Narrative writing prompts are the beginnings of stories, an idea to work on, or sometimes even a picture or image to inspire writers. Teachers often use them to inspire personal narrative writing.
Personal narrative writing prompts can be used by students, writers, or anyone at all to write a personal narrative. Personal narratives are personal stories that are usually written in first-person and tell the story of something that has happened to the writer.
They are invaluable tools to help students write a story based on their own lives. These ideas can lead to a passion for writing for many students in a classroom setting.
Personal Narrative Prompts
Writing personal narratives can be difficult because there is so much that occurs within a person’s life, not just in milestones but emotionally and psychologically. Narrowing down a topic with no prompt can take time and lead to frustration, especially for students in a writing or English class who are just learning the writing process.
Rather than asking them to write a story, they come up with themselves, asking them to describe a personal memory or experience can inspire a student to really put themselves into the story and connect with it in a way that they otherwise wouldn’t if you simply told them to write about any ideas they had.
Learning to Write from Prompts Early On
Personal narrative stories are often assigned as early as middle school. Students writing their own stories and personal experiences with the aid of a writing prompt can reflect on their own lives, write about a time in their lives, and improve their writing skills.
Personal narratives are used to improve the writing skills of middle school students because when students write more technical or dry papers, such as procedural writing, they often have trouble connecting with the work. Unless you plan to write user manuals as a writer, you most likely won’t get many jobs from creative the “how-to” papers that procedural demands.
If you’re a teacher and you’d like to teach students or lead students to be able to write fictional stories, a great place to start is with personal narrative prompts. Students can write a fictional story based on a writing prompt and have a successful moment as a writer, especially if they already have experience with personal writing prompts.
Using personal narratives as inspiration for a fictional story will invite students to get creative and use descriptive language about something that they are already familiar with. Students can also fictionalize their own experiences in this way and write about a traumatic event, but write these painful memories as short stories, and it can be a healing and therapeutic experience.
Personal Narratives Do More Than Improve Writing Habits
Including narrative writing prompts in your lesson plans as a teacher is an excellent idea if you’d like to help students reflect, deal with the challenging moments in life using creativity as an outlet, and improve the skills of a young writer. When students write anything creative, they improve not only as writers but as thinkers, and that’s the goal of nearly every middle school grade level teacher.
Personal Narrative Writing Prompts
Giving personal narrative prompts to students and asking them to turn them into short stories is a great assignment to add to lesson plans. You can assign a wide variety of prompts and topics, from asking students to write about their favorite song, to asking them to make themselves the main character in a story about their favorite memory.
The possibilities are truly endless. A small moment in someone’s life, just one event, can inspire a wonderful narrative writing piece and lead to students reflecting personally and learning to connect with their writing.
Attaching strong emotion to a story or a character can help to lend a story weight, and when you draw off of your own personal experiences, a story can go from a dull and flat narrative to a thought-provoking and emotional, immersive experience.
Examples of Personal Narrative Writing Prompts
Personal narrative writing can be about anything that the writer has experienced, felt, or been through. It can be about a time that really impacted or changed the person, or it can be about something light and trivial. Drawing off of your own experiences as a writer often makes the writer care more about the content, which is what makes personal narrative prompts such powerful tools for teachers and students.
The following are some examples of personal narrative writing prompts that can be assigned to anyone. You don’t have to give them to your students. You don’t have to be a teacher. You don’t really even have to be a writer. It’s healthy to reflect upon your own life, about a time that meant something to you. Having personal narrative prompts can be a great way to provide yourself with self-care if you choose a prompt each day and journal about it.
Topics for Personal Narrative Writing
Feel free to add to this list or expand upon it. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to topics to write about in personal narrative writing or narrative writing at all. Every event, every experience, every need, dream, desire, fear, and goal, is a story waiting to be written.
- Write about an old house you or a friend have lived in. Was it scary, or was it cozy? What about it made you feel that way?
- Who was your role model growing up? What about that person who you look up to?
- What is/was your favorite subject in school? Do you enjoy school?
- Describe the worst thing that has ever happened to you. How did you react to it?
- What is the scariest thing you’ve ever had to do?
- Who are you closest to in your family?
- What is your favorite book? Why do you like it so much?
- If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
- What event in history interests you most? Explain why.
- What makes a good friend?
- What is your favorite place to relax by yourself?
Personal Narrative Examples in the Real World
Throughout history, people have been using personal narratives to explain events that occurred. Often with no reader in mind at all, people have documented and told the stories of events that have helped to shape the world that we live in and know now.
Imagine where we’d be if Lewis and Clark had not documented their journey. Imagine what sort of missing history we’d have if Anne Frank hadn’t written down her experiences during the Holocaust. Explain to students what an impact this sort of writing has and how it has enabled all of society to discover things that we otherwise may not have known.
Sure, the Holocaust happened with or without one Jewish girl’s diary. Still, that diary made it possible for us to be able to create powerful personal images from the memory of one small child. We still have this sort of “diary writing” in use today, just in a different form.
Technology Gives Us an Online Diary
Technology has given us the internet, and with that wonderful tool, we are able to post our own narratives in real-time and give the entire world a chance to read our stories. Personal narrative writing can help us to describe things to people outside of our own culture and experiences.
Through the use of a blog, website, or social media, we can share our ideas, a moment that meant something to us, something that happened that changed us personally, and a look at how family life is evolving and shaping the way we live.
Students can be shown through the use of personal narrative that they have a voice and that when they write a story at school, that narrative does more than help them pass the class.
The Use of Prompts in School
When you ask students in your classroom of any age, whether it’s elementary, middle, high school, or college, to describe personal experiences or write a story that can describe the way an event made them feel, you are opening up the door for a writer to learn that ideas can come from any moment. There is a story in every small experience, each family is its own story, and each person is its own story.
When you ask your class to write about just one moment, they are forced to put thoughts down in an organized fashion and turn it into a narrative of what happened, rather than the scattered rendition of it that lives inside the writer’s mind.
Using prompts in the classroom allows teachers to point to a writer’s internal story and personal history as inspiration. The use of details to help a reader who did not experience these events will enable a writer to become more skilled and well-rounded.
The point is to write about a time that meant something to the writer and can be conveyed to the audience in a way that makes them feel something.
Many times, a personal narrative takes on a casual tone and helps an audience to better connect with it. This can be a valuable way for young or beginning-level writers to learn how to write in a tone that will invoke feeling from an audience. It’s more than just the subject matter that makes readers feel something. For example, in a blog, the writer addresses the audience most of the time in the same way you would speak to a friend.
The casual tone of a personal narrative makes the audience feel like you’re all friends. When a writer is striving for that connection, it’s much easier to explain why their favorite place is a dark closet, a coffee shop, their bed, a shopping mall, a church pew, or some other personal and sometimes vulnerable secret and personal thing.
The more details that you use when you write about a time that affected your life, the more the audience will understand the feelings and thoughts associated with that memory. Personal narrative writing is truly a multi-faceted learning experience. It teaches reflection skills, tone, narrative elements, and so much more.
Where to Find More Writing Prompts
Many instructors find that beginning class with a writing prompt is a great way to get creative juices flowing, get a classroom ready for learning, and connect with the class. There are many ways you can develop writing prompts, especially personal ones.
Think about your own life and the events and memories that shaped you. Ask yourself if these are common experiences or if they are exclusive to your life. If they’re fairly common experiences, like the feeling you got when you learned to ride a bike, then ask everyone in the classroom to write about their own experience with this topic.
Participate in Your Own Assignments
Feel encouraged to also take part in the assignment and demonstrate either before the assignment is given or after the assignment has wrapped up so that your pupils can witness an example written by their instructor. This will not only teach them the mechanics of creative writing. It will also help them to connect to you as their teacher and open up new lines of understanding and communication, which could make a student feel safer to share personal experiences in their writing.
Where to Find Narrative Writing Prompts
The internet is a plethora of writing ideas. Writing prompts can be searched for and found easily by performing a simple Google search. Another fantastic option is to buy a physical copy of a book of writing prompts. These can be found online for purchase and at most bookstores. If you are a writer or aspire to be a novelist, having a book of writing prompts can help you jump-start your creativity when you begin your writing process each day. The benefits of good writing prompts are endless.