How to Begin a Personal Narrative for your PA School Application

The introduction can make or break an otherwise well written personal narrative.  It sets the tone of your narrative but also serves the purpose of establishing themes that may persist throughout your narrative.  It also plays a large part in establishing your tone and conveying your distinct voice to the reader.

If you have great content for your narrative but find that it’s hard to lead into it or connect it all together, there are a few techniques you can use to create a stellar introduction.  It’s not necessary to use these techniques if you find that your narrative is strong, reads well, and does a good job of communicating your voice and purpose to the reader, but they can act as a placeholder or even help you find a way to tie your narrative together if it feels disjointed.

Here are just a few ways you can begin your personal PA narrative:

Lead off with an anecdote
Anecdotes tell a short story that reveals something about you through a personal experience.  They’re a great way to start off your narrative, but they have to be interesting and properly set the scene to be effective.  If you want to use an anecdote as your introduction, make sure it’s truthful but compelling.  Think about it this way- if you were reading this paper would it hold your interest?

Here’s a great example of an anecdote-based introduction:

“I would have never guessed that today would be the day.  He was pale as a ghost and sweating profusely as we walked into the emergency room. It was a day I would never forget.”

This has everything! Its compelling, includes a distinctive voice, a basic plot, a bit of characterization, and a clear setting. If you were reading this paper, you’d want to continue reading on so you could get more detail, which is exactly how an anecdote should function.

Start with a quote
For one reason or another, the words of other people tend to draw a reader into a story.  Even if it’s not a famous quote, including a quote from a friend, teacher, or family member can be a highly effective way to capture a reader’s attention right off the bat.

The best way to use a quote is to pick one that resonates with you and reveals something about you. Once you have your quote, figure out how to build the importance of the quote into your personal narrative.  If you can clearly show how this quote relates to you as an individual and your experience, you’ll have a great way to connect all of the sections of your narrative with a common theme.  Just remember, your narrative should be real, so if you can’t affectively relate your quote to the rest of your paper, don’t use it!

Hit them with the facts
Stating a fact can be a surprisingly effective way to start your narrative.  Facts can be used in a variety of ways, from creating contradiction or irony to setting up a humorous tone for your narrative.  No matter how you use your fact, it’ll compel the reader to continue reading so they can figure out why you included a specific fact and how it ties into the rest of your experiences.

These three techniques are powerful tools, whether you have the bulk of your paper and need a great way to begin or you’re looking for a way to tie the pieces of your paper together. If you’re stuck, try all three options to see which one feels the most comfortable for your writing style.