The purpose of a narrative writing is to tell a story or to share an experience. A narrative needs an introduction, supporting ideas (also called major details), and a conclusion. Each event you choose should support the main idea of your writing. This page is about the prewriting process for drafted narrative writing.

Understand the assignment

What is a narrative? The purpose of a narrative is to tell a story or to share an experience. The events in a narrative are usually told in chronological (time) order. Narratives use words that show time, like "after", "next", and "then." For a narrative to be complete, it should include all parts of a story. 


Brainstorm to find a topic 

Think about an event that was memorable for you. It could be a very happy event, an event that taught you something important, a time you were surprised, or another important day or event. Don't choose an event that is too big. For example, don't write about your entire last year of high school or a family member being ill for ten years. There will be too many things to write about for this assignment. Instead, choose a smaller event, like your first day of college or the time you won an award.

Example Topics

  • A life-changing experience
  • The first time I ...
  • The happiest day of ...
  • Overcoming an obstacle
  • How I met my best friend

Choose a focus

If the experience is very long, you may need to focus on a more specific part of the story (e.g., "My first day at the ELC" instead of "My first semester at the ELC".). Do not choose a story that is too long or complicated. Think about the part of the story that is most interesting, important, or memorable. 

Brainstorm for details

Once you have your topic chosen, think about the event or experience in as much detail as possible.


 Just like all writing, a narrative needs an introduction, supporting ideas (major details), and a conclusion.

Once you write your topic sentence, organize your story by the order of events or by another type of organization. There are many ways you can do that. Look at basic example outlines.

Example: Paragraph Outline #1

TS: The week of midterm exams was the most stressful week of my first semester of college.

SS: The week of midterms was stressful because I had six different tests to take.

  • What were the tests?
  • Why did I need to take them?
  • Why were the tests stressful?
  • How did I do on the tests?
  • How did I prepare?

SS: The week of midterms was stressful because it was also the week of cleaning checks.

  • What are cleaning checks?
  • Why did we have them that week?
  • Who else helped with the cleaning checks?
  • Why did this add more stress to my life?
  • How did I manage my stress?

C: I struggled with a lot of stress during my first midterm exam experience.

Example: Paragraph Outline #2

TS: My worst piano performance taught me a very valuable lesson.

SS: It was my worst performance ever.

  • What happened?
  • Who was there?
  • When was this?
  • Where was the performance?
  • Why was it so bad?

SS: I learned the value of having confidence.

  • How did this teach me confidence?
  • What were my experiences after like?
  • Who helped me feel more confident?
  • Was this a lesson you only learned for piano? Or did it impact you in other ways?

C: I learned how important confidence was from my worst performance ever.


The introduction for a narrative should provide important information that readers need to know in order to understand the story that you will tell. These are the setting (place and time), the characters (people), and any other details readers need to understand your story (e.g., why you were there, or explaining what the event was). Your introduction may also include a hook—a sentence or question that catches readers' interest and makes them want to continue reading. 

In a narrative paragraph, your introduction might be just one or two sentences: a topic sentence and maybe a hook, too. These will be at the beginning of your paragraph. 

In a narrative essay, your introduction should be an entire paragraph. Usually, the introduction paragraph starts with a hook. Your thesis, or the sentence that tells the reader why the narrative is important (e.g., "The day I graduated from high school was the happiest day of my life."), might be right after the hook, with the other background information after it. Or, you might put the thesis at the end of the introduction paragraph, with the background information before it. Either way can be okay. 


The body of a narrative contains the plot (the sequence of events, or what happens in the story). Divide your story up into major events and tell about each event in each of your supporting sentences. Each event you choose should support the thesis of your narrative.


The conclusion should tell how the story ended and re-emphasize the importance of the story. It should start by summarizing your main idea and end with a closing statement that in some way makes a prediction, suggestion, or opinion.


Exercise 1: Brainstorm for a topic

Think about some of the most memorable events in your life. Use the map below to complete a brainstorm activity.


Exercise 2: Brainstorm for details

Spend five minutes answering the questions in the Brainstorming section above. 

This will help make the memory vivid in your mind. If you do not have a vivid memory, you will not be able to paint a clear picture for your reader. It's okay to start writing in short (or even incomplete) sentences


  • Went to beach alone
  • Felt peaceful
  • Bright sun
  • Heard the waves


  • __________
  • __________
  • __________
  • __________
  • __________

Exercise 3: Write your thesis

After choosing a topic and focus for your narrative, start outlining by thinking about why the event you chose is important. Use that information to write your thesis.


  • The week of midterm exams was the most stressful week of my first semester of college.
  • My graduation day was one of the most exciting days of my life.
  • The most unforgettable experience was going skydiving.
  • My worst piano performance taught me a very valuable lesson.

Your Thesis: ___________________________________________________

Exercise 4: Make an outline

Start your outline with your thesis sentence and your topic sentence.

You can add the other details after your outline is approved.





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