How to Write a Personal Narrative

Опубликовал Admin
26-09-2016, 00:40
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Personal narratives allow you to share your life and your feelings with the reader with others and vicariously experience the things that happen around you. Your job as a writer is to put the reader in the midst of the action letting him or her live through an experience. Creating your own personal narrative is a great way to improve your writing skills. Once you have written one piece, the world of memoirs and autobiography writing will be at your fingertips.

Template and Sample Narrative

Finding Your Focus

  1. Pick your event. A personal narrative outlines one event in your life. It could be a failure, a change in your life, a realization, a childhood memory...anything. If it would be interesting to write about, it would probably be interesting to read. Think about a circumstance in your life that led to some result, consequence, or lesson learned.
    • It doesn't necessarily have to be huge or significant. Sometimes, the simplest of thoughts or circumstances can lead to a kind of poetic eloquence. If you emerge from your narrative thinking, "Yep, that's what it was like to be with my dad," then you have succeeded. There is nothing too small if it effectively communicates your message.
  2. Determine your narrator and their knowledge. If this is an assignment, you may want to check with your instructor how much wiggle room you have in this domain. They may want you to stick with 1st person and this 1st person being you. Otherwise, you are free to make the narrator anyone you want, with any amount of knowledge you see fit.
    • The narrator can be first person but also seem to know only as much as the reader -- or at least a bit behind. They can also have an edge that is mischievous to add another element to the story.
  3. Think about the flow. It may seem like going from A to Z is the only correct path, but it may not be. Though starting at the beginning definitely works, you may want to experiment with other chronologies for your story.
    • Flashback sequences are a fairly common and effective writing tool. You may also consider reflection, where you establish present day and then the narrator revisits a specific time in the past.
  4. Jot down the events. Having a basic outline will help you organize your thoughts, see what details you need to include, and pick your writing methods. Only be concerned with the main points now.
    • This will set up the tone of your narrative, giving you an overall feel for your work. Look over the subject that you are presenting and think of what you are trying to get across. How do you want your audience to feel when they finish your piece?

Writing Your First Draft

  1. Start your story strong. Your lead is the most important part of the entire passage; it's what will draw your reader in and keep them interested in your story.
    • Don't start as yourself. "I'm going to tell you about a time I got into trouble with my parents," is not an adequate start. Use something like "I could already feel the belt tightening across my chest; I knew that I should have made a wiser decision" instead. Try to pique the reader's interest at point one.
  2. Have a beginning, middle and end. In short, a narrative is a story -- and a good story has a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Your story should be in the body and it should adequately wrap up at the end.
    • At the end of your story, your reader should feel like they have left with something. This should either be a moral or an understanding of a person or thought process. Summarize this in your conclusion.
  3. Use dialogue in your story. It’s amazing how much we learn about people from what they say. One way to achieve this is through carefully constructed dialogue. Work to create dialogue that allows the characters’ personalities and voices to emerge through unique word selection, and the use of active rather than passive voice.
    • Don't fabricate details. If someone didn't say something, don't put it in your story. Make your narrative as true to life as possible.
  4. Give sensory details. Cover all five senses: taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound. If something is normally seen, talk about how it tasted. If it's just heard, mention how it is imagined.
    • Expand your vocabulary. Instead of "pretty," use "glorious"; instead of "smelled," use "inhaled"; instead of "burn," use "scorched." Vivid words create more vivid pictures.
  5. Use similes and metaphors. Relate objects or events to other objects or events by using "like" or "as." These are two of the most common writing tools used and allow the reader to see the words you're relaying.
    • For example: Instead of using "I scratched my arm," use, "I gashed my arm open and blood seemed to spew out of my arm like water out of a garden hose." Doing this will allow you to paint a picture in your reader's head.
  6. Put it all together. You probably have in front of you a retelling of events that's fun, emotional, dynamic, and hopefully grabbing. As you go over it, piece it in order, adding emphasis where emphasis is due and removing the details from the tangents you may have inadvertently started. Can you see it becoming cohesive?
    • This is just your first draft. Some writers use third, fourth, fifth, and sixth drafts before they're happy with their work. Nitpick as you see fit, adding imagery here, a bit of dialogue there, and possibly even moving pieces around. When it clicks, you'll be able to breathe a sigh of satisfaction.

Making Your Final Draft Great

  1. Get a peer to edit your work, such as a friend or family member. Ask them to read your story. It's even better if the story is something they have never heard before -- that way, he/she is completely unbiased and able to offer you an objective opinion.
    • Don't be shy to ask for criticism, too. If they can't follow the flow of your story, they should say something! If something is unclear, it will need to be reworked.
  2. Monitor for flow and clarity. Take a break from your story and let your eyes rest. Come back to it refreshed and able to see how certain elements could be reworded or expanded.
    • Reread your story and think about what details should be omitted or left out entirely. The pace of the story needs to include loads of detail but not slog on at a turtle's pace. Make sure your main events are vivid, but the transitions are succinct and concise.
  3. Edit for punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Sometimes the most basic of errors are the hardest ones to notice. If you have a friend or family member that's particularly good at this, hit them up for help.
    • Don't rely on spellcheck. It doesn't catch the errors in the ambiguities of language, nor does it tell you when sentences are wordy or unnecessary. Use your own eye to monitor for mistakes.


  • Make sure your reader understands what you're trying to say. Use vocabulary words and meanings that are appropriate to the age and maturity of your audience.


  • Don't make your similes or metaphors too unrealistic! A good metaphor is not based on how outrageous the comparison is.
  • Remember a personal narrative is Non-Fiction.
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