How to Make a Personal Narrative Introduction

by Rachel Pancare

When writing an introduction for your personal narrative, imagine you are the reader and think about an opening that would draw you in and make you want to read more. A variety of techniques can help you set up an interesting starting point for your audience. Vivid descriptions, exciting dialogue or questions can help lure the reader in. Your main goal in the introduction is to set the stage for the rest of your story and invite your reader to experience a personal life event through your writing.

Engage in Prewriting Activities

Before writing the introduction, engage in prewriting activities to generate ideas. For instance, pair up with another student, share your narrative topics and help each other think about unique openings. Getting a potential reader's opinion can give writers important perspective. Students might also work independently, creating a list or web of introduction ideas to help narrow down the most effective place to begin. Think about the setting, tone and overall purpose for telling the chosen story. In addition, consider structural options such as chronological or flashback.

Develop a Hook

The hook is the first sentence of the narrative and serves to immediately intrigue the audience. A strong lead might be a direct question to the reader, a sudden action, a conversation between characters, an image or a philosophical thought. For example, the starting sentence could be, "It wasn't until I entered college that I realized how valuable my parents are." Consider also these approaches: "I woke up in a flash to the sound of the fire alarm, tangled up in my sheets and startled from a dream." "It was the best night of my life; it was the worst night of my life!" Narrative hooks are an opportunity to be clever and creative.

Set the Stage

Once you've hooked readers with a strong opening sentence, continue to interest them by beginning to unfold the story in a unique way. Think of the introduction as the opening scene in a film. Establish the setting and the main characters, and paint a picture for the audience. One strategy to accomplish this goal is to incorporate accurate sensory details. For instance, add sounds and smells to help the reader imagine the environment. Use a personal voice to establish tone and style. A natural, first-person voice helps convey a sense of the writer's feelings about the experience as well as personal qualities.

Transition into the Story

By the end of the introduction, readers should be able to detect what the story will be about and be enticed to read further. Try creating an element of suspense by leaving out a piece of information or by inserting clues about what is to come. While an academic essay introduction might give the reader a more complete sense of what the piece will be about, a narrative essay introduction can be more mysterious. You can also provide a hint about the ultimate purpose of your story, such as learning a lesson. Reread your introduction for clarity and substance. The audience should feel as if they are about to live through an event with you.

About the Author

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.

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