When students learn that they have been assigned a narrative essay, they often rejoice for one simple reason: it requires no real outside research, a thesis statement that needs to be supported, or the conventional parts of an essay such as the introduction, the body containing supporting arguments, and the conclusion. Instead, the objective of a narrative essay is to tell a story to the reader based on personal experiences and understandings. However, just because you don’t have to spend long nights reading through academic journals in order to find supporting sources, it does not mean that this type of paper is a walk in the park. Students often struggle with how to start a narrative essay introduction. Looking through our “how to start a personal narrative essay” examples is a good start. Success with how to start a narrative essay for college requires a better understanding of what this type of assignment entails.

What is a narrative essay

What is the key to good narrative writing? You should understand that the point is not just to write what happens in the story, but to fully involve the reader by evoking emotions. This is where the assignment can be a real challenge as the writer must demonstrative creativity and strong writing skills. You will need to start with an effective hook that captures the attention of the reader. The story should also incorporate rich, vivid descriptions of the setting that the characters of the narrative find themselves in. The characters themselves should help carry the plot and be relatable to the reader as opposed to one-dimensional. Of course, the narrative must also have a point. For instance, it is perfectly fine to want to write about childhood memories associated with spending summers at your grandparents, but you will need to make sure to tie it to some broader lesson as you are sharing the story. As you write your narrative, you should build the story around a generalization since this is the only way that the reader will be able to find meaning in your personal experiences. This does not mean that the generalization has to be a universal one. It can focus on experiences that are generally unique to men, women, children or people of various backgrounds. In this way the audience will either understand the story because of common experiences or they will at least be better informed even if it does not apply to them personally. Finally, the narrative should reach a satisfying conclusion, which is always one of the most important parts of an essay. A good conclusion paragraph example might involve a reflection of what you learned from a particular experience and how you continue to apply those lessons today.

Hooks for Essays

Immediately grabbing the attention of the reader when they start reading the narrative essay is essential.  The device used is known as the hook. Examples of hooks may include using statistics, telling an anecdote, asking an intriguing question, stating a fact, using a relevant quotation, or providing a definition of a word that will play a key role in the story’s plot.

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While narrative essays do not typically involve seeking out academic sources, starting the story with an interesting statistical fact can be a great way to help the reader understand the real world application of your experience, especially when you are telling a serious story.

  • On average, approximately 100 Americans are killed in car accidents everyday. As a survivor of a potential tragedy, I thank my blessings every day…

Starting things off the bat with a humorous or sentimental anecdote is can appeal to the reader’s emotions and raise questions in their minds.

  • The Romanian children would often call out my name and wave at me even though I had no idea who they were. This was the reality of being an American English teacher in a small, remote village…

Using a question as a hook can be effective when your narrative addresses the reader directly.

  • For example, you could begin the essay with, “We have all fantasized about going back in time and changing events for the better. Who hasn’t wished they could reverse a serious mistake? What past moment would you change to make your life happier? What if I told you that a brighter tomorrow actually depends on not wishing to change the past?”

Stating an interesting fact is another way in which you can get the reader’s attention. Naturally, the fact should be related to your personal experiences in some way.

  • For instance, “It has been said that the average woman uses her height in lipstick every 5 years. But as somebody who practically obsesses over my appearance, I would not be surprised if my usage is double that…”

Quoting from a book, movie or notable figure can also serve as an effective hook. If you struggle with a relevant quote off the top of your head, it is easy to find quotes related to virtually any topic by using Google or any other search engine.

Finally, defining a word can provide you with the right hook. You might choose to define an obscure word and then relate it to the narrative you plan to tell. Even defining basic words such as “beauty” or “persistence” can accomplish your objective.

One final point is to consider the length of the essay. How long an essay should depend largely on the teacher’s or professor’s requirements. However, between 600 and 900 words is a reasonable length for a narrative. Much like virtually all essay introductions, the length of the hook and setting up the plot should be kept to a minimum while the body focuses on the meat of the story and the conclusions wrap things up with the lessons learned.