important to have some transition sentences and words. These transition words help to make a logical connection in all parts of the essay. 

In other words, the transition words help to make links between the storyline. You may use transition words like this, however, whereas, therefore, moreover, etc.

  • Add Emotions 

The purpose of a personal narrative essay is to show the reader what and how you have felt. Hence don't forget to add the emotions, as you have to make the reader know about the feelings. 

Describe all of the emotions and feelings using very descriptive words. 

  • Be Consistent 

Consistency is the key to writing an essay in a professional way. Make sure that you don't get distracted by any irrelevant details. 

Stay focused on one single point, and add details related to your specific idea.  Make sure that you inter-link all the events of the story in a regular manner. This will help the reader to relate all the events. Also, use first-person impressions as you are writing a personal narrative. 

You also want to show the reader that you are telling your own story. Make sure that you follow the same participle in the entire essay. 

  • Prove the Significance of Your Experience 

You know that behind every event, there is a reason. Similarly, let your readers know the reason behind your essay and its significance. 

Also, mention that the story you just told was important to share. 

As it is a personal narrative, you don't have to provide evidence to prove the significance of your story. Rather, you have to convey a broader message through your story. 

  • Use Dialogue

Dialogue is an excellent way to bring life to your story and make it more engaging. It can reveal the character’s personalities and add a touch of realism to the essay. 

When you use dialogue, make sure to punctuate it correctly and indicate who is speaking.

  • Show, Don't Tell

When writing a personal narrative essay, avoid summarizing events and simply telling the story. Instead, use sensory details to help the reader experience the story with you. 

Describe what you saw, heard, felt, tasted, and smelled to bring the story to life.

  • Reflect on the Experience

Reflection is an important part of any personal narrative essay. It is an opportunity for you to reflect on the experience you are writing about and what it means to you. Take the time to think about what you learned from the experience and how it has shaped you as a person.

Once you are done with writing your personal narrative essay. It's time that you put a little effort into making it error-free. Proofread the essay more than once and look for minor spelling mistakes and other grammatical mistakes. 

This will ensure that you have written an essay like a pro. You can do this yourself or you may ask a friend to do it for you.

To understand better how to write a personal narrative essay, take a few moments to watch the video below!

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Free Personal Narrative Essay Examples

Examples help you to understand things better; here are a few well-written  narrative essay examples . Read them thoroughly and use them as a guide to writing a good essay yourself.

Personal Narrative Essay 750 words

Personal narrative essays can be long or short. It depends on the writer how they want to elaborate things.

750 Words Personal Narrative Essay (PDF)

Personal Narrative Essay Examples for High School Students

Personal narrative essays are often assigned to high school students. If you are a high school student and looking for some good examples, you are exactly where you should be.

Best Summer Memory of My Childhood (PDF)

Near-Death Experience (PDF)

Personal Narrative Essay Examples for College Students

Being a college student, you will often get to write personal narrative essays. Here are a few examples of well-written personal narrative essays to guide college students.

Climbing a Mountain (PDF)

My First Job (PDF)

Want to get a better understanding? Dive into the wide collection of our narrative essay examples !

Personal Narrative Essay Topics

It is important to choose a good topic before you start writing. Here are some interesting  narrative essay topics  you can choose from for your essay.

  • My worst childhood memory
  • My favorite summer activities during vacation.
  • The first time I had a serious argument with my best friend
  • The first time someone broke my heart.
  • Things I could tell myself.
  • How I balance my family life and my professional life.
  • The most important rule in life
  • Teachers who inspired me in my college.
  • Why I love to write a diary
  • My favorite New York Times Article.
  • My favorite movie.
  • Personal advice for the youth of today.
  • How I overcame my stage fear.
  • The toughest decision I have ever made.
  • What I regret most

Need some inspiration to craft your essay? Our expansive list of narrative essay topics will provide you with plenty of ideas!

Personal Narrative Essay Writing Tips

You need to follow a few things in order to start your personal narrative essay in a proper way. Those significant things are as follows:

  • Think of a memorable event, an unforgettable experience, or any that you want to tell the readers.
  • Plan your narrative essay. Make yourself clear on the order in which you want to mention all the details.
  • Start your personal essay with a hook sentence. This will help you to grab the attention of the readers.
  • Use vivid language so that the reader can imagine the whole scene in mind. Describe the actions, mood, theme, and overall plot.
  • Make sure that you use descriptive language.
  • Use proper sentence structure.

In conclusion,

writing a personal narrative essay can be daunting for many students.

So, step into the world of professional essay writing with our specialized narrative essay writing service . We're committed to crafting compelling stories that capture and engage.

For added convenience and innovation, don't forget to check out our essay writer online , an AI tool designed to refine and elevate your writing experience. Join us today and transform your writing journey!

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How to Write a Personal Narrative [in 10 Easy Steps]

This blog post will explain how to write a personal narrative by exploring how to craft engaging personal narratives, drawing on your own experiences and emotions.

Table of Contents

Do you hate writing personal narratives? So did I, until I learned how to do it correctly. This blog post will explain how to write a personal narrative by exploring how to craft engaging personal narratives, drawing on your own experiences and emotions. So pull up a chair, get comfortable, and let’s get started!

What is a Personal Narrative?

A personal narrative is a story about a significant event in your life. It can be funny, heartwarming, painful, or all of the above. The key is that it needs to be meaningful to you somehow.

Think back to the last personal narrative you wrote. Chances are, you started with a scene: maybe you were climbing a tree on a hot summer day or looking out at the snow-capped mountains from your window on a frigid winter night.

Whatever the scene, it was likely something that stirred up strong emotions within you and compelled you to write about it. And that’s the key to writing a good personal narrative: start with a scene that will hook your readers and make them feel something.

A personal narrative essay is usually based on a single event that significantly impacted the writer. It could be something as small as a childhood memory or as momentous as a life-changing event.

The important thing is that the event should have affected you and that you can share what happened clearly and interestingly.

Why Write a Personal Narrative?

There are many reasons why you might want to write a personal narrative. Maybe you want to share a funny story about something that happened to you, or maybe you want to write about a time when you faced a challenge and overcame it.

Personal narratives can also be used to communicate important lessons that you’ve learned in life. By sharing your experiences, you can help others learn from your mistakes or inspire them to face their own challenges.

Whatever your reason for writing a personal narrative, remember that your goal is to connect with your reader and make them feel something. With that in mind, let’s move on to some tips for how to write a personal narrative

Features of a Personal Narrative

When writing a personal narrative, it’s important to keep the following features in mind:

First-person point of view: Personal narratives are usually written in first person, meaning they’re written from your perspective. This helps create a more intimate connection between you and the reader.

Dialog: Dialog, or conversation, can be a great way to add interest to a personal narrative. It can also help to further develop the characters in your story.

Vivid descriptions: Personal narratives are all about painting a picture for the reader. Be sure to use descriptive language to bring your story to life.

Emotional appeal: As we mentioned before, personal narratives should stir up strong emotions in the reader. Whether you’re writing about a funny moment or a life-changing event, your goal is to connect with your reader on an emotional level.

Now that we’ve gone over some of the key features of a personal narrative, let’s move on to the next step: brainstorming ideas for your narrative.

Brainstorming Ideas for Your Personal Narrative

One of the best ways to come up with ideas for a personal narrative is to brainstorm a list of potential topics. To get you started, here are some prompts that you can use to spark your creativity:

  • A time when you faced a challenge
  • An experience that changed your life
  • A memory that makes you laugh or cry
  • A place that’s special to you
  • A relationship that’s significant to you
  • A hobby or interest you’re passionate about
  • Something you’re afraid of
  • A time when you felt embarrassed or ashamed
  • A moment when you were proud of yourself
  • A time when you made a mistake

Once you’ve brainstormed a list of potential topics, it’s time to choose the one that you’re going to write about.

To do that, ask yourself the following questions:

What’s the most memorable experience I want to write about?

What’s the best way to tell this story?

What details can I include to make this story more interesting?

What lessons have I learned from this experience?

By asking yourself these questions, you should be able to narrow down your list of potential topics to the one that you’re going to write about.

Now that we’ve gone over how to brainstorm and choose a topic for your personal narrative let’s move on to the next step: creating an outline.

Creating an Outline for Your Personal Narrative

Once you’ve chosen your topic, it’s time to start planning your story. The best way to do that is to create an outline.

Here’s a basic outline for a personal narrative:


Start with a hook or an interesting opening that will grab the reader’s attention. Then, give some background information about your topic. Finally, explain what you’re going to write about in your story.

Body paragraphs:

In the body paragraphs of your narrative, you’ll need to include enough detail to bring your story to life and make it interesting for the reader. Be sure to include sensory details, dialogue, and other elements to help create a vivid picture for the reader.


In the conclusion of your narrative, you’ll want to wrap up your story and leave the reader with a strong final impression. You can share the lessons you learned from your experience or explain how this experience has affected you. By creating an outline before you start writing, you’ll be able to organize your thoughts and ensure that your story flows smoothly.

Now that we’ve gone over how to create an outline for your personal narrative, let’s move on to the next step: writing your story.

How to Write a Personal Narrative: 9 Tips

Now that we’ve answered the question.”What is a personal narrative?” and discussed some reasons why you might want to write one, it’s time to get started! Here are nine tips for how to write a personal narrative that will resonate with your readers:

1. Start with a scene

As we mentioned, the best way to hook your reader is to start with a scene. This could be a specific event that you remember vividly, or it could be an ongoing experience you feel strongly about.

Whichever route you choose, set the scene by providing enough details for your reader to picture what’s going on. If you’re writing about a specific event, describe where it took place, the weather, who was there, and what you were doing.

If you’re writing about an ongoing experience, describe the setting in detail and provide some background information on why it’s significant to you.

2. Use strong verbs

Once you’ve set the scene, it’s time to move into the action. Use strong verbs to describe what’s happening and help your reader feel like they’re right there in the thick of things.

For example, instead of saying, “I was walking down the street,” you could say, “I strutted down the street.” The verb “strut” adds attitude and makes the scene more interesting to read.

Likewise, instead of saying, “I was scared,” you could say, “I quaked with fear.” This not only sounds more interesting, but it also provides insight into your emotional state at the time.

3. Use sensory details

In addition to using strong verbs, another way to make your readers feel like they’re in the scene is to use sensory details. Describe what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.

For example, if you’re writing about a time when you were very scared, you might say: “My heart pounded in my chest, and I felt like I was going to vomit.” Using these types of details, you can help your reader feel the same emotions you felt at the time.

4. Be honest

One of the most important things to remember when writing a personal narrative is, to be honest. Don’t try to make yourself look better or worse than you are – just write about what happened as truthfully as you can.

Being honest doesn’t mean you have to share everything – sometimes, it’s okay to leave out details that are too personal or hurtful. But in general, try to be as open and truthful as you can about your experiences.

5. Avoid cliches

When writing a personal narrative, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using cliches. For example, you might be tempted to say something like, “It was a dark and stormy night,” or “I had an epiphany.”

While there’s nothing wrong with using a well-known phrase every once in a while, try to avoid relying on them too much. Instead, challenge yourself to be creative and develop your own way of describing things.

6. Write in first person

When writing a personal narrative, it’s important to write in first person. This means using “I” statements, such as “I walked down the street.”

Writing in first person gives your story a more personal feel and allows your readers to connect with you more easily.

7. Use flashbacks sparingly

While flashbacks can be a great way to provide background information or add intrigue to your story, they should be used sparingly. If you use too many flashbacks, it can be confusing for your reader and make your story less cohesive.

If you do decide to use a flashback, make sure it’s relevant to the current story and that you provide enough context for your reader to understand what’s going on.

8. Write a strong ending

The ending of your personal narrative is just as important as the beginning. After all, this is the part of the story your reader will remember the most.

One way to end your story on a strong note is to tie everything back to the main theme or moral of the story. For example, if you’re writing about a time when you overcame a challenge, you might say, “I learned that I was stronger than I thought I was.”

Another way to create a strong ending is to leave your reader with a question or a cliffhanger. This will make them think about your story long after reading it.

9. Edit and revise

Once you’ve finished writing your personal narrative, editing and revising your work is important. This will help you fix any errors and ensure your story is as strong as it can be.

When editing, pay attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You should also make sure your story flows smoothly and that there are no plot holes.

narrative, it’s important to edit and revise it. This will help you fix any errors and ensure your story is as strong as it can be.

Consider using Grammarly to help you with editing. This tool can catch grammar mistakes that you might miss. It’s also a great way to improve your writing skills in general.

When revising your story, ask yourself if there’s anything you can add or remove to make it better. Sometimes, less is more. Removing unnecessary details can make your story more impactful.

Finally, make sure the overall structure of your story makes sense. This includes the order of events and how each scene transitions into the next.

10. Publish your story

Once you’re happy with your story, it’s time to share it with the world. There are a few different ways you can do this.

If you want to keep your story private, you could simply save it on your computer or print it out. You could also bind it into a book or create a digital book using a program like Scrivener.

If you’re interested in sharing your story with a wider audience, you could submit it to a literary magazine or website. You could also self-publish your story as an ebook or print book.

No matter how you share your story, just remember that the most important thing is that you’re happy with it. Don’t worry about what other people think—just focus on creating a story you’re proud of.

Examples of Personal Narratives

Now that you know how to write a personal narrative, it’s time to see some examples. Reading examples of personal narratives can give you an idea of how to structure your story.

Below, you’ll find a few examples of personal narratives. The first compelling personal narrative is about a young woman’s experience with her father, and the second is about a young boy’s experience at summer camp.

Example 1: “My Father and I”

I was always close with my father, but it wasn’t until I went away to college that I realized how much he truly meant to me.

Growing up, my father was always busy with work. He was a successful lawyer, and his job often required him to travel. As a result, I didn’t see him as much as I would have liked.

When I left for college, I was nervous about being away from home. But my father assured me that everything would be okay. He told me he was always there for me, even if he couldn’t be there in person.

Throughout my first year of college, my father and I texted each other almost daily. He would ask me about my classes, and I would tell him about my friends and what I was doing. Even though we were so far apart, it was great to connect with him.

Then, one day, I got a call from my father. He sounded strange, and he told me he had some bad news. He had been diagnosed with cancer.

I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. All I could think about was how much I wanted to be with him.

Fortunately, my father’s cancer was caught early, and he was able to receive treatment. I flew home as soon as possible and spent the next few months helping him recover.

Although it was difficult, it also brought my father and me closer together. We talked more than ever, and I could finally see how much he truly loved me.

Now, my father is healthy and happy. We still text each other almost daily, and I cherish our relationship more than ever.

Example 2: “My Summer at Camp”

When I was ten years old, I went to summer camp for the first time. I was nervous about being away from home, but I was also excited to meet new people and try new things.

As soon as I arrived at camp, I made a beeline for the nearest bunk. I had been assigned to a bunk with other ten-year-old girls and was eager to get to know them.

However, I soon realized that the other girls in my bunk didn’t want to be friends with me. They would exclude me from their games and conversations and often make fun of me.

I was hurt and confused. I didn’t understand why they didn’t like me.

One day, I decided to take a walk around camp. I had always loved exploring, hoping to find someplace new to play.

As I was walking, I heard laughter coming from a nearby cabin. I walked closer and saw a group of girls my age playing together. They looked like they were having so much fun.

I hesitated for a moment, unsure whether I should go over. But then I decided that there was nothing to lose. So, I walked up to the group of girls and asked if I could join them.

At first, they were hesitant. But after a few minutes, they welcomed me into the group. We spent the rest of the summer playing together and becoming close friends.

That experience taught me a lot about friendship and acceptance. I learned that being different is okay and that there’s always a place for you somewhere.

Now, whenever I see someone who looks like they’re feeling left out, I make sure to include them. Because I know what it feels like to be excluded, and I don’t want anyone to feel that way.

Personal narratives are a great way to connect with your reader. They allow you to share your experiences and lessons learned relatable and engagingly. Hopefully, these examples have inspired you to start writing your personal narrative.

Happy writing!

A personal narrative is a story that recounts a writer’s personal experience.

What is the purpose of a Personal Narrative?

The purpose of a personal narrative is to share an experience that has affected the writer in some way. The goal is to connect with the reader and give them a glimpse into your life.

How long should a Personal Narrative be?

A personal narrative can be as short or as long as you want it to be. There is no set length for a personal narrative. However, it’s generally best to keep your story focused and concise.

Show Don’t Tell Writing Exercises: How To

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Willow Tenny

When it comes to writing, Willow Tenny is a true pro. She has a wealth of experience in SEO copywriting and creative writing, and she knows exactly what it takes to produce quality content. On her blog, Willow Writes, Willow shares top writing strategies with both beginners and experienced writers.

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Personal Narrative Essay

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Writing a Personal Narrative Essay: Everything You Need to Know

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Personal Narrative Essay

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Writing a personal narrative essay can be a difficult task, but it's also an incredibly rewarding form of self-expression and a valuable tool in education. 

Whether you're a high school student preparing for college applications or a college student, focused on improving your narrative writing skills, this blog has everything you need. 

This blog will guide you through the process, providing expert tips and examples to help you succeed.

So let’s get right into it!

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  • 1. Understanding Personal Narrative Essays
  • 2. 6 Steps on How to Write a Personal Narrative Essay
  • 3. Personal Narrative Essay Examples
  • 4. Expert Tips for Writing Personal Narrative Essays
  • 5. Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Personal Narrative Essays

Understanding Personal Narrative Essays

A narrative essay may include the option to create fictional narratives or stories. However, a personal narrative essay involves sharing personal experiences or recounting stories from a first-person perspective.

Personal narratives allow the writer to reflect on their experiences and share insights, while also connecting with the reader on a personal level. 

This genre encourages self-expression and enhances one's storytelling and communication skills.

6 Steps on How to Write a Personal Narrative Essay

Writing a personal narrative essay involves several key factors. Let's delve into the essential steps of crafting a compelling personal narrative essay:

Step 1: Choosing the Right Topic

Selecting the perfect essay topic is a critical first step in the writing process. It will help you focus on the specific topic and maintain the flow; 

Here are some strategies to help you decide:

  • Reflect on Personal Experiences: Start by considering your life experiences, especially those that have deeply impacted your thoughts, feelings, or personal growth.
  • Identify a Lesson Learned: Go for a topic that involves a valuable lesson or transformative moment. This could be an insightful realization or an experience that left a lasting impression.
  • Resonate with Your Reader: Ensure that your chosen topic not only resonates with you but can also connect with your audience. 

Here is a list of personal narrative essay topics you can choose from to get an idea:

  • A Life-Changing Journey: Reflect on a travel experience that transformed your perspective.
  • Overcoming a Fear: Share the story of how you conquered a significant fear or phobia.
  • The Day Everything Changed: Describe a pivotal day in your life that had a profound impact.
  • Lessons from Failure: Discuss a time when you faced failure and the valuable lessons you learned.
  • An Unforgettable Family Event: Write about a memorable family gathering or celebration.
  • A Milestone Achievement: Reflect on a significant achievement in your life and the journey to reach it.
  • A Childhood Memory: Revisit a cherished childhood memory that continues to influence you.
  • Navigating a Personal Challenge: Share the story of how you tackled a personal obstacle or adversity.
  • An Unexpected Act of Kindness: Write about a time when someone's kindness made a lasting impression on you.
  • A Cultural Experience: Discuss an encounter with a different culture that expanded your understanding of the world.

Take a look at this list of narrative essay topics to get inspiration for your essay. 

Step 2: Creating a Compelling Introduction

The introduction of your personal narrative essay is the reader's first encounter with your story. 

Here is what you should keep in mind while creating the introduction:

  • Engage the Readers: An introduction can help engage your readers with a hook . Your opening should spark their interest and make them eager to read on.
  • Starting Effectively: Provide an engaging anecdote, posing a thought-provoking question, or presenting a compelling fact related to your story.
  • Thesis Statement: This brief yet impactful sentence guides your narrative, giving readers a sneak peek into your story's main point.  

Let’s take a look at the example below to help you have a better understanding:

The introduction effectively captures the reader's attention. It introduces the central theme and purpose of the narrative. It also sets the stage for the forthcoming story.

Step 3: Developing the Plot

The development of your narrative's plot is an important part of your personal narrative essay. 

Follow these guidelines:

  • Structured Narrative : A clear sequence of events is crucial to make your story relatable and understandable. It ensures that your narrative flows smoothly.
  • Readable Storyline: A well-developed plot has an easy-to-follow storyline. This enhances the credibility and relatability of your narrative, making it more engaging.

Let’s take a look at the example of the body paragraph to help you have a better understanding:

This paragraph smoothly transitions from the anticipation of a journey to the moment of boarding the train and then to the changing landscape, creating a smoother flow of events.

Step 4: Character Development

Enhancing your storytelling through character development is crucial for a captivating personal narrative essay. 

This element adds depth and relatability to your story, making it more engaging for readers. 

Here's how you can achieve it:

  • Characterizing the Writer and Others: Portray yourself and other individuals in your narrative with authenticity and complexity. This makes the characters relatable and captivating.
  • Influence on the Essay's Impact: Understand that character development shapes how readers perceive and understand your experiences. This can profoundly impact the essay's overall effect.

Let’s look at this example to understand how character development can be achieved:

This example effectively illustrates how character development can be a powerful tool in a personal narrative essay. It transforms a simple adventure story into a deeper exploration of personal growth and the dynamics between individuals. 

Step 5: Using Descriptive Language

To make your personal narrative more immersive, focus on these techniques:

  • Vivid and Descriptive Language: Use vivid and descriptive words and phrases to create mental images and evoke emotions, allowing readers to step into your narrative.
  • Sensory Details: Engage readers' senses - sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell - to bring your story to life.

This example portrays these techniques effectively:

This descriptive language creates a vivid and immersive experience for the reader. By engaging the senses, readers can step into the author's experience, making the story more engaging and memorable.

Step 6: Crafting a Memorable Conclusion

Your conclusion leaves a lasting impression. Consider these key aspects:

  • Purpose of a Strong Conclusion: A strong conclusion ties up loose ends, provides insight, or conveys a meaningful message, resonating with readers.
  • Leaving a Lasting Impression: Reflect on lessons learned, offer a thought-provoking statement, or leave readers with a powerful image or emotional impact.

Here is an example to help you have a better understanding:

This conclusion provides insight by emphasizing the transformative nature of the journey. It resonates with the reader through a reflection on life's unpredictabilities and the beauty of embracing the unknown.

Personal Narrative Essay Examples

Examples are incredibly helpful in understanding the art of personal narrative essay writing. 

Let's take a look at the personal narrative essay examples for inspiration and to help you understand the points made previously:

Here are some more examples you should consider:

High School Personal Narrative Essay

Personal Narrative Essay Example High School

College Personal Narrative Essay

Personal Narrative Essay Example College

Personal Narrative Essay 750 Words

Example of Personal Narrative Essay About Yourself

Take a look at some more narrative essay examples to have a better understanding of structuring your essays. 

Expert Tips for Writing Personal Narrative Essays

Here are some expert tips for writing personal narrative essays:

  • Choose a Unique Perspective: Find a unique angle or perspective for your personal narrative essay. Whether it's a specific moment, a lesson learned, or a personal growth experience, a unique perspective can make your essay stand out.
  • Stay True to Your Voice: While it's essential to follow the rules of writing, don't lose your unique voice. Personal narrative essays are about self-expression, so let your personality shine through in your writing.
  • Reflect and Analyze: Don't just recount events; reflect on their significance and analyze how they shaped you. Mention what you learned from the experience and the insights you gained. 
  • Show, Don't Tell: Instead of simply telling your readers about your experiences, show them through vivid descriptions and sensory details. 
  • Use Dialogue Sparingly: Incorporate dialogue to make your story more dynamic and realistic. However, use it judiciously, focusing on the most crucial conversations that drive the plot or reveal character traits.
  • Consider Your Audience: Keep your audience in mind while writing. Tailor your language and style to the intended readers to ensure your narrative resonates with them.
  • Seek Feedback: Share your essay with peers, teachers, or mentors for constructive feedback. An outside perspective can help you refine your narrative and identify areas for improvement.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Personal Narrative Essays

Here are common mistakes to avoid when writing personal narrative essays:

  • Lack of Reflection: Failing to reflect on the significance of the events can make your narrative feel superficial. Don't just narrate; analyze and share insights or lessons learned.
  • Neglecting Structure: A disorganized narrative can confuse readers. Ensure a clear structure with a beginning, middle, and end. Use transitions to guide the reader through the story.
  • Ignoring the Editing Process: Rushing to publish your essay without thorough editing can lead to grammar and spelling mistakes, as well as unclear or confusing passages. Take time to revise and proofread your work.
  • Overly Complicated Language: Avoid using overly complex language or jargon that may alienate readers. Clear and concise language is often more effective.
  • Inconsistency in Verb Tenses: Stick to one verb tense throughout the essay. Shifting between past and present tense can disrupt the narrative's flow.

So there you have it!

By following this guide, you'll be well-equipped to write compelling personal narrative essays. You can craft compelling, meaningful stories that engage and resonate with your audience.

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what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Students start writing personal narratives at a young age, learning to use descriptive language to tell a story about their own experiences. Try sharing these personal narrative examples for elementary, middle, and high school to help them understand this essay form.

What is a personal narrative?

Think of a narrative essay like telling a story. Use descriptive language, and be sure you have a beginning, middle, and end. The essay should recount your personal experiences, including your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Learn more about personal narrative essays here:

  • What Is Narrative Writing, and How Do I Teach It in the Classroom?
  • Engaging Personal Narrative Ideas for Kids and Teens
  • Best Mentor Texts for Narrative Writing in Elementary School

Elementary School Personal Narrative Examples

In elementary school, personal narratives might be quite short, just a paragraph or two. The key is to encourage kids to embrace a personal style of writing, one that speaks in their own voice. Take a look at these elementary school personal narrative essay examples for inspiration.

The Horrible Day

“next i fell asleep in my cereal and my brother stole my toast”—anonymous student.

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

In this short personal narrative written by a 2nd grader, the author describes a bad day with lots of details and an informal tone. It’s a great model for your youngest writers.

Read the full essay: The Horrible Day at Thoughtful Learning

Keep an Eye on the Sky!

“as we made our way out to the field, my stomach slowly turned into a giant knot of fear.” —anonymous student.

Any student who dreads gym class will connect with this essay, which turns a challenge into a triumph. This narrative from Time for Kids is annotated, with highlighted details and tips to help kids write their own essay.

Read the full essay: Keep an Eye on the Sky! at Time for Kids

Grandpa, Chaz, and Me

“i really miss grandpa, and so does my brother, even though he never met him.” —cody, 4th grade student.

Written by a 4th grader, this essay relates the author’s loss of a grandfather at a very young age. Using simple, personal language, they tell a compelling story in a few short paragraphs.

Read the full essay: Grandpa, Chaz, and Me at Thoughtful Learning

Surviving an Embarrassing Situation

“i had made the shot in the wrong basket, giving the green shirts the win” —anonymous student.

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Personal narratives tell a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. This annotated essay outlines those parts, making it easier for young writers to do the same in their own writing.

Read the full essay: Surviving an Embarrassing Situation at Sopris West Educational Services

“Do you have a friend who loves you?” —Kendra, 4th grade student

Writing about friends gives writers the chance to describe someone’s physical characteristics and personality. This 4th grade essay uses personal details to bring a beloved friend to life.

Read the full essay: Ann at Thoughtful Learning

Middle School Personal Narrative Examples

By middle school, personal narratives are longer and more involved, telling more detailed stories and experiences. These middle school personal narrative essay examples model strong writing skills for this age group.

“As thoughts of certain death run through my mind, the world appears a precious, treasured place.” —Amy, student

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Describing an opportunity to overcome your worst fears makes an excellent personal narrative topic. The vivid descriptions of the landscape and the author’s feelings help the reader make a strong connection to the author.

Read the full essay: The Climb at Thoughtful Learning

The Best Friend Question

“i’ve often wondered, does not having a best friend make me defective” —blanche li, age 13, diablo vista middle school, danville, california.

When her Spanish teacher asked students for an essay describing their best friend, 13-year-old Blanche Li fell back on her standard story: that of a made-up person. Here, she explains why she made up “Haley” and wonders what having an imaginary best friend says about her.

Read the full essay: The Best Friend Question at The New York Times

The Racist Warehouse

“i didn’t know racism was still around; i thought that situation had died along with dr. king.” —alicia, 8th grade student.

Strong personal narratives often relate the way the author learned an important life lesson. Here, an 8th grader describes her first experience with racism, in an essay that will sadly ring true with many readers.

Read the full essay: The Racist Warehouse at Thoughtful Teaching

“For the first time, we realized that we didn’t know how to express our voice, and we always suppressed it.” —Jocelyn C., 7th grade student, Texas

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Seventh-grader Jocelyn C. describes the unique experience of spending two years living in an RV with her family, traveling the country. She relates the ups and downs of their trip, illustrating the way her family learned to live together in close quarters and embrace the adventure.

Read the full essay: RV Journey at Write From the Heart

An Eight Pound Rival

“i’m trying to accept that he didn’t mean to dominate the center stage all the time, that’s just one of the many lovable assets of his personality.”.

A new sibling can change everything in a family, especially when you’ve always been the baby. This middle schooler explains her challenging relationship with a little brother that she loves, even when he drives her a bit crazy. (Find this essay on page 42 at the link.)

Read the full essay: An Eight Pound Rival at Teaching That Makes Sense

High School Personal Narrative Examples

High school students have more complex stories to tell, though they’re sometimes reluctant to do so. Reading personal narrative essay examples like these can encourage them to open up and get their thoughts, feelings, and ideas down on the page.

Sorry, Wrong Number

“when i received the first text, i was a playful sixth grader, always finding sly ways to be subversive in school and with friends.” —michelle ahn, high school student.

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

When Michelle Ahn was 11, she started getting texts for a wrong number, a man named Jared. Rather than correcting the error, she spends the next few years occasionally engaging with his texters as “Jared,” learning more about him. Though she finally comes clean, her time as “Jared” exposes her to a way of life very different from her own, and opens her eyes to the inner lives of others.

Read the full essay: Sorry, Wrong Number at The New York Times

Caught in the Net

“little does everyone else know how often i’m not doing school research or paper writing; instead i’m aimlessly writing emails or chatting with internet friends and family hundreds of miles away.” —kim, college student.

Even before social media and smartphones swept the world, internet addiction had become a problem. Here, a student shares her experiences in AOL chat rooms, meeting people from around the globe. Eventually, she realizes she’s sacrificing life in the real world for her digital friends and experiences, and works to find the right balance.

Read the full essay: Caught in the Net at Thoughtful Learning

Nothing Extraordinary

“an uneasy feeling started to settle in my chest. i tried to push it out, but once it took root it refused to be yanked up and tossed away.” —jeniffer kim, high school student.

During an ordinary shopping trip, high schooler Jenniffer Kim suddenly realizes she’s ashamed of her mother. At the same time, she recognizes all the sacrifices her mom has made for her, and gladly takes the chance to make a tiny sacrifice of her own.

Read the full essay: Nothing Extraordinary at The New York Times

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

“at this point in life, i had not yet learned to be gentle with myself, or others.” —anonymous student.

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

A teen who lives with bipolar disorder recounts a difficult conversation with her parents, in which her mother dismisses her as “crazy.” A few years later, this same teen finds herself in the emergency room, where her mother has just tried to die by suicide. “Crazy!” the daughter thinks. After her mother also receives a bipolar disorder diagnosis, the author concludes, “‘Crazy’ is a term devised to dismiss people.”

Read the full essay: The Pot Calling the Kettle Black at Pressbooks

What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew

“i know that i am different, but do not have the words to understand how.” —mariama lockington.

Though not written by a high schooler, this essay by Mariama Lockington makes an excellent mentor text for this age group. Lockington dives deep into her feelings about being adopted by parents of a different race, and shares her challenges in poignant language that speaks directly to the reader.

Read the full essay: What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew at Buzzfeed News

Do you use personal narrative examples as mentor texts in your classroom? Come share your experiences and ask for advice in the We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook !

Plus, strong persuasive writing examples (essays, speeches, ads, and more) ..

Find stirring personal narrative examples for elementary, middle school, and high school students on an array of topics.

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There’s no way to cheat the system and avoid writing a narrative essay. Every student has written it at least once. However, while the great majority find this type of essay pretty easy and not challenging, many students struggle to understand the point behind the personal narrative essay.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to write a personal narrative essay like a pro.
  • Why is essay writing critical?
  • What exactly is a personal narrative essay?
  • What is the structure of this essay type?
  • How to choose a unique narrative essay topic?

Before you know it, ideas will start pouring in, and you’ll find the assignment wasn’t a difficult task after all!

In this article:

What is a Personal Narrative Essay?

1. introduction, 3. conclusion, how to write a personal narrative essay, how to choose a personal narrative topic.

A personal narrative essay is usually the preferred type of essay for students. It is commonly referred to as “short storytelling” and lacks the intense research and reference of argumentative and other essays.

Personal narrative essays are all about you and the story you want to tell. It helps shape the future writer in you and takes the reader through a journey. It can be an emotional piece of writing featuring a funny, sad, or surprising event or memory.

You will write a personal narrative essay in first person participle unless your assignment states otherwise. It aims to depict a particular narrative and a crucial moment within it.

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Personal narrative essays are typically assigned to high school students to help advance their creative writing skills, but the structure of this essay is applied to many other writing assignments.

An integral part of your personal narrative essay is the plot and story, as well as the characters featured in it. You can learn more about the structure and essential elements of personal narratives in the sections below, including some tools used by professional writers like a thesis statement or hook sentences. You’ll know how to write a personal narrative essay like a pro by the time you’re done!

Book With "Essay Writing" in Blue Pen

Structure of a Personal Narrative Essay

The personal narrative essay certainly provides the most freedom and flexibility when writing. Of course, like any other text written by high school students or college students, it needs to have an outline and structure. But, don’t worry, it isn’t complicated. It’s there to help you arrange and organize your writing content.

A personal narrative essay consists of three parts:

The introduction is the most crucial part of the essay. It’s the beginning, and it includes your hook statement or sentence, which you use to grab the reader’s attention. Depending on how effective your hook is , the reader will decide whether or not to keep reading.

Another element present in your introduction is the thematic statement. These sentences summarize the essence of your story. They are a little tricky to master, and if you want to learn more, you can use a thematic statements guide to gain some insight into the topic.

Finally, don’t forget your transition word and sentences at the end of the introductory paragraph (and throughout). It’s essential to include those in your work.

Think of it as a burger – the introduction and conclusion are the burger buns, and the body of your essay is the delicious filling inside: all the cucumbers, meat patty, and mouthwatering sauces go here.

When we write personal narrative essays, we use the body of the narrative essay to explain the critical elements of our personal story. As a standard, your body should feature three paragraphs describing your views, stories, and ideas. This is where you will feature your characters and mention where the main event occurs.

Make sure to start your first paragraph with a topic sentence. Topic sentences work as introductions and typically come naturally. They are used as smooth transitions which bridge your introduction and body.

Keep your telling of the events in chronological order. This is the easiest way and most professional way to write. I will help you avoid getting tangled in your storytelling.

This is where you put the climax of your story. The conclusion is where we wrap up and give the readers what they have been waiting for. Summarize your story, and don’t get tempted to add any new elements in this paragraph. Otherwise, you’ll confuse the reader.

Person Writing in Book Holding a White Pen

The point of the personal narrative essay is to tap into the student’s personal life and challenge them to write about their experience. A great personal narrative essay shows what happened through vivid details, and it’s an excellent written example of your inner world. The overall story should exemplify your creative writing, feelings, and morals, whether trying to convey interesting thoughts or a specific event. The are several essential elements that need to be present in your personal narrative essay:

  • Choose the Right Topic

The main challenge leading to procrastination is everyone’s most dreaded part – choosing the suitable personal narrative essay topics. I get it. It’s a lot of pressure to focus your entire personal essay on one subject. In addition, you need to choose a theme with an emotional impact, which is a tough decision. However, if you’re struggling to find your topic, browsing essay topics on the web can provide you with various ideas and may even lead to some new inspiration.

Since personal narrative essays are based on thought or actual experiences, choose a topic that excites you. For example, think of a specific moment that you vividly remember. A moment that’s important to you that you can retell through the form of a personal narrative essay. Or perhaps some philosophical thoughts have been on your mind lately? You can use those to inspire your narrative essay topics research.

  • Write an Outline

Think about the main event, and using the structure discussed above, pinpoint the most critical moments of your story. Next, try to create a personal narrative essay outline. This is a great way to prevent your story from filling with irrelevant details and form a straightforward narrative. Writing an outline helps keep your essay in order. Outlines make personal narrative essays and other written work easily digestible for the reader.

  • Grab Attention with a Hook Sentence

Any essay needs a good hook statement, but the personal narrative essay needs it the most. Good hook sentences can convince the reader to go through your entire essay. It grabs the reader’s attention and piques their interest, making them want to read along. With this type of essay, you can be as creative as you want with your hook sentence, but if you’re struggling to come up with one, hook example lists do exist. Take the time to check out all the different hook examples for inspiration.

  • Create Powerful Descriptions

You won’t need to do tons of research for your essay. Since it’s a personal take on events or thoughts, you don’t need to reference anyone. But what you should do is come up with a vivid description. I’m not saying pack your essay full of descriptions, instead, describe a scene or thought and try to submerge the reader into it. It helps to think about adjectives related to the five senses. Then, using your creative writing skills, try to paint a picture with your words.

  • Get Familiar With Transition Words and Use Them

No matter the essay type, whether it’s an argumentative essay or a personal narrative essay, it is vital to use transition words and sentences. The ones we don’t use in our speech but often apply in text: moreover, however, nevertheless, whereas, as well as, etc. You can find other words in the list of transition words that could work to your benefit with a simple Google search.

  • Add Emotions

The point of a narrative essay is to convey the way you feel to the reader through your personal story and experience. This can be hard on new students, and it’s often the most challenging part of an essay. Try to tap into your personal experience, and don’t be shy! Since you’re telling the story in the first person, it’s easier to talk about emotions and provide insight into your thoughts.

  • Maintain Consistency

It’s easy to get distracted focusing on the vivid details or crucial moments. Grabbing the reader’s attention is essential, but getting to the point. Be realistic – have you been staying focused on the point you’re trying to make? Be sure the events in your own story are linked well enough to convey the broader message.

You might want to tell the whole story as it happened, but that’s not always necessary. So instead, go back to your essay topic. Is what you’re writing still consistent with your subject? If not, chop off the unnecessary bits. It might be challenging, but it will make for a cleaner story and free some room for other, more helpful information.

  • Deliver a Moral

What is the significance behind your story? What made you choose this same event? Since this is a personal narrative essay, don’t worry too much about providing evidence – no one will fact-check your story. Instead, think about the moral or the significance behind your experience. What is the broader message?

  • Check Your Work (Twice, Like Santa)

What? Read the whole thing? Again? Yes, proofreading your work is a must and checking it twice matters. Learn to go through your text and look for different things each time. Proofread once and look for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. This is also the time to look for punctual mistakes and contextual inaccuracies.

Books on Eachother with the Word "Topic" on the Top in Wooden Letters

I recommend a fun brainstorming session for anyone stuck with choosing their personal narrative essay topic. Grab a piece of paper and write down a “personal narrative essay” in the middle. Circle the word. Now write down the first words and thoughts that come to mind, no matter how relevant. Maybe you think of the word “pet.” Write that down, circle it and connect it with a line to “personal narrative essay” in the middle. Maybe the word “pet” makes you think of your old cat Timmy. Write down Timmy, circle it, and connect it to “pet” with a line. Perhaps there’s a great story lurking in there.

Repeat the process and try to answer these questions:

  • What are some of the most significant events in your life?
  • Have you ever faced an obstacle or challenge in your life?
  • Did you successfully overcome it? If not, did you learn something?
  • What are some funny stories you can think of?
  • What are some sad events you can think of?
  • Have you experienced betrayal in your life?
  • Is there a place you traveled to that made an impression on you?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • Can you think of a surprising story from your past?

List as many of your ideas as you can from answering these questions. If you run out of space on your sheet, use another one – don’t let that stop you! The more choices you have, the better.

Believe it or not, even this article uses the structure of a narrative essay – it has its own introduction and body, and here is where I deliver the conclusion!

Unlike in a personal narrative essay, I can give you new information!

You can find information on all sorts of essay writing. For example, how you can perfect your 500-word essay or ideas on topics for psychology research , and even examples of debate speech topics , the internet can be full of interesting topics and resources you can use for your next written piece.

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Personal Narrative Writing Guide

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Personal Narrative | personal narrative writing28129 1 | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |

A Personal Narrative recounts an event or experience from the writer’s life in story form and often in intimate detail. This text type not only relates to the events happening around the author but also often reveals the writer’s inner thoughts and emotions also.

A personal narrative can be understood as nonfiction storytelling based on the writer’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Told in the first person, the writer draws on their life events to construct a story.

Combining elements of nonfiction recount writing with introspection and the frequent use of literary devices more commonly associated with fiction and poetry, a personal narrative can be best understood as a type of creative nonfiction .


Personal narratives are also frequently referred to as personal recounts. They share much in common but are unique text types, so let’s explore how they compare and contrast.

When we first instruct our students to write stories based on the events of their own lives, they will inevitably write simple recounts. These recounts are based on retelling personal incidents of their lives but lack the depth we can typically expect to find in a personal narrative.

While personal narratives also recount events from the writer’s life, with greater emphasis placed on exploring the writer’s thoughts and feelings on these events rather than just what happened.

A personal narrative is a means for the writer to explore the meaning of the events in their life. It is, at its core, an introspective and creative endeavor that focuses as much on the interior life of the writer as it does on external events.

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While the conclusion of a traditional recount usually provides some of the writer’s insights, in a personal narrative, these are woven throughout the text.


Personal narrative structure.

ORIENTATION Explain the who, what, when, and where of the experience in your introduction to your audience.

FOCUS Mainly focus on meaningful events.

CHRONOLOGY Events are described in the sequence in which they occurred.

ORGANIZATION Relevant information is organized into paragraphs

INSIGHT & MEANING Include personal comments, opinions or interpretations of the experience or event in your personal narrative.


TENSE The first and third person are used most frequently and recall is always written in the past tense. Present tense can be used for analysis and opinion.

NOUNS Use proper nouns to refer to specific people, places times and events

VOICE Both active and passive voice are used in recounts. Use these to express your emotions and thinking clearly.

CONNECTIVES Use conjunctions and connectives to link events and indicate time sequence in your personal narrative.


Personal Narrative | personal narrative writing unit 1 | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |

Teach your students to write AMAZING PERSONAL NARRATIVES using a proven model of research skills, writing strategies and engaging content. ALL CONTENT, RESOURCES AND ASSESSMENT TOOLS INCLUDED covering.



The personal narrative is a modern text type and therefore has no traditionally defined optimum length, and we can find texts ranging from a couple of hundred words to a multi-volume series in this genre. 

However, for our students, this text type can be thought of in terms of length as similar to an essay. Like an essay, the text needs to be long enough to comprehensively answer the question, prompt, or the event/experience the student is retelling.

David Sedaris, the American writer and one of the best-known writers of humorous personal narratives, has written many books that could accurately be classified in this genre.

While these full-length books are often built around a loose theme, each chapter could stand alone as a personal narrative essay in its own right, each built around a single identifiable experience or event. 

As with an essay, the length of a personal narrative can be based on a variety of factors, including:

  • Age and ability of the students
  • Specifics of the question or writing prompt
  • Any limitation imposed by a word count
  • The complexity of the event/experience being written about.

Regardless of length, given its structural similarity with the essay, personal narratives usually follow a basic three-part structure.


We mentioned previously that this text type is relatively modern, so there aren’t many fixed rules concerning structure. That said, we can usually identify three distinct parts of a personal narrative corresponding to the three parts outlined in the hamburger essay or the 5-paragraph essay format. These are:

Personal Narrative | 5 paragraph essay3Dburger | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |

  • The introduction
  • The body paragraphs
  • The conclusion

If you want an in-depth guide to this format, check out our comprehensive article here . But, for now, let’s take a brief look at the purpose of each section as it relates to a personal narrative.


Personal Narrative | personal narrative writing28329 768x576 1 | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |

The introduction of a personal narrative performs several functions. 

1: It hooks the Reader

The first job of the introduction is to ‘hook’ the reader. If we can’t catch the reader’s interest initially, there will be no middle or end for the reader. A strong hook is needed at the very outset, and it can take several forms. 

Some effective hooks to open a personal narrative with include:

  • A bold claim
  • An interesting anecdote
  • A fascinating fact or revealing statistic
  • A compelling quotation

Whichever technique the student chooses to open their narrative with, they should ensure it is relevant to the subject matter explored, whether it focuses on external or internal events or experiences or a mixture of both. 

2: It orients the Reader

Like many other nonfiction and fiction text types, the opening paragraph (or paragraphs) will also orient the reader by answering some basic questions such as:

  • What is the text about?
  • Who is in this story?
  • Where is it set?
  • When do the events or experiences occur?

While it may also hint at why these events or experiences matter, a detailed answer to the why of a personal narrative may be saved for the text’s conclusion.

This section of the personal narrative can also be thought of as The Exposition .

3: It Sets the Tone

The introduction reveals not only what the text will be about but also how the writer (and, by extension, the reader) will treat the topic. This is the tone.

For example, a more sombre tone has been established where the language used is serious and formal. In this instance, the reader will adopt a more serious approach to the work.

On the other hand, if the treatment of the event or experience is humorous, this will be apparent in the language choices the writer makes and the mood they establish. Going forward, the reader can reasonably expect to be amused by what’s to come in the text.


The body paragraphs of a personal narrative comprise the bulk of the text. 

As with any type of recount, this section will generally focus on the chronological retelling of an event or experience. 

However, there is another significant difference between this type of recount and the other types.’ The root of this difference can be found in the word ‘narrative’.

While the body paragraphs of a personal narrative can make use of some of the defining characteristics of more traditional types of recount, if the introduction acts as the exposition of the setting and character of the story, the body paragraphs move the text along its story arc.

Though we will cover the main elements briefly, structuring a story is an art in itself and if you want to find out more about it, check out our detailed article on the subject here.

Also, if you want to learn more about the structure of general recounts, find out more here .

While we’ve seen that the introduction of a personal narrative corresponds to a story’s exposition, the following elements of a story arc can be found in the text’s body.

1: The Problem

The problem or conflict is an essential ingredient in any story worth the name. It creates the story’s focal point, ignites the reader’s interest, and drives the story forward. In a personal narrative, this problem can be internal or external, however, there is often an emphasis placed on how the issues affect the writer psychologically.  2: The Rising Action  

As the narrative develops, the dramatic tension will tend to increase. The main problem will intensify, or the writer may introduce additional more minor problems to amp things up. 3: The Climax

This is where the story reaches its dramatic high point. In the case of a personal narrative where the conflict or problem is psychological, this drama and its climax may play out internally.


Personal Narrative | personal narrative writing28429 1 | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |

This third and final section of the personal narrative performs a slightly different function to a regular essay’s conclusion. 

While the conclusions of most nonfiction text types focus on restating a central thesis and/or providing a summary of arguments, the conclusion in a personal narrative follows a story’s final section more closely. 

That is, it usually contains the story’s falling action and resolution.

Let’s take a quick look at each.

1: The Falling Action

The story arc dips in dramatic tension after the dramatic high point of the climax. As personal narratives often focus on ‘internal’ events, this ‘action’ can also occur internally. 2: Resolution

The resolution marks the end of the story, and in this text type, it usually involves some personal change in circumstances or transformation. It can also take the form of a lesson learned or new knowledge attained.


  • Begin with a clear and compelling story: Your personal narrative essay should focus on a significant event or experience in your life that you want to share with the reader.
  • Write in the first person perspective: Use “I” statements to describe your experiences and thoughts and take us inside your mind.
  • Be descriptive: To bring your story to life, use descriptive language to paint a picture of the sights, sounds, and emotions of your experience.
  • Focus on what matters the most: Tell a powerful story with just a few key details. When writing your personal narrative, focus on the most impactful events and thoughts that help convey your message.
  • Emphasize the impact the experience had upon you: Leave the reader with a clear understanding of the impact that the experience had on your life.
  • Be true to yourself: Ensure your personal narrative essay is honest and genuine in your descriptions and reflections.
  • Deliver a powerful ending: The conclusion should summarize the major points of your essay and leave the reader with a lasting impression.
  • Review and Revise: Don’t be afraid to proofread your essay several times to ensure it is the best it can be.

Personal Narrative | LITERACY IDEAS FRONT PAGE 1 | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.



  • Organise your students into small groups of four or five
  • Provide each group with a selection of personal recounts
  • Can the students identify how each sample text attempts to hook the reader in the opening paragraph?
  • How effectively does the introduction of each text orient the reader?
  • What is the tone of the text? How has this tone been created?


In their groups, with their sample personal narrative texts, ask students to identify how the writer deals with each element as listed below and discuss how effectively they have done so.

  • The Problem
  • The Rising Action


Now students understand how to structure and write each stage of their personal narrative, encourage them to spend some time brainstorming events and experiences from their lives that could serve as the topic for their writing.

When they have chosen a suitable topic, instruct them to begin planning the writing of their text using the categories listed above. They might even wish to create a simple graphic organizer to help. 

For example:


  • What is the opening hook?

Body Paragraphs

  • What is the central problem?
  • What happens in the rising action?
  • How does the climax play out?
  • What happens in the falling action?
  • What is the resolution of the story?

Once students have their narrative adequately planned, it’s time to get them writing earnestly to put all that theory into practice.


Personal Narrative | perosnal narrative graphic organizer 1 | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |


Personal Narrative | img 610a32004d4a4 1 | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |


Personal Narrative | YOUTUBE 1280 x 720 13 | Personal Narrative Writing Guide |


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Personal Narrative | how to write a recount | How to Write a Recount Text (And Improve your Writing Skills) |

How to Write a Recount Text (And Improve your Writing Skills)

Personal Narrative | historical recount writing | How to Write a Historical Recount Text |

How to Write a Historical Recount Text

Personal Narrative | teaching recount writing | 5 Easy Recount Writing Lesson Plans students love. |

5 Easy Recount Writing Lesson Plans students love.

Personal Narrative | download | 15 Awesome Recount & Personal Narrative Topics |

15 Awesome Recount & Personal Narrative Topics

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Explore our Teaching Unit on PERSONAL NARRATIVES

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How to Write a Personal Narrative like a Pro (With Examples)

Last Updated: December 12, 2023 Fact Checked

Template and Sample Narrative

  • Brainstorming

This article was co-authored by Grant Faulkner, MA . Grant Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the co-founder of 100 Word Story, a literary magazine. Grant has published two books on writing and has been published in The New York Times and Writer’s Digest. He co-hosts Write-minded, a weekly podcast on writing and publishing, and has a M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.  There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 862,483 times.

Personal narratives focus on a particular real life event that was pivotal or important for the writer. You may have to write a personal narrative as part of a college application or as an assignment for a class. To write a strong personal narrative, start by coming up with an engaging idea. Then, write the narrative with an opening hook and a detailed, organized structure. Always review and revise the personal narrative before handing it in so it is at its best.

Things You Should Know

  • Center your narrative around an important moment in your life. For example, you might write about a time you had to make a hard decision or deal with a conflict.
  • Move chronologically through the events you’re discussing. This will make your narrative easy to follow and draw your reader in.
  • Finish with a moral takeaway or a life lesson. What did you learn from these events, and why is it important? How did they shape you as a person?

what to talk about in a personal narrative essay

Brainstorming Ideas for the Narrative

Step 1 Focus on a memorable event or moment in your life.

  • For example, you may write about your struggles with body image in high school and how you overcame them in adulthood. Or you may write about your disastrous 15th birthday party and how it affected your relationship with your mother.

Step 2 Expand on an important conflict in your life.

  • For example, you write a personal narrative about your complicated relationship with your birth mother. Or you may write about a conflict you have with a sport you play or a club you are a part of.

Step 3 Think about a particular theme or idea.

  • For example, you may explore a theme like poverty by writing about your family’s struggle with money and finances. You may write about having to defer college applications to work at your parent’s business to make ends meet for your family.

Step 4 Read examples of personal narrative.

  • The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • The Lives section of The New York Times

Writing the Personal Narrative

Step 1 Start with a hook.

  • For example, the first line in the personal narrative by Tony Gervino is attention grabbing: “I was 6 when my brother John leaned across the kitchen table and casually whispered that he had killed Santa Claus.” [5] X Research source

Step 2 Set the scene with action.

  • For example, in Tony Gervino’s essay, he sets the scene by providing setting, character, and narrative voice: “It was July 1973, we were living in Scarsdale, N.Y., and he was four years older than I was, although that seemed like decades.”

Step 3 Move chronologically through the events.

  • For example, you may start with an event in childhood with your older sister and then move forward in time to the present day, focusing on you and your older sister as adults.

Step 4 Use sensory detail and description.

  • For example, you may describe the feeling of your mother’s famous lemon cake as “rich and zesty, with a special ingredient that to this day, I cannot identify.”

Step 5 Finish with a moral or takeaway.

  • For example, you may end a personal narrative about your complicated relationship with your troubled sister by ending on a recent memory where you both enjoyed each other’s company. You may leave the reader with a lesson you have learned about loving someone, even with all their messiness and baggage.

Polishing the Personal Narrative

Step 1 Read the narrative out loud.

  • You can also try reading the narrative out loud to someone else so they can hear how it sounds. This can then make it easier for them to give you feedback.

Step 2 Show the narrative to others.

  • Be willing to accept feedback from others. Be open to constructive criticism as it will likely strengthen the narrative.

Step 3 Revise the narrative for clarity and length.

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About This Article

Grant Faulkner, MA

To write a personal narrative, start by choosing a memorable moment, event, or conflict in your life that you want to write about. Then, use your personal narrative to describe your story, going chronologically through the events. Try to use a lot of sensory detail, like how things smelled, sounded, felt, and looked, so your readers can picture everything you're describing. At the end of your narrative, include a lesson you learned or something you took away from the experience. To learn how to brainstorm ideas for your personal narrative, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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295 personal narrative ideas: diverse topics for your essay.

January 6, 2022

295 Personal Narrative Ideas

Personal narrative writing involves writing about a real-life experience. It’s like non-fiction. You’re writing a story about yourself because it happened to you. At some point, your stories are the perfect personal narrative writing ideas because they are yours.

This way, you get to connect with people. As a student in high school, college, middle school, or university, you can impress your teachers or professors with good personal narrative topics. By choosing the perfect topic, you can create a stellar essay to earn high grades.

Characteristics of a Good Personal Narrative Piece

As a kind of writing which relies on individual experience, your story must:

Have a Clear Purpose This could be a narration of why the story is important to you. The purpose of the story must be clearly expressed without making direct statements about it. Organized Facts and Events The fact you are writing a story about your life doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be organized. You should write sequentially as much as possible to make it organized and lucid. Sensory Description You must also describe your feeling in a way the audience can connect with it. If you need to describe how the cold touch of rain sliced through your skin on a winter dawn, do it. Let your audience feel it as much as you felt it. Involve Readers Your readers must feel important while reading your story. To achieve this, your story must carry them along. If there’s something you need to explain, explain it to make everything clear to them. Include Conflict A story is incomplete without conflicts. This is why you must create enthralling conflicts for your characters. The higher the stake, the better the feelings when the protagonist scales through it.

All these, in addition to a thesis statement are all important features that must be seen in any personal narrative writing.

The Structure of a Personal Narrative Essay

After knowing what your personal essay must have as its features, you must also structure your essay properly. To do this, you should follow this organizational structure:

  • Introduction

This is where you grab your readers’ attention. You should set the scene where major characters of the story are also introduced. After this, discuss the role of the argument and introduce the characters. Your introduction must be captivating. Note that you’re writing a story, not a paper.

This is where everything about the story is shared. You must add all the details you know to your story. For instance, the hiking experience must be profoundly discussed, and so do the events that changed you. If you also want to talk about people, describe them. Doing this lets you show your readers, not tell them the story. When you need to change the course of the story, you can write in a new paragraph.

Our list will be extremely helpful to start your essay, but we can assist you even more along the whole process if you want to pay for essay online and save your time for something more entertaining.

Personal Narrative Writing Prompts

As students, one of the most important essays you may ever write is a personal narrative one. This is one of the ways to reveal yourself to strangers and friends. It’s a way to knows more about yourself and other people. You can consider these ideas for a personal narrative piece:

  • Identify your most threatening challenges
  • What would you say are your survival strategies?
  • How do you cope when you fail?
  • Would you say that you can’t succeed unless you fail?
  • Discuss what you do to achieve your goals
  • Do you think “leave your comfort zone” is a sham?
  • What do you think about yourself when you’re scared?
  • Would you say you don’t mind loneliness?
  • What does crying mean to you?
  • What are your fears?
  • Do you harbor superstitions, what are they?
  • Do you feel no one is seeing you as they should
  • Write about your rules for life
  • Write about your response to bullies
  • Write about how you give yourself peace
  • How do you relax within the limited time you have to yourself?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • How do you integrate feedback to improve?
  • Would you say becoming an adult is difficult?
  • What is the responsibility that scares you the most and why?
  • When was your saddest day and why was it?
  • How does stress not make anything easy for you?
  • Do you act anyhow when you’re provoked?
  • How do you perform under pressure?
  • Can you discuss what makes you happy?
  • Discuss what criticism means and how you take them in
  • Discuss what your decision-making process is like
  • Explain what motivates you the most
  • Do you think you have self-control
  • Are you presently easy or hard on yourself to reach your goals?
  • Can you work under any circumstances?
  • Do you think you’re a creative person?
  • What are the conditions that helped you maximize your potentials
  • Would you say you’re emotionally intelligent?
  • Would you say you can perform the most when you collaborate
  • Are you ready for the competitive workplace?
  • Would you say you’re a great speaker?
  • Would you say you’re a better listener?
  • Do you think you’re an agreeable person?
  • Discuss what you think about peer pressure.

Personal Narrative Essay Ideas

For your personal essays, how do you discover great essay ideas? You can consider custom personal narrative prompts which are unique to specific events. Some of the topics which are target-oriented are:

  • Discuss a time you took more risks than others
  • What makes you a daredevil?
  • What has made you brave?
  • Would you say you’re impulsive?
  • Discuss your strategies against boredom
  • What are the pranks you’ve ever fallen for
  • How do you apologize when you’re wrong?
  • Do you think you’re a cynical person?
  • Discuss three things that annoy you
  • Would you say you’re materialistic?
  • Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
  • How do you say goodbye?
  • Are you on the right or the left?
  • What do you think people think about you?
  • Why do you think what others think should matter?
  • Write about your role model
  • Would you say you’re weird?
  • Would you say you’re a nonconformist?
  • Do you believe in magic?
  • Why should you be inspired by people?
  • Do you think your role models are heroes?
  • Would you think role models must be famous
  • Outside your family, are you a different person?
  • Within your family, do you want to be someone else?
  • Which live show do you love the most?
  • Discuss how someone has made a difference in your life
  • What are the kinds of music you like?
  • Discuss what you’d put in a thank you note
  • Write what you’d do if you’re to invite your enemies to dinner
  • Recall a time to speak to a large audience of people and write how it felt
  • Do you think family is everything?
  • Do you think you can’t be anything without family?
  • Would you say you want to change your role in the family?
  • What are the programs that keep you closer?
  • If your life would be a movie, which of the autobiographies would it be?
  • Choose a profession of your choice and discuss why
  • What do you think about sacrifice?
  • Discuss a family treasure
  • Would you say you have hobbies someone has adopted
  • Why are you called your name?

Personal Narrative Ideas High School

As high school students, you also need to develop personal narrative essays. These could be essays about your parents, neighbors, or your home. Choose from these personal narrative ideas for high school students:

  • Describe your relationship with your parents?
  • Would you say your parents permit you?
  • Discuss the freedom your parents give you
  • Do you think your curfew hours make it difficult to live?
  • Would you say you enjoy your parents, why?
  • Would you prefer to be a parent too?
  • What do your parents do with your bad report card?
  • Would you say parenting is difficult?
  • Do your parents like online learning?
  • Are your parents hard on you to do things?
  • Do you think parenting could be something to be embarrassed by?
  • How did your parents influence the school you attended?
  • Do your parents let you create things on your own?
  • Do you think you have great teachers and patients?
  • What will your neighbors say about you?
  • Which characters perfectly describe your neighbors and why?
  • What is a common slogan in your environment?
  • What are the TV shows you can’t stop watching?
  • What do you think about supporting community sport?
  • Write about the mayor of your city
  • Where is your favorite place?
  • Write about your favorite joint
  • Write about a park you love
  • Discuss how you spend time with nature
  • Would you say you see bad things every day?
  • Do you love your home?
  • What is your favorite ad slogan and why?
  • What does chatting with the police feel like?
  • Have you ever been assaulted?
  • Do you think you’re easily annoyed?

Personal Narrative Topic Ideas

If you’d love to discuss anything at all, there are tons of custom ideas on narrative writing. Some personal narrative ideas are also based on religion, sexuality, race, and many other issues of the world today. Consider:

  • Would you say you have no religion?
  • Do you think the older generations are too religious?
  • Write about how you know about other religions
  • Write about what you know about other religions
  • Discuss the difference between male and female
  • Do you acknowledge the rights of trans people?
  • Do you think the LGTBQ is complicated?
  • Will you share parental responsibilities?
  • What do you know about sex?
  • What do you know about gender issues?
  • What is your experience of love?
  • How does being a ‘real man’ feel?
  • Do you think you can be biased?
  • Is there a difference in the ways sons and daughters are treated in the home?
  • Should there a more pressure on daughters than men
  • Discuss your racial identity and why it’s important to talk about it
  • Would you say you’re a feminist?
  • Discuss your encounter with sexual harassment
  • Discuss what you think about catcalling
  • What do you think about social hierarchies?
  • Discuss the last time you interacted with someone of another race
  • Do you think you have racial biases too?
  • Would you say you experienced racism before, as black
  • Which one is more important to you: money or love
  • Are you happy with yourself?
  • Would you say money can’t buy happiness too?
  • What do you pay attention to the most in the world?
  • Do you think it’s okay to be addicted to phones
  • How do you teach people about money?
  • What are the most important things in your life?

Personal Narrative Writing Ideas

As an attempt to discuss something that deals with people’s daily affairs, good ideas for personal narrative may be hard to come by. Rather than go through the trouble of finding how to think of ideas for a personal narrative, these are custom ideas for you:

  • What are the things that matter most for you?
  • Narrate what you hope to have in your dream home
  • Narrate your experience as if you’d lived in the woods
  • Narrate your most fun childhood memory
  • Discuss what your passion was as a child
  • Explain what you loved most as a child
  • Write about your favorite childhood shows and books
  • Discuss your favorite childhood picture book
  • Write about your childhood influences
  • Discuss your childhood most loved places
  • Discuss the little things your parents did they made you happy
  • Write about the first time you went out with your parents
  • Narrate your experience of a swing
  • What was your favorite song as a child? Write a response to it
  • Which food do you wish you’d eaten as a child
  • Narrate what made a gift the best you ever had
  • Write about what your most memorable letter
  • Write about the divorce of a family friend or neighbor
  • Discuss the consequence of separation from a state
  • Write about how migrated from a place to another
  • Write about how angry your father or mother could be at themselves
  • Write about your favorite memories of sleepovers
  • How did it feel when you found something you thought you’d lost?
  • What are your most prized lessons of teenage years?
  • Would you do something else differently not as an adult when you were 13?
  • Narrate the achievements that made you proud
  • Discuss the rites you engaged in
  • Write about your message to the older generation
  • Write a message to the younger generation
  • Describe yourself as if you’re a 13-year-old right now
  • Share a story of your ethical dilemma
  • Discuss your sex experience; whether you had it not
  • Write about something you cared about that you shouldn’t have
  • Write about something you didn’t care about but you should have
  • Discuss the last time you collected money from a stranger
  • Write about the last time a stranger kissed you
  • Discuss your memorable lying experience
  • Narrate your experience with drugs
  • Explain your experience with gossiping
  • Have you ever cheated in exams?

Personal Narrative Ideas College

As a college student, you can also develop incredible personal narrative pieces. Through these pieces, you can connect with your colleagues and share your ideas. Consider these personal narrative prompts:

  • Why did you choose the screen time you chose?
  • What would you do without a smartphone?
  • Narrate your gaming experiences and the thrill you feel
  • Write about the apps that do nothing but reduce you
  • Would you say tech takes a huge responsibility for change in your life?
  • Would you say you are interested in technology?
  • What is your experience of religion?
  • What is your experience of God?
  • Narrate if you’ve had an encounter with God or religion before
  • Explain what you’d do if you have control over others
  • Narrate what you would control if you can
  • Narrate what you can do without thinking otherwise
  • What would you say are your best features of YouTube
  • Narrate your experience of a date over the internet
  • Narrate your experience of seeking to advice online
  • Discuss your favorite online sports
  • Write about your online sad story
  • Write about a terrible experience of bullying online
  • Discuss how you fact check what you read online
  • Write about how you express yourself online
  • Would you say you trust Wikipedia?
  • Would you say you enjoy online reviews?
  • What is your comment on porn?
  • Would you give your passwords out?
  • If you have a partner, will you share everything?
  • What would you do if you just made a fraudulent purchase?
  • Do you chat with anonymous people?
  • How do you keep your passwords safe?
  • Are there things your parents won’t believe that is on the internet?
  • Write about why you trust social media
  • What is your favorite Facebook experience?
  • What is your favorite Twitter experience?
  • What is your experience of wrong grammar structure online?
  • Did you ever go through Instagram feeds with envy?
  • Did you ever download a stranger’s picture because you like them?

Personal Narrative Ideas for Middle School

At this stage, you have also had plausible experiences of life. What can you say about your life, or your experiences? You can write from these interesting personal narrative ideas:

  • What do you know about poo divas and who’s your favorite?
  • Write about your first karaoke performance
  • Write about the artists you’d like lined up
  • Narrate your earliest connection with music
  • Narrate your earliest experience of music
  • Write about the most loving but sad thing that ever happened to you
  • Why do you avoid people?
  • Narrate your experience of being stalked
  • Discuss how you think social media has been abused
  • Tell a story about your most favorite songs
  • Tell a story about the music which has inspired you the most
  • Which television show would you bring back?
  • Which of your childhood commercials is your favorite?
  • Why do you prefer cartoons?
  • Discuss how television helped your family stay together
  • Narrate the work nature of your parents
  • Discuss your experience of being cheated
  • Which music star do you love?
  • Which music tells you about life?
  • Which artist tells stories the most?
  • How does the music you listen to Influence you?
  • Narrate what you think are the best period of your life yet
  • Narrate your favorite movies
  • Narrate a public performance experience
  • Discuss the bad things about horror movies
  • Write about your favorite comedians
  • Narrate your experience of gaming
  • Would you play violent games?
  • Do you think zombies are real?
  • Do you feel guilty or excited that you kill zombies?

Good Ideas for a Personal Narrative Essay

If you need to discuss cool events and languages, there are good personal narrative topics for you. Some of these topics are:

  • Narrate your experience at the museum
  • What is your favorite visual artist?
  • Discuss your most fascinating work of art
  • Write about the importance of education
  • Would you say you can’t live without art
  • Which words do you like using?
  • Which words don’t you like using?
  • What are the slangs you used to love?
  • What has changed since you started using some words
  • Would you call someone a shag? Why?
  • Which word do you think people use too much?
  • Narrate what you consider a great conversation
  • Discuss your time with a lover
  • Narrate your experience discussing with your mum
  • Narrate your experience discussing with your dad
  • Narrate your experience teaching your grandparents about something on a smartphone
  • Write about a time you felt you talked too much
  • Write about a time you used satires
  • Write about a time you attacked people but didn’t feel bad
  • What would you say are the most terrible things you’ve done?
  • If you had to learn a language, which would it be?
  • How do you use your body language and why do you use it?
  • If you can influence someone’s memory, what would it be and why would you do it?
  • Write about what stresses you the most about school without using F words or castigating anyone
  • Discuss what you once looked forward to but no longer look forward to
  • Would you rather take private classes, online classes, or physical classes with other students and why would you choose your choice?
  • Discuss your experience with bullying and what you could have done when you were bullied or when someone you know was bullied
  • Write about the kind of school you wish you had attended and the experience you wish you had had
  • Write about the things you hate the most about going to your religious places and the things you wish they had
  • Discuss what it would mean to not be educated at all.

Interesting Personal Narrative Ideas

There are also interesting personal narrative essay ideas across all classes. You can choose these essay ideas for your college, high school, middle school, or university assignments. Options to consider are:

  • What have you had to do which you didn’t like?
  • Discuss how best you once participated in class
  • Write about a memorable experience of school you wish were yours
  • Write about a memorable experience of a relationship you wish you could have
  • Discuss your first encounter with a difficult subject and write when you realize you may fail the course
  • Tell a story about what you thought is fascinating about relationships that are no longer fascinating?
  • Tell a story about what you think about digital skills and why it is important in the future
  • Would you say that programming and computer coding offers more opportunities than any other skills?
  • Narrate a terrible experience of yours after you failed an exam and what your parents did
  • Narrate the saddest day in class for you
  • You were invited to speak to your class about how you spent your weekend or holiday, what were the things that ran through your mind and did you speak?
  • Like your friends, you had many terrible and shameful experiences while studying simply because you’re a shy person, narrate some of the most important and terrible moments of your school life
  • Write a story about a teacher you would like to appreciate detailing the important things the teacher had done to you without isolating the bad things he or she had also done
  • Discuss the textbook you ever felt disgusted with and why you did
  • Do you think your teachers are as vast with technology as they ought to be, and would you feel bad if you had insulted them at one time or the other when you were young?
  • Narrate the most arousing party you went to focusing on the sensory details which made it different from other parties and proms
  • If you will deliver a speech about the horribleness of physical bullying or cyberbullying, focusing on experiences that could make people cry, how would you write the speech and how would you perform it?
  • Would you flog students you considered rebellious in your class if you were a teacher, even if the student is truly stubborn and should have probably been in a juvenile center?
  • What are the mental health issues you wish people had talked about the most when you were in high school?
  • If you could talk to the authorities about the things you think were important for students which weren’t done, what would they be, and how would you do it?

Get Narrative Essay Help

With these exciting topics, you can create a professional personal narrative essay based on your adult or childhood experiences. However, if you need someone to write your essay or assignment, you can hire top-notch writers online.

We are one of the best professional writing services with years of experience writing for college, high school, and university students. We have professors and teachers in our team who create essays to help students score high grades. If you’d like to make the best submission, you can hire these writers.

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13 Personal Narrative Ideas for High School to Kickstart Your Essay

Adela B.

Table of contents

A narrative essay is a story you tell about yourself, your experiences, and your thought processes.

The purpose of writing a narrative essay isn’t just to tell a tale but to figure out a deeper meaning behind each experience. Students are encouraged to find a moral or a theme that they can pull out from their experiences that changed their lives, even in the slightest possible manner.

In this article, we enlist personal narrative ideas for high school to get you started.

3 Personal Narrative Ideas for High School Students

Personal narrative essays are common writing assignments. However, the biggest roadblock high school students face is not being able to come up with interesting personal narrative ideas.

If your idea is weak, there’s no way you can write a high-scoring personal narrative essay. To make your lives easier, we’ve put together 13 personal narrative ideas for high school you can take inspiration from and kickstart your essay.


When writing about experiences, you have to look at both the positive and negative experiences you’ve come across in your life and write them in a professional and literary manner.

To come up with an interesting and appropriate topic for your essay, reflect on your thoughts concerning your life experiences, then expand on why the memory you’ve chosen as your topic is important to you and how it has left an imprint in your life.

Flow with your words and describe appropriately but in detail to make your narrative catchy and attention-grabbing for your professors.

Here are a few topic ideas you can use to write about:

  • an experience that taught you life lessons;
  • a frightening experience;
  • a life-changing experience;
  • success story experiences;
  • an experience that taught you to survive on your own;
  • an unpleasant experience;
  • an almost-death experience.

Most of the time, there are very few chances of remembering all or most of your childhood memories.

However, there must be a few that left a lasting mark, like a memory that was significant to you or your loved ones, a first-time experience that imprinted in your mind, or happy or fun days that still bring a smile to your face.

As a child, your imagination is very vivid and vast, and there could be scenarios that were dreamt or imagined. These memories are still considered a part of your childhood. Use them to write a great and fascinating narrative essay.

  • your favorite cartoon or animation show;
  • a memorable summer vacation;
  • what did you want to be when you grew up, and why;
  • a memorable birthday party and what made it memorable;
  • a childhood best friend.

Here’s an interesting video on how to talk about your childhood by Nessa Palmer .

School life

Your school years are your formative and developmental years. It’s the first step toward adulthood. During this period of your life, you learn and experience a lot of things, as well as get essential knowledge through teachings and life lessons that play a big role in the development of your behavior, cognitive thinking, and personality.

Everyone remembers their school years, be it a positive or a negative experience, and that is why it is the perfect topic example for writing a narrative essay that is funny, relatable, and makes you go back to one of the most important, unique but challenging times of your life.

  • What was your most favorite or least favorite subject, and why?
  • A teacher you idolized?
  • What was your first day at school like?
  • Describe the time you went on a school trip.
  • What was the funniest thing that happened in your class?
  • What was your worst school memory?
  • Did any of your teachers or peers influence you into becoming who you are today?


As you grow older, your relationship with your parents and siblings gets stronger; you make more friends -- new friends who become inseparable and get into deep relationships, casual affairs, and strong bonds.

Writing about your relationships and what they teach you, how they affected you, what mistakes you made, and what you learned through them will branch out into a variety of topic ideas that you can use to craft your narrative essay.

  • your relationship with your sibling(s);
  • the person who you’re most afraid to lose;
  • the friendship breakup that devastated you;
  • what is the worst argument you’ve had with your loved one;
  • your best friend;
  • a time you faced rejection.

Interests and hobbies

Everyone has a hobby or is interested in specific things, such as music, surfing, dancing, and art. Additionally, people can have multiple hobbies or can be very skilled at a couple of things they are interested in.

Through your interests and hobbies, people can understand you as a person and can relate to your interests as theirs. It causes your readers to get more hooked on your narrative and helps them correlate with your experiences and how you dealt with them.

  • If you were a TV character, who would you be?
  • What is that one talent you’ve always had?
  • Talk about your favorite hobby and why you enjoy it.
  • My favorite musician or band.
  • What movie impacted you greatly?
  • How do you know if your interests made you who you are?
  • A sporting event you attended or participated in.

High school life

High school is an interesting time in everyone’s lives.

You get to create amazing stories as you’ll meet new people, you’ll learn new subjects, you’ll have a new routine, you’ll get a new sense of independence and a set of new expectations that need to be met.

  • The first day you moved into your dorm room;
  • The toughest exam you gave;
  • Most embarrassing moment in class;
  • A lecture or a seminar that left a lasting impression on you;
  • What challenges did I face while writing a research paper or a thesis in high school?

Imaginative (Imagine if..)

Brainstorming topics like these need your full-fledged imagination so that you can come up with interesting, hypothetical, and quirky topic ideas for your narrative essays.

This is one of the more popular topic ideas because you can make up anything.

  • Imagine if you won the lottery. How are you going to spend it?
  • Imagine if you experience something paranormal. What would you do?
  • Imagine if you were a superhero. What would you do?
  • Imagine if you had a time machine. Where would you travel to?
  • Imagine if, one day, your favorite character came to your home. What would happen?

This subtopic is also a favorite amongst students as they can write about themselves, delve into deeper meanings and understand the experiences they went through.

  • what is the weirdest thing about you;
  • what is your biggest fear, and what was your first encounter with it;
  • what unique talent do you have that very few people have;
  • what do you do when you spend your time alone;
  • what is the worst/best day of your life;
  • things you love about yourself;
  • things you could tell your younger self.

Travel experiences

Travel experiences are a big hit for narrative writing topic ideas. You can write about local places that you’ve been to, countries or cities you have visited, different cultures that you have experienced, or even places that you would like to visit in the future.

In these topics, you can expand using excerpts from your memories or use photographs to think about your experience and write it down in a narrative structure.

Keep in mind to focus on one event or experience, as writers usually make the mistake of writing about their entire travel experience which your readers may stray their attention from your essay when they get less interested in the subject.

Some topic ideas that you can include in this section are:

  • What is your ideal vacation?
  • Have you ever been pick-pocketed? Describe your experience.
  • Would you like to live in another country? Where and why?
  • What was your impression when you visited a major historical site?
  • Describe a day you were traveling, and something terrible happened.
  • Write about your favorite summer vacation trip.
  • What was your first flight experience on a trip abroad?
  • Have you ever gotten lost in a city? How did you find your way back?
  • How is food different in your country than in your favorite foreign country?

Moments of inspiration

Have you ever had a moment in your life that inspired you to do great things? Whatever your source of inspiration is, whether it's about a trip, a beautiful view with a backstory, a classic literature novel, your peers and friends, or an unexpected incident -- you can always use these to frame an interesting piece of writing.

Moments that cause you to be inspired about something always have a significant meaning behind them. It may help you succeed in something you were nervous about, it may help you face your fears, it may help you to feel motivated to work toward yourself, or it can just make you feel happy about the life you’re living.

  • Write about a person who inspired you to keep trying and never fall back.
  • What’s your favorite inspirational movie?
  • Have you ever felt like you could do better? Write about what inspired you to do better.
  • Have you been inspired by a character in a novel? How do you empathize with this character?
  • Who is your role model outside your family members?
  • What is the best advice that you’ve gotten from someone? Expand on how it changed you.
  • Write about the teacher in your life who has played a major role in inspiring you.

Personality traits

Every person has their own personality, and every personality is unique, varied, and has its own story to tell. You can write a narrative essay about your strengths, weaknesses, your different moods, characteristics, important traits, etc.

There are many topics that you can use when writing about your personality and you can expand on them thoroughly using your own experiences, memories, other perspectives, and how you define your personality. Some of them include the following:

  • What makes you happy?
  • How much self-control do you have?
  • How well do you take criticism?
  • Do you have any personal rituals?
  • Do you perform better when you’re competing or when you’re collaborating?
  • How competitive are you?
  • How often do you cry?
  • What is an irrational fear of yours?
  • What is your experience in solving a dilemma?
  • Discuss what assumptions people make about you.
  • List and discuss your personal superstitions.
  • Have you been a leader all your life, or are you a follower?
  • Do you take risks? Are you a daredevil or just spontaneous?
  • Do you have a phobia? Describe an incident where you faced your fears.

Music is a very vital part of human life. It spreads happiness, soothes your soul, it can make you feel relaxed, motivated, peaceful, and emotional. It can also be your escape, your only method to working without being distracted, your way to take off the entire day’s energy. Music is therapy for a lot of people who use it to feel calm and joy.

You must have turned to your favorite song or genre whenever you needed a helping hand with your troubles or influenced your friends to listen to a song that you relate to on another level.

Music is a part of people’s journeys, and multiple experiences and stories can take place in your life because of it. Here are some topics on music that you can write your narrative essay on:

  • Who in your life introduces you to new music?
  • Is there a music composition that cheers you up instantly?
  • What’s your go-to music genre for work?
  • Do you prefer listening to lyrical or instrumental music? Why?
  • Who is your guilty pleasure music artist/band? List out reasons why.
  • What’s your favorite karaoke song?
  • Which pop star inspires or fascinates you?
  • How much is your taste in music similar to or different from your friends?
  • Do you have specific songs which always remind you of a memory?
  • Write about the most exciting experience you’ve had in your life related to music.

Sports and games

Sports and games are both essential for the mental health of students. It increases your immunity, increases blood flow in the body, and makes you adaptable to exertion. Sports are generally played outdoors, whereas games can be played indoors.

Through sports and games, your mind recharges and starts thinking of strategies to succeed. It helps you become more creative and makes your body and mind agile. It helps you keep your body fit and increases stamina.

Similarly, through sports and games, you can learn team spirit, leadership skills, ambitions, and competitiveness. You also develop analytic and strategic thinking. You learn to work toward your goals and build character.

Here are a few topics for a sports or games-related narrative essay:

  • What was your first sports event like?
  • List out the sports you are good at and why?
  • Have you ever had a bad accident while playing a sport?
  • How has your favorite sport changed your life?
  • Is there a board game that you always win? Which one is it and why?
  • What is your one go-to game or sport for any weather, any mood?
  • Who is your favorite sports player? Why and what makes them stand out?
  • How have you changed since you started playing a sport?
  • Are you good at card games? Describe one experience where you were outstanding.
  • Write about sports that don’t interest you. Explain why you do not enjoy them.
  • If you could play for any team in any sport, which team would you pick and why?
  • Write about a friend you made by being involved in athletics.

To conclude, personal narrative essays are in a league of their own. They are simple, engaging, relatable, and always have a moral or learning behind each story or each experience.

These personal narrative ideas for high school and college students will initiate their imagination to write a top-grade quality essay that their professors will come to love and remember through their way of transforming experiences into thought-provoking content.

If you find yourself stuck, reach out to Writers Per Hour. Our expert essay writers will help you write a compelling personal narrative essay that will not only bring out personal experiences but will also get you the grades you desire.

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Inside Mexico’s Brutal Drug Rehabs for the Poor

In a new book, an anthropologist investigates the makeshift treatment centers that have proliferated during the country’s war on drugs.

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This color photo shows a dingy, two-story building on an urban street and half-hidden behind a high wall painted green and yellow with letters in Spanish reading “Rehabilitation Institute for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction.”

By Azam Ahmed

THE WAY THAT LEADS AMONG THE LOST: Life, Death, and Hope in Mexico City’s Anexos, by Angela Garcia

In “Labyrinth of Solitude,” the Nobel laureate Octavio Paz writes of his fellow Mexicans as a people so burdened by historical trauma that they are cursed to “carry about with them, in rags, a still-living past.”

For her new book, “The Way That Leads Among the Lost,” Angela Garcia, an anthropologist, spent years exploring some of those traumas, chronicling the testimonies of clients of Mexico City’s anexos , makeshift drug treatment centers that have quietly proliferated on the margins of Mexico’s — and the United States’ — failed war on drugs.

Anexos have garnered little attention from academics and journalists who work in the region. They are clandestine spaces — a small apartment tucked in a tenement, a dilapidated building next to an old church — often concealed within poor neighborhoods.

Reporting on anexos in various parts of the capital, Garcia befriended the padrinos who run them and spent countless hours listening to the stories of the men and women consigned to them — addicts, dealers, the mentally ill or otherwise afflicted. Garcia even briefly enters an anexo herself, in California, where she reckons with her troubled childhood and adolescence.

Her book offers a view of the war on drugs that differs from the familiar one featuring colorful narcos with gold-plated rifles being chased by damaged, mustachioed D.E.A. agents. The characters who populate Garcia’s pages reside on the periphery of urban life, and of the conflict itself.

Anexos are austere, often brutal places. Their clients — anexados — are sometimes beaten, routinely humiliated and typically forbidden from leaving, at least until their family members run out of money to fund their internment. Early on, we meet Hortencia, a single mother whose teenage son, Daniel, has become both a drug dealer and an addict. After paying a local anexo to admit him, Hortensia witnesses the group’s staff savagely abduct Daniel from their home. Her son is pushed, kicked, handcuffed and whisked away with a hood over his head.

Why would anyone send their loved ones to such a place?

The answer is that they have no choice. According to Garcia, citing health experts, some 90 percent of Mexico’s residential treatments for the poor take place in anexos, a staggering figure in a country of more than 125 million, where drugs are no longer merely trafficked to the United States but, increasingly, consumed at home.

Mexico is a nation of social entrepreneurs, a gift born of its government’s ineptitude. Citizens find their own ways to procure housing for the indigent, employment for the jobless and, in anexos, treatment for the addicted. Violence and lawlessness are components of this ingenuity, the vernacular of agency in the absence of governance.

According to Garcia, anexos began to crop up in Mexico in the late 1970s, as “offshoots” of unsanctioned Alcoholics Anonymous programs. As in the A.A. model, treatment relies on the practice of regular testimony — deeply personal confessions of drug abuse, past mistakes and personal tragedies . At one of the harsher anexos Garcia visits, the testimony is referred to as desagüe , or drain;anexados are made to stand and demean themselves for hours.

Garcia captures the almost religious fervor of these testimonies, at times with a reporter’s eye for detail and at times with an academic’s propensity for clouded, technical language. She witnesses the desagüe of a young man named Toño, conveying his counselors’ taunts, his self-abasement and, ultimately, his breaking down in tears. “The ongoing, cyclical nature of desagüe enables an intimate and evolving understanding of each other’s suffering and establishes embodied connections between anexados,” she writes. Or, in the more succinct words of Padrino Mike, who runs the anexo: “First, they got to know they are not alone.”

There are three books intertwined in “The Way That Leads Among the Lost”: a personal memoir, a narrative based on field reporting and a scholarly ethnography centered on how anexos foster an “articulation of community” and an “ethical mode of coexistence.”

As a feat of research, the book reflects a remarkable effort. Garcia burrows her way into a secret world where participants are forced to expose their true selves. In the process, she provides an unvarnished look at modern Mexico, and the nation’s urban dispossessed. But as a work of narrative nonfiction, the book struggles to draw us into the disparate anexo communities. The focus moves from person to person and place to place with such frequency that the reader feels unmoored and, at times, numb.

At one anexo, we meet Bobby, an 18-year-old addict; Luis, a 29-year-old schizophrenic; and Ángel, who, neither addict nor mental-health patient, is a mystery. Any of them could sustain an entire chapter, or entire narrative. Instead, a few pages later, we hear about Juan, who was abused by his father, and Esme, a teenage prostitute. The details of their lives are quickly glossed over, and, apart from Ángel, none appears in the book again.

Even those characters who do recur, like Hortencia, left me wanting to know more. We never meet her son — he declined to speak with Garcia — or visit the anexo where she has dispatched him. Hortencia remains a face carved in trauma, without any deeper insight to bring grace to her suffering.

If there is a main character, it is Garcia herself, who weaves the story of her childhood and adolescence through the book. She writes in moving and restrained ways about her abandonment at the hands of selfish parents and her struggles with depression. But unlike Garcia, the men and women who are her subjects face hellish futures, without the means to save themselves. The title of her book, which comes from Dante’s “Inferno,” suggests what they are up against.

THE WAY THAT LEADS AMONG THE LOST : Life, Death, and Hope in Mexico City’s Anexos | By Angela Garcia | Farrar, Straus & Giroux | 254 pp. | $29

Azam Ahmed is international investigative correspondent for The Times. He has reported on Wall Street scandals, the War in Afghanistan and violence and corruption in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. More about Azam Ahmed

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    1. Choose your topic. Before you start writing, you can choose a topic that will guide your writing. Because a personal narrative is based on your experiences, try to choose a topic you're comfortable with and willing to discuss. It also can help to consider the purpose of your narrative when choosing a topic.

  15. Narrative Essay

    4. The time when you overcame a fear or obstacle and how it helped you grow as a person. 5. A moment of personal growth and reflection that helped you realize something important about yourself. Here are a few personal narrative essay topics. 1. The moment you realized what you wanted to do with your life. 2.

  16. 650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing

    Here is a PDF of all 650 prompts, and we also have a related lesson plan, From 'Lives' to 'Modern Love': Writing Personal Essays With Help From The New York Times.. Below, a list that ...

  17. Personal Narrative Writing Guide

    A personal narrative is a means for the writer to explore the meaning of the events in their life. It is, at its core, an introspective and creative endeavor that focuses as much on the interior life of the writer as it does on external events. While the conclusion of a traditional recount usually provides some of the writer's insights, in a ...

  18. 6 Tips for Writing a Personal Narrative

    3. Apply strong narrative techniques. Just because you're writing about a personal experience doesn't exempt you from using strong storytelling techniques. Continue to apply important writing advice, such as: Show, don't tell. Use strong verbs. Remove unnecessary filler words. 4. Avoid overusing the pronoun "I.".

  19. How to Write a Personal Narrative: A Step-By-Step Guide

    Show the narrative to others. Ask a friend, peer, classmate, or family member to read the narrative. Pose questions to them about the style, tone, and flow of the narrative. Ask them if the narrative feels personal, detailed, and engaging. [10] Be willing to accept feedback from others.

  20. 295 Personal Narrative Ideas: Diverse Topics For Your Essay

    Narrate what made a gift the best you ever had. Write about what your most memorable letter. Write about the divorce of a family friend or neighbor. Discuss the consequence of separation from a state. Write about how migrated from a place to another. Write about how angry your father or mother could be at themselves.

  21. Personal Narrative Essay

    A personal narrative is a story written in the first person point of view; it tells a personal story about something that happened to the writer. This means that the story is written, usually ...

  22. 13 Personal Narrative Ideas for High School to Kickstart Your Essay

    3 Personal Narrative Ideas for High School Students. Personal narrative essays are common writing assignments. However, the biggest roadblock high school students face is not being able to come up with interesting personal narrative ideas. If your idea is weak, there's no way you can write a high-scoring personal narrative essay.

  23. The Winners of Our Personal Narrative Essay Contest

    In September, we challenged teenagers to write short, powerful stories about meaningful life experiences for our first-ever personal narrative essay contest. This contest, like every new contest ...

  24. Book Review: 'The Way That Leads Among the Lost,' by Angela Garcia

    But as a work of narrative nonfiction, the book struggles to draw us into the disparate anexo communities. The focus moves from person to person and place to place with such frequency that the ...