This is the story of my roadtrip from Alaska to Seattle.

Friends, this sentence does not herald the beginning of a personal narrative essay. It is an appropriate beginning to a personal narrative, but we are talking about essays. An essay is a formal writing task with several necessary elements: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

This is not to say that your personal narrative essay should follow the simple five-paragraph structure you learned in 11th or 12th grade Composition. However, there are some important things we need to know before we can write a good personal narrative essay. Let’s break this discussion into the three elements mentioned above.

Even though this is a personal narrative essay, you still need an introduction. Why? Because a personal narrative or experience can be written as a stream of consciousness piece or even a chronological piece. But the personal narrative essay needs to be something that has been thought about. It is in the introduction that you tell your reader what experience you will expound on. You further inform the reader of a theme or idea that you have or want them to extrapolate from this essay. An PN essay can describe a roadtrip from Alaska to Seattle, but it could also treat the theme of solitude, nature or even love of one’s vehicle.

This is the simplest part of the PN essay. Your first goal is to simply tell your story. You can tell it in a chronological order or in some more creative fashion. But as you tell this story, you want to try to refer to the theme or idea you brought up in your introduction. Be sure to express your thoughts and feelings; help the reader get into your mind. If you haven’t delved enough into your thoughts and feelings, do so before you start writing. Make certain that your paragraphs and sentences are tight and controlled.

This is where you finalize your essay, often by sharing a lesson learned or showing a cathartic moment from the experience you have written about. Furthermore, just like a conclusion to an essay on an academic topic, you want to make sure your conclusion ends with a strong statement. Avoid cheesiness and cliche, but be as honest as you can be. “My car may very well be my best and most reliable friend,” is a nice statement because it will leave a lasting impression on your reader.

Remember these keys! Your essays will be more powerful if you do.