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How to Start a Narrative Essay for English


The introduction to a narrative essay sets the stage for the story you're about to tell, creating context through details, setting and other relevant background facts. A thesis that introduces the point of your narrative is also a key component of the intro.

Define the Point

The introductory paragraph narrows the focus of your narrative essay. Since this essay style tells a story, narrowing your focus means choosing a specific event to describe. Decide what you want readers to learn from the essay; this takeaway message becomes part of your introduction to prepare readers for what they will read. With that story and purpose in mind, outline the key pieces of information -- the who, what, why, when and where of the anecdote. This framework helps you create an engaging intro that relates directly to the essay content.

Grab the Reader's Attention

Start with a quote, anecdote or fact to engage readers from the first sentence of your essay. If your essay shares your story of being injured and missing out on an important sports event, for example, you might use a quote about overcoming adversity or a description of the injury. Avoid boring or wordy introductory sentences, such as, "I'm going to tell you the story of a time when I had to overcome a difficult period in my life." Get to the heart of the story, keeping your overall purpose in mind.

State Your Thesis

A thesis for an academic or scientific paper typically states a hypothesis or research focus, while a narrative essay takes a more creative approach, but still defines the scope of the paper with a thesis. This statement tells the readers the point of your essay. If you're focusing on the lesson learned, the thesis might define it. For example, "My materialistic view on life quickly faded as I took in firsthand hurricane-ravaged New Orleans." The thesis indicates the topic of the essay and describes what the writer learned from the experience in one sentence. Readers now know what to expect in the body of the narrative essay.

Add Details

Round out the opening paragraph with details that set the stage for the story you're about to tell. Those detail sentences become the topic sentences for your body paragraphs. This creates an introductory summary of the entire essay, focusing on the key parts of the story. The details also give readers context so the body of the essay makes sense. Readers may be lost as they read the body of the essay if they don't have key information upfront, such as location, people involved and major events. The beginning details provide a framework to make your storytelling powerful and meaningful.

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience come from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.

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