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Topics for a Personal Narrative Essay

by Mary Freeman, Demand Media

    A personal narrative essay is a piece set down in text describing an event or sequence of events in the writer’s life. These types of essays are common in high school classes, as part of college applications and in various other educational settings. Personal narrative essays are nonfictional; they should include effective and powerful description, imagery and word choices. There are many possible topics for a narrative essay, depending on the audience you are trying to reach.

    Family Vacation

    For students in high school or younger, describing a particularly memorable family vacation can make for an interesting narrative essay. Think of a vacation your family took to an unusual place or a trip where unexpected events occurred. Make sure to tie the moments of the trip together into a narrative arc, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Emphasize anything you might have learned on the trip and how you and your family were affected by the experience.

    Difficult Moment

    Writing about a difficult or painful personal experience can make a powerful and captivating narrative essay. Move the essay from describing the situation before the difficult moment to the feelings and realities of the moment itself and the resolution. This essay will describe how you performed under stress or in the face of trying circumstances. Vivid description is a must for this essay topic; you want to sweep your readers up in the emotions you felt.

    Greatest Accomplishment

    An essay focused on a great accomplishment invites your audience to share your feelings of success and triumph. This essay is popular in college admissions exams, as it provides an opportunity to describe skills or victories that the admissions officials wouldn’t otherwise know about. Describe the lead-up to the accomplishment, complete with details about your first steps and the hours of effort you put into preparing. The central part of the essay should paint a picture of the moment, whether it was hosting a charity event, playing music for a crowd or saving someone from harm.

    Typical Day

    A well-written narrative about a single, unremarkable day can provide insight into a person’s character. If you choose this topic, emphasize that the essay will cover a day that is much like the majority of other days in your life. In this type of narrative, describe personal advancements, family interactions and the balance between effort and play. Make sure to tie the events together as a narrative; don’t create scattered bits of description. This topic is difficult -- and not chosen often -- but when written well, this type of narrative can give your reader some relief from the stacks of other essays.

    Style Your World With Color

    About the Author

    Mary Freeman is a freelance writer. She has held several editorial positions at the print publication, "The Otter Realm." She traveled throughout Europe, which ultimately resulted in an impromptu move to London, where she stayed for eight months. This life experience inspired her to pursue travel writing. Freeman received a degree in human communication from California State University.

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