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Free Personal Narrative Examples: Basic Guidelines With Tips

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Written by
Dr. Isabel Larsen
  • Icon Calendar 2 June 2024
  • Icon Page 3012 words
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Personal narrative examples are texts that allow readers to understand some aspects of the writer’s life experiences. In writing such documents, students get the opportunity to perfect their writing, critical thinking, and reflection skills. Unlike research essays that require students to investigate subjects, such compositions require authors to write thoughtfully. In turn, one’s life experiences without external evidence are the main content in personal narrative essay examples.

General Aspects

Writing personal narrative examples is an academic activity that enhances one’s writing, critical thinking, and reflection skills. When students get assignments to write a personal story, they get the opportunity to reflect on their life experiences and take one or several aspects of it to share. In this case, a narrative essay introduces a student as an individual and a writer to readers. Therefore, the challenge for students is to find a story to tell, one that they can recall clearly and tell through writing thoughtfully. In other words, detailing one’s experience is essential to meet the criterion of the “show, do not tell” technique, meaning that authors should focus on giving the audience details of their life experiences vividly rather than just talking about them. As a result, the audience must be able to visualize those experiences for emotional intensity.

Personal narrative examples

What Is a Personal Narrative Example and Its Purpose

According to its definition, a personal narrative example is a type of writing where authors share stories from their own lives. Basically, such a composition must be written in the first person, and an author must focus on a specific event or experience, including his or her thoughts, feelings, and reflections (Griffin & Mayhew, 2019). The purpose of writing personal narrative examples is to engage readers and fulfill their purposes, whether to entertain, inform, or express people’s experiences. Moreover, expressive writing requires developing narrative formation skills in people to share their experiences and encourages them to write freely, focusing on personally meaningful and emotional content (Danoff-Burg et al., 2010). In turn, the main 5 examples of narrative writing include:

  • Autobiographies: Detailed accounts of a person’s life, written by themselves.
  • Memoirs: Focused on specific experiences or periods in the author’s life.
  • Personal Essays: Shorter pieces that reflect on personal experiences or insights.
  • Short Stories: Fictional narratives that can draw from personal experiences.
  • Diaries and Journals: Daily records of personal experiences and reflections.

Three Samples of a Personal Narrative Essay

1. Personal Narrative Example: The Most Disappointing Day of My Life

My love for racing cars started when I was a child. The mere fact that these cars moved at lightning speed seemed to excite me, and I couldn’t tell why. As I grew older, I found myself engaging in things to do with racing cars, such as watching episodes of car races on television and the Internet. I even went a step further and used my pocket money to buy car racing-themed magazines and merchandise. Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise when one of my uncles decided to take me to a car racing event in Africa, specifically Kenya.

Safari Rally was an episode of the global yearly car racing competition, and it seemed to stand out from the rest for several reasons. One of these, which inspired many people from the West, was the fact that the racing track went through game reserves and national parks. As such, fans were sure to get a double treat- watch racing cars as they maneuver the tough African terrain and enjoy the beauty of African wildlife. Hearing stories about this experience increased my desire to visit Kenya and witness the forthcoming Safari Rally event. The year was 1989. How can I forget?

Life has a way of turning expectations into painful memories. My friends knew how prepared I was to travel to Kenya. I had even bought a camera using my pocket money; I intended to document the entire experience through photography. To cut the story short, I never made the trip. It never occurred to me that, as a military man, my uncle was not in charge of his life per se. As the world was preparing to witness the African Safari Rally, Panama was in a crisis. US President George W. Bush sent over 10,000 American troops to Panama City on December 20, 1989, one week before the Safari Rally kick-off date. My uncle was recalled from his one-month leave.

I am not sure what was most devastating to me – the fact that my beloved uncle informed my mother and not me about his recall or that I was never going to Kenya to witness the marvelous Safari Rally. I must admit, although I was in perfect health, I felt sick, literally. I became moody, lost my appetite, developed a headache, and withdrew from family and friends. My mother had to take leave from work to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. December 20, 1989, I must admit, stands out as the most disappointing day of my life.

Today, almost two decades later, I look back to December 20, 1989, and wonder about the power of aspirations. Dreams are powerful, and no matter how long it takes, life always finds a way to bring them to bear. Indeed, I visited Kenya after graduating from High School, but not to witness the Safari Rally. This time, my visit was sponsored by a community organization dedicated to making the world a better place for orphans. Visiting Kenya brought back memories of a missed opportunity and the mark it left in my life. Indeed, dreams are powerful!

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2. Example of a Personal Narrative Essay: My Greatest Life Lesson

Growing up, I always heard people say work hard pays; that working hard is a virtue. I never really understood the meaning of these words until I reached the age when my parents allowed me to have my first job. My dad always insisted that I should learn how to give and not ask. What could I possibly give? I always thought. Although my mum was an undisputed defender, I think she had come to see sense in my father’s argument. She stopped giving me my monthly allowance and asked me to look for a job.

Christmas is a season of good tidings for merrymakers and entrepreneurial characters. My childhood friend was one of the latter. Although we grew up together and got in trouble together, Mike and I were two sides of the same coin. I was an introvert and a bookworm, and Mike was an extrovert and a merrymaker. His added advantage over me was that he came from a family of entrepreneurs. Therefore, while I saw the festive season as another time of the year when people overindulge, he saw it as a perfect time to make money. Ironically, I needed this side of him, given my present predicament.

Mike was not of the “work hard pays” school of thought. He subscribed to the “work smart” school of thought. If anyone asked me the difference, I couldn’t tell. When I told him about my predicament, he saw a business partner. He confided in me about his business idea- making Christmas trees and selling them on credit. I thought, “I didn’t hear him well,” so I asked him to repeat what he had just said. Of course, he noticed my disbelief and lack of enthusiasm in his idea. At this point, he told me he had researched and realized that only one shop sold Christmas trees, and the price was exorbitant. This meant that there was room for competition. Before he could go further with his “story,” I reminded him that starting a business, leave alone competing with an established enterprise, required capital. He told me, “not really.” That word got my attention. He said to me that all we had to do was cut down some trees and use our creativity to make beautiful Christmas trees. Mike “volunteered”—whatever that meant—to supply any needed material from the family supermarket. To make the story short, we made our Christmas trees and hit the road running.

News about our Christmas trees spread like wildfire. Mike’s decision to publish pamphlets advertising our product was a genius marketing trick. Although we were willing to give people the product on credit, a majority ended up paying in cash. Within three days, we had sold about 20 Christmas trees, and as they say, the rest is history.

My parents’ decision to stop my monthly allowance served to teach me the value of work. However, it was my entrepreneurial adventure with Mike that taught me that working smart is better than working hard.

3. Personal Narrative Essay Sample: Memorable Experience

It was about two decades ago when, at the age of 16, I traveled a distance of approximately 100 miles to get to see a great holy personality. For almost a month, the media had been advertising the arrival of Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, the founder of Sahaja Yoga Meditation. This religious fraternity has attained a reputation as a global movement of spiritual practices. Since my mother was a committed faithful, I decided to tag along as she made a journey she considered a religious obligation. Little did I know that, by volunteering to accompany my mum, I set myself up for one of my most memorable experiences.

When we arrived at the scheduled venue, an auditorium of a state university, I got nervous for some reason. Since the media had advertised her arrival, the place was a sea of humanity, as faithful and curious individuals like me fought for a space to see this revered lady. One could tell a religious adherent from a curious attendee- it was a tradition that everywhere Shri Mataji visited, people gifted her flowers as a sign of their admiration and reverence.

In light of this, I was carrying a flower under the instructions of my mother. Probably, some also took flowers under the direction of those they accompanied. As soon as it was announced that Shri Mataji was about to enter the auditorium, my heartbeat started racing. The crowd seemed to go on a frenzy, as some tried to move closer to the podium. As Shri Mataji made her way into the packed venue, people approached her in an unrushed way, giving her flowers, one by one. In return, she gave short comments to each person like, “Thank you,” “Oh, such a lovely dress,” and such. I must admit, her stance caught me off-guard. I always thought a holy person never smiles; that they are always serious with a face that tells you they can see your sins, even the hidden sins of the soul. On the contrary, Shri Mataji was lovable and human in every bit.

When it was my turn to give a flower, I was confused. Lovingly, my mother, looking at me with kind eyes, prompted me to offer her my bunch of flowers. Unlike the tradition of offering flowers to a person by giving them to their hands, the present occasion required one to offer them at Shri Mataji’s feet. I later learned that this was the custom in Indian society relating to gurus or persons of significant stature. Although Shri Mataji uttered some words to me, I can recall them; I was excited to listen. I wasn’t sober. My mum tells me that I was smiling as the revered lady commended me for the beautiful gift. All I know is that I was thrilled and highly satisfied, practically indescribable feelings. Indeed, the occasion stands out as one of the most memorable days of my life.

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Personal Stories in Narrative Essays

Indeed, all three stories above are personal narrative examples. The key characteristics of creativity in narrative writing include meaning, relevance, reader’s immersive experience, development, control, distinctiveness, voice, and originality (D’Souza, 2021). Firstly, each of the stories describes personal experiences. Secondly, in each story, an author gives accounts of how events transpired to make described experiences memorable. Lastly, each of the three stories ends with a life lesson or experience that forms part of personal memories. In short, these three stories do not describe what a person has read somewhere. Basically, they describe what an author has gone through as an individual at one point in personal life. As a result, the main 5 parts of narrative essay examples are:

  • Introduction: Sets the scene and introduces the main event or experience.
  • Rising Action: Builds up to the main event, describing other events leading up to it.
  • Climax: The most intense or crucial moment of the narrative.
  • Falling Action: Describes the events following the climax, leading toward the resolution.
  • Conclusion: Reflects on the experience and its impact on the author.

Note: Some parts can be added, deleted, or combined with each other. However, the reader must be engaged when reading a personal story.

“Show, Not Tell” Method

When writing personal narrative essay examples, writers focus on giving vivid descriptions of their experiences and not just telling the audience about them. In these three stories, an author has offered such descriptions, such as a personal state of mind, to enable readers to either be emotionally involved. For example, in the first story, an author talks about how he became “moody, lost appetite, developed a headache, and withdrew from family and friends.” In turn, this description makes readers empathize with a personal situation. To make a good personal narrative example, consider the next:

  • Authenticity: Write from your heart and be honest about your experiences and emotions.
  • Clear Structure: Provide a well-organized story with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • Descriptive Details: Use detailed descriptions to bring your story to life for the reader.
  • Emotional Engagement: Connect with the reader on an emotional level through your experiences and reflections.
  • Reflective Insight: Include personal insights or lessons learned from the experience to give the narrative depth and meaning.

Techniques for Writing Better Personal Narrative Essays

  • Use simple language. While research essays require students to use complex words, this feature is not beneficial for all compositions. Basically, authors must write with passion because their readers need to experience empathy for the target character or person after going through the text (Bientzle et al., 2021). In turn, the language should provide rather than hinder clarity.
  • “Show, not tell.” The goal of personal narrative examples is to inform readers about the life experiences of writers. As such, students should not write it as they would a research essay (Howell, 2014). In turn, they must incorporate vivid descriptions that enable readers to become emotionally involved.
  • Make an essay “personal.” Narrative essay examples can be considered “personal” only by providing personal details of authors. Basically, students should avoid using the second-person language but cover the first-person language (Spencer, 2005). In turn, experiences should introduce readers to a specific aspect of a writer’s life.

Summing Up

Writing personal narrative essay examples is an academic exercise of great importance. Basically, it allows students to perfect their writing, critical thinking, and reflection skills. For example, one of the most effective techniques is the “show, not tell” approach. In turn, this method means that authors should focus more on giving vivid descriptions of their experiences and not just writing about them. Moreover, the audience must be emotionally involved in the story for it to be effective. Hence, some essential tips in writing are:

  • Choose a memorable story to tell.
  • Follow the “show, not tell” approach.
  • Be authentic by avoiding exaggerations.
  • Ask for input from family and close friends.
  • Proofread personal narrative essay examples before publication or submission.


Bientzle, M., Eggeling, M., Kanzleiter, M., Thieme, K., & Kimmerle, J. (2021). The impact of narrative writing on empathy, perspective-taking, and attitude: Two randomized controlled experiments on violations of Covid-19 Protection Regulations. PLOS ONE, 16(7), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0254501

Danoff-Burg, S., Mosher, C. E., Seawell, A. H., & Agee, J. D. (2010). Does narrative writing instruction enhance the benefits of expressive writing? Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 23(3), 341–352. https://doi.org/10.1080/10615800903191137

D’Souza, R. (2021). What characterises creativity in narrative writing, and how do we assess it? research findings from a systematic literature search. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 42, 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2021.100949

Griffin, M., & Mayhew, J. (2019). Storycraft: How to teach narrative writing. Crown House Publishing Limited.

Howell, S. (2014). How to write a narrative. PowerKids Press.

Spencer, L. (2005). A step-by-step guide to narrative writing. Rosen Pub. Group.

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