How to Write a Narrative Paragraph
People like to tell tales, listen to anecdotes and read interesting stories. A narrative paragraph represents your chance to tell a brief story to your reader. Planning, developing and polishing your narrative leads to a clear, intriguing story -- a process teachers can help their students work through when writing narrative paragraphs.
Topics and Topic Sentences
Prewriting helps you discover a topic to write about. Brainstorm by listing some events you might write about, such as the first day of a class, the scariest experience in your life or the happiest moment. Write some notes about why the event was significant. Then create a topic sentence to concisely explain what you will recount in your paragraph and why it matters. A good narrative topic sentence could be "Terri's only day working as a dishwasher was one of the worst days of her life." The reader quickly knows the point of the paragraph and why the narrative matters.
Develop the paragraph with details that tell the story, focusing on the purpose in your topic sentence. All the details in the dishwasher paper should illustrate how awful the day was. Examples and specific, sensory details make the event vivid. Instead of simply saying Terri broke dishes, the paper might explain, "As she turned away, Terri's sleeve caught the corner of the full tray of dishes, sending them cascading to the floor with a huge crash. Broken glass and fragments of china flew everywhere." Typically, you should tell the story in chronological order.
Concluding Sentences and Finishing Touches
After finishing the narrative paragraph, create a concluding sentence to tie the elements of the story together and remind your reader of your purpose, such as, "Those eight nightmarish hours combined to create a horrific day Terri will never forget." Once you have completed your draft, add transitions where needed to make the connections among ideas clear. Words like "next," "after" and "then" tell the reader how events correlate: "After the tray fell, Terri stood rooted in horrified silence." Check your assignment instructions to see if first-person language like "I" is appropriate, which is often the case in narrative writing.
Narrative Writing Activities
Instructors can help students explore narrative writing through various activities such as showing photos and asking students to create stories based on what they see. Explore point of view by having students write from different perspectives such as various characters in a story or people in a picture. Coming up with a group story demonstrates the ideas for a class. Another option involves dividing students into groups. One group creates photo or language boards for the major events in a tale, and the second group puts them together in the correct order. Reworking a well-known fairy tale or nursery rhyme gives students narrative practice, as well. For instance, how could Little Red Riding Hood fit in a modern city? What if Jack and Jill were pushed down the hill?
- Clark College: Narrative Paragraphs or Essays
- Dakota State University: Prewriting the Narrative Essay
- California State University, Los Angeles: Writing Effective Paragraphs
- St. Louis Community College: Topic Sentence/Paragraph
- Anne Arundel Community College: Formulating a Concluding Sentence for a Paragraph
- Purdue University: Narrative Essays
- University of Arizona: Narrative Writing
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.