Personal Narrative Essay Examples & Tips for Writing

Personal Narrative Essay Plus Tips for Writing

There are different types of essays, and each one has its purpose that can be used in different applications, from academic, professional to entertainment. We will delve deeper into one type of essay called personal narrative and what makes it interesting to write. In this article, we provide personal narrative examples.

What is a Personal Narrative Essay?

A personal narrative essay is prose that retells the account of the author’s personal experience. It is done in a way that transcends beyond the confinements of a traditional structure and standards of a typical literary work. The perspective of a personal narrative is usually in the first-person point of view. This essay’s content usually recounts certain events in the life of the author and is usually non-fiction. The narrative usually recreates a personal experience in a written by using descriptive phrases accounting for a specific event.

Autobiography and Personal Narrative

A personal narrative is different from an autobiography because it doesn’t follow certain literary criteria and standards. An autobiography is a formal written work that can be published in academia. It follows the standard rules of literary writing. It can also be told in a third-person point of view and may add some objective opinions within the work. It follows the rules of the standard structure of socio-linguistics. Its tone also discusses or preaches rather than converse, which is the basic purpose of personal narrative. On the other hand, a personal narrative uses a rather casual approach and does not follow certain literary criteria. The perspective is also in first-person and usually uses a subjective approach to recounting events. This type of essay also describes a specific event or experience that is significant to the author.


This type of narrative also has many purposes that can be utilized by the author itself or the reader depending on what he or she needs. Narratives have the power to affect the reader in so many ways because these stories reflect certain values or beliefs that can incite interest or distaste from the reader because of his or her cognitive bias. Personal narratives also give the author opportunities to explore their personality that could help shine a light of understanding to certain overlooked qualities. This includes denial of negative traits that are toxic to one’s ego and sometimes needed to be recognized to help the author develop his personality. These negative qualities manifest in our reactions to certain situations, and recalling these events helps us understand ourselves better.

Customization of Personal Narratives

A personal narrative is always the same. A person can alter his or her narrative depending on his audience. The reader can change his or her story as the relationship between the teller to the audience changes. A recounter also changes his story as his values and beliefs change as he recounts his past experiences. It varies from person to person or the level of maturity of the teller. A past event may have a different narrative depending on the telling; the story you tell to your friends from the past may differ from what you say to your new friends of the same past event. These stories are customized depending on the convenience or intention of the teller.


We can attest that the factuality of the story can also be disputed. The fact that a personal narrative is usually written in a first-person perspective can assume that some of these stories are a deviation from the truth of what happened. These stories may or may not be lies even if they are told by the person with a first-hand experience of the event. Stories can be manipulated and tweaked by the author to accommodate convenience or selective remembrance to deviate the self from the emotional or psychological effect of the truth from the event that may be painful to the teller to talk about. This is common in the modern trope in mystery and psychological thriller fiction where a certain character in the story, which is usually the main protagonist, is revealed to be an unreliable narrator where his account of the event is different from the actual truth, which is usually revealed to the audience by other characters from the story.

Creative Style

The author of a personal narrative essay can draw from different sources for creative inspiration. As with any literary work, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, the writer can write differently. Writing style depends on different purposes. It works in different ways, whether you are writing in an expository style, characterized by injecting factual information or data that gives the reader information. The expository style utilized explanatory sentences to provide information and explain certain concepts that might help to shine a light on obscure events of the story. The descriptive style involves descriptive words to portray the events in a story to excite the reader’s senses. This style is much more poetic and is utilized to show the visual or sensual experiences in a written form. Simply put, it uses descriptive words to describe an event; the narrator explains what he sees, feels, hears, or taste at the moment.


Metamorphosis is a process of an evolution of an insect from egg to adulthood. The insect goes through various stages before finally emerging into an adult. Just like an insect, a person can go through an intense experience that can have a profound effect that catalyzes a sudden change that might transform his or her perspective about life. These events are so intense that they have the power to make or break an individual, and it is up to the person’s resilience to rise to the challenge and evolve. Examples of these events include a breakup, death of a spouse, car accident, a survival from a terminal disease, graduation, being fired from a job, a survival from a crime, or a mid-life crisis. These events change the way we think and might profoundly affect our psyche, but these events also provide us an epiphany or realization that we now need to change to grow. A metamorphic event is perfect to be used in a personal narrative essay. It has a special significance to the person’s life and might give the reader an inspiring life lesson.

Elements of Personal Narrative Essay

A personal narrative can consist of these elements that help the reader to distinguish a personal narrative from other literary work.

  • Character Descriptions: There is no story without a character. That is why a character or several characters with interaction with each other is needed for it to be called a story. In the personal narrative essay, the characters are the people involved in the character’s personal experience. The character’s development is based on the description of each other’s appearances or personality. The story becomes interesting with the character’s relationship with each other, whether it is friendly or hostile. The character becomes human-like to the reader’s mind if the character is described in full detail, including physical appearances, not as vague as just abstract characteristics alone.
  • Dialogue: Adding dialogues to a personal narrative makes the story more interesting to the readers as it makes it more natural. A conversation between the characters makes the story come alive as it reveals something about the characters. You can recount events by adding dialogue in between narrations to lay the story more organized, and it helps to build up tension or excitement as the story unfolds. Dialogues also help to drive the story forward as conversations describe the events better than the plain narration. The story’s conflicts also rely on the character’s dialogues as it creates tension between characters built slowly in the story from the beginning.
  • Setting Description: The story’s setting is also important as it sets the ground for the story to happen. In the personal narrative essay, the place where the recounted event happens and why is important to the author of the story. The setting’s description is usually narrated at the introduction of the story because it sets the groundwork for the story. The description also includes the things that the character experiences in his senses, such as sight, smell, hearing, and touch. The setting also not just describes a place but describes the time as well. The date from which the story took place is important as it gives the reader the idea of the era or period from which the event took place, whether it is from the past or the modern era. The setting’s spatial and temporal characteristics are important as it answers the WH questions of the story, such as when and where which is important in introducing a story.
  • Strong Introduction: Every story has an introduction, and a strong introduction makes a narrative more engaging to read. The most important part of the story usually lies in the introduction as it sets the elements of the story and introduces us to the narrative itself. The introductions use the expository writing style, filling information as much as possible to the first part of the story to lay foundations on where the story will go. The setting and the description of the main character always lies in the introduction. This is where we begin to know what the story or whose for this story all about. Laying small details, layer upon layer of introductory information gives the story a base that will altogether hold the story. The central theme or idea of the story also lies in the introduction. The introduction and the conclusion frame together the rest of the story together like a sandwich.
  • Interesting Details: Adding specific details to the story makes it more interesting to the readers. The readers are humans too, and adding small but specific details makes them think and adds intrigue to the reader that makes them want to read more. For example, describing feelings is important in keeping your readers interested in your story because relatable emotions give vivacity to a story and may reflect the emotional states of the reader as well. Other interesting details such as sensory descriptions paint a vivid picture to the reader of what it’s like being in that situation and deal with it.
  • Hook: The hook sets the tone of the personal narrative essay. It is usually placed in the introductory part of the narrative. This is where the writer is given many opportunities to be creative and persuasive as it is where the writer places interesting details that might engage the reader to read more. It can be a joke, a quick description, an interesting question, a literary excerpt, or symbolic foreshadowing that might give a sense of intrigue to the reader. This tool, as with its name, seeks to make the readers get hooked to the story.
  • Strong Conclusion: As the introduction, the conclusion is an essential part of the story; they hold the story altogether. The conclusion should impart a lasting impression to the audience that may affect their deeper understanding of themselves and the universe. This is where the important lessons that the experience want to share with the author and the reader. The conclusion also must give closure to the unresolved feelings or loose ends of the story as not ending them might make it feel incomplete. This part also is where we will learn the significance of the story, not only to the author but also to the reader. This is where we will learn how the events being told adds to the author’s personal growth and maturity.

Steps in Writing Personal Narrative Essay 

These steps will help you to create a professional personal narrative essay. Although there are no standard rules on writing personal narratives, there are guidelines that can help you create a much more comprehensive work but feel free to experiment on your own.

  • 1. Preparation

In preparing for writing a narrative essay, keep in mind that like any written work, good preparation gives the best results.

  • 2. Brainstorming

The first thing you have to do is think about the main topic or the central idea of your essay. You can do this by listing the personal events or experiences that are significant to you that you want to write. These events don’t have to be elaborate or in full detail; think about what past experiences give you the most important emotion. The event can be a happy memory or a traumatic event that might change you and help you grow, containing a life lesson you want to share.

  • 3. Refining

After you list down the events that you feel most significant to you, you can narrow down the list by discarding the ones that feel less important at the moment and narrow the list into a small workable number. You can add details that can help you to your decision to pick the most significant. Feel free to write identifiers and events; these identifiers can include emotions that feel in the specific events, people involved in the event, or other specific details that you can add based on your list. You can also categorize each event according to its similarities or unifying element.

  • 4. Pick One Detail

After refining your list, take a look at the whole list and analyze carefully what you think will help you decide what to pick. As you go along, weigh the pros and cons, look at each item on the list, and think if you feel a strong emotion about the event. Pick one that you have the strongest feeling that you might use to tell your story to the readers. This will be the experience you want to talk about and draw inspiration to and impart valuable lessons to your readers. Focus on the visual cues of the experience and the sensory details; it may be how you feel and what you see on experiencing such a moment.

  • 5. Write Down the Central Idea

Writing down the central idea will help you to unify the concepts within the story. The central idea is like a thesis statement; writing the central idea helps to clarify certain points before proceeding with the actual writing.

  • 6. Planning

Planning involves organizing your thoughts and creating an outline for you to write easily. Creating an outline helps to provide the narrative a structure. By setting up bullet points where you write about the main points of the story, you can flesh out some ideas from the outline items. It also helps to give the writing of the story direction instead of aimless writing that deviates from the story’s central idea. As with any story, the story has a beginning, middle, and ending. As with the case of a personal narrative essay, divide your story with introduction, body, and conclusion.

  • 7. Writing the Hook

The hook is a brief statement that catches the reader’s attention; it is usually placed at the beginning of the narrative. For example, you can utilize an interesting joke, a direct quote from a famous person, an intriguing question, or a brief statement with interesting detail. Whatever it is that you want to use, be creative in writing the hook, which will keep your readers interested.

  • 8. Writing the Introduction

The introduction answers the WH questions of who, what, when, where, and why. The introduction is the expository part of the narrative. It sets the setting’s details, the introduction of the characters, and a hint of the central idea. This part allows us to have an initial taste of the story and will summarize the narrative.

  • 9. Writing the Story

After you set the motion with the hook and the introduction, you can now write the story’s body. This was most of the story being told. Organize the events in your writing in a chronological order to minimize confusion of the sequence. Keep the text of the body in line with the central idea of the story. You can include in your body main ideas that explain certain concepts, dialogue between two characters, transitional paragraphs, and speech figures. Please note that it doesn’t convolute your narrative by tackling events that are not related to your central idea as it will confuse your readers.

  • 10. Writing the Conclusion

The conclusion summarizes the main idea in your narrative. It tells us what lessons the author has learned after the experience and provides us a sense of completion. This is where the author reflects on the event and has a sense of introspection needed for personal growth. The conclusion must have a sense of closure to loose ends. This is also where the experience’s significance is explained to impart to the reader important lessons that will give inspiration.

Tips in Writing Personal Narrative Essay 

Writing a personal narrative essay requires a great focus on the central idea being conveyed in the story. Although there are no specific rules and standards required in writing a personal narrative, there are tried and tested literary guidelines that one can be utilized to help in creating an engaging essay.

Tips for Choosing a Topic

First is choosing a relevant topic; everybody of written work begins with a single idea, and defining these ideas helps keep the points in the essay solid and grounded.

Think about a specific experience in life that you really think could make a great and interesting story. It could be something funny like your most embarrassing moment that you always tell your friends or family in a gathering that makes them laugh. It could also be a near-death experience that could give inspiration to anyone who will hear it.

You can also think about events that change you as a person. These experiences make you see the world in a different light. These events are the things that are so intense that are so transformative that they can have an impact on your being and can change your perspective in life. You can write about the lessons that you learned from these experiences that you think might help someone who will be in the same situation as you have been.

You can also write about a specific shared experience you have with a person close to you, like a friend or a family member, that makes your bond stronger. It is important to point out the emotions you feel about the event and how it affected you and that person on so many levels.

Tips for a Personal Essay with Impact

A successful personal essay has an emotional impact on the reader. Here are the tips for writing an essay with a strong effect.

The first is to think about your reader; think about what the reader might think when he or she read your piece. What will they feel about your story? Will they feel sympathy or inspiration upon reading your narrative? These are the things that you should consider before writing a personal narrative essay. What is their age, job, ethnicity, or status in life? Before committing to writing your narrative, think about what your audience might be like so that you can change your writing if you think that it’s not religiously, politically, or age-appropriate.

Write with the emotional impact in mind. Having been there in that situation before, you can easily define the emotional impact of that experience. If you have a sense of empathy and it will be easy for you to convey the feelings you want to impart to your reader. Tell a story that might trigger a strong emotional stimulus to your audience. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, flashy, or ceremonial; what is needed is an honest and sincere story that can provoke an emotional response to your readers.

Another is the injection of sensory details to your story that describes an experience that can have an immersive effect on the readers. Statements that describe your primary senses’ perception at the moment of that event give the reader a vivid sensation of being in that moment without having to experience them themselves.

You can also employ a description of the visual imagery in your essay to invoke a visual perception of the scenes in the story that they are reading. It will help the audience build a quick mental picture of what is going on in the story; this will better understand the story.

Tips on the Structure of the Essay

Although there are no known rules in the writing of personal narrative essays. A story always has a beginning, middle, and ending.

The beginning should always tell the direct intention of the writer. This will help the reader to prepare themselves for what to expect in reading your story. By telling the essence of the story and what will benefit them, it can give the reader a reason to read your narrative. Your introductory statement should also capture your reader’s attention; failing to this will make the reader lose interest in further reading your story.

The body of the story should always convey a clear and concise idea of recounting events. Being on point gives the story a sense of honesty and will help the reader sense what’s going on in your story. It would be best if you also wrote your story in chronological order to elaborate a sequence of events unless you are writing a mystery novel and don’t write it in a non-linear chronology.

The ending should always stand on its own. It should wrap up any loose ideas in the story so that your reader wouldn’t feel unsettled after reading your story. Think about what lessons you have learned after experiencing that event. You can impart to your readers a few nuggets of wisdom from your experience that can give them a sense of inspiration if it’s a positive experience or a sense of caution if it’s a cautionary tale.

Tips for Writing the Essay

In writing a personal narrative, it is important to include interesting details in your story that can win the attention of your readers.

You can use a recorder in initially preparing what to write. A recorder can help you organize your thoughts in writing the sequenced events in the narrative. This will also help you glimpse what your story would feel like being told by another person because you can hear your voice while narrating the story in a second person perspective instead of being a first-person in writing.

It is important to follow the basic grammar and spelling rules in writing the words for your story. The choice of words will make or break a narrative, and writing with engaging words can keep your audience hooked on your story.

Examples of Personal Narrative Essays 

Here are a few examples of personal narrative essays that you can use as an inspiration in writing your own.

  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: This is a must-read classic full of hope and inspiration. The story is a real-life account of a girl living during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1942. It is a beautifully inspiring diary of a Jewish girl hiding during the Nazi Regime; her whole family perished during the war except his father. His father then published her diary to commemorate this girl’s courage and resilience that inspired millions who have read her story of suffering and survival. Her diary is like a friend she can confide her secrets with, and it is where she feels comfort and safety during her hiding.
  • Now I Need a Place to Hide Away by Ann Hood: This remarkable story chronicles a writer and her dealing with a child’s death. It is a story told in a technique that looks like a puzzle piece instead of tackling it head-on. She also utilizes The Beatles’ elements as a plot device to portray her strong bond with her daughter. It is a tragic story but gives inspiration to anyone dealing with the death of a child. The story was featured in The New York Times in 2017, and it garnered many readers. The author also published many works under her name. This story remarks the power of the bond between a mother and a daughter framed by a similar interest in a pop culture icon.
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: The story recounts Joan Didion about a year of her grieving process from her husband’s death in 2003. It is a vulnerable but beautiful story of the effects of dealing with death and its emotional impact on a widow’s life. The title comes from a philosophical sense that a person hopes for a magical solution to her grief and suffering. This beautiful story of love transcends death and suffering.
  • In Marriage, Beware of Big Boxes by Cindy Chupack: It is a story that explored the concept of marriage. It is a remarkable essay that describes the importance of romance and intimacy in a marriage. The style of the author is very evocative and honest. Sometimes it can be loud and vivacious, but her point is that every marriage has its ups and downs, and it is up to the couple to appreciate each part of the person’s character and accept them. Cindy Cupack’s sense of humor gives justification to this light-hearted essay about sugary romance and its annoying effect sometimes. It is truly an interesting piece to read; the essay is also published under The New York Times’ modern love column.
  • Your Brain’s Response to Your Ex According to Neuroscience by Amy Paturel: A provocative narrative about a married woman’s meeting with her old flame and the neurological explanations about it. Sometimes we feel an urge to reconnect with an ex, albeit being in a happy marriage. Sometimes even if we have consciously forgotten about an ex after a long time, our minds retain some psychological imprint with the person, and meeting them again physically brings back the feeling. It is a story of closure and a happy ending; she even assured herself that there is no harm in meeting her ex because she is happily married with kids and he is engaged. She also imparted a wise caution that unless you are single, widowed, or divorced, as much as possible, don’t stalk an ex on Facebook while being in a happy marriage because it’s a recipe for disaster.
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen: It is a mesmerizing story of a relationship between a father and a daughter who went howling one night and made a special bond. Described as a profound and poetic narrative in a quiet night winter backdrop. As they continue their search for owls while the father is calling and mimicking the bird’s sound, they find no sign of a single bird. Even though they didn’t find what they are looking for, they found instead an existential peace of communing with nature and appreciation for each other’s company. It’s a sweet story of a child’s tender relationship with his father and their quiet journey through snow-stricken woods.
  • The Stranger Who Changed My Life by Joni Rodgers: Is a warm romantic story of a traveling comedian and her chance to meet with a local baker. Joni Rodgers is a best-selling author of A Bald in a Big Haired World, offers this short but sweet narrative of her encounter with the love of her life. A thriving love story that started from an unexpecting meeting that changed both their lives forever. A slow but steady relationship that turned into a loving and faithful marriage. Their love story is inspiring because love, at first sight, can grow into a serious and profound love that is slowly nurtured with trust and effort. These two are also artists in their own right, Joni is a writer and a theatre actress, Gary is a pastry chef and later a visual artist. Today, they still live a happy married life for more than 30 years, loving each other through thick and thin.

Online Personal Narrative Magazines

These are a few online platforms where you can find hidden gems of good personal narrative essays you can peruse into. You can also subscribe to these websites and get inspired to write your narrative.

Thought Catalog

Thought Catalog is a youth-oriented website aimed to provide young adults with a catalog of listicles and essays that provokes the mind. It is founded by American entrepreneur Chris Lavergne, who is also a media strategist. The website is aimed at millennials who want to read online content with a witty and casual approach.


Narratively is a multimedia website that curates the best stories that celebrate humanity for its authenticity and honesty. The website is categorized in topics ranging from travel to LGBTQ that we can all relate to. The platform aimed to showcase content that celebrates diversity through storytelling with boldness and a direct approach.

Long Reads

If you are into filling your time with content to read for an extensive period of hours, then Long Reads is for you. It is an online catalog of long-form articles that are picked from publishers. The writers (some of them are award-winning) submit in-depth articles and stories that you can peruse for long periods of hours. The articles are engaging, so you don’t have to worry about being bored by flat and tasteless writing because their best editors curate the articles featured here.

Also read How to Land Entry-Level Writing Jobs Online

Personal Narrative Essay Examples & Tips for Writing

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