Write a Gripping Personal Narrative Essay Using Our Cheat Guide

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Written By Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson has over 20 years experience on speech writing. He wrote over 300 free speech topic ideas and how-to guides for any kind of public speaking and speech writing assignments at My Speech Class.

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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!

What is a Personal Narrative Essay?

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:

1. Introduction

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.

2. Body

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.

3. Conclusion

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.

How to Write a Personal Narrative Essay

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.

How to Choose a Personal Narrative Topic

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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