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How to Write an Introductory Paragraph for a Narrative

by Rochelle Spears Wilson, Demand Media

    The type of narrative you’re being asked to write will determine the structure of your introductory paragraph. In general, writing assignments referred to as a “narrative” or “personal narrative” ask you to tell about a personal experience. For a personal narrative, the job of the introduction is to set the scene, get your reader’s attention, and introduce the topic at hand.

    Brainstorm Ideas

    Before you begin your introduction, brainstorm ideas by gathering as much information as you can. If you’re writing about a personal experience, you may have journals or photo albums that can help you remember the events that took place. You could also consider interviewing friends or family members who were part of the story. Capture your details using whatever brainstorming strategy works best for you. Later, you might choose to use some of this information as an interesting way to begin your narrative.

    Begin with Description

    Beginning with descriptive details is a great strategy for introducing your narrative.The sensory details of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound can really make your story come alive. What specific details do you remember about the event? If you’re writing about a camping trip, do you remember the smoky smell of the fire, or the charred taste of your hot dog? If you’re writing about the first time you met your best friend, do you remember the color of her shirt? Take time to write down as many sensory details as possible. You may eventually choose to use these details in a descriptive paragraph that introduces your narrative.

    Begin with Dialog

    Dialog, or writing down what people say, is one of the most powerful tools you can use in your narrative. You probably won’t remember exact quotes from people involved in the story, but chances are you can remember enough to write down realistic dialog. Make sure that your dialog sounds like an actual person is speaking. If your audience can “hear” the characters, they’ll be much more interested in your story. Starting a narrative with dialog is also a very effective introductory strategy.

    Write the Introduction

    Take a look at the information, sensory details and dialog you’ve written down. Choose something from this list as a way to begin your introduction, making sure to mention your topic at either the beginning or the end of the introductory paragraph. If you’re beginning with sensory details about your camping trip, for example, describe what it felt like to eat your hot dog as you smelled the campfire and listened to the crickets chirping, then tell the audience that the camping trip is the happiest memory you have with your family. If you're beginning with dialog, write the conversation you had with your best friend the first time you met her, and end your introduction by stating that you never would have guessed that such a simple conversation would have turned into a friendship that's lasted half your life. In general, the introduction for a standard two-page narrative should be no longer than ten sentences.

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    About the Author

    Rochelle Spears Wilson holds a MA in professional writing and a BA in English. She was a classroom teacher for nine years and taught English, social studies and technology. She has worked with students in grades 4-12 and now owns her own consulting business.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

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