What Is a Personal Narrative?

Contributor: Erin Jones. Lesson ID: 11799

Do you have a great story to tell about something you have experienced? You surely want your readers to share the experience, so learn how to write a compelling personal narrative that grabs them!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Telling a good story is a rare art. You would especially want to be clear, accurate, and compelling when talking about yourself, wouldn't you?

There are many kinds of writing.

In this Personal Narrative Writing series of Related Lessons found in the right-hand sidebar, the focus will be on, of course, writing personal narratives. In this particular lesson, you will explore the components of a strong personal narrative.

Let's get started.

A personal narrative is a non-fiction piece of writing that recreates a specific experience from the author's perspective. In other words, the author is telling the reader about a time that something happened to him or her. The author uses strong descriptive words and emotions to clearly share the experience with the reader. A good author will make the reader feel as though he or she is actually watching the event take place.

Narrow Focus

A personal narrative tells about one specific event.

Think about your last family vacation.

If you were going to write a personal narrative about your last family vacation, you would have so many ideas to share that you would not be able to effectively develop any event fully. Instead, narrow your focus to one event that took place during your vacation. Some ideas include collecting shells on the beach, riding a specific ride at an amusement park, or having lunch at a really cool restaurant.

By focusing on one specific event, you are able to clearly develop the event so your readers can feel as though they are watching the event unfold right in front of their eyes!

Think about a watermelon as your whole vacation. You just need to tell one small event; that is a watermelon seed. When writing a personal narrative, narrow your focus to the seed, not the watermelon!


A personal narrative communicates the author's strong perspective.

Keep in mind that perspectives vary based on one's previous experiences, ideas, and beliefs. For example, pretend that a surprise party is thrown for you on your birthday. You walk into a darkened room and all of your friends and family jump out and yell, "SURPRISE!" You are startled, excited, and of course, surprised. This is a typical reaction.

Pretend, however, that you are afraid of loud noises. Put yourself in the same situation. You walk into a darkened room and all of your friends and family jump out and yell, "SURPRISE!" In this situation, you might feel frightened, scared, and nervous due to your fear of loud noises.

See how the perspective of the same exact situation would change based on your personal experiences, ideas, and beliefs? Here, your fear of loud noises would not make this surprise party a fun experience.

Mood or Feeling

A personal narrative communicates a specific mood or feeling that is associated with the event being communicated.

For example, if an author wrote about his dog dying, the mood or feeling of his writing would be sad or melancholy. The author would not write about the dog's entire life because this focus is too wide. If the author were to write about the dog's entire life, there would be various moods or feelings, such as when he got the dog (happy), when the dog was chased by a skunk (excitement), or when the dog came out of surgery (relief). This might be appropriate for a book, but for a short personal narrative, the focus and the moods or feelings must be specific.

Sensory Details

Sensory details are imperative to personal narratives; in other words, they are necessary!

Sensory writing involves using your senses to describe what you saw, heard, tasted, touched, and felt. This amazing writing tool will make your reader feel as though he or she is right there experiencing your event with you!

Think about the last time you went to the movies. What sensory details could you include from your last trip to the movie theater?

  • Did you smell popcorn?
  • Did you taste cold, bubbly soda?
  • Did you see the large screen?
  • Did you hear people laughing around you?
  • Did you feel the greasy popcorn butter on your hands?

Those are sensory details!

In the Got It? section of this lesson, you will practice identifying the elements of a personal narrative that you just explored. Before you move on, review the elements of a personal narrative with your parent or teacher.

Are you ready? Let's go!

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We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.