So, you’ve been sent home from class with the task of writing a narrative essay, and now you’re tearing your hair out because you have no idea what to write about. Your teacher has left the title completely up to you, and you don’t know where to start. You’re not even sure if you know what a narrative essay is!
Fear not, because this article will provide you with an abundance of topics to write about. The ideas are divided into categories so that you can easily find something you’re interested in. With subjects ranging from relationships to life lessons, you’re guaranteed to find something to fuel your imagination.
Understanding the Narrative Essay
Before writing, you must understand just what a narrative essay is. In the simplest of terms, a narrative essay tells a story from your personal perspective. Still confused? Let’s go into more detail.
These are some features of a narrative essay:
- Told in the first person, in an informal tone
- Uses the writer’s own lived experience as “evidence”
- The purpose is to inform the reader of your experience, rather than arguing or persuading them of something
- Uses imaginative and descriptive language to engage the reade
A narrative essay is not a simple retelling of your experience. Events don’t have to be laid out in chronological order, and you may choose to write about more than one experience. The point is to use your experiences to reinforce the essay topic.
Ideas for Your Narrative Essay
The following are ideas that you can use as a springboard for your imagination. You may choose to combine a few to create your own topic or use these as inspiration for a new topic entirely.
Whether platonic or romantic, our relationships majorly shape our life experiences. This is something that everyone can relate to, so the following topic ideas should easily conjure up some of your own experiences. Additionally, the relatability of this subject will help your narrative essay be engaging to the reader.
- Write about your first relationship. When did you know you were in love?
- Talk about a toxic relationship you had. What made it toxic? Have you learned from the experience?
- Write about a time where you and your partner overcame difficulties in your relationship. This may be long distance, a major disagreement, or something else.
- Discuss your feelings about love and relationships in your generation. Do you think your own experiences match up to that of your peers?
- Describe your first breakup. Who initiated it? How did you cope with it?
- Write about your worst romantic experience. What made it so terrible?
- Describe your first date. Who was it with and what did you do? What was the outcome?
- Discuss what is most important to you in a relationship.
- What do you consider to be a healthy relationship?
- Talk about the day you met your best friend. How, where and when did you meet? Did you like each other straight away?
- Write about your experience of losing a friend. How did it happen? Do you think it was for the best?
- Describe why you admire your best friend(s). Did a particular experience make you realise their admirable qualities?
- Write about outgrowing your old friend group. Did it happen quickly or over some time? Do you think it was a good or bad thing?
- Has social media affected your friendships? Write about the good and bad aspects of “online friendship”.
- Talk about the importance of family to you. What are your family values, and what are some experiences that showcase this?
- Write about your favourite family member. Are they the person you’re closest to? Talk about some of your fondest memories with them.
- Do your family have any cool or unusual traditions? Talk about what you do and how the tradition originated.
- Describe your favourite family vacation. When and where did you go, and what made it so memorable?
- Write about some of the biggest lessons your parents taught you.
- Have you ever done something behind your parents’ back? Did you get caught, do you regret it?
- Describe your relationship with your siblings. Are they older or younger, and by how much? Are you best friends, or do you argue non-stop? What do you do together?
- How important is family to you?
- Write about your pets. How many do you have? What are their names? Do they get along with each other?
Learning a Lesson
We all make mistakes, and it’s comforting to read about other people’s errors and remember we’re not alone. That is why writing a narrative essay about a lesson you’ve learned in life is a sure way to engage your reader.
- Write about a time where something made you reflect on your own values. Did you do it, or someone else? In what ways did it make you question your morals?
- Talk about your self-improvement journey. You can discuss what triggered it, why you felt you needed to change, and how you accomplished it.
- Write about your biggest regret, including why it was a blessing in disguise.
- What has been the biggest learning curve of your life so far? What happened, and did it help you learn an important lesson?
- What’s something you wish you knew earlier? Would knowing have changed how a situation played out?
- Discuss a time where you had a major moral or ethical dilemma. What were the circumstances and what did you do?
- Write about an experience that changed your view on life completely.
- Write about a time where you stood up for yourself.
- Write about a time where you felt ashamed of yourself.
- Describe the last time you learned something new.
- What was the most difficult decision you’ve ever made?
- Talk about a time where you did everything right, but still could not succeed.
A narrative essay about life lessons allows you to showcase your development as a “character”, and the reader will be invested in your experiences.
Major Life Events
If your experience was particularly interesting or eventful, it will be engaging enough for a narrative essay. You must be able to recall the event in enough detail so that you can make the essay as descriptive and interesting as possible.
- Family holidays are something enjoyed by everyone; write about your most memorable Christmas.
- Write about the scariest thing that ever happened to you.
- Describe your first day somewhere. This could be your first day at school, at a new job, etc.
- Write about your first time doing something such as drinking alcohol or your first driving lesson.
- What is one vacation you will never forget?
- If you could relive one day of your life again, which one would it be and why?
- What happened at the craziest wedding you’ve ever been to?
- Describe your big move to a new town or city. How did you feel about it at the time? Has that changed now?
- Have you ever spent a night in the hospital? Describe the experience and how you felt throughout.
- Write about your proudest achievement to date.
- What was the most embarrassing moment of your life?
- Describe your first time at an airport/on a plane.
- Write about your prom night.
- Describe your first time living away from home.
With these sorts of topics, it’s important to make the readers feel like they are living through the experience alongside you. As in a fictional story, there must be a build-up to a climax followed by a resolution.
Don’t write about a boring experience! Think about why it’s so memorable, and convey this to the reader.
Narrative essays usually recount your true lived experiences, but this is an exception. When writing a “what if…?” essay you imagine a hypothetical scenario, and describe it with as much detail as a real event.
These topic ideas allow you to be as creative as possible with little restrictions.
- If you were a famous movie star, what would a day in your life look like?
- If you could choose to have any superpower, which would it be? Discuss how you would use your power. Would you be the hero or the villain?
- What would you do if you woke up with the ability to time travel? Where/when would you travel to first? Describe what it would be like there with imaginative and descriptive language. Would you try to change the past?
- Write about what you would buy if you won the lottery.
- If you could travel anywhere in the world for free, where would you go and why?
- What would you do if you ruled the world? Would you act for good or for evil?
- If a genie granted you three wishes, what would they be? Talk about the consequences of your wishes and if they would impact others.
- What is your dream job? Describe what you think a day would be like in this career.
Hobbies and Interests
You likely have in-depth knowledge about your chosen hobby, making it a perfect subject for your narrative essay. You want your readers to find your hobby as interesting as you do, and understand why you pursue it.
- Talk about how you got interested in your hobby. Did a friend or family member do it already? What is your first memory surrounding it?
- Describe the most exciting thing that happened while engaging in your hobby.
- Why do you love your hobby so much? Talk about why it makes you happy and what you think the best things about it are.
- If you play with others/in a team, describe the bond you have with your teammates.
- Would you recommend your hobby to other people? If so, why?
These ideas require that you recount your own experiences of engaging in your hobby. It’s understandable if you want to talk about how great your hobby is, but you must show the audience what’s so good about it.
Some of our fondest memories come from our innocent formative years. Writing a narrative essay based on your childhood stories allows the reader to experience nostalgia with you, and they will want to keep reading to retain that wistful feeling.
- Write about your first clear memory – this should be something you can recall fairly well as it will be described in great detail.
- Describe your favourite childhood game.
- Describe a day in your life as a child.
- What is your fondest childhood memory?
- Talk about your school experience. Was it positive or negative?
- Write about your childhood best friend. What did you do together? Are you still friends now? If not, what happened?
- If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?
- Talk about your favourite birthday party as a child.
- What’s something that happened in your childhood that made you grow up?
- Write about your childhood imaginary friend. What was their name? What did they look like? What did you do together?
- What happened on your most exciting school trip?
- What is the first major world event that you remember? Where were you/what were you doing when you found out? What was it?
- Describe your childhood bedroom. Did it have a theme? What colour were the walls? Did you share it with a sibling? Essays like this are an opportunity to get creative and descriptive.
Here are some topics that don’t quite fit the other categories, but are still useful.
- Write about how you learned to love your body.
- Describe a paranormal experience you had.
- Discuss how you overcame your greatest fear.
- Write about a near-death experience.
- When did you have a dream come true?
- Write about a time where you had to lie to get out of trouble. Did you get away with it?
- Talk about a teacher who changed your life.
- Talk about a time where you acted cowardly. Do you regret it?
- What is the worst pain you’ve ever been in? (Physical or emotional)
- Write about a time where you had to deal with a stressful situation.
- Describe a time where you saved the day.
- Who is your role model and why? This can be a celebrity, a public figure or someone you know.
- Write about a time where you had to do something that you didn’t want to do.
- Talk about an item that means a lot to you. It can be a family heirloom or something as silly as a piece of string. What makes it so significant?
- Describe a time where you had to overcome adversity.
- Write about your experience with the butterfly effect. Did something seemingly insignificant go on to have major consequences?
- Describe a time where you felt like you were in danger.
- Write about an event that changed your opinion on something/someone.
- Describe your first night sleeping away from home.
- Describe the weirdest or best dream you’ve ever had.
- Write about a time when a stranger had a huge impact on you.
- Describe a time when you got lost.
- What happened during your strangest job interview?
- Write about a day where everything that could’ve gone wrong, did go wrong.
- Describe the best gift you’ve ever received. What was the occasion? Who gave it to you?
- Write about a time when you resisted peer pressure.
General Tips for Writing a Narrative Essay
When you’ve chosen your essay topic, you shouldn’t just dive in with no preparation. By taking some easy steps beforehand, you can ensure your narrative essay is as engaging as possible for the reader.
Don’t Worry Too Much About Your Title
The examples in this article should be used to create an attention-grabbing title, but focus on the body of your essay first. Once the essay is written, it will be much easier to come up with a relevant yet creative heading.
Remember to Structure it Properly
Some teachers and professors will provide an essay structure that they expect you to follow. Regardless, all academic essays should have some type of clear structure that makes them easy and enjoyable to read.
Here is a good example of how to structure a narrative essay.
Plan, Draft and Re-Draft
If your topic has enough detail it should be easy to make a paragraph plan, which will make it much easier to write your first draft.
Remember that your first draft is to get your ideas down on paper, and the subsequent redrafts are to improve the essay’s tone and structure. Redrafting is essential.
Read Other Essay Examples
Suffering with writer’s block? It can be beneficial to read narrative essays that have been written by other people. This will help you understand what is expected and also give you some creative inspiration.
It can be difficult to know where to begin when writing a narrative essay. Sometimes, it can be hard to discern the difference between it and the simple retelling of a story. If you’re struggling, it can be useful to remember that your experiences must be utilised to inform the reader of something.
The above ideas should hopefully give you an abundance of ideas for your own narrative essay, and how to write about your own experiences.