Tips for Writing a Personal Narrative Essay

Writing an engaging personal narrative essay requires you to focus on both the key points of information to be conveyed and the many details which make the narrative essay interesting. These tips can help for all types of personal narrative essays.

woman considering topics for personal narrative essay woman considering topics for personal narrative essay

Writing an Impactful Personal Narrative Essay

A personal narrative essay is about a personal experience, so you should write it in the first person. A personal narrative is a story about yourself, and great personal narrative essay topics include experiences you’ve had, people you know, your reactions to books or other writing, and many other options.

Tips for Choosing a Personal Essay Topic

Knowing how to write a personal narrative essay starts with finding a great topic. You need a topic you really want to write about.

  • Think about events in your life that make a great story. What stories do you have about your life that always make people laugh or keep them entertained?
  • Consider when you learned something from an event that happened to you. This kind of learning experience makes a great personal narrative essay.
  • Think about special experiences you shared with a friend or relative and how those experiences changed your relationship with that person.

Tips for a Personal Essay With Impact

A successful personal essay connects with the reader on an emotional level. To maximize its impact, keep these tips in mind.

  • Know your reader. Think about who will be reading this personal essay and what that person will feel.
  • Write to have an emotional impact on the reader. Tell a story that includes emotion and provokes an empathetic response.
  • Include a lot of references to sensory perceptions and emotions. Sensory details like this connect the reader to the scene you are describing.
  • Use vivid details and imagery. The more specific you are in your description, the better the reader will be able to picture the story you are telling.

Tips on the Structure of the Essay

Although there aren’t many set rules for structuring a personal narrative essay, you do need an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

  • The opening of the essay needs to let the reader know the essence of what you will be describing and your point of view. Your introduction paragraph should also capture the reader’s attention with something dramatic.
  • The body of the story needs to give the reader a very clear idea of what happened and how you (the author) feel about that. You can tell the story chronologically, or the facts may be grouped by importance or type.
  • The final paragraph needs to wrap up and state the point of the story, whether it is a lesson, an idea or just a learning experience. Take a look at some conclusion examples for inspiration.
  • Before you begin writing, take some time to brainstorm and jot down a few notes. Then create an outline to help your essay stay on topic.

Tips for Writing the Essay

Writing a good narrative essay requires you to include interesting information in an engaging way.

  • Record yourself telling the story. That will help you organize your story and make the writing flow.
  • Include anecdotes and dialogue in the essay. Think about what people in the story actually said and did.
  • Use transition words to connect sentences, such as “therefore,” “however” or “for example.”
  • Vary the structure of your sentences to make the writing more interesting. Try adding some compound sentences, complex sentences or interrogative sentences.
  • Make the words lively, descriptive, exciting, active, emotional, and precise. Work to say exactly what you want to say in the best way possible.
  • When you’re done, read the essay and highlight anything that might not be necessary to the story. Then consider deleting this extra information.

Get Inspired by Examples of Narrative Writing

Here is a brief example of writing used in a personal narrative essay. Notice the tone and words that set the mood. You can almost feel the heat and humidity.

"It was the middle of springtime and across from my house where the incident took place. There was a lake there in which my brother and I loved to explore from time to time. The humidity and water drops were reminiscent of a fully functional sauna. The onslaught of heat and burning glow of the sun was relentless."

Before you begin your own personal essay, take some time to read narrative essay examples. You’ll notice that this type of creative nonfiction has a lot in common with memoir examples as well. It’s all about telling a real story in a way that feels as engaging as fiction.


More Types of Essays

An essay is a short piece of writing which is either analytical or speculative. Most essays are written from the author's point of view. The word "essay" began to be used in 1588 when Michel de Montaigne published a book called Essais and the word represents a short work written on a particular subject.

There are many kinds of essays, and following is a short explanation of a few of them.

  • persuasive or argumentative essay - The persuasive or argumentative essay picks a certain viewpoint and offers support of it with data, statistics and other evidence. Its purpose is to make the reader agree with the proofs and conclusions. In other words, the reader should share the viewpoint of the writer.
  • comparison essay - A comparison essay will compare and contrast two things and point out their similarities and differences. The writer needs to find as many similarities and differences as possible so will need to do some research.
  • descriptive essay - Descriptive essays answer the questions: how, what, why, when, and where. They can be written about any subject: a place, person, animal, event, thing or memory. The writer will share with the reader feelings and perceptions.

Writing Skills That Transfer to Other Types of Essays

Writing a personal narrative essay is about telling a story to your reader in a way that keeps him or her fascinated. It’s all about choosing the right topic and sharing your experience with emotion and detail. You can use these same skills to write an “about me” essay or any other kind of essay you need to write.