Using narrative paragraphs in your essays can grab your reader and make your writing more memorable and engaging. A narrative paragraph tells a short story from beginning to end. It provides insight into the writer's life concerning an incident that made an impact on the writer. In many cases, the emotions and lessons learned will reflect some of the reader's feelings as well. Such a paragraph follows a specific chronological order of events, which all leads up to a conclusion defining the lesson learned.
Choose the Experience
Reflect on a personal experience that taught you an important lesson. You will need to take time to think about how to shape the narrative's beginning. It should begin with a single topic sentence that clearly defines the paragraph's subject. An adjective in the topic sentence will give the underlying emotion surrounding the life-changing moment. For example, this adjective might state that the experience caused you to feel sad, enlightened or determined.
Focus the Message
Compose a topic sentence that shares your desired message. If you can't fit everything you want to say into a single sentence, you can use more than one, as long as your thesis is clear. One way to go about this is to reveal the eye-opening lesson you reflected on while brainstorming.
Engage the Reader
Subsequent sentences should support the adjective you chose to describe your feeling about the incident. Tell the story from the beginning in the order that everything happened. The ideal narrative paragraph will incorporate sensory details—such as sights, sounds and sensations—so that the reader can experience the story.
Create the Journey
After focusing your message and engaging the reader, develop the body of the paragraph in seven or eight sentences. Include a transitional sentence or two that lets the reader know when the perspective of the writer started to change. You might state: "Everything changed the summer my grandfather was admitted to the hospital. Moments with him became more special for me."
Pull at the Reader's Heart
The narrative will seem more personal to the reader if you challenge the reader to respond emotionally to what happened. This can come through dialogue or providing a general thought-provoking question along these lines: "I asked myself, 'How much more time I would have to spend with this man who was so special to me?'"
Reveal the Impact
Allow the closing sentence to emphasize the main idea of the story, letting the reader know how the event changed the writer in some significant way. Maybe she now sees herself or the world or family in a brand new light. For example, a closing sentence might state: "Every time I submitted a children's story to a publisher, I knew my grandfather's deep impression on my life was alive in each story."
Judi Light Hopson is a national columnist for McClatchy Newspapers. She is founder of Hopson Global Education and Training and co-author of the college textbook, Burnout to Balance: EMS Stress. She holds a degree in psychology from East Tennessee State University, and has been a professional writer for 25 years.