How to Write an Outline for a Narrative Story

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Creating an outline for a narrative story helps students plan their work and produce a more organized piece of writing. A narrative story is a personal essay about an experience, written with an anecdotal feel. When writing a narrative, students should have a clear purpose, write from a consistent point of view (typically first person) and structure the story so readers can clearly follow the action. An outline helps students decide how the story will flow and establish the most important information to include.

1 Choosing a Topic

Students should begin their outlines by writing a topic, title and purpose for the narrative. The topic states the basic idea of the story, such as "switching to a new school" or "the day my sister was born." The title should be more descriptive and/or creative, such as "Saying Good-bye to Bellview High" or "The Day I left Pinewood Elementary School." The purpose explains the underlying reason for writing the narrative or describes what the reader should learn from reading the piece. The purpose might be something like "showing how hard situations can make us stronger."

2 Writing the Hook

The hook is the first sentence of the narrative. This is the sentence that catches readers' attention and make them want to read more. An outline does not need to include topic sentences for each paragraph, but thinking about this particular sentence ahead of time helps students pinpoint a starting place for the story and define the tone.

Some strategies for writing a hook include using a question, adding descriptive words, using dialogue or creating mystery. The hook might be, "The day my parents pulled me out of school early, I knew something big was about to happen," or, "It wasn't until the end of the summer that I found out the big surprise." The goal of the hook is to interest the reader.

3 Dividing Up the Plot

The middle part of the outline should divide the plot into a beginning, middle and end. These sections make up the body of the narrative story. In this part of the outline, students should include the major events of the story. Students need to include only notes, phrases or short sentences about what they will write for each of these parts.

Later, they will incorporate many more details and tie the sections together using transition words like "first," "next," "then," "later," "afterward," "at last" and "finally." The outline acts as the skeleton of the narrative, helping students lay out their ideas to use later as a guide for writing. This part of the outline helps them construct the order and flow of the piece.

4 Concluding with Impact

The last part of the outline is the conclusion. Here students determine how their stories end. A narrative usually leaves readers with something to reflect on, such as a message, a new discovery, a lesson or an image. Students should think about what they want the reader to take away or remember after reading the story. This section of the outline should include some brief notes about how the narrative closes.

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.