Narrative essays are frequently assigned in college writing classes. Students get practice in selecting and narrowing essay topics, writing coherently, and making a clear point when they write narrative essays. Many students dread being asked to write narrative essays because the prompts are often personal and they dislike writing about themselves. It is possible to come up with non-embarrassing, creative and satisfactory ideas for narrative essays in college.


One effective technique to discovering the best idea to fulfill a narrative essay assignment is to work with a class partner. Both partners should review the writing prompt. For example, for a prompt of "Write about a childhood experience that made an impression on you," partners should discuss childhood experiences and then write at least three detailed experiences. Each partner should select one of the three experiences for the essay.


Asking questions and writing down the answers can point the way to a good idea for a narrative essay. For example, if the essay prompt is "Write about a 'first' that you have experienced (first kiss, first car, first date)," students should ask themselves about each example in the prompt. After all the answers are written down, reviewing the list will enable writers to select the event that best fits the essay prompt.

Guided Brainstorming

Brainstorming can fail because it doesn't have a clear purpose. Before writing brainstorming ideas, students should rewrite the essay prompt in their own words at the top of a piece of paper. If the essay prompt asks "Write about an incident where you learned something important," change this to "What incidents have I experienced where I learned something?" Students should write at least three or four answers to the question before reviewing and selecting the best one.


Chances are, the first idea that comes to mind in answer to any essay prompt is not very original. One way to find original ideas for a narrative essay is to write down three potential alternatives and then a fourth idea. If the essay prompt is "Write about an event where other people pressured you to do something," take time to write down four incidents when this occurred. Choose one of the four incidents to write in the essay.