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How to Start a Narrative Essay for College

Smart Asian girl with pencil in hear writing essay
Written by CB Community

Of all the writing you will do in the course of your education, most students will find that narrative essay writing is the most enjoyable. Not that it does not demand attention, critical thinking, and proper planning, but because it only takes your knowledge, understanding and (sometimes experience) about the topic.

Although the definition of a narrative essay may depend on the rules of each school and professor’s instructions, the main focus is telling a story in which you share personal, inspirational, and informative content. Therefore, you should take time to develop an effective structure, come up with a suspenseful plot, and employ grammar rules. It’s not always easy to wrap your mind around all the rules of essay writing, so if you really get stuck, many students explore an essay writing service to help them navigate the finer nuances of writing.

So, why is it critical to know how to start an essay? The right answer for this is dependent on a number of factors, such as the writer’s objective and the writing instructions at hand. The most important reason is the way you start a narrative determined by how many readers would read your story. If you start off with the incorrect approach, and many of those readers will abandon your essay by the time they read the introduction, and the rest might not even bother to complete it. Knowing how to start a narrative essay ensures that your readers are engaged to the end. Without spending much time on this, let us dive into the steps needed to start a narrative essay.

Step 1- Select a topic

The topic of your narrative essay should, in most cases, be provided for by the prompt or question from the professor. If not, review the instructions so that you can develop the most satisfying topic for your essay. Once the topic is clear, go to the next stage.

Step 2- Chose one single event to narrate about

A narrative essay must have a key event, which you want the readers to know about. For this reason, you must decide on the key event, which you will focus on to express your thoughts and the point of view regarding the occurrence. The event should be meaningful, leaving others that are not relevant to the topic outside the picture. For this reason, it should demonstrate understand and linkage to the prompt or writing instructions.

Step-3 Prepare a draft

A draft is an important tool when it comes to planning for your essay and organizing thoughts as they come to your mind. Essentially, a draft is an outline with your key ideas, and information about the characters, settings, and plot. It will not only help preserve these key ideas but also guide your research. The following elements of a narrative must be included on the draft for proper planning;

  • Introduction
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Characters
  • The climax of the story
  • Conclusion.

Let us look at these elements briefly to help understand how you should approach each.

  • Introduction – Your introduction should be developed from a general idea about the topic before narrowing it down to a specific issue. Two key aspects of a great introduction are the hook and the thesis statement. An interesting start that adequately grabs readers’ attention involves a hook. Usually, a hook refers to an interesting statement that you begin your introduction with to convince readers that your story is worth your time. In most cases, items used as hooks include quotes, anecdotes, a shocking or emotive statement, or an extract from literature. Find one of these items that work well with the topic of the essay, and you are good to go. A thesis statement stands as your position key argument that you will be developing in the paper. As such, it requires attention and critical thinking to ensure that it is well served in other parts of the paper.


  • Plot – A plot lets leaders know about the characters, setting, the key event, and the cooling point. Map your plot by first developing characters, settings, and then the key events. Such mapping should ensure that everything in the story climaxes well before cooling off. That way, your readers will remain engaged in reading and excited about the story.
    Settings. Describe the locations in which the events are occurring and the time when they occur in detail. Setting arrangements should make sense to the readers. Therefore, focus on developing the story chronologically. At this point, only a few descriptors are necessary. The rest will come later in the bulk of the writing.


  • Characters – Even when the story is about you, you’ll still need to develop the best character of yourself. Introduce yourself (if it is a personal narrative) or the main characters — the villain and the hero, in a way that you will remember to describe them in the story. Finally, reveal details about the characters such as interests, education, or desires to place them well in the story.
    Conclusion. Finally, plan your exit in a way that leaves readers feeling some kind of emotion following the event in the story. The conclusion should reveal some changes among characters or the reader’s understanding of the topic.

Step 4- Organize

Organize your elements according to how they will appear in the paper. Arguments and key information you chose to put in the story should also follow a logical organization. As you organize, consider the following;

  • Make sure your point of view is clear
  • There are adequate supporting facts
  • That you do not provide unnecessary details
  • All arguments and descriptions are clear.

In conclusion, if you can follow some of these key points, starting a narrative should be relatively easy and enjoyable. Find a great hook and a thesis statement, and remember that using your initial draft will make things much easier. Such a draft should contain the key parts of your essay. Finally, ensure arguments are clear—including the thesis statement.

For more great college essay writing tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.

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CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.