To be a person is to have a story to tell. –Isak Dinesen
What stories are within you? A personal narrative is a story from your life. So, it is simple to write. Maybe. If you come up with an experience you’re dying to share–it is easy to get started. But, it isn’t always easy to think of an idea for a personal narrative. So, I put together a list of 13 personal narrative prompts to help you find a compelling story you long to write about.
That idea of longing to write it is important because personal narratives need to show readers what your experience was like. Desire to write inspires you to put more effort into your narrative’s description, character development, and plot. Sounds a lot like writing a fictional story doesn’t it? Both are narratives, they need to engage your readers and show them something unique.
Personal narrative writing shows settings, people, actions, and feelings. When you write a personal narrative, you describe a story so that your reader sees, feels and understands what you experienced. When you write a personal narrative, you describe a story so that your reader sees, feels and understands what you experienced. Click To Tweet
You show (don’t tell) readers a personal story. Check out the post “How to Master Writing Personal Narrative Essays” https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/master-writing-personal-narrative-essays/ to see how to use the show don’t tell approach in writing personal narratives.
Finding an engaging personal narrative prompt will help you discover a memorable essay. Let’s find the right topic for you.
13 Personal Narrative Prompts
One of the best ways to show a personal story is to select a small episode or anecdote from your life and dig deep into it. These 13 personal narrative prompts help you find a great essay topic.
#1 Favorite School Memory
Write a story about your favorite school memory. Who was there? Where was it? How did it happen? How does it end? Focus on one single event. For example, if you played the violin in school you could tell a story about playing violin in a concert. Or if you played on a soccer team, you could tell the story of your tryout.
# 2 Worst School Memory
This is the opposite of #1. Select a memory that is focused on a terrible situation. What triggered that situation and what happened? What was the result? For example, this could be a situation where you were bullied. Describe what happened, and how it ended for you. Did anyone defend you, or help you? Or did the bullying continue?
#3 Frightening Story
Write a story about a scary or frightening moment in your life. What happened? How was it scary? Are you still frightened? Fear is a strong emotion and it motivates people to keep reading and find out what followed. Some examples of frightening moments are being trapped in a cave, lost in the woods or inside an old house with strange noises, or a traumatic event. A frightening experience could also be any personal event where you didn’t feel safe and were afraid something terrible was going to happen.
# 4 “Just Between Friends”
Write a story about something that happened between you and a friend. Is it something important you experienced together? Did your friend do something to help you? Did that person hurt you? Or did you do something to help your friend? Did you hurt a friend? Some ideas for this topic are an activity or event you both participated in, something you both started, a great act of kindness, a sacrifice one of you made to help the other. It could also be something where you betrayed your friend, or your friend betrayed you.
#5 Family Story
This is similar to the topic of friendship except in this case it’s something that happened within your family. What occurred, who was there, and what did you do? Is there an important funny, sad, or happy event in your family? Did you do something important or special with your family? Some examples of this topic are the birth of someone in your family, the death of a loved one, or something fun you did with your parents, siblings or grandparents, etc.
Write a story of the best, strangest or worst thing that happened to you on a vacation or trip to another place. Focus on one event or experience. One mistake writers make with this essay idea is they describe an entire travel experience, and that isn’t interesting to your readers. Some ideas for this writing prompt are getting lost in a city, being pickpocketed on a trip, or visiting a historical site.
#7 First Love
First loves are powerful and vivid stories. Consider a story about how you met that person or a significant memory between you. This could be something wonderful, funny or even terrible, If the relationship is over how did it end? Were you heartbroken? These stories, or a story about any important relationship, leave an imprint on us.
#8 Success Story
Write a story about something you accomplished. Describe what you did to achieve success, and how you reached your goal. Were there obstacles you had to overcome? This is a tricky essay topic because sometimes people focus on the feelings of success or the final achievement rather than the story of how they succeeded. Some ideas for this topic are to write about winning an event, earning an honor, confronting a personal challenge or getting over a phobia.
#9 Personal Failure
Write about how you failed to do or failed to achieve something. Describe what you tried to do, how you failed and what you gained/learned from it. Everyone fails at something. Your readers understand the feeling of failure. Some people connect with these personal narratives more than stories of success because they empathize with you. People learn a lot through failure, so when you write this type of story, hint or convey what you learned from failing.
Write a story about an accident you caused or an accident that happened to you. This could be negative as in a car accident or maybe it’s an accident of good fortune. Describe how the accident occurred, who was involved and how it ended. Was it a bicycle accident? How did it happen? Did someone get hurt?
#11 Unresolved Experience
Describe something that happened to you, but where there’s no resolution. What was the experience and how did it occur? What don’t you understand or know about the experience? Then, instead of having a resolution to the story, convey how you feel about not knowing what happened.
#12 An International or National Event or Incident
Write a personal story describing how you acted, witnessed or responded to a significant national or international event or incident. Did you play in the Olympics, or join a protest? Did you survive a natural disaster? What was your role in this circumstance? What did you do? For example, if you were in a hurricane describe what happened, who you were with and how you survived.
#13 Change the World Experience
One of the best experiences I had in my life was creating and organizing a family literacy program for public schools. There are several stories within that experience I could write. If you were a volunteer for an organization or participated in a service project, think about what happened. Was there a moment that changed everything? What occurred? Did any of those stories change you, your community, or another person? These stories can be very moving because they have impacted you, what you believe, and how you see or view others.
Choose a Personal Narrative Prompt and Write
The most important factor to consider in a personal narrative is yourself. Choose an idea for a personal narrative that intrigues you. If your narrative bores you, it’ll bore readers. You want to write a descriptive personal story with vivid characters, action, and emotions.
Also, select a story you want to share with others. You’re revealing not just what happened to you, but also a piece of yourself. Is your personal story something you want people to know?
It’s your story. You decide what to write and who reads it. Then write it well.
Choose 1 of these personal narrative prompts, and write an engaging essay.