Writing a narrative essay should be fun and easy in theory. Just tell your readers a story, often about yourself. Who knows you better than you? You should ace this!
Unfortunately, narrative writing can be very difficult for some. When a teacher leaves the topic choice wide open, it’s tough to even know what to write about. What anecdote from your life is worth sharing? What story is compelling enough to fill an entire essay?
Narrative writing will show up for the rest of your life. You’ll need to tell life stories in college essays, in grad school applications, in wedding speeches, and more. So learning how to write a narrative essay is a skill that will stick with you forever.
But where do you begin?
You can always check out essay examples to get you started, but this will only get you so far.
At the end of the day, you still need to come up with a story of your own. This is often the toughest part.
To help you get things kicked off, we’ve put together this list of more than a hundred topic ideas that could easily be turned into narrative essays. Take a look and see what stands out to you!
Choosing a Topic
Narrative essays fall into several categories. Your first task is to narrow down your choices by choosing which category you want to explore.
Each of these categories offers a stepping off point from which you can share a personal experience. If you have no idea where to begin, reflecting on these main categories is a great place to start. You can pick and choose what you feel comfortable sharing with your readers. This list is not exclusive—there are other areas of your life you can explore. These are just some of the biggies.
As you explore categories, think about which one would be the best fit for your assignment. Which category do you have the strongest ideas for? Which types of stories do you tell the best?
These categories include:
- Childhood Tales
- Educational Background
- Travel and Adventure
- Friends and Relationships
- Experiences and Defining Moments
- My Favorite Things
- Ethics and Values
- If I...
Once you’ve selected a category, it’s time to see which topic piques your interest and might intrigue your audience as well. These topics are all a natural fit for a story arc, which is a central part of a narrative essay.
Writing about your childhood can be a great choice for a narrative essay. We are growing and learning during this delicate and often awkward time. Sharing these moments can be funny, endearing, and emotional. Most people can relate to childhood events because we have all survived it somehow!
- A childhood experience that defined who I am today
- A childhood experience that made me grow up quickly
- My best/worst childhood memory
- My favorite childhood things (games, activities, stories, fairy tales, TV shows, etc.)
- What I remember most about my childhood
- How I used to celebrate holidays/birthdays
- My best/worst holiday/birthday memory
- What I used to believe was true
- The oldest memory I have
- The most valuable possession from my childhood
- What I would tell my younger self
- What my friends were like when I was younger
Your educational experience offers a wealth of ideas for an essay. How you’ve learned and have been inspired can help others be inspired too. Although we were all educated in one way or another, your educational experience is uniquely your own to share.
- First day of school/junior high/high school/college
- First/most memorable school event
- My favorite/worst school years
- My favorite/worst teachers
- My favorite/worst school subjects
- What recess was like for me
- My experiences in the school cafeteria
- How I succeeded/failed in certain classes
- Life as a student (elementary, junior high, high school, college)
- The best/worst assignment I ever completed for a class
- Why I chose my college
- First novel I read for school
- First speech I had to give
Travel and Adventure
People love to read about adventures. Sharing your travel stories transports your reader to a different place. And we get to see it through your eyes and unique perspective. Writing about travel experiences can allow your passion for diving into the world shine through.
- My first time traveling alone
- My first time traveling out of the country
- The place I travel where I feel most at home
- My favorite/worst travel experience
- The time I spent living in a hostel/RV
- The time I spent backpacking around a country
- Traveling with friends/family/significant other
- Best/worst family vacation
- Most memorable travel experience ever
- Places I want to visit
- Why I travel
- Why I cruise/climb mountains/camp/fly/drive
- Trying to speak another language
- How I prefer to travel
- How I pack to travel
The good, the bad, and the ugly. We all have family stories that range from jubilantly happy and hilarious to sad and more serious. Writing about family can show your reader about who you are and where you come from.
- Family traditions that you enjoy/dislike
- What your parents/siblings are like
- What your family members (mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, etc.) have taught you
- What being the oldest/youngest/middle/only child was like
- Family members who made the most impact on your life
- Most memorable day with a family member
- How a pet changed my family’s life/my life
Friends and Relationships
Friends, enemies, and loved ones come in and out of our lives for a reason. And they provide great material for writing. If relationships exist to teach you something, what have you learned? Writing about those you’ve connected with demonstrates how others have influenced your life.
- My most important relationship
- How I work on my relationships
- What I value in my relationships
- My first love/relationship/breakup
- Losing/Gaining a close friend
- How my friendships have changed/evolved
- The person I’m afraid of losing the most
- How technology has affected my relationships
- The worst argument I’ve had with someone
- What happened when I was rejected
Experiences and Defining Moments
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... sharing your best times and sharing your worst times can make great stories. These highs and lows can be emotional, funny, and thought-provoking.
- The event that most defines who I am today
- The best/worst day of my life
- The most embarrassing/frightening moment of my life
- A moment that taught me something
- A moment where I succeeded/failed
- A time when I was hurt (physically or emotionally)
- A time when I gave up hope
- An experience when I had to overcome challenges (fear, intimidation, rejection, etc.)
- My greatest accomplishment
- The time I learned to accept/love/be okay with myself
- The most difficult time in my life
- The toughest thing I’ve ever done
- My first time surviving something alone
My Favorite Things
Explaining to others what you love and why can really paint a picture of who you are and what you value. It’s important to note that simply sharing a favorite isn’t a very deep topic. However, you can take this topic deeper by expressing how this favorite has impressed you, inspired you, and affected your life.
- My favorite author/poet/playwright
- My favorite movie/book/song/play/character
- My favorite actor/actress/director
- My favorite singer/musician
- My role model
- What I like to do to relax
- My favorite activities/games/sports
- How I handle stress and tough times
- Why I dance/sing/write/journal/play sports/bake
Ethics and Values
Where you stand on deep issues tells a lot about you. Taking a stance and explaining your opinion on tough topics reveals some insight into your ethical reasoning.
- The most difficult decision I have made
- How I treat people/strangers
- A time I faced a moral/ethical dilemma
- A decision I regret
- A lie I have told
- When I rebelled against someone in authority
- My most important life rule
- The principle I always live by
If I ...
Situational prompts allow you to step out of your past and picture a different future. If digging into your past experiences seems scary and intimidating, then look to your future. What you imagine can be insightful about your life and where you see yourself heading.
- If I had a million dollars...
- If I were famous...
- If I could change history...
- If I had no fear...
- If I could change one thing about myself...
- If I had one extra hour a day...
- If I could see the future...
- If I could change the world...
- If I could have one do-over in life...
Writing a narrative essay can seem daunting at first. Sharing a bit of yourself with the world is a scary thing sometimes. Choosing the right topic, however, can make the process much smoother and easier.
Browsing through topic ideas can inspire you to pick a topic you feel you can tell a story about and that can take up a full essay. Once you have a quality story to tell, the rest of the pieces will fall into place.