A personal narrative focuses on and describes in length a particularly significant situation in a person’s life. Many of the most engaging and successful personal narratives capture an instance that has fundamentally changed the author. A good lead sentence is invaluable in a personal narrative. By analyzing the essential elements of a good lead sentence, you can gain insight into how to construct your own quality and successful lead sentence for a personal narrative.
When you begin writing a personal narrative, your first words are the framework and foundation for the world that is your piece. If your personal narrative is a house, the quality of the structure is reliant on the strength of the fundamental building blocks. If the overall tone of your narrative is lighthearted, begin with a line that references childhood, puppies, drizzling cool rain or similar positive images to set the tone immediately. A good lead sentence will embody the essence of your personal narrative, and will give your reader an immediate understanding of what your narrative is about. If your intention is for the narrative to be dark, construct an ominous, dark line with a reference to death, pain or heartache.
Clean, well constructed prose must be at the heart of a successful personal narrative. This is true of the entire piece, and needs be taken into serious consideration when constructing the lead sentence. If the lead sentence is at all clunky, choppy or unclear, like a sentence that reads, "people unlike me mostly point towards stars when cold rivers shine," the reader will begin their experience in a negative way. Short, economical sentences are often clean and clear. "I am mad at my mother," is a clear, powerful sentence. There is no reason to be needlessly ambiguous when bare-bones clarity can engage your reader.
The lead sentence of a personal narrative is the author’s first chance to capture the reader, and the stronger and more exciting the lead sentence, the less likely the reader will want to disengage. For example, a line that creates intrigue and urgency reads, "The foot race began, and the tree to the right of the starting line immediately burst into flames." This example doesn’t mean that all good lead sentences are shocking or abrasive. A beautiful, insight or life affirming observation can be just as intriguing as a negative perspective.
Just because the lead sentence is the first sentence does not mean the author has the right to waste the reader's time or dance around the essence of the personal narrative. Say something with your lead sentence that is informative and meaningful. A fundamental value or perspective often makes for a good lead sentence because of how much can be learned about the author. If you'd like to reveal that you built a home in Africa, helped nurse a sick uncle back to health, ran a marathon or held public office, much can be learned by concrete and informative detail.
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