CLRC Writing Center
Structure of a Personal Narrative Essay
“Narrative” is a term more commonly known as “story.” Narratives written for college or personal
narratives, tell a story, usually to some point, to illustrate some truth or insight. Following are some
tools to help you structure your personal narrative, breaking it down into parts.
The “Hook” Start your paper with a statement about your story that catches
the reader’s attention, for example: a relevant quotation, question, fact, or
Set the Scene Provide the information the reader will need to understand the
story: Who are the major characters? When and where is it taking place? Is it a
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Passage of Time Writing about the events of your experience using time
chronologically, from beginning to end, is the most common and clear way to
tell a story. Whether you choose to write chronologically or not, use transition
words to clearly indicate to the reader what happened first, next, and last.
Some time transition words are next, finally, during, after, when, and later.
Transitions In a narrative essay, a new paragraph marks a change in the
action of a story, or a move from action to reflection. Paragraphs should
connect to one another. For example, the end of one paragraph might be: “I
turned and ran, hoping the bear hadn’t noticed me”, and the start of the next
might be: “There are many strategies for surviving an encounter with a bear;
‘turn and run’ is not one of them.” The repetition of words connects the
paragraphs. (What does the change in verb tense indicate?)*
The Moral of the Story The conclusion of a narrative include the closing
action of the event, but also should include some reflection or analysis of the
significance of the event to the writer. What lesson did you learn? How has
what happened to you affected your life now?
Outlining Your Narrative
Try applying this structure to your own writing: write sentences for the corresponding
elements of your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion in the space provided below.
Begin your paper with a
“hook” that catches...