How to Start a Narrative Essay: 16 Awesome Hooks

How to Start a Narrative Essay: 16 Awesome Hooks

So how do you start a narrative essay? There are many strategies you can use, and in this article, we will explore 16 awesome hooks to help you captivate your audience. Whether you are writing a personal story, a thought-provoking essay, or a shocking tale, these hooks will grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading.

One effective way to start a narrative essay is by asking a thought-provoking question. For example, “What if you could go back in time and change one event?” This immediately engages the reader and gets them thinking about the possibilities. Another approach is to introduce a famous quote or a surprising fact related to your topic. This can help establish the importance of your story and create a clear connection between the reader’s world and the one you are about to introduce.

Introduce with a Surprising Fact

Joan Aiken’s Magical Tips for Writing a Narrative Hook:

  1. Engage with a Shocking Statement: Start your narrative by surprising the reader with a shocking statement or a startling fact. This will instantly captivate their attention and make them curious about what will happen next.
  2. Introduce an Unresolved Conflict: Begin your story with an unresolved conflict or an event that leaves the reader wanting to know more. This creates a sense of anticipation and makes them eager to read on.
  3. Set the Scene with Bold Background Description: Paint a vivid picture of the setting that captures the reader’s imagination. Use descriptive language to create a strong visual image and immerse them in the world of your narrative.
  4. Focus on an Internal or External Event Experience: Whether it’s an internal struggle within a character or an external event that they must face, make sure to highlight the significance of this experience. Show how it shapes the character’s journey and adds depth to the narrative.

By following these tips, you can create a narrative hook that not only grabs the reader’s attention but also sets the stage for a satisfying and engaging story. So don’t be afraid to take risks and think outside the box when it comes to crafting your opening lines. Remember, the first few sentences can make all the difference in whether your readers are hooked from the start or not.

Begin with a Vivid Description

For example, Elie Wiesel’s powerful memoir, “Night,” starts with a description that immediately sets the tone for the rest of the story:

“Night. No one has ever known what it meant. The word itself was enough to keep everyone awake. But in my case, it wasn’t simply about the night itself; it was about everything that happened during those long, dark hours.”

In just a few sentences, Wiesel introduces the central conflict of his narrative and gives readers a glimpse into the emotional and physical suffering he experienced. This vivid description not only captures the reader’s attention, but also sets the stage for the powerful story that follows.

When thinking about how to start your own narrative essay, consider using a vivid description to draw readers in. Clearly describe the setting, characters, or action in a way that makes them feel like they are right there, experiencing the story alongside the narrator.

For a personal narrative essay, you may want to use an anecdote or a specific moment from your own life that holds significance. By carefully choosing your words and painting a detailed picture, you can make your readers feel as if they are a part of the story.

Remember to keep the structure of your essay in mind as you introduce your vivid description. While it’s important to hook your readers with a strong opening, make sure your narrative essay also has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Without a satisfying structure, even the most inspiring or thought-provoking descriptions may fall flat.

In academia, narrative essays are often used as a way for students to reflect on their own learning experiences. For example, in Tara Westover’s memoir, “Educated,” she uses vivid descriptions to introduce readers to her isolated upbringing and her journey towards education:

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“I had my mother’s voice in my head. I thought having a baby meant being transferred to another unit. Anne had to explain that the baby was to be placed inside my body, and after a certain time, it would come out, and I would still be on the first unit, but the baby would be on the second.”

This vivid description not only immerses the reader in Westover’s unique background and upbringing, but it also raises questions and introduces a conflict that keeps readers engaged.

Whether you are writing a personal narrative or an academic essay, starting with a vivid description can captivate your readers and make them eager to continue reading. By using descriptive language, strong action verbs, and sensory details, you can create a magical glimpse into your story’s world right from the beginning.

Start with a Quote

When choosing a quote, it is important to select one that is relevant to your topic and will resonate with your readers. For example, Jane Yolen once said, “Stories are like moonlight glimpses from a moonlit door; shining bits of magical places taken from many magical worlds all put together.” This quote captures the essence of the power of stories and the captivating nature of narrative writing.

By starting your essay with a quote, you immediately give the reader a glimpse into what they can expect from your writing. It helps to set the tone for your narrative and gives readers a clear idea of what they will be reading about. It also adds credibility to your work by referencing an established author or expert in the field.

Next, we will discuss several more strategies for starting your narrative essay. Whether you decide to begin with a quote or not, these hooks will help you grab your reader’s attention right from the start.

Begin with an Anecdote

For example, if you were writing a narrative essay on the theme of overcoming adversity, you could begin with an anecdote from your own life where you faced a difficult challenge and emerged stronger as a result. By sharing this personal story, you not only create a sense of authenticity and credibility, but you also give your readers a glimpse into your thought process and the lessons you learned.

Joan Didion, a renowned American writer, often begins her essays with powerful anecdotes that grab the reader’s attention right from the start. In her essay “The Year of Magical Thinking,” she opens with a story about her husband’s sudden death and the deep grief she experienced. This anecdote immediately establishes the emotional tone of the essay and leaves the reader eager to find out more.

However, it’s important to note that anecdotes should be used strategically and sparingly. While they can be a powerful tool for capturing your readers’ attention, overusing anecdotes or relying solely on them can overshadow the rest of your essay. Make sure to balance your use of anecdotes with other types of hooks and structural strategies to create a well-rounded and engaging narrative.

  • Start with a personal story or experience
  • Use anecdotes to introduce your essay’s theme
  • Show your personal connection to the topic
  • Establish the emotional tone of your essay
  • Create a compelling and satisfying reading experience
  • Balance your use of anecdotes with other hook strategies

Tell Your Story

Why is it important?

Telling your story in a narrative essay involves recounting a personal event/experience that has been memorable or impactful to you. By sharing your story, you give the reader a glimpse into your own life and perspective. It allows them to see the world through your eyes and understand the internal and external actions that shaped you.

Not only does telling your story allow the reader to learn more about you, but it also serves a greater purpose. As Joan Didion once wrote, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Sharing your experiences can be a way of affirming your own humanity and connecting with others who may have had similar experiences.

How to tell your story

Here are some tips on how to tell your story effectively:

  1. Choose a theme: Determine the central theme or message of your narrative. This will give your story a clear direction and purpose.
  2. Show, don’t tell: Instead of simply explaining what happened, use vivid descriptions and sensory details to bring your story to life. Show the reader what you saw, heard, and felt in those moments.
  3. Engage the reader: Hook your reader from the start. Use an intriguing opening line or a captivating anecdote to grab their attention and make them want to keep reading.
  4. Structure your narrative: Organize your story by using a logical sequence of events. Use transitions to guide the reader smoothly from one part of the story to another.
  5. Include internal thoughts and reflections: Give the reader insight into your thought process and emotions during the events described in your narrative. This adds depth and dimension to your story.
  6. Be honest and authentic: Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability or share personal struggles. Being open and genuine in your storytelling can make your narrative more relatable and impactful.
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By following these steps and incorporating these features into your narrative, you can create a compelling and memorable story that resonates with your reader.

Set the Scene

One strategy for setting the scene is to use descriptive language to create a sensory experience for your readers. By using vivid and specific details, you can make your readers feel like they are right there with you, experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of your story. For example, instead of saying “It was a sunny day,” you could say “The bright rays of the sun warmed my skin as I walked along the sandy beach.”

Another strategy is to use a shocking or surprising statement to grab your readers’ attention right from the start. This can help to create a sense of intrigue and make them want to know more about your story. For example, you could start with a bold statement like “I never thought I would find myself in such a dangerous situation.”


Elie Wiesel, in his written statement for the Nobel Peace Prize, begins his narrative by describing his experiences during the Holocaust. By setting the scene and introducing the main event from the very beginning, he captures the reader’s attention and sets the tone for the rest of his story.

Joan Didion, in her essay “The Year of Magical Thinking,” starts by describing the moment she learned of her husband’s sudden death. By sharing this personal and shocking event, she immediately draws her readers in and establishes the emotional journey she will be taking them on.

Tara Westover, in her memoir “Educated,” begins with a scene from her childhood, where she and her siblings are racing each other along a moonlit mountain ridge. By painting this vivid and exciting picture, she introduces the theme of freedom and sets the stage for her story of self-discovery and overcoming adversity.

Anne Frank, in her diary, starts by describing her family’s hiding place during World War II. By providing this clear and detailed description, she helps the reader to visualize the environment in which she lived and the challenges she faced.

Jane Austen, in her novel “Pride and Prejudice,” opens with the memorable line “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This famous opening sentence immediately sets the tone for the rest of the story and introduces the central theme of marriage and social status.

By using these strategies to set the scene in your narrative essay, you can ensure that your readers are fully engaged and invested in your story from the very beginning. Whether you choose to begin with a shocking statement, a descriptive scene, or a memorable quote, make sure that it aligns with the overall tone and message of your essay.


How can I make my narrative essay interesting from the very beginning?

You can start your narrative essay with a hook, such as a surprising fact, a quote, or a rhetorical question. This will grab the reader’s attention and make them want to continue reading.

What are some examples of hooks that I can use?

Some examples of hooks that you can use are: a vivid description of a scene, an intriguing statement, a personal anecdote, a shocking statistic, or a thought-provoking question.

Should I start my narrative essay with a description of a memorable event?

Starting your narrative essay with a description of a memorable event is a great way to engage the reader and set the tone for your story. It will make the reader curious to know more and create a strong opening for your essay.

Can I use a real-life event as a hook for my narrative essay?

Absolutely! Using a real-life event as a hook for your narrative essay can make it more relatable and interesting for the reader. It will also give your essay a personal touch and make it stand out.

Is it important to choose a memorable event when starting a narrative essay?

Yes, choosing a memorable event is important when starting a narrative essay because it will capture the reader’s attention and set the stage for your story. A memorable event can be anything that stands out in your life and has had an impact on you.

What is a narrative essay?

A narrative essay is a type of essay that tells a story. It typically follows a chronological order and has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Why is it important to have a strong hook in a narrative essay?

A strong hook is important in a narrative essay because it grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to keep reading. It sets the tone for the rest of the essay and helps to engage the reader from the very beginning.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.