How to Start a Narrative Essay (Professor Approved)

How to start a narrative essay
  • Published Date: October 31, 2018

Sometimes the most difficult part of a writing project is getting started.  This is especially true when a writer is asked to tackle an unfamiliar form of writing.  While many students are familiar with the more traditional academic writing forms, like expository essays, they can find other formats to be very challenging.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of the questions we see frequently is:

How do I start writing a narrative essay?

Because narrative essays do allow the writer to take a creative approach to the project, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.  However, our writers got together to come up with a list of tips for you to use when starting a new narrative essay project.

Make sure you understand what a narrative essay is.    

One of the most important elements of any type of writing project is making sure that you understand the project.  A narrative essay is an essay that uses the writer’s personal experiences, usually to tell a story.  Therefore, the narrative essay should incorporate conventions that are generally associated with creative story writing and establish plot, character, setting, conflict, climax, and ending.

Pick Your Topic Carefully

When picking a narrative essay topic, you will not be looking at subjects to research, but instead choosing from the stories of your own life.  While you might think that this will make the essay easier to write, it can actually make an essay more difficult.  You want to choose something that allows you to tell an interesting story, but not one that is so personal to you that you will have a problem sharing it in your essay.

Outline Your Essay

Once you have chosen your topic, make an outline of your essay. Your outline does not have to be detailed, but, because a narrative essay needs to incorporate structural elements from traditional storytelling, an outline is a great way to make sure that your finished essay will have all of those elements.

Start with an Attention Grabber

The attention grabber, or hook, is how you capture your audience’s interest and keep them reading your story.  While having a great hook always helps the readability of an essay, they are especially important for narrative essays.  That is because, unlike other types of academic writing, the narrative essay is asking the reader to take an interest in a completely new and unfamiliar topic: you.

Your topic will influence the type of hook you choose, but you want something that not only grabs your reader’s attention, but also helps connect you to the reader.  Many people use quotations as their hook, because the familiarity of quotations helps establish an immediate rapport with the audience.   Anecdotes, which are short and interesting or amusing stories from real life, are another way to capture the audience’s interest.  Some writers like to begin their narratives by asking a question, usually one that asks the audience to put themselves in the same position that the narrator will find himself in during the narrative essay.  However, one of our favorite ways to begin a narrative essay is to make a shocking statement, which captures the reader’s attention and inspires curiosity.


Beginning a narrative essay can be a challenging task, especially if you are accustomed to more traditional forms of academic writing.  However, narrative essays offer you a great opportunity to show your creativity and your personality.  Think about what parts of yourself you would like to show to your readers and how you want to reveal them.  Then, come up with an attention-grabbing statement and build from there.  Before you know it, you will be finished writing your narrative essay.

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