Prompts for Narrative Writing Easily Explained and 35 Inspiring Starters

Writing prompts are one of the tools that teachers use to get our students moving during writing. I think every teacher has had students who struggle to pick a topic or start writing. Students will sit at their desks looking like they are working hard but they are just doodling the whole time because writing an actual story is scary. 

The Best Prompt for Narrative Writing I Used

In October our students wrote about a Halloween Class Party they were invited to.  This Halloween class party had a strange invitation.  It was at midnight in the haunted graveyard.  Students loved this writing prompt.  It inspired them to write funny and scary Halloween stories.  Some students wrote about getting to the party while others wrote about events at the party.  

Practical Prompts for Narrative Writing

The students were inspired to write creative stories, which is the purpose of a writing prompt.  When students are working on narrative writing our goal should be for them to get creative and imaginative.  That should be the top priority.  If our students can dive into their imaginations and share their ideas through writing they are going to fall in love with writing.  They will find their voice as writers and want to learn more about how to do it better.  It’s a process for our students to become good writers.  

What are Prompts for Narrative Writing?

Prompts for narrative writing are a writing tool meant to inspire our students’ writing.  Writing prompts can provide ideas that unlock creativity that the writer may not have been able to brainstorm on their own.  Prompts for narrative writing can guide you towards any and every type of story, from real life to a fantasy world.

When a writer has a prompt telling them their topic it can be easier to dive into writing.  It’s a story starter.  Instead of a completely blank canvas, the writer has a prompt giving them a basic idea or shape for the story. A lot of writers use writing prompts as an exercise to help them practice writing and stretch their imaginations.  

Writing prompts are a tool for teachers and writers, which challenge writers to write about topics outside of their usual subject matter. Writing prompts help writers tap into their creativity in a different way, which helps them learn and grow.  

More Prompts for Narrative Writing

There are so many lists of prompts for narrative writing.  Here are a few lists top the others.  

April Writing Prompts – Need prompts for a different month?  This teacher has them for you.

50 Writing Prompts For All Grade Levels

365 Creative Writing Prompts

When and Why Should You Use Prompts for Narrative Writing in Your Classroom?

Writing prompts can be used any time, but they can also be overused.  Using writing prompts for every writing assignment can stifle your students’ creativity.  They will certainly have things to write about that are not related to your writing prompts.  Like most things in life, it’s about balance.

Student Growth

Use writing prompts to challenge your students to grow.  It’s easy to slip into a comfortable pattern.  Sometimes we have to get uncomfortable to learn and be creative.  You will have students who will write the same, but slightly varied story for every assignment.  Writing prompts can push them to grow and do more.

Literary Skills

When students read and write they are increasing their literary skills.  Writing prompts can push them towards understanding certain skills in a new way.  Unless we push our students to grow they will avoid the work needed.

Telling Their Story

It’s funny that we live in a society where many people are addicted to telling their stories on social media, but students avoid writing about themselves at school.  When our students learn to tell and take ownership of their own stories their confidence is going to grow.  Lots of writing prompts bring students’ lives into the limelight.  

Develop a Growth Mindset

So many students think they are just no good at writing.  They avoid it and have a low opinion of their writing abilities.  Writing prompts can help students who struggle with writing get writing easily.  The more they write the more they will grow as writers.  As students see their improvements their mindset will start to shift from fixed, “I can’t do this.” to growth, “I wonder what we will write about today.”

Express Their Creativity

Our students start as creative and imaginative young kids.  They have ideas and imaginary worlds that surround them, but as they grow and go through school that creativity gets squashed or faded.  Writing can help or force students to dive back into their creative worlds and show students that we value their creativity.

Even professional writers use writing prompts.  They may be between projects, have writer’s block, or just be looking for inspiration for a new story.  No matter the reason that a writer uses writing prompts they are going to help build the writer’s muscles, creativity, and skills.

There are a few styles of prompts for narrative writing that are common.  Whether you use what others have created or write your own you might decide that one style fits your classroom or students better than others.

What If Prompts for Narrative Writing

What if writing prompts are when your students are asked a question like

  1. What if you woke up as a snowman?
  2. What if you moved to Africa?
  3. What if an alien landed in your backyard?

These types of writing prompts can lead to very imaginative stories.  Students can run wild with these writing prompts because they are so open-ended.  

Sentence Starters or First Sentence Prompts for Narrative Writing

These two styles of writing prompts are similar but slightly different.  Can you guess the difference already?  Let’s take a look.

Sentence Starters

In a sentence starter writing prompt you would give your students the first part of a sentence to complete.  Then your students would continue their story from there.

  1. On Christmas morning…
  2. The last thing I expected on Friday was…
  3. On safari we…

Sentence starters give students the first word of a sentence which can lead to some creative ideas right off the bat.  I’m sure that as you read these you thought of a couple of ways you could complete them.  That’s exactly what a sentence starter will do.

Your students will all have the same start to their writing which is okay because the stories will still be vastly different.  However, your students won’t be working on a good hook, unless you teach that skill after the first draft.

First Sentence

In the first sentence prompts you will give your students the first sentence of their writing.  This sentence will provide more structure for their story.  When you provide the whole first sentence you will be influencing their story more by giving it more shape.  Let’s look at the examples above if we transform them into first sentences.

  1. On Christmas morning we woke up to no presents under the tree.
  2. The last thing I expected on Friday was a monkey loose in the school.
  3. On safari, our jeep broke down near the watering hole and we would be stuck in the wild all night.

Clearly, these writing prompts give great shape to the story.  This means your students’ writing will have greater similarities.  It’s okay to have a class of papers that are similar if your students need a more structured prompt to help get them writing.   If your students need more help developing a creative story giving them the first sentence could be a great option.

Are Sentences Starters or First Sentence Right For Your Classroom?

These two types of writing prompts are incredibly similar.  I took my first examples of sentence starters and transformed them into the first sentence.  This is a great way you can differentiate for your students.  You can give most of the class the sentence starter and then provide the first sentence to your students who need it.  It’s so simple.  

Often students who have modifications or accommodations to their work feel self-conscious, but this is a great way to differentiate less noticeably.

Personal or Real-Life Prompts for Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is the type of writing we want our students to learn, and personal narrative is a subcategory of narratives.  You can read all about the types of writing in my blog Remarkable Little Guide to the 4 Different Types of Writing. Narratives include all types of stories that students write.  When students are learning narrative writing they can write any genre that tells a story.

Teachers like to teach personal narratives because it is a little bit easier.  When our students write a personal narrative they already have the characters, setting, and sequence of events ready to write.  It’s a great strategy to use personal narratives when teachers are first teaching narratives.

Here are a few examples of personal narrative prompts.

Write about a time you went on a big trip.

What was the best part of your summer vacation?

What was the best day of school you ever had?

Write about a time you got hurt.

But don’t get stuck in personal narratives all year.  Once your students know more about narrative writing make sure you have them practice other forms of narrative writing. Let them get creative with their characters, setting, and sequence of events.

Challenge the Writer Prompts for Narrative Writing

Some writing prompts can challenge the writer, which is one of the purposes of writing prompts for narrative writing. These prompts can be a little bit harder to find online and you may have to create your own.

Write From a Different Perspective

When students write from a different perspective they can write from the point of view of another character.  Imagine a story they would normally tell from the protagonist’s point of view and if they switched it to the best friend or antagonist.

  1. Write about your last sleepover from your friend’s point of view.
  2. Write about getting a new puppy from the puppy’s perspective.
  3. Write about the last time you got in trouble from your parents’ point of view.

You could also challenge them to write in specifically third person or first person.  Try to pick the opposite of what they would normally do.  If it is a personal narrative they could write in the third person, which is extra challenging.

  1. Write about your last sleepover in the third person (He, She, They, Them.  Not I, We, Me)
  2. Write about an astronaut going to the moon as if you were the astronaut.
  3. Write about the day in the life of a police officer as if you were the police officer.

Write a Different Type of Narrative Writing

There are 5 types of narrative writing, well 6 depending on who you ask.  Challenging your students to write one of the different types of narrative writing could bring out a whole lot of creativity.  For some of the different types of narrative writing, the type itself could be the writing prompt, and for others, you might need to prompt further.

Different Types of Narratives
  1. Descriptive 

Descriptive narratives do exactly what they say, describe.  Descriptive narratives have two main focuses: tone and mood, and setting. Instead of having our students try to incorporate descriptive

  1. Historical

Historical narratives show how events link together through cause and effect.  It’s a clear sequence of past events that helps the reader see the cause-and-effect process that defines historical narratives.  You can think of it as a chain reaction.  

  1. Quest

A quest narrative is when the protagonist works tirelessly towards their goal or all-consuming passion.  As the protagonist works towards their goal they will face many trials and obstacles online the way. 

  1. Viewpoint

A viewpoint narrative is when the story is filtered through the main character or other characters’ point of view.  Every person or fully developed character has unique experiences and life events that shape what they think and feel about what’s currently happening in their lives.  This means that what the reader readers is not necessarily the full story or accurate.

  1. Linear

A linear narrative moves in a straight line.  The reader hears about each event in the order that it happens.  This is how our students usually write their narratives.

  1. Non-Linear

A non-linear narrative is not a straight line.  The events of a story are told out of order on purpose. 

These different types of narrative writing can inspire so many writing prompts.  Take them into consideration as a challenge for your students.

Social-Emotional Prompts for Narrative Writing

Writing is a great way for our students to think, explore and learn about the social-emotional parts of life.  Characters constantly go through social-emotional changes and challenges.  

Students can also write about the social-emotional challenges they are facing daily.  Writing about their thoughts and feelings can help them process life events that are wonderful and challenging.  

Personal growth can come from hearing about the challenging and good moments other people face.  It can also come from writing about their own.  It’s a great way to extend learning beyond academics.

Write about a time you were scared.

Write about a time you were angry.

Write about a time you were excited.

Write about a time you made a mistake.

Write about a time you were shy.

Write about a time you cried.

Tips for Brainstorming vs Prompts for Narrative Writing 

Brainstorming and writing prompts can both help students become more creative writers.  They are both valid starting points for writing assignments.  However, it’s important to start writing from both methods.  Students deserve the opportunity to create their writing from the ground up.  I recommend a balanced approach in your classroom.  Include assignments that start from both methods.

Prompts for Narrative Writing

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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

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