Regardless of your writing type, you want the reader to want to finish reading. The best way to do that is to write a compelling beginning to the piece. That is even more essential in narrative writing, where you often relay personal or non-academic information. You want to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to learn more. To do that, you need to craft a fabulous hook and then back up that hook with a promise of what the reader will encounter in your essay.

What is a Hook?

A hook is an opening statement that grabs the reader’s attention. There are a few different ways to craft a compelling hook. Some of the most common are quotes, statistics, anecdotes, and questions. Whatever method you choose, your hook must compel the reader to keep reading and set the tone for the piece. If you are wondering how to begin a narrative essay, a hook is the best answer.

Keys to a Good Hook

For a hook to succeed, it must be compelling, informative, relevant, and suitable. “I was 17 when I killed my first victim” is a compelling hook to begin a personal narrative. However, it is probably not relevant to most people’s life stories. On the other hand, if you started writing thriller novels at that age, it would make a compelling, informative, and relevant hook statement. Whether it would be suitable would depend on the age level of your audience.

A Great Hook Is Compelling

A great hook needs to be compelling. You want the reader to want to finish your article. So, what makes something exciting or engaging? The element of surprise is a great way to keep people reading. What do you have to say that is shocking or surprising about your narrative? If you open with that, it can keep the reader wanting to continue.

A Hook Should Inform the Reader

Your hook should also provide information. The information does not have to be directly related to your narrative. For example, many people use quotations by other people as part of their hook statement. Obviously, you will not explain how you came up with that saying. However, your narrative should explain why your chosen quote relates to your shared information.

Another way to inform the reader is by using statistics. Properly sourced statistics are always informative, making them an excellent way to start a narrative essay. However, remember that being informative is only part of a hook statement. Is the statistic surprising? If not, then it may not be compelling.

“Experts suggest that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime” is a compelling (and depressingly true) informative statement that uses statistics.

“The average woman’s shoe size in the United States is 8.5” is also an accurate statistic, but it is not compelling. There is nothing about that statement that makes the reader want to continue. However, “Since the average woman’s shoe size in the United States is 8.5, you can imagine how difficult it was to find high heels for my size 14 feet” uses that same statistic and lets the reader know that they are in for a story.

So, think about what a hook should do before you choose a statistic. If the statistic is not attention-grabbing on its own, are you contrasting it with other information that is? If not, maybe the statistic is not as great of a hook as you thought it might be.

Hooks Must Be Relevant

There are tons of fascinating and compelling facts out there. You could start your narrative with any one of them and have the reader want to continue reading the essay. However, you must ensure that your hook is relevant to your writing.

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The Hook Should Match the Audience

You want your hook to be suitable. That means you want it to be age-appropriate and aimed at the correct audience. That is an essential piece of advice to keep in mind. Few subjects are not age-appropriate, as long as you correctly talk about them. However, when talking to many audiences, you want to avoid explicit language, frightening statistics, and vulgarity. That said, if you are speaking to an audience of your peers, you do not want to sugarcoat complex facts. Doing so can come across as condescending and is rarely compelling. So, match your hook to your audience. Do not be scared to be shocking; just avoid being scandalous.

Writing a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is an essay that tells a story from your own life. It can be retrospective, telling a story from your past, or prospective, describing plans. You could also write a narrative essay about a hypothetical scenario, describing what you would do or wish you had done instead of what you did. In a narrative essay, you are the narrator, relaying events about your life.

Because a narrative essay is a personal story, many people mistakenly consider it something other than academic writing. However, even though it tells a unique tale, your article must have an academic structure. That means it needs a strong introduction, a conclusion that summarizes the contents, and body paragraphs that logically and cohesively support your conclusion. Perhaps most importantly, it must have an easily identifiable thesis, which you will probably choose to locate at the end of your introductory paragraph.

The most common structure for the narrative essay is the five-paragraph essay. A five-paragraph paper has an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. It is the standard for academic writing. However, depending on your story, you may need fewer or more paragraphs to tell that story. So, you can expand or contract the format unless you are specifically asked to write a five-paragraph essay.

How Do You Start a Narrative Essay With a Hook?

Many people think that since your essay begins with the hook, you should start writing with the hook. However, that is not the case. Before you write your hook, you need to understand the structure and substance of your essay. So, it would help if you did some background work before writing the essay hook.

For a research essay or expository essay, we generally suggest starting with research. For a narrative essay, research plays a secondary role. After all, it would help if you wrote about a topic you know reasonably well. So, you may not be doing research. Even if you choose to research, such as looking up supporting statistics, it will be to fill in missing informational gaps in your essay, not build the piece around those facts. So, you are not going to start with research.

Instead, start with outlining your essay. What story are you going to tell, and how are you going to tell it? Your outline should look something like this:

I.         Introduction

A.      Hook

B.      Support 1

C.      Support 2

D.      Support 3

E.       Thesis Statement

II.       Support 1

A.      Evidence

B.      Evidence

C.      Evidence

III.     Support 2

A.      Evidence

B.      Evidence

C.      Evidence

IV.    Support 3

A.      Evidence

B.      Evidence

C.      Evidence

V.      Conclusion

A.      Restate Thesis

B.      Restate Support 1

C.      Restate Support 2

D.      Restate Support 3

E.       Concluding Sentence

However, the evidence in your body paragraphs will look different than it would in a narrative essay. Instead of three supporting facts to support the main idea of each body paragraph, the body paragraphs may tell a part of the story.

Writing an outline is not necessary for every writer. However, it is an invaluable tool that can help you focus your writing, decide on your purpose, ensure you are writing for your audience, and determine the main points you want to write.

Once you have written your outline, you should be ready to write your thesis. A thesis needs to tell the reader why you are writing your essay. You also want to address the main points that you will address in your body paragraphs.

After you finish your outline and your thesis, you should be ready to write your hook. Your hook will be in the first few sentences of your paragraph. You need to tailor it to your audience, ensure it is relevant, and pair well with your topic sentence.

narrative essay

How to Write a Narrative Essay

Writing a narrative essay is different from expository writing. While you still need to provide the same support and structure for your essay, a narrative lets you be more creative. It is also from a first-person perspective, which is unusual in academic writing.

First, you want to choose your topic. Often,  you will have a specific prompt for narrative writing. For example, many college admission essay prompts ask for narrative essays. If you have a particular prompt, you want to ensure that your narrative is responsive to that prompt. Some students have some great stories and try to use them when asked to write a narrative essay. That is not going to get you the results that you want. So, make sure that you respond to the prompt.

If you get to choose your own topic, think about one that will serve your purpose. Have you ever heard that bad decisions make good stories? In many ways, that is true. However, you probably do not want to highlight your bad choices when writing an essay for college admissions or competing for a scholarship.

Next, you want to write an outline for your narrative. We already covered the outline process above. The great news is that the same outline you use to write your hook will be the skeleton for your essay outline.

Once you finish your outline, you want to begin writing the essay. Many people start with the introduction and write till the end of the paper. However, other people find writing body paragraphs easier than writing the introduction and conclusion. There is no set order for writing your essay, so do it in the way that makes the most sense to you.

Remember while writing that you need to write from the first-person perspective. This is your story. You do not want to depersonalize it by using the third person. Instead, you want to write conversationally. Imagine you are telling this story in person and then translating it into a paper. That may mean using less formal language, slang, and other things you usually avoid in academic writing.

Do not forget the proofreading. You would be surprised how many people turn in academic papers without proofreading. Your word processing program has built-in editing tools. You can also run it through Grammarly. If you struggle with writing and your professor allows it, see if you can have a friend, tutor, or writing coach read through your paper. They can suggest edits to help improve the writing quality.

What is a Good Way to Start a Narrative Essay?

You want to start your narrative essay with an impactful opening statement, also known as a hook. Next, preview the points that you will cover in the paper. Then, conclude your introductory paragraph with your thesis statement.

What Are Good Sentence Starters for Narrative Writing?

Remember that narrative writing is first-person writing. So, do not be afraid to use I and we statements.

What is a Good Hook for a Personal Narrative Essay?

Creating a good hook depends on the content of your essay. Consider some of these approaches when you want to know how to start off a narrative essay.

  • Start with an interesting fact or statistic.
  • Tell a joke.
  • Define a term that is important for your narrative.
  • Ask a question.
  • Use a quote.
  • Go against a commonly held belief.
  • Begin with a relatable anecdote.

Narrative Essay Example

Hooks grab your reader’s attention. We love some of these as hooks to begin an interesting narrative essay:                        

One thing I can say about Amber is that she was a terrible friend but a wonderful lesson.

It was hate at first site.

I heard the shot and closed my eyes, scared to see the bullet coming at me.

I stepped down off the ledge. It was another day I was too scared to jump.

I fell in love with him; then I fell in love with his wife.

I was running for my life, too scared to look back at what was chasing me.

There were fireworks and cartoon hearts above our heads, up until the moment our braces got stuck together. That was when I knew that my first love would mean a little pain.

Want more tips for writing great hooks? Check out our writing tools for writing a narrative essay today!