Free Personal Narrative Examples: Basic Guidelines With Tips

31 July 2023

last updated

Personal narrative examples are texts that allow readers to understand some aspects of the writer’s life experiences. In writing such documents, students get the opportunity to perfect their writing, critical thinking, and reflection skills. Unlike research essays that require students to investigate subjects, personal narrative essays require authors to write thoughtfully. In turn, one’s life experiences without external evidence are the main content in personal narrative essay examples.

General Aspects

Writing personal narrative examples is an academic activity that enhances one’s writing, critical thinking, and reflection skills. When students get assignments to write a personal story, they get the opportunity to reflect on their life experiences and take one or several aspects of it to share. In this case, a narrative essay introduces a student as an individual and a writer to readers. Therefore, the challenge for students is to find a story to tell, one that they can recall clearly and tell through writing thoughtfully. In other words, detailing one’s experience is essential to meet the criterion of the “show, do not tell” technique, meaning that authors should focus on giving the audience details of their life experiences vividly rather than just talking about them. Also, the audience must be able to visualize those experiences for emotional intensity.

Personal narrative examples

Three Samples of a Personal Narrative Essay

1. personal narrative example: the most disappointing day of my life.

My love for racing cars started when I was a child. The mere fact that these cars moved at lightning speed seemed to excite me, and I couldn’t tell why. As I grew older, I found myself engaging in things to do with racing cars, such as watching episodes of car races on television and the Internet. I even went a step further and used my pocket money to buy car racing-themed magazines and merchandise. Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise when one of my uncles decided to take me to a car racing event in Africa, specifically Kenya.

Safari Rally was an episode of the global yearly car racing competition, and it seemed to stand out from the rest for several reasons. One of these, which inspired many people from the West, was the fact that the racing track went through game reserves and national parks. As such, fans were sure to get a double treat- watch racing cars as they maneuver the tough African terrain and enjoy the beauty of African wildlife. Hearing stories about this experience increased my desire to visit Kenya and witness the forthcoming Safari Rally event. The year was 1989. How can I forget?

Life has a way of turning expectations into painful memories. My friends knew how prepared I was to travel to Kenya. I had even bought a camera using my pocket money; I intended to document the entire experience through photography. To cut the story short, I never made the trip. It never occurred to me that, as a military man, my uncle was not in charge of his life per se. As the world was preparing to witness the African Safari Rally, Panama was in a crisis. US President George W. Bush sent over 10,000 American troops to Panama City on December 20, 1989, one week before the Safari Rally kick-off date. My uncle was recalled from his one-month leave.

I am not sure what was most devastating to me – the fact that my beloved uncle informed my mother and not me about his recall or that I was never going to Kenya to witness the marvelous Safari Rally. I must admit, although I was in perfect health, I felt sick, literally. I became moody, lost my appetite, developed a headache, and withdrew from family and friends. My mother had to take leave from work to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. December 20, 1989, I must admit, stands out as the most disappointing day of my life.

Today, almost two decades later, I look back to December 20, 1989, and wonder about the power of aspirations. Dreams are powerful, and no matter how long it takes, life always finds a way to bring them to bear. Indeed, I visited Kenya after graduating from High School, but not to witness the Safari Rally. This time, my visit was sponsored by a community organization dedicated to making the world a better place for orphans. Visiting Kenya brought back memories of a missed opportunity and the mark it left in my life. Indeed, dreams are powerful!

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2. Example of a Personal Narrative Essay: My Greatest Life Lesson

Growing up, I always heard people say work hard pays; that working hard is a virtue. I never really understood the meaning of these words until I reached the age when my parents allowed me to have my first job. My dad always insisted that I should learn how to give and not ask. What could I possibly give? I always thought. Although my mum was an undisputed defender, I think she had come to see sense in my father’s argument. She stopped giving me my monthly allowance and asked me to look for a job.

Christmas is a season of good tidings for merrymakers and entrepreneurial characters. My childhood friend was one of the latter. Although we grew up together and got in trouble together, Mike and I were two sides of the same coin. I was an introvert and a bookworm, and Mike was an extrovert and a merrymaker. His added advantage over me was that he came from a family of entrepreneurs. Therefore, while I saw the festive season as another time of the year when people overindulge, he saw it as a perfect time to make money. Ironically, I needed this side of him, given my present predicament.

Mike was not of the “work hard pays” school of thought. He subscribed to the “work smart” school of thought. If anyone asked me the difference, I couldn’t tell. When I told him about my predicament, he saw a business partner. He confided in me about his business idea- making Christmas trees and selling them on credit. I thought, “I didn’t hear him well,” so I asked him to repeat what he had just said. Of course, he noticed my disbelief and lack of enthusiasm in his idea. At this point, he told me he had researched and realized that only one shop sold Christmas trees, and the price was exorbitant. This meant that there was room for competition. Before he could go further with his “story,” I reminded him that starting a business, leave alone competing with an established enterprise, required capital. He told me, “not really.” That word got my attention. He said to me that all we had to do was cut down some trees and use our creativity to make beautiful Christmas trees. Mike “volunteered”—whatever that meant—to supply any needed material from the family supermarket. To make the story short, we made our Christmas trees and hit the road running.

News about our Christmas trees spread like wildfire. Mike’s decision to publish pamphlets advertising our product was a genius marketing trick. Although we were willing to give people the product on credit, a majority ended up paying in cash. Within three days, we had sold about 20 Christmas trees, and as they say, the rest is history.

My parents’ decision to stop my monthly allowance served to teach me the value of work. However, it was my entrepreneurial adventure with Mike that taught me that working smart is better than working hard.

3. Personal Narrative Essay Sample: Memorable Experience

It was about two decades ago when, at the age of 16, I traveled a distance of approximately 100 miles to get to see a great holy personality. For almost a month, the media had been advertising the arrival of Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, the founder of Sahaja Yoga Meditation. This religious fraternity has attained a reputation as a global movement of spiritual practices. Since my mother was a committed faithful, I decided to tag along as she made a journey she considered a religious obligation. Little did I know that, by volunteering to accompany my mum, I set myself up for one of my most memorable experiences.

When we arrived at the scheduled venue, an auditorium of a state university, I got nervous for some reason. Since the media had advertised her arrival, the place was a sea of humanity, as faithful and curious individuals like me fought for a space to see this revered lady. One could tell a religious adherent from a curious attendee- it was a tradition that everywhere Shri Mataji visited, people gifted her flowers as a sign of their admiration and reverence.

In light of this, I was carrying a flower under the instructions of my mother. Probably, some also took flowers under the direction of those they accompanied. As soon as it was announced that Shri Mataji was about to enter the auditorium, my heartbeat started racing. The crowd seemed to go on a frenzy, as some tried to move closer to the podium. As Shri Mataji made her way into the packed venue, people approached her in an unrushed way, giving her flowers, one by one. In return, she gave short comments to each person like, “Thank you,” “Oh, such a lovely dress,” and such. I must admit, her stance caught me off-guard. I always thought a holy person never smiles; that they are always serious with a face that tells you they can see your sins, even the hidden sins of the soul. On the contrary, Shri Mataji was lovable and human in every bit.

When it was my turn to give a flower, I was confused. Lovingly, my mother, looking at me with kind eyes, prompted me to offer her my bunch of flowers. Unlike the tradition of offering flowers to a person by giving them to their hands, the present occasion required one to offer them at Shri Mataji’s feet. I later learned that this was the custom in Indian society relating to gurus or persons of significant stature. Although Shri Mataji uttered some words to me, I can recall them; I was excited to listen. I wasn’t sober. My mum tells me that I was smiling as the revered lady commended me for the beautiful gift. All I know is that I was thrilled and highly satisfied, practically indescribable feelings. Indeed, the occasion stands out as one of the most memorable days of my life.

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Personal Stories in Narrative Essays

Indeed, all three stories above are personal narrative examples. Firstly, each of the stories describes personal experiences. Secondly, in each story, an author gives accounts of how events transpired to make described experiences memorable. Lastly, each of the three stories ends with a life lesson or experience that forms part of personal memories. In short, these three stories do not describe what a person has read somewhere. Basically, they describe what an individual has gone through as an individual at one point in personal life.

“Show, Not Tell” Method

When writing personal narrative essay examples, writers focus on giving vivid descriptions of their experiences and not just telling the audience about them. In these three stories, an author has offered such descriptions, such as a personal state of mind, to enable readers to either be emotionally involved. For example, in the first story, an author talks about how he became “moody, lost appetite, developed a headache, and withdrew from family and friends.” In turn, this description makes readers empathize with a personal situation.

Techniques for Writing Better Personal Narrative Essays

  • Use simple language. While research essays require students to use complex words, this feature is not beneficial in personal narrative essay examples. In turn, the language should provide rather than hinder clarity.
  • “Show, not tell.” The goal of personal narrative examples is to inform readers about the life experiences of writers. As such, students should not write it as they would a research essay. In turn, they must incorporate vivid descriptions that enable readers to become emotionally involved.
  • Make an essay “personal.” Narrative essay examples can be considered “personal” only by providing personal details of authors. Basically, students should avoid using the second-person language but covering the first-personal language. In turn, experiences should introduce readers to an aspect of a writer’s life.

Writing personal narrative essay examples is an academic exercise of great importance. Basically, it allows students to perfect their writing, critical thinking, and reflection skills. For example, one of the most effective techniques for writing a personal narrative essay example is the “show, not tell” approach. In turn, this method means that authors should focus more on giving vivid descriptions of their experiences and not just writing about them. Moreover, the audience must get emotionally involved in the story for it to be effective. Hence, some essential tips in writing personal narrative essay examples are:

  • Choose a memorable story to tell.
  • Follow the “Show, not tell” approach.
  • Be authentic by avoiding exaggerations.
  • Ask for input from family and close friends.
  • Proofread personal narrative essay examples before publication or submission.

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Home — Essay Types — Personal Narrative Essays

Personal Narrative Essays Examples

Exploring personal narrative essays.

When crafting a personal narrative essay, it’s essential to find valuable personal narrative essay examples to guide you. This type of writing demands a unique approach, where external research is unnecessary. Draw from your personal experiences and explore your ideas from a personal point of view. The purpose of such essays is to let you work on a certain topic by using analysis and by turning to reflective writing practices. The examples of personal narratives may relate to anything from bullying to the way social media affects our perception of body image in a negative way. Likewise, if you are majoring in Journalism or Political Sciences, you may take any topic that would relate to what you are currently exploring unless you have already been provided with an essay prompt. In either case, you must take your time to focus on your opinion and things that inspire you the most. If you can keep your writing interesting and unique, it will always show as you write.

Personal narrative essays are a popular form of writing that allow individuals to share their personal experiences, stories, and insights. In the infographics we’ve prepared, you can find a most common types of personal narrative essays:

Types of Personal Narrative Essays

These are some of the most common types of personal narrative essays, each with its unique focus and storytelling approach. The choice of type depends on the author’s personal experiences and the message they want to convey.

How to Structure a Personal Narrative Essay

Turning to personal narrative structure , you are mostly allowed to approach a free style where you may keep your narration according to your preferences, yet it’s recommended to keep your topics narrowed down to a certain period of time or a take on things if that speaks of your life’s experience. To create an engaging and well-structured personal narrative essay, follow these essential elements:

  • Introduction: Set the Stage
  • Start with a hook: Begin your essay with an attention-grabbing sentence or anecdote that draws readers in.
  • Provide context: Introduce the setting, time, and place of your story.
  • Present the thesis statement: Clearly state the main idea or message you want to convey through your narrative.
  • Background Information: Build the Foundation
  • Offer background details: Provide essential information about the characters, setting, and circumstances relevant to your story.
  • Develop characters: Describe the key individuals involved, including yourself, if applicable.
  • Plot Development: Unfold the Story
  • Sequence events: Organize the events of your narrative in chronological order to maintain clarity.
  • Build tension: Use rising action to create anticipation and interest in the narrative.
  • Climax: Present the turning point or the most significant moment of your story.
  • Descriptive Details: Paint a Vivid Picture
  • Utilize sensory imagery: Engage readers’ senses by describing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings.
  • Use vivid language: Employ descriptive adjectives and metaphors to enhance the reader’s understanding of your experiences.
  • Reflection and Analysis: Share Insights
  • Reflect on the significance: Explain why the experience was meaningful or how it impacted you.
  • Offer personal insights: Share your thoughts, emotions, and personal growth resulting from the experience.
  • Conclusion: Wrap It Up
  • Summarize the story: Provide a concise summary of the main events and their outcomes.
  • Reinforce the thesis: Reiterate the key message or lesson learned.
  • End with a powerful closing: Leave readers with a thought-provoking statement, a lesson, or a reflection.
  • Editing and Proofreading: Polish Your Essay
  • Revise for clarity: Ensure the narrative flows smoothly and is easy to follow.
  • Check for grammar and spelling errors: Use tools like Grammarly to eliminate mistakes.
  • Seek feedback: Have someone else review your essay for constructive input.
  • Title: Choose an Engaging Title
  • Craft a title that captures the essence of your narrative and intrigues potential readers.

Remember, personal narrative essays allow you to share your unique experiences and perspectives, making them compelling and relatable to your audience. By following this structured approach, you can create a well-crafted and engaging personal narrative essay.

Checklist for Writing a Personal Narrative Essay

While it is considered that no thesis statement is necessary for a personal narrative essay, you should keep your main thought throughout as you deal with a certain topic. See our free personal narrative essay examples and brainstorm various ideas before you start. Don’t forget to check our helpful checklist to make sure that you follow the general structure rules for this essay: 

  • You write in the first person.
  • Your tone is narrative and explanatory where and if necessary.
  • You keep up with the same idea and avoid vague statements.
  • You have a strong hook or some fact in your introduction.
  • You bring out a moral lesson in your conclusion part.
  • There are transitions and topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. ( Use words like “Therefore”, “As a result of”)

Although it’s a personal narrative, make sure that you choose your topic wisely by exploring the objectives and checking your grading rubric twice! 

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What is a personal narrative essay?

In most cases, you must take ideas that deal with a personal narrative that can be a story from your life or a case that you have been involved in. You should write from the first person. Personal narrative examples include writing about your birthday or meeting your best friend in middle school. The topics should inspire you and have a beginning with a hook sentence, content, and a conclusion.

How to write personal narrative essays?

Regardless of what subject you may write about, most personal narrative essays should include an argumentation or a lesson. Ask yourself about what can your audience learn when reading your story. It may be a little difficult to write at first, yet start with a brief introduction, thesis, and a story itself with a powerful conclusion. See our free personal narrative essay to see how it can be done right.

What is the purpose of a personal narrative essay?

The primary purpose is to share a personal experience or story, allowing readers to connect with the author on a deeper level. It may also convey a lesson, moral, or reflection.

How do I choose a topic for my personal narrative essay?

Select a topic that holds personal significance, such as a life-changing event, memorable journey, or lesson learned. Choose something that resonates with you.

What makes a personal narrative essay compelling?

Vivid descriptions, sensory details, and emotional connections make a personal narrative essay compelling. Show, don't just tell the story.

Can I write a humorous personal narrative essay?

Absolutely! Personal narrative essays can be humorous, serious, or a mix of both, depending on the tone you want to convey.

How do I conclude a personal narrative essay effectively?

Summarize the main events, reiterate the central message or lesson, and end with a thought-provoking statement or reflection.

What is the recommended word count for a personal narrative essay?

The word count can vary, but a typical personal narrative essay may range from 500 to 1,500 words. It's best to follow the guidelines provided by your instructor or publication if applicable.

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The Winners of Our Personal Narrative Essay Contest

We asked students to write about a meaningful life experience. Here are the eight winning essays, as well as runners-up and honorable mentions.

Our main inspiration for this contest was the long-running New York Times Magazine Lives column. All of the illustrations we have used in this post are borrowed from this column. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/magazine/big-in-japan.html">Related Lives Story</a>

By The Learning Network

Update: Join our live webinar on Oct. 8 about teaching with our Narrative Writing 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 we start, was admittedly a bit of an experiment. Beyond a caution to write no more than 600 words, our rules were fairly open-ended, and we weren’t sure what we would get.

Well, we received over 8,000 entries from teenagers from around the world. We got stories about scoring the winning goal, losing a grandparent, learning to love one’s skin and dealing with mental illness. We got pieces that were moving, funny, introspective and honest. We got a snapshot of teenage life.

Judging a contest like this is, of course, subjective, especially with the range of content and styles of writing students submitted. But we based our criteria on the types of personal narrative essays The New York Times publishes in columns like Lives , Modern Love and Rites of Passage . We read many, many essays that were primarily reflective but, while these pieces might be well-suited for a college application, they weren’t exactly the short, powerful stories we were looking for in this contest.

The winning essays we selected were, though, and they all had a few things in common that set them apart:

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.

Below, you’ll find these eight winning essays, published in full. Scroll to the bottom to see the names of all 35 finalists we’re honoring — eight winners, eight runners-up and 19 honorable mentions. Congratulations, and thank you to everyone who participated!

The Winning Essays

Nothing extraordinary, pants on fire, eggs and sausage, first impressions, cracks in the pavement, sorry, wrong number, the man box.

By Jeniffer Kim

It was a Saturday. Whether it was sunny or cloudy, hot or cold, I cannot remember, but I do remember it was a Saturday because the mall was packed with people.

I was with my mom.

Mom is short. Skinny. It is easy to overlook her in a crowd simply because she is nothing extraordinary to see.

On that day we strolled down the slippery-slick tiles with soft, inconspicuous steps, peeking at window boutiques in fleeting glances because we both knew we wouldn’t be buying much, like always.

I remember I was looking up at the people we passed as we walked — at first apathetically, but then more attentively.

Ladies wore five-inch heels that clicked importantly on the floor and bright, elaborate clothing. Men strode by smelling of sharp cologne, faces clear of wrinkles — wiped away with expensive creams.

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. It got more unbearable with every second until I could deny it no longer; I was ashamed of my mother.

We were in a high-class neighborhood, I knew that. We lived in a small, overpriced apartment building that hung on to the edge of our county that Mom chose to move to because she knew the schools were good.

We were in a high-class neighborhood, but as I scrutinized the passers-by and then turned accusing eyes on Mom, I realized for the first time that we didn’t belong there.

I could see the heavy lines around Mom’s eyes and mouth, etched deep into her skin without luxurious lotions to ease them away. She wore cheap, ragged clothes with the seams torn, shoes with the soles worn down. Her eyes were tired from working long hours to make ends meet and her hair too gray for her age.

I looked at her, and I was ashamed.

My mom is nothing extraordinary, yet at that moment she stood out because she was just so plain.

Mumbling I’d meet her at the clothes outlet around the corner, I hurried away to the bathroom. I didn’t want to be seen with her, although there was no one important around to see me anyway.

When I finally made my way to the outlet with grudging steps, I found that Mom wasn’t there.

With no other options, I had to scour the other stores in the area for her. I was dreading returning to her side, already feeling the secondhand embarrassment that I’d recently discovered came with being with her.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mom was standing in the middle of a high-end store, holding a sweater that looked much too expensive.

She said, “This will look good on you. Do you want it?”

It was much too expensive. And I almost agreed, carelessly, thoughtlessly.

Then I took a closer look at the small, weary woman with a big smile stretching across her narrow face and a sweater in her hands, happy to be giving me something so nice, and my words died in my throat.

I felt like I’d been dropped into a cold lake.

Her clothes were tattered and old because she spent her money buying me new ones. She looked so tired and ragged all the time because she was busy working to provide for me. She didn’t wear jewelry or scented perfumes because she was just content with me.

Suddenly, Mother was beautiful and extraordinarily wonderful in my eyes.

I was no longer ashamed of her, but of myself.

“Do you want it?” My mom repeated.

“No thanks.”

By Varya Kluev

I never kissed the boy I liked behind the schoolyard fence that one March morning. I never had dinner with Katy Perry or lived in Kiev for two months either, but I still told my entire fourth-grade class I did.

The words slipped through my teeth effortlessly. With one flick of my tongue, I was, for all anybody knew, twenty-third in line for the throne of Monaco. “Actually?” the girls on the swings beside me would ask, wide eyes blinking with a childlike naivety. I nodded as they whispered under their breath how incredible my fable was. So incredible they bought into it without a second thought.

I lied purely for the ecstasy of it. It was narcotic. With my fabrications, I became the captain of the ship, not just a wistful passer-by, breath fogging the pane of glass that stood between me and the girls I venerated. No longer could I only see, not touch; a lie was a bullet, and the barrier shattered. My mere presence demanded attention — after all, I was the one who got a valentine from Jason, not them.

This way I became more than just the tomboyish band geek who finished her multiplication tables embarrassingly fast. My name tumbled out of their mouths and I manifested in the center of their linoleum lunch table. I became, at least temporarily, the fulcrum their world revolved around.

Not only did I lie religiously and unabashedly — I was good at it. The tedium of my everyday life vanished; I instead marched through the gates of my alcazar, strode up the steps of my concepts, and resided in my throne of deceit. I believed if I took off my fraudulent robe, I would become plebeian. The same aristocracy that finally held me in high regard would boot me out of my palace. To strip naked and exclaim, “Here’s the real me, take a look!” would lead my new circle to redraw their lines — they would take back their compliments, sit at the table with six seats instead of eight, giggle in the back of the class when I asked a question. I therefore adjusted my counterfeit diadem and continued to praise a Broadway show I had never seen.

Yet finally lounging in a lavender bedroom one long-sought-after day, after absently digesting chatter about shows I didn’t watch and boys I didn’t know, I started processing the floating conversations. One girl, who I had idolized for always having her heavy hair perfectly curled, casually shared how her parents couldn’t afford to go on their yearly trip the coming summer. I drew in an expectant breath, but nobody scoffed. Nobody exchanged a secret criticizing glance. Instead, another girl took her spoon of vanilla frosting out of her cheek and with the same air of indifference revealed how her family wasn’t traveling either. Promptly, my spun stories about swimming in crystal pools under Moroccan sun seemed to be in vain.

The following Monday, the girls on the bus to school still shared handfuls of chocolate-coated sunflower seeds with her. At lunch, she wasn’t shunned, wasn’t compelled to sit at a forgotten corner table. For that hour, instead of weaving incessant fantasies, I listened. I listened to the girls nonchalantly talk about yesterday’s soccer game where they couldn’t score a single goal. Listened about their parent’s layoff they couldn’t yet understand the significance of. I listened and I watched them listen, accepting and uncritical of one another no matter how relatively vapid their story. I then too began to talk, beginning by admitting that I wasn’t actually related to Britney Spears.

By Ryan Young Kim

When first I sat down in the small, pathetic excuse of a cafeteria the hospital had, I took a moment to reflect. I had been admitted the night before, rolled in on a stretcher like I had some sort of ailment that prevented me from walking.

But the nurses in the ward were nice to me, especially when they saw that I wasn’t going to be one of the violent ones. They started telling me something, but I paid no attention; I was trying to take in my surroundings. The tables were rounded, chairs were essentially plastic boxes with weight inside, and there was no real glass to be seen.

After they filled out the paperwork, the nurses escorted me to my room. There was someone already in there, but he was dead asleep. The two beds were plain and simple, with a cheap mattress on top of an equally cheap wooden frame. One nurse stuck around to hand me my bedsheets and a gown that I had to wear until my parents dropped off clothes.

The day had been exhausting, waiting for the psychiatric ward to tell us that there was a bed open for me and the doctors to fill out the mountains of paperwork that come with a suicide attempt.

Actually, there had been one good thing about that day. My parents had brought me Korean food for lunch — sullungtang , a fatty stew made from ox-bone broth. God, even when I was falling asleep I could still taste some of the rice kernels that had been mixed into the soup lingering around in my mouth.

For the first time, I felt genuine hunger. My mind had always been racked with a different kind of hunger — a pining for attention or just an escape from the toil of waking up and not feeling anything. But I always had everything I needed — that is, I always had food on my plate, maybe even a little too much. Now, after I had tried so hard to wrench myself away from this world, my basic human instinct was guiding me toward something that would keep me alive.

The irony was lost on me then. All I knew was that if I slept earlier, that meant less time awake being hungry. So I did exactly that. Waking up the next day, I was dismayed to see that the pangs of hunger still rumbled through my stomach. I slid off my covers and shuffled out of my room. The cafeteria door was already open, and I looked inside. There was a cart of Styrofoam containers in the middle of the room, and a couple people were eating quietly. I made my way in and stared.

I scanned the tops of the containers — they were all marked with names: Jonathan, Nathan, Kristen — and as soon as I spotted my name, my mouth began to water.

My dad would sometimes tell me about his childhood in a rural Korean village. The hardships he faced, the hunger that would come if the village harvest floundered, and how he worked so hard to get out — I never listened. But in that moment, between when I saw my container and I sat down at a seat to open it, I understood.

The eggs inside were watery, and their heat had condensated water all over, dripping onto everything and making the sausages soggy. The amount of ketchup was pitiful.

But if I hadn’t been given plastic utensils, I think I would have just shoved it all into my mouth, handful by handful.

By Isabel Hui

When I woke up on August 4, 2016, there was only one thing on my mind: what to wear. A billion thoughts raced through my brain as wooden hangers shuffled back and forth in the cramped hotel closet. I didn’t want to come off as a try-hard, but I also didn’t want to be seen as a slob. Not only was it my first day of high school, but it was my first day of school in a new state; first impressions are everything, and it was imperative for me to impress the people who I would spend the next four years with. For the first time in my life, I thought about how convenient it would be to wear the horrendous matching plaid skirts that private schools enforce.

It wasn’t insecurity driving me to madness; I was actually quite confident for a teenage girl. It was the fact that this was my third time being the new kid. Moving so many times does something to a child’s development … I struggled finding friends that I could trust would be there for me if I picked up and left again. But this time was different because my dad’s company ensured that I would start and finish high school in the same place. This meant no instant do-overs when I pick up and leave again. This time mattered, and that made me nervous.

After meticulously raiding my closet, I emerged proudly in a patterned dress from Target. The soft cotton was comfortable, and the ruffle shoulders added a hint of fun. Yes, this outfit was the one. An hour later, I felt just as powerful as I stepped off the bus and headed toward room 1136. But as I turned the corner into my first class, my jaw dropped to the floor.

Sitting at her desk was Mrs. Hutfilz, my English teacher, sporting the exact same dress as I. I kept my head down and tiptoed to my seat, but the first day meant introductions in front of the whole class, and soon enough it was my turn. I made it through my minute speech unscathed, until Mrs. Hutfilz stood up, jokingly adding that she liked my style. Although this was the moment I had been dreading from the moment I walked in, all the anxiety that had accumulated throughout the morning surprisingly melted away; the students who had previously been staring at their phones raised their heads to pay attention as I shared my story. My smile grew as I giggled with my peers, ending my speech with “and I am very stylish, much like my first period teacher.” After class, I stayed behind and talked to Mrs. Hutfilz, sharing my previous apprehension about coming into a new school and state. I was relieved to make a humorous and genuine connection with my first teacher, one that would continue for the remainder of the year.

This incident reminded me that it’s only high school; these are the times to have fun, work hard, and make memories, not stress about the trivial details. Looking back four years later, the ten minutes I spent dreading my speech were really not worth it. While my first period of high school may not have gone exactly the way I thought it would, it certainly made the day unforgettable in the best way, and taught me that Mrs. Hutfilz has an awesome sense of style!

By Adam Bernard Sanders

It was my third time sitting there on the middle school auditorium stage. The upper chain of braces was caught in my lip again, and my palms were sweating, and my glasses were sliding down my nose. The pencil quivered in my hands. All I had to do was answer whatever question Mrs. Crisafulli, the history teacher, was going to say into that microphone. I had answered 26 before that, and 25 of those correctly. And I was sitting in my chair, and I was tapping my foot, and the old polo shirt I was wearing was starting to constrict and choke me. I pulled pointlessly at the collar, but the air was still on the outside, only looking at the inside of my throat. I was going to die.

I could taste my tongue in my mouth shriveling up. I could feel each hard-pumping heartbeat of blood travel out of my chest, up through my neck and down my arms and legs, warming my already-perspiring forehead but leaving my ghost-white fingers cold and blue. My breathing was quick. My eyes were glassy. I hadn’t even heard the question yet.

Late-night readings of my parents’ anatomy textbooks had told me that a sense of impending doom was the hallmark of pulmonary embolism, a fact that often bubbled to the surface of my mind in times like these. Almost by instinct, I bent my ring and little fingers down, holding them with my thumb as the two remaining digits whipped to my right wrist and tried to take my pulse. Mr. Mendoza had taught us this last year in gym class. But I wasn’t in gym class that third period. I was just sitting on the metal folding chair, waiting for Mrs. Crisafulli to flip to the right page in her packet for the question.

Arabella had quizzed me in second-period French on the lakes of Latin America. Nicaragua. Atitlán. Yojoa. Lake Titicaca, that had made Raj, who sat in front of me, start giggling, and Shannon, who sat three desks up and one to the left, whip her head around and raise one fist to her lips, jab up her index finger, and silence us. Lakes were fed by rivers, the same rivers that lined the globe on my desk like the cracks in the pavement I liked to trace with my shoe on the walk home. Lake Nicaragua drains into the San Juan River, which snakes its way around the port of Granada to empty into the Caribbean Sea. I knew that.

At that moment I was only sure of those two things: the location of Lake Nicaragua and my own impending doom. And I was so busy counting my pulse and envisioning my demise that I missed Mrs. Crisafulli’s utterance of the awaited question into her microphone, as I had each year in the past as one of the two people left onstage.

“ … Coldest … on earth,” was all I heard. My pencil etched shaggy marks as my shaking hands attempted to write something in the 20 seconds remaining.

“Asia,” I scrawled.

So, for the third time in three years, I got it wrong, and for the third time, I didn’t die. I walked home that day, tracing the faults in the pavement and wondering what inside me was so cracked and broken. Something had to be fissured inside, like the ridges and rivers on my desk globe that I would throw out later that evening, but fish from the trash can when the sun rose the next day.

By Michelle Ahn

My phone buzzes. An unfamiliar number with a 512 area code — I later find out it’s from Texas. It’s a selfie of a 30-something man, smiling with his family, a strange picture to receive as I live halfway across the country.

For the past three years, I — a 14-year-old girl living in Virginia — have been getting texts meant for this man, Jared. Over the years, I’ve pieced together parts of who he is; middle-aged, Caucasian, and very popular according to the numerous messages I’ve received for him.

Throughout this time, I’ve also been discovering who I am. When I received the first text, I was a playful sixth grader, always finding sly ways to be subversive in school and with friends. With this new method of mischief in my hands, naturally, I engaged:

“My sweet momma just told me that BYU Texas Club is holding a Texas Roundup free BBQ dinner on October 10th! Thought y’all would enjoy,” came one of the texts.

After staring at the message for a while, I responded.

As time went on, the story of the mystery man deepened. I was halfway through sixth grade, for example, when I learned he was part of the “Elder’s Quorum,” a rather ominous-sounding group. Looking it up, I learned that it was not a cult, as I’d initially thought, but rather an elite inner circle within the Mormon Church.

This was around the same time my family had stopped going to church. I’d started to spend more time taking art classes and trying out various sports — tennis, basketball, even archery — and soon church fell to the side. Instead, I meddled in the Quorum’s group texts; when a message came about a member moving away, I excitedly responded, “Let me help y’all out, brother!”

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but after a while I started to feel guilty about this deception. I wondered if I’d somehow ruined Jared’s reputation, if his friends were turned off by my childish responses. I was also dealing with changes within my friend group at the time; the biggest change being letting go of a close but toxic friend; I realized that I needed friendships that were more mutually supportive.

Shortly after, I got a phone call from a strange woman. She started talking about the struggles in her life; her children, her job, even about how she wanted to leave Texas forever. In comparison, my own problems — the B minus I’d gotten, the stress of an upcoming archery tournament, the argument I had with my sister — all seemed superficial. I timidly informed her I wasn’t Jared, and her flustered response told me that I should have told her at the start of the call.

A while later, I got another text: “Congratulations on getting married!” It had never occurred to me how much Jared’s life had changed since I had received his number. But of course it did; over time, I’d outgrown my prankster middle school self, gained the confidence to build a solid friend group, and devoted myself to my primary loves of art and archery. Why wouldn’t Jared also be settling into his own life too?

Though I’ve since taken every opportunity to correct those who text Jared, it still happens every once in a while. Just last month, I got another random text; all it said was: “Endoscopy!” When I got it, I laughed, and then I wrote back.

“Hey, sorry, you have the wrong number. But I hope Jared’s doing well.”

By Maria Fernanda Benavides

“Mayfier? Marfir?” the tournament judge called squinting her eyes, trying to find the spelling error, although there was no error.

“It’s Mafer. It’s a nickname for my full name, Maria Fernanda.”

She stared at me blankly.

“My parents are creative,” I lied, and she laughed.

“O.K., Mahfeer, you’re up!”

I walk to the center and scanned the room before starting as instructed. I took a deep breath.

I reminded myself, “Use your voice.”

I spoke loudly at first, trying to hide the fact that I was overthinking every single word that came out of my mouth. As my performance continued, the artificial confidence became natural, and I started speaking from my heart as I told the story of my experience as an immigrant woman, and I described how much I missed my father who had to travel back and forth every weekend to see my mom and me, and how disconnected I felt from my family, and how I longed to have a place I could call home.

My performance came to an end, and I made my way back to my seat with newly found optimism as I reflected on how performing had consumed me.

I used my voice. Finally. I had found my home in the speech program.

Waiting for the speech tournament to post the names of the finalists was excruciating. I jumped off my seat every time a staff member passed by. I didn’t care about accumulating state points or individual recognition. I wanted the chance to speak again.

Finally, a girl walked up to the oratory postings with a paper on her hand, and the entire cafeteria surrounded her, impatiently waiting to see who the finalists were. Then, I saw it.

My name. Written in dense, black letters.

I smiled to myself.

This time, as I walked to the oratory final, I did so by myself, as I had finally acquired self-assurance needed to navigate the quiet hallways of the high school. I could only hear the heels of the two girls behind me.

“I heard that Saint Mary’s Hall freshman made it to oratory finals,” one of them said, obviously speaking about me. “She broke over me. I didn’t see her performance. Did you? Did you see her performance? What is her speech about?” she questioned the other one.

“It’s about being a Mexican immigrant.”

“Oh, so that’s why she broke.”

“It’s the same pity narrative, there’s nothing different about it.”

Suddenly, the confidence that I had acquired from the previous rounds vanished, and I found myself wishing that I had my older, more experienced teammates by my side to help me block the girls’ words. But no one was there.

I thought my narrative was what made my words matter, what made me matter.

But they didn’t matter. Not anymore. From that moment on, I knew I would be recognized around the circuit as the Mexican girl whose name no one knows how to pronounce. I didn’t even need to speak about my identity to be identified. Everyone would recognize me not for my achievement or my being, but by the peculiar way I pronounce words. I could speak about different topics, but it felt like it wouldn’t make a difference. It felt like my voice didn’t make a difference.

“Mafer, how did it feel?” my coach asked me after the round. “It felt amazing!” I lied.

I didn’t feel anything. Not anymore. Speech gave me a voice, but it also took it away.

By Gordon Lewis

We’re all average boys: hard working in school, spending every minute together in the summer, and doing our best to pretend we don’t have a worry in the world. The facts are no different as the sun is beginning to set on a warm July evening. Sam and I say goodbye to Ben, stepping out of our best friend’s house.

“My sister is going to pick me up while we’re walking, is that O.K.?” I ask.

“Actually, she can probably drive you home, too.”

“Sounds good,” says Sam, but lacking his usual upbeat, comedic energy. Neither of us says anything else, but I’m O.K. with it, we just keep walking. I look around, admiring the still, peaceful park as the warm summer breeze brushes across my face. The crickets are chirping and an owl sings along between the soft hum of cars rolling along nearby. It’s nature’s tune of serenity.

I almost forgot Sam was with me until he asked, “Can I ask you kind of a weird question?”

“Sure,” I say, expecting a joke in poor taste as per usual.

“You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” he says before asking.

More hesitantly, I say, “O.K.”

“Do you have someone that you talk to about like deeper stuff … Like more emotional stuff?” Silence hits us like a brick wall: The crickets stop chirping, the owl stops hooting, even the cars stop driving by. It’s deafening. I’m only shocked at the question because it’s Sam, one of the happiest and funniest people I know.

I’m wondering. My disappointment takes over just as quickly as my hope fades as I fail to come up with a name. In the end, the closest thing I can think of is the book I occasionally write in when I’m feeling sad or stressed.

“Huh,” I say quietly, “I’ve never really thought about that, but I guess not.”

“Yeah, I didn’t either, but at camp we did activities and had talks that led to more emotional conversations.” I’m silently both jealous and proud of him, but it’s mostly jealousy.

“It’s funny,” I say, “in English we always joked about that TED Talk guy talking about the man box, but it’s actually so true. We shouldn’t feel like we can’t talk about deeper stuff like that.”

“Yeah,” laughed Sam. Silence drapes over us again, but this time it’s more comfortable. I’m lost in my thoughts trying to think of what to say next, but there’s too much. I’ve never had an opportunity like this before. However it’s not shocking or overwhelming, even though it’s with Sam of all people — instead it’s therapeutic.

The silence is broken once again by Sam:

“Like I never told you guys that my parents got divorced.”

“I’m-I’m sorry,” I say, “That really sucks.” I’m disappointed in myself for not saying more.

“It’s O.K.,” Sam says, but I know he’s lying. I can feel his sadness.

Drowning in my thoughts, I try to pick out something to say. But there’s too much to say. There are too many options after being silent for 16 years.

Headlights appear in front of us, and for a split second I’m relieved, but it rapidly turns into regret.

Knowing it’s Rose, I quickly tell sam, “If you ever want to talk again just let me know.”

I say hi to Rose, masking my solemn, thoughtful mood as tiredness. The warm breeze gives my cheek one final kiss; nature resumes her number, and the cars roll by again as Sam and I reluctantly step into the car.

In alphabetical order by the writer’s last name

“Sorry, Wrong Number” by Michelle Ahn

“Speechless” by Maria Fernanda Benavides

“First Impressions” by Isabel Hui

“Nothing Extraordinary” by Jeniffer Kim

“Eggs and Sausage" by Ryan Young Kim

“Pants on Fire” by Varya Kluev

“The Man Box” by Gordon Lewis

“Cracks in the Pavement” by Adam Bernard Sanders

“The First (and Last) Time Speedy Wasn’t Speedy Enough” by Maya Berg

“Searching for Air” by Sydney Do

“Fear on My Mind” by Daytona Gerhardy

“Under the Starry Sky” by Letian Li

“Chinatown Diptych” by Jeffrey Liao

“They” by Haven Low

“The Vigil” by Beda Lundstedt

“How My Brother Taught Me to Drive” by Sarah Shapiro

Honorable Mentions

“The Six in Mid-August” by Liah Argiropoulos

“‘Those Aren’t Scratches Are They?’” by Casey Barwick

“Brown Is Beautiful” by Tiffany Borja

“I Am Ordinary, After All” by Rebecca Braxley

“Torn” by Melanie D.

“The Stupid Seven” by Madeline G.

“Speak No Evil” by Amita Goyal

“Building My Crown” by Ambar Guzman

“Me, Myself, and a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich” by Zachary Hommel

“The Tomato” by Raymond Huang

“Out” by Michael H.

“Cold Noodles With a Side of Birdballs” by Audrey Koh

“Banya in Siberia” by Arshiya Sanghi

“Traffic” by Kecia Seo

“The Power of Ambiguity” by Marcus Shallow

“Land Mine” by Geneve Thomas-Palmer

“How to Fall Asleep With the Lights On” by Caroline Wei

“The Taste of Tofu” by Amy Zhou

“The Newcomer’s Journey” by Maria Z.

Thank you to all our contest judges!

Edward Bohan, Amanda Christy Brown, Elda Cantú, Julia Carmel, Elaine Chen, Nancy Coleman, Nicole Daniels, John Dorman, Shannon Doyne, Jeremy Engle, Tracy Evans, Ross Flatt, Vivian Giang, Caroline Crosson Gilpin, Michael Gonchar, Lovia Gyarkye, Annissa Hambouz, Karen Hanley, Christine Hauser, Susan Josephs, Shira Katz, Dahlia Kozlowsky, Megan Leder, Miya Lee, Debbie Leiderman, Shauntel Lowe, Keith Meatto, Sue Mermelstein, Amelia Nierenberg, Anna Nordeen, John Otis, Ken Paul, Pia Peterson, Natalie Proulx, Nancy Redd, Kenneth Rosen, Rebecca Rufo-Tepper, Kristina Samulewski, Meghan Stoddard, Brett Vogelsinger, Bonnie Wertheim, Jack Wheeler, Lena Wilson, Sanam Yar

personal narrative essay model

200 Best Narrative Essay Topics and Ideas

personal narrative essay model

Imagine being put in a time capsule with an artificial intelligence chauffeur who asks you, 'Which one of your memories would you like to access?'.

This scenario is rather accurate for a narrative essay. Your storyline, voice, and writing style distinguish this type of writing from others. The best option to satisfy your professor's demands and the criteria outlined in the grading scale is to acquire prompt academic assistance from the EssayPro's narrative essay writing service . Continue reading to find out how to write a narrative essay like a true professional and have a look at our narrative essay examples below!

Narrative Essay Definition and Types of Essay

Before we continue, let's briefly discuss what is a narrative paper. A narrative essay definition is a form of academic assignment that uses a tale about the author's personal experience to make a point. It's not enough to merely tell an amusing tale. Narrative essays rely on settings, character growth, dialogue, conflicts & resolutions, and turning points.

The other purpose of such writing is to stress reasons for sharing the episode and the significance of the experience provided. The narrative essay structure is less rigidly organized than the persuasive essay.

Speaking of which, a narrative essay format follows a typical layout. Everything in these papers needs to maintain a predetermined chronology and have a distinct beginning, middle, and end.

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Narrative essay topic ideas.

How to Choose Narrative Essay Topics

Literacy Narrative Essay Topics for College Students

Brainstorm the following literacy narrative essay topics for college:

  • The Book That Ignited Your Passion for Literature
  • A Book or Writer That Has Had an Enormous Effect on Your Writing
  • How You Developed the Ability to Read and Compose
  • Your Journey with Learning a Foreign Language
  • A Tutor or Guide Who Sparked Your Passion for Literature
  • The Effects of Technology on Your Reading and Writing Practices
  • How Reading and Writing Have Impacted Your Sense of Self and Outlook on Life
  • A Noteworthy Written Task or Venture
  • A Literary Figure That You Can Identify With Personally
  • How Reading Affects Your Capacity for Critical Thought
  • Why Keeping a Personal Notebook Is Valuable
  • The Influence of Literature on Standards of Society and Culture
  • The Impact That Social Media Has on Literary and Verbal Habits
  • The Importance of Literacy in Terms of Your Job Aspirations
  • Your Prior Experience Crafting a Novel or Other Substantial Piece of Literature
  • The Value of Reading and Composing in Everyday Situations
  • How Writing Has Assisted You in Overcoming Hardships or Traumatic Experiences
  • The Effects of Literature and Reading on Emotional Wellness
  • The Impact of Bookshops or Libraries on Your Literary Habits
  • The Impact of a Specific Literary Genre on Your Literary and Artistic Patterns

Personal Narrative Essay Topics on Relationships

Ponder your past experiences and share them with others through these personal narrative essay ideas:

  • The Influence of Your Early Life on the Decisions You Make About Your Relationships
  • A Partnership That Came as a Surprise
  • The Growth of Your Bond with a Brother or Sister or Parent
  • A Moment When You Had to Finish a Detrimental Relationship
  • The Importance of Communication in Preserving Strong Connections
  • A Sudden Conclusion to a Relationship
  • The Consequences of Having a Relationship over a Long Distance
  • A Connection That Aided You in Discovering a New Enthusiasm or Hobby
  • The Feeling of Being in Love for the First Time
  • A Connection That Showed You the Importance of Compassion
  • An Affiliation That Enlightened You to the Significance of a Societal Matter
  • The Tribulations and Successes of Keeping a Lasting Bond.
  • My Journey Through Long-Distance Love: What I've Learned.
  • The Effect of My Parents Splitting Up on My Own Connections.
  • How a Close Pal Aided Me During a Difficult Separation.
  • Exploring the Path to Loving Myself and Others: The Significance of Interaction in Establishing Lasting Connections.
  • Growing from Betrayal: Relearning to Trust Again.
  • The Value of Shared Beliefs in a Romantic Partnership.
  • My Relationship with my Sibling: Reflections on Forgiveness and Compassion.
  • Uncovering Friendship in Unexpected Areas

Best Narrative Essay Topics on Education and Learning

Check out some good narrative essay topics - from special moments to everyday experiences - to get your creativity flowing and tell your story.

  • How Teachers Shape Students' Lives
  • My Journey with Online Learning During the Pandemic
  • The Influence of School Uniforms on Students' Educational Experience
  • Battling a Learning Disability or Difficulty
  • The Significance of Extracurricular Activities in Education
  • Pros and Cons of Homeschooling
  • How Learning a Second Language can be Advantageous
  • Technology's Influence on Teaching and Education
  • My Involvement in Overseas Study Programs
  • The Issues Facing First-Time University Attendees.
  • The Influence of Social Expectations on Education and Learning.
  • Rewards and Drawbacks of Standard Examinations.
  • The Relevance of Analytical Thinking in Education.
  • The Effects of Parental Participation on Student Achievement.
  • My Most Impactful Educational Encounter.
  • The Importance of Libraries in Teaching and Education.
  • The Advantages of Continuing Education.
  • The Significance of Imagination in Instruction
  • The Merit of a Liberal Arts Education
  • The Influence of Education on Intergenerational Mobility

Personal Narrative Essay Ideas on Reflection on Life

Grant readers the chance to gain insight into your individual experiences and feelings in an interesting and captivating manner through these ideas for personal narratives:

  • The Most Memorable Experience of My Life So Far
  • A Challenge I Have Successfully Overcome
  • A Person Who Has Had a Profound Influence on Me
  • The Value of Family in My Life
  • My Biggest Blunder and the Wisdom Gained From It
  • A Moment of Taking a Chance Which Brought a Positive Result
  • How My Thinking and Principles Evolved Over Time
  • An Occasion When I Discovered Something New About Myself
  • The Impact, a Difficult Incident, Had on My Life
  • An Occasion of Failing and What I Grew From It
  • The Part of Friendship in My Existence
  • A Selection I Made That Influenced My Life
  • The Value of Taking Care of Myself in My Life
  • An Error That Showed Me the Value of Travel
  • The Meaning of Travel in My Life
  • When I Learned to Forgive Myself or Others
  • The Significance of Giving to Others in My Life
  • A Moment When I Understood What Was Truly Significant to Me
  • When I Acknowledged the Importance of Education in My Life
  • Coming to Terms with the Need for Adaptation

Ideas for a Narrative Essay on Culture and Society

Come up with captivating ideas for narrative essays on culture and society that will resonate with your readers.

  • How Cultural Diversity Has Had an Influence on My Life
  • The Customs and Traditions That Have Forged My Identity
  • My Time Living Overseas and Being Imbued with Distinct Cultures
  • The Significance of Cuisine in Different Cultures and Nations
  • A Moment in Which I Felt Disoriented by My Own Culture
  • The Consequences of Taking Cultural Elements for One's Own Use
  • The Influence of Music on Cultures and Communities
  • A Moment When I Felt Alienated in My Own Culture
  • Language as a Factor in Cultural and Social Development
  • Art's Contribution to Shaping Culture and Society
  • Honoring Diversity in Our Communities
  • Globalization's Influence on Cultural and Social Structures
  • Religion's Place in Culture and Society
  • My Encounter with Prejudice or Discrimination
  • Social Media's Effect on Culture and Society
  • Popular Culture's Impact on Society
  • A Cultural Experience That Amazes Me
  • Safeguarding Cultural Traditions: Why It Matters
  • The Meaning of Festivals and Celebrations in Different Cultures
  • Examining the Impact of Education on Encouraging Intercultural Appreciation and Tolerance

Narrative Writing Topics on Hobbies and Interests

Turn your passions and hobbies into insightful narrative topics!

  • The Start of My Photography Journey: Reflecting on How It All Began and What I Discovered
  • The Rush of Adrenaline: Reflecting on My Experience with Extreme Activities like Skydiving
  • The Pleasure of Gardening: Sharing My Fondness for Cultivating and Growing Plants
  • The Aesthetic of Art: Sharing My Experiences and Appreciation for Different Art Forms and Styles
  • My Experiences as a Musician: How I Began Performing and the Impact It Has Had On Me
  • A Journey into the Marvels of Cooking: My Experiences in the Kitchen and Recipes I Love
  • My Love of Literature: My Fondness for Reading and Writing
  • Crafting My Own Life: My Love for Constructing and Making Things
  • My Passion for Fashion: My Fascination with Style and Latest Trends
  • Touring the Globe: My Journeys and Adventures
  • My Love of Exercise: How I Keep Moving and Its Significance to Me
  • Gathering Treasures: The Collectibles That Mean the Most to Me and Why
  • Penmanship: Exploring the Various Forms of Writing and How It Enriches My Life
  • The Fun of Gaming: My Preferred Video Games and What I've Gained From Them
  • Dance Appreciation: My Passion for Different Dance Types and What It Signifies to Me
  • The Excitement of the Wild: My Forays into Hiking, Camping, and Investigating Nature
  • My Fervor for Animals: My Zeal for Nurturing and Understanding Distinct Species
  • My Fascination with the World of Fashion Design and Making Clothes
  • My Passion for Music and Collecting Vintage Vinyl Records
  • The Marvel of Magic: My Affection for Showing and Acquiring Various Magic Stunts

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Narrative Essay Titles on Life-Changing Moments

Life is an unpredictable journey, and at times, we stumble upon a situation that forever redirects our lives. Consider writing the following narrative essay titles on the life-changing moment:

  • The Day I Became Aware of My Inner Resilience
  • The Instant I Chose to Take Charge of My Fate
  • The Moment I Knew I Could Shape My Own Destiny
  • When I Lost Everything and Discovered Myself
  • The Time I Learned to Forgive
  • The Day I Found My Life Purpose
  • The Day I Defeated My Fear of Failure and Discovered the Power of My Voice
  • Achieving My Goals and Experiencing My Dream Come True
  • A Day of Discovery - Uncovering My Voice and Gaining the Courage to Speak
  • When I Abandoned the Past and Embraced the Now
  • The Moment I Resolved to Follow My Intuition
  • When I Learned to Appreciate My Strengths and Weaknesses
  • The Discovery of a Real Bond
  • Conquering My Bias and Growing More Tolerant of Others
  • The Occasion I Encountered My Perfect Match
  • The Instance I Perceived I Had Influenced Someone's Life
  • When I Beat My Addiction and Reclaimed My Life
  • Achieving Harmony and Releasing Grudges: My Story
  • When I Underwent a Life-Altering Epiphany
  • The Moment I Opted to Chase My Goals and Strive for a Craving

Good Narrative Topics on Travel and Adventure

Exploring some exciting traveling adventures will make amazing personal narrative titles!

  • My Trip to the Himalayas - A Life-Transforming Experience
  • A Transformative Backpacking Trip Through Europe
  • My Exploration of the Untamed Wilderness of Iceland
  • My Grand Adventure Across America
  • When I trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
  • Exploring the Exotic Islands of Southeast Asia
  • Immersing Myself in the Culture of the Middle East
  • My Solo Journey Through South America
  • Overcoming My Fear of Heights on a Skydiving Trip
  • My Triumph on the Highest Peak in the World
  • Uncovering the Treasures of Central America
  • My Voyage Aboard a Yacht
  • My Never-to-Be-Forgotten Safari Journey in Africa
  • During My Tour of Egypt's Ancient Wonders
  • Submerging Myself in the Great Barrier Reef Underwater World
  • Incredible Adventure Across the Australian Wilderness
  • Meeting Indigenous Tribes in the Amazon Jungle
  • Trekking in the Canadian Rockies: A Wild Adventure
  • My Experience Dog Sledding Across the Arctic Tundra
  • My Remarkable Adventure to the Land of Oz

Narrative Essay Topic Ideas on Career and Work Experience

Checking out what the future might hold career-wise or revisiting past job experiences can serve as great narrative essay topics for college students.

  • My Search to Uncovering My Ideal Profession
  • The Occupation That Formed My Work Habits
  • When I made the Bold Move to Become a Business Owner
  • My Career Shift: From Corporate to Non-Profit
  • My Greatest Professional Challenge and How I Overcame It
  • Uncovering My Mentor and Acquiring the Resources to Succeed in My Field
  • The Biggest Agreement I Closed in My Professional Life
  • My Experiences Overseas and What I Picked Up from Another Culture
  • Realizing the Vitality of Work-Life Harmony
  • My Experience of Taking a Risk That Led to Success in My Professional Life
  • When I Was Rewarded with a Promotion and Found Myself in a Leadership Role
  • My Journey of Joining a Start-Up Company and Seeing It Pay Off
  • A Failure at Work That Taught Me an Important Lesson
  • Exploring the Benefits of a Graduate Degree for Professional Growth
  • The Shift from Intern to a Full-Time Position: My Story
  • Working with a Team Influenced My Perspective on Collaboration
  • The Project I Worked On That Had a Considerable Effect on the Lives of a Lot of People
  • Attaining Harmony Between Work and Life as a Solo Parent
  • Coming to Understand the Value of Being Truthful in My Work
  • A Chronicle of My Journey Starting a Side Gig While Employed Full-Time

Interesting Narrative Essay Topics about Challenges and Obstacles

If you're still unsure what to write about in a narrative essay, think back to any tough times you had and how you got through them.

  • Conquering My Fear of Public Speaking
  • Enduring a Health Crisis to Emerge as a Stronger Person
  • Overcoming Mental Health Issues and Growing Stronger
  • Dealing with the Difficulties of Nurturing a Child with Special Requirements
  • Conquering Financial Strife and Acquiring Financial Control
  • When I Stood Up for My Rights and Had an Impact
  • Juggling the Demands of Employment and Family
  • Conquering a Physical Disability and Achieving My Ambitions
  • My Path to Overcoming Addiction and Gaining Sobriety
  • Adapting to an Unknown Culture or Surroundings
  • Overcoming an Unfavorable Relationship and Discovering Self-Affection
  • Overcoming My Most Dreadful Anxiety
  • Conquering a Professional Bump in the Road
  • Surviving a Harrowing Event
  • Surmounting a Learning Disability to Reach Success
  • My Struggle for Fairness After Facing Discrimination
  • Overcoming Procrastination and Enhancing Productivity: My Battle
  • Overcoming the Challenge of Establishing a Business from the Ground Up and Achieving Success
  • When I Successfully Bridged a Language Gap and Communicated Efficiently
  • Beating Social Anxiety and Strengthening My Social Proficiency

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FAQs on Narrative Writing Topics

After exploring a seemingly endless list of narrative essay topics, our admission essay writing service has some additional information that can help you with your writing. Let us take a look at the most frequently asked questions on narrative essay writing!

choose-narrative-essay-topics

What is a Proper Narrative Essay Definition?

A narrative essay is a type of academic assignment that uses the story of the author's own experience to illustrate an idea. It is not sufficient to simply tell an interesting story. To be successful, good personal narrative topics must include elements such as settings, character development, dialogue, conflicts and resolutions, and climaxes.

Another reason for writing this kind of essay is to highlight the reasons for recounting the episode and the impact of the experience. The narrative essay is not as rigidly organized as the persuasive essay. With respect to this, narrative essays follow a standard format. All elements in these essays must be in a certain order and have a clear start, middle, and conclusion.

How to Choose Narrative Essay Topics?

Selecting good narrative topics may set you up for a challenge, particularly when you're trying to write a story that intrigues and fascinates your readers. Fortunately, there are many different ways and topics you can investigate to create a memorable narrative essay. Whether you're among university or high school students, here are some tips for coming up with a killer topic:

  • Consider your own adventures : For narrative writing topics, draw from your own experiences. Reflect on a noteworthy occurrence in your life that you can share with your readers. This can be a journey, a momentous event, or an accomplishment of yours.
  • Establish a purpose: Ponder what notion or message you wish to present in your narrative essay. This can facilitate you in refining your possible topic choices and forming a more centered and consistent essay.
  • Opt for an unusual viewpoint: To make your narrative essay stand out, go for an uncommon viewpoint or outlook. This could be a different way of examining a commonplace subject or a novel interpretation of a familiar story.
  • Use sensory details to bring your narrative essay to life. This will aid your readers in becoming immersed in the story, resulting in a more vivid and powerful experience.
  • Take your audience into account : Reflect upon who your readers are and what they may find intriguing. This may assist you in choosing a subject that will be relevant to them and hold their attention.
  • Allocate some time to compile a list of possible ideas for a narrative essay. Don't assess the ideas; just make a note of them and observe what arises.

200 Top Narrative Essay Topics and Ideas  Tips

After finding a topic that suits your mood, do some brainstorming. Write all of the possible scenarios on a piece of paper and organize them into a unique narrative essay outline. Follow the instructors of your professor. Most of your questions have probably been answered there. Our essay service has compiled some writing tips to help you manage your essay without any hassle.

Narrative Essay Examples

In this narrative essay example provided by our essay service , you can explore a proper paper structure while also observing the capacity of storytelling to create a strong emotional bond with readers. By giving us full-on descriptions and bringing the senses to life, you'll feel like the author is right there with you and you're living the story.

If the sample was up your alley, you might be into the piece on the case study format . It's worth a read!

Final Thoughts

As we come to an end, our 200 narrative essay ideas should have given you a good head start on your next writing project! Remember, whether you're writing about a momentous occasion, a beloved memory from your childhood, or a realization you had, a narrative essay written with care can really have an effect on readers.

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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: Sep 1, 2023

personal narrative essay

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How to Write a Narrative Essay - Beginner’s Guide

Interesting Narrative Essay Topics and Ideas

20+ Top Narrative Essay Examples by Experts

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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.

Introduction

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. We have professional essay writer online at CollegeEssay.org.

Our essay writing service can help you write your college essay so you can deliver them right in time. 

We have a customer support team available 24/7 to attend to all queries related to your assignments. So place your order now with our narrative essay writing service and let all your stress go away.

Cathy A. (Literature, Marketing)

For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

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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

personal narrative essay model

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. 

personal narrative essay model

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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.

personal narrative essay model

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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. 

personal narrative essay model

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6. “Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard

personal narrative essay model

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. 

personal narrative essay model

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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

personal narrative essay model

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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COMMENTS

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