The term “narrative” can refer to a type of essay, a short story or a novel. Although these types of works have slightly different elements, they all serve to tell a story. When you work with narrative writing, the introductory paragraph of your work can have an important impact on your reader. Understanding the components of the first paragraph, as well as narrative writing in general, will help you create an effective opening to your story.
In a narrative essay, you tell a true, personal story about an event, person or other aspect of your life. A short story or novel tells a fictional account of a series of events. However, whether writing an essay, short story or novel, the opening sentence of your narrative should grab your readers' attention. You want them to read this line and feel compelled to continue reading to the end. How you choose to open your narrative depends on your personal style of writing and the story you tell in your work. Try to use vivid language that sets the tone for the rest of the story. For example, whether an essay or work of fiction, you may have a first line that appears as: “The moment my sister got married, I was on the other side of the world.” This type of statement will raise questions that encourage your reader to continue reading your paper.
In a narrative, you have a theme or purpose that runs through your story. With a short story or novel, the theme is not stated directly. Instead, your characters, setting and plot help develop the theme throughout the story. When you begin a narrative essay, you should know the purpose of your story and create a thesis statement in the first paragraph. Typically, you place your thesis as the last or next to last sentence in the introduction.
After your opening sentence and before your thesis statement, you need to begin setting up the narrative essay. You can build off the first sentence and start giving your reader some background information before you dive into telling the story. For example, “The moment my sister got married, I was on the other side of the world. We hadn’t spoken in three years, and no one bothered to tell me Susan was planning on walking down the aisle for the seventh time in as many years.” With that background information, you can then move into your thesis statement and show how this moment impacted you.
In a short story or novel, your first paragraph should begin to introduce the main character and what lies at the heart of the story. You may have action taking place from the first line or start creating the setting. Some writers choose to begin a story with dialogue, but this can sometimes confuse the reader since she doesn’t know the characters yet or how to react to the character’s words. However you choose to open your story, make sure you build tension from the beginning so your reader will stay connected.
- Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Narrative Essays
- Santa Barbara City College: Structure of a Personal Essay Narrative
- Appalachian State University: Creating a Thesis Statement
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