8 Best Personal Narrative Ideas

by | Jul 16, 2022 | Writing Tips | 0 comments

Personal narratives are first-hand accounts of lived experience. The most memorable narratives may be about once-in-a-life occurrences or more mundane subjects. Some of the best examples of this writing style put words to experiences that many people share.


8 Personal Narrative Ideas

Here are eight personal narrative ideas to inspire you to tell your story.


1. What Happened To You?

how to start off a personal narrative

When you look back on your life to date, some events probably stand out. Writers are often drawn toward significant moments, such as moving, traveling, starting school or training for a hobby or profession, attending an event, or notable people with whom they have crossed paths. You might also think of occasions in which you had a new experience or realization.

The most general guideline is that personal narratives should be written from a first-person perspective; the perspective of the author. You should use the words “I,” “my,” “me,” and “mine” in this style of writing.


2. Where Did You Discover Something Amazing?

If you aren’t sure where to begin, think back on all the places you have been. The archetypal quest structure involves a character that goes somewhere in search of something. A character on a quest may or may not find what he or she is seeking. The narrator in a personal narrative might even stumble upon something completely unexpected.

A narrative based on this structure starts with a journey or arrival, reaches a climax with a discovery, and draws resolution based on how this discovery affects the narrator. This approach may provide a more straightforward chronological framework than some of the following personal narrative ideas.


3. When Did You Push Your Limits?

personal narrative idea to push limits

Take a moment to think of the challenges you have faced and the obstacles you have overcome. How did you rise to each occasion? What effects did these experiences have on your life? Even if you only came to the realization that you can do something you didn’t know you could before, this process can still make for a compelling and inspiring personal narrative.

Once you choose an instance to write about, decide when and where to start the story. Some narratives begin in medias res, or in the midst of a challenge. You may find it helpful to create a timeline of events. This planning measure can help you depict causes and effects in ways that make sense, and smooth the flow of a narrative of change or growth.

You may also find it helpful to consider a central conflict as an approach to a personal narrative. This dramatic element refers to difficulties that take place within or around a character. This conflict may or may not be a literal argument or fight.  Many authors introduce the circumstances of a personal or general conflict at the start of a narrative. The narrative progresses toward a climax when the narrator confronts this conflict head-on and experiences a breakthrough, development, or realization. These personal narratives typically conclude with resolution or lessons learned.


4. Have You Ever Felt Something Remarkable?

Striving for objectivity can be desirable when writing an essay or report, but you should never disregard your feelings when writing a personal narrative. Genuine expressions of emotion are likely to capture the interest of most readers. Even if the circumstances you describe do not make a reader feel the same way, you should try to enable them to understand your feelings.

Whether you choose to describe a time when you were remarkably happy, sad, bored, frustrated, or even angry, provide some context for your emotion. Explain where you think the feeling originated and how it developed or did not develop, over time.  This narrative may climax at the height of emotion, or emotion may provoke other circumstances. Your feelings may or may not change by the end of the narrative, but the prevailing emotion should impact your experience in a noticeable way.


5. Who Did You Meet?

interesting personal narratives include meeting someone

Some of the best personal narrative ideas are actually interpersonal. A narrative in which the narrator meets someone may also be relatively straightforward. The narrator starts off not knowing the other person, meets the person, describes their interaction, and acknowledges the influence of the other person. While you may portray an interaction between two or more people in this type of narrative, be sure to write from your own perspective.


6. Why Do You Believe What You Believe?

Describing personal beliefs can be challenging, but the process of doing so can help you learn about yourself and write a meaningful personal narrative. You might start by thinking about your formative experiences or times when your convictions were tested. The best personal narratives are compelling regardless of whether a reader shares the same beliefs.


7. What Scares or Surprises You?

surprising things to write about in a personal narrative

People often have more in common than they think. The things you find scary, surprising, or that affect you in meaningful ways are likely to make an impression on others. We all come from different backgrounds, but many life experiences are universally human. The details of your narrative should be personal and specific. A wide variety of readers may find the underlying feelings, sensations, or thoughts compelling.


8. How Did You Become the Person You Are Today?

If you set out to tell the complete story of your life, you may end up writing a lengthy autobiography. Focus on one formative factor or experience if you want to write a shorter personal narrative. Think about why you want to tell a certain story. Once you have a sense of the purpose and motivation that will drive your narrative, you should have a clearer idea of what to write.


Personal Narratives are About Showing, Not Telling

No matter which personal narrative ideas you decide to pursue, you should always try to show, rather than tell, a reader about your experience. You may find it helpful to do unrestrained freewriting as you re-live experiences in your mind. Then, go back to revise and structure your narrative so that it will make sense to another reader. Be sure to allow your unique personality, perspective, and voice to come across in your own words.

Have any other personal narrative ideas? Share them in the comments below!

Shaundra Cragun

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