Good Personal Narrative Essay Examples

By Josh Henry


Everyone has heard the saying "Write what you know." Personal narrative essays allow you to take this advice to the extreme, since the point of one of these essays is to write about your own experience. That doesn't mean that you have to have something earth-shattering or epic to write about; however, it also doesn't mean that you should create a work of fiction loosely based on a story from your life. It doesn't have to be that hard or that complicated. The truth is, any essay about your everyday life or your ordinary past can be a great personal narrative essay, if you write it well.

In order to write a great personal narrative essay or college essay, especially if you are writing one for the first time, remember that writing it is a learning experience. You will need to do things differently, and think about things differently, while writing this kind of essay. First -- and most obvious -- is the fact that you can use personal pronouns, such as "I," "me," "we," etc. Although these pronouns are not supposed to be used most formal essays, it is expected that you will use them to recount your own experience.

Do not try to keep your language or pronoun use overly formal when you are writing a personal narrative, because if you do, the entire thing will sound stilted and weird. Use natural language, but keep it polished by staying away from slang or jargon. As you write the essay, imagine that you are telling your story to your grandmother, and that she has never heard it before. Your language should sound natural and normal, and anyone should be able to understand what you're saying.

In that same vein, remember that anyone should be able to read your essay and have it make sense. Do not assume that the reader already knows about you, in any way. Assume that the reader knows nothing about you or about the story you want to tell. If you really grasp this idea, you will see the importance of including detail in your writing. In a personal narrative essay, details are especially important. They make the difference between a simple list of events, and a personal story.

So, whatever event or experience you are relating in the essay, do not leave it in bland, choppy sentences, like "I woke up. I got dressed. I went to school. I went to class." Details tell the reader who you are, and they make the essay easier to read. Don't just say that you woke up; instead, tell the reader how you were feeling when the alarm went off, and that you hit the snooze button a few times. Every bit of detail that you add to your essay creates depth and interest. Your inner world of thoughts and feelings is just as important to the essay as the actual events that took place, so make sure that you don't leave it out.

Now, a word of caution is necessary. Sometimes, when given the suggestion to include details and to describe everything carefully, some writers will go overboard. For example, student writers may include excessively long lists of adjectives in their descriptions of minor things, they may try to use analogies or comparisons that are grandiose or inappropriate, or they may use large vocabulary words incorrectly. The problem is that these excesses get in the way of a reader who is trying to understand your essay or follow your story. If they come across a big word that you have used just for the sake of using a big word, what will stick in the reader's mind is your error, not the story you were trying to tell.

So, when you write a personal narrative essay, don't go to a special effort to use bigger words, include more adjectives, or use artful metaphors. Only include those details that actually shed light on the idea you are trying to express, or the personal story that you are trying to tell.

If you find yourself stuck, and you don't know what to write about or how to decide which details to include in your narrative, remember that any essay must have a main idea, or a theme. In a personal narrative essay, you might write about an experience that taught you something, an experience that opened your eyes to something new, or a particularly memorable time or event.

Even if you are given an essay prompt, take that topic and find something relating to it that is important to you. Then, tell the story of your experience, and try to explain to the reader why that particular thing is important, and why it matters to you. There are a variety of ways that a personal experience could be important, and they don't have to be historic or big.

If you care about something because it was surprising, sad, instructive or short-lived, that is enough. One of the great things about writing a personal narrative essay is the fact that you -- and the things that are important to you -- are enough.

So, when you are faced with the task of writing a personal narrative essay example, don't panic. Don't stare at the blank page and worry about how much of it you have to fill. Once you have found something that you care about enough to write about it, the blank space will fill itself. Instead, focus on writing about something that matters to you, and explaining to the reader how you felt, what happened, and why it matters.

Be yourself and include enough details to make the events real, but don't try to tack on words or ideas that you wouldn't normally use. If you remember these things, you can turn an event from your ordinary, real life into a beautiful essay.




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