Although narrative essays tell a story, the events of the story on their own aren’t enough to compose a narrative essay. All narrative essays should have a point, a point that is often best communicated in a thesis sentence. The Santa Barbara City College Writing Center advises students to set the scene and provide a “hook” to get the reader’s attention. Depending on the type of narrative you’re sharing with the reader, the thesis sentence could offer a lesson learned, identify a theme or simply start the story with the first event.
1. Scene Setting
Set the scene for readers by letting them know relevant details of the who, what, where and where of your essay. For example, if you are assigned to write a narrative about a physical challenge, an effective thesis sentence would look at your personal reason for sharing the essay’s story. Looking at what is unique about the story you tell in your essay is a crucial part of setting the scene. An opener might be, “My father teaching me how to swim the summer I turned 8 made me appreciate my dad’s patience and willingness to spend time with me.”
2. The Hook
The best “hook” for readers is appropriate to the story you are sharing in your narrative essay. An honest “hook” is always as effective as a thesis sentence. One way to start an essay is with a related quote that engages the reader or makes them laugh in some way. Relating to the father-son bicycle story, a potential quote hook could be the Desmond Tutu quote, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.”
Include the underlying essay theme in your thesis sentence. For example, if you are writing a narrative about a great one-day trip you took with friends, the thesis could be, “Spending time with close friends gives memories that can last forever, even if the trip is just one day.” Condense the main idea(s) of your narrative into a few sentences that support your theme.
4. Lessons Learned
Many narrative essay assignments ask students to write the story of an experience where they learned a valuable lesson. The thesis sentence for these types of narratives should include the lesson or moral of the story. For example, a thesis for an essay about how you responded to peer pressure could be, “I learned that I shouldn’t do whatever my friends wanted me to do the night I got caught driving without a license.”