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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the widespread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.
What is a narrative essay?
When writing a narrative essay, one might think of it as telling a story. These essays are often anecdotal, experiential, and personal—allowing students to express themselves in a creative and, quite often, moving ways.
Here are some guidelines for writing a narrative essay.
- If written as a story, the essay should include all the parts of a story.
This means that you must include an introduction, plot, characters, setting, climax, and conclusion.
- When would a narrative essay not be written as a story?
A good example of this is when an instructor asks a student to write a book report. Obviously, this would not necessarily follow the pattern of a story and would focus on providing an informative narrative for the reader.
- The essay should have a purpose.
Make a point! Think of this as the thesis of your story. If there is no point to what you are narrating, why narrate it at all?
- The essay should be written from a clear point of view.
It is quite common for narrative essays to be written from the standpoint of the author; however, this is not the sole perspective to be considered. Creativity in narrative essays oftentimes manifests itself in the form of authorial perspective.
- Use clear and concise language throughout the essay.
Much like the descriptive essay, narrative essays are effective when the language is carefully, particularly, and artfully chosen. Use specific language to evoke specific emotions and senses in the reader.
- The use of the first person pronoun ‘I’ is welcomed.
Do not abuse this guideline! Though it is welcomed it is not necessary—nor should it be overused for lack of clearer diction.
- As always, be organized!
Have a clear introduction that sets the tone for the remainder of the essay. Do not leave the reader guessing about the purpose of your narrative. Remember, you are in control of the essay, so guide it where you desire (just make sure your audience can follow your lead).
Detailed Guide on How to Write a Narrative Essay with Tips
Defining What Is a Narrative Essay
We can explain a narrative essay definition as a piece of writing that tells a story. It's like a window into someone's life or a page torn from a diary. Similarly to a descriptive essay, a narrative essay tells a story, rather than make a claim and use evidence. It can be about anything – a personal experience, a childhood memory, a moment of triumph or defeat – as long as it's told in a way that captures the reader's imagination.
You might ask - 'which sentence most likely comes from a narrative essay?'. Let's take this for example: 'I could hear the waves crashing against the shore, their rhythm a soothing lullaby that carried me off to sleep.' You could even use such an opening for your essay when wondering how to start a narrative essay.
To further define a narrative essay, consider it storytelling with a purpose. The purpose of a narrative essay is not just to entertain but also to convey a message or lesson in first person. It's a way to share your experiences and insights with others and connect with your audience. Whether you're writing about your first love, a harrowing adventure, or a life-changing moment, your goal is to take the reader on a journey that will leave them feeling moved, inspired, or enlightened.
So if you're looking for a way to express yourself creatively and connect with others through your writing, try your hand at a narrative essay. Who knows – you might just discover a hidden talent for storytelling that you never knew you had!
Meanwhile, let's delve into the article to better understand this type of paper through our narrative essay examples, topic ideas, and tips on constructing a perfect essay.
Types of Narrative Essays
If you were wondering, 'what is a personal narrative essay?', know that narrative essays come in different forms, each with a unique structure and purpose. Regardless of the type of narrative essay, each aims to transport the reader to a different time and place and to create an emotional connection between the reader and the author's experiences. So, let's discuss each type in more detail:
- A personal narrative essay is based on one's unique experience or event. Personal narrative essay examples include a story about overcoming a fear or obstacle or reflecting on a particularly meaningful moment in one's life.
- A fictional narrative is a made-up story that still follows the basic elements of storytelling. Fictional narratives can take many forms, from science fiction to romance to historical fiction.
- A memoir is similar to personal narratives but focuses on a specific period or theme in a person's life. Memoirs might be centered around a particular relationship, a struggle with addiction, or a cultural identity. If you wish to describe your life in greater depth, you might look at how to write an autobiography .
- A literacy narrative essay explores the writer's experiences with literacy and how it has influenced their life. The essay typically tells a personal story about a significant moment or series of moments that impacted the writer's relationship with reading, writing, or communication.
You might also be interested in discovering 'HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY'
Pros and Cons of Narrative Writing
Writing a narrative essay can be a powerful tool for self-expression and creative storytelling, but like any form of writing, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Let's explore the pros and cons of narrative writing in more detail, helping you to decide whether it's the right writing style for your needs.
- It can be a powerful way to convey personal experiences and emotions.
- Allows for creative expression and unique voice
- Engages the reader through storytelling and vivid details
- It can be used to teach a lesson or convey a message.
- Offers an opportunity for self-reflection and growth
- It can be challenging to balance personal storytelling with the needs of the reader
- It may not be as effective for conveying factual information or arguments
- It may require vulnerability and sharing personal details that some writers may find uncomfortable
- It can be subjective, as the reader's interpretation of the narrative may vary
If sharing your personal stories is not your cup of tea, you can buy essays online from our expert writers, who will customize the paper to your particular writing style and tone.
20 Excellent Narrative Essay Topics and How to Choose One
Choosing a good topic among many narrative essay ideas can be challenging, but some tips can help you make the right choice. Here are some original and helpful tips on how to choose a good narrative essay topic:
- Consider your own experiences: One of the best sources of inspiration for a narrative essay is your own life experiences. Consider moments that have had a significant impact on you, whether they are positive or negative. For example, you could write about a memorable trip or a challenging experience you overcame.
- Choose a topic relevant to your audience: Consider your audience and their interests when choosing a narrative essay topic. If you're writing for a class, consider what topics might be relevant to the course material. If you're writing for a broader audience, consider what topics might be interesting or informative to them.
- Find inspiration in literature: Literature can be a great source of inspiration for a narrative essay. Consider the books or stories that have had an impact on you, and think about how you can incorporate elements of them into your own narrative. For example, you could start by using a title for narrative essay inspired by the themes of a favorite novel or short story.
- Focus on a specific moment or event: Most narrative essays tell a story, so it's important to focus on a specific moment or event. For example, you could write a short narrative essay about a conversation you had with a friend or a moment of realization while traveling.
- Experiment with different perspectives: Consider writing from different perspectives to add depth and complexity to your narrative. For example, you could write about the same event from multiple perspectives or explore the thoughts and feelings of a secondary character.
- Use writing prompts: Writing prompts can be a great source of inspiration if you struggle to develop a topic. Consider using a prompt related to a specific theme, such as love, loss, or growth.
- Choose a topic with rich sensory details: A good narrative essay should engage the senses and create a vivid picture in the reader's mind. Choose a topic with rich sensory details that you can use to create a vivid description. For example, you could write about a bustling city's sights, sounds, and smells.
- Choose a topic meaningful to you: Ultimately, the best narrative essays are meaningful to the writer. Choose a topic that resonates with you and that you feel passionate about. For example, you could write about a personal goal you achieved or a struggle you overcame.
Here are some good narrative essay topics for inspiration from our custom writing experts:
- A life-changing event that altered your perspective on the world
- The story of a personal accomplishment or achievement
- An experience that tested your resilience and strength
- A time when you faced a difficult decision and how you handled it
- A childhood memory that still holds meaning for you
- The impact of a significant person in your life
- A travel experience that taught you something new
- A story about a mistake or failure that ultimately led to growth and learning
- The first day of a new job or school
- The story of a family tradition or ritual that is meaningful to you
- A time when you had to confront a fear or phobia
- A memorable concert or music festival experience
- An experience that taught you the importance of communication or listening
- A story about a time when you had to stand up for what you believed in
- A time when you had to persevere through a challenging task or project
- A story about a significant cultural or societal event that impacted your life
- The impact of a book, movie, or other work of art on your life
- A time when you had to let go of something or someone important to you
- A memorable encounter with a stranger that left an impression on you
- The story of a personal hobby or interest that has enriched your life
Narrative Format and Structure
The narrative essay format and structure are essential elements of any good story. A well-structured narrative can engage readers, evoke emotions, and create lasting memories. Whether you're writing a personal essay or a work of fiction, the following guidelines on how to write a narrative essay can help you create a compelling paper:
- Introduction : The introduction sets the scene for your story and introduces your main characters and setting. It should also provide a hook to capture your reader's attention and make them want to keep reading. When unsure how to begin a narrative essay, describe the setting vividly or an intriguing question that draws the reader in.
- Plot : The plot is the sequence of events that make up your story. It should have a clear beginning, middle, and end, with each part building on the previous one. The plot should also have a clear conflict or problem the protagonist must overcome.
- Characters : Characters are the people who drive the story. They should be well-developed and have distinct personalities and motivations. The protagonist should have a clear goal or desire, and the antagonist should provide a challenge or obstacle to overcome.
- Setting : The setting is the time and place the story takes place. It should be well-described and help to create a mood or atmosphere that supports the story's themes.
- Dialogue : Dialogue is the conversation between characters. It should be realistic and help to reveal the characters' personalities and motivations. It can also help to move the plot forward.
- Climax : The climax is the highest tension or conflict point in the story. It should be the turning point that leads to resolving the conflict.
- Resolution : The resolution is the end of the story. It should provide a satisfying conclusion to the conflict and tie up any loose ends.
Following these guidelines, you can create a narrative essay structure that engages readers and leaves a lasting impression. Remember, a well-structured story can take readers on a journey and make them feel part of the action.
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Narrative Essay Outline
Here is a detailed narrative essay outline from our custom term paper writing :
A. Hook: Start with an attention-grabbing statement, question, or anecdote that introduces the topic and draws the reader in. Example: 'The sun beat down on my skin as I stepped onto the stage, my heart pounding with nervous excitement.'
B. Background information: Provide context for the story, such as the setting or the characters involved. Example: 'I had been preparing for this moment for weeks, rehearsing my lines and perfecting my performance for the school play.'
C. Thesis statement: State the essay's main point and preview the events to come. Example: 'This experience taught me that taking risks and stepping outside my comfort zone can lead to unexpected rewards and personal growth.'
A. First event: Describe the first event in the story, including details about the setting, characters, and actions. Example: 'As I delivered my first lines on stage, I felt a rush of adrenaline and a sense of pride in my hard work paying off.'
B. Second event: Describe the second event in the story, including how it builds on the first event and moves the story forward. Example: 'As the play progressed, I became more comfortable in my role and connecting with the other actors on stage.'
C. Turning point: Describe the turning point in the story, when something unexpected or significant changes the course of events. Example: 'In the final act, my character faced a difficult decision that required me to improvise and trust my instincts.'
D. Climax: Describe the story's climax, the highest tension or conflict point. Example: 'As the play reached its climax, I delivered my final lines with confidence and emotion, feeling a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.'
A. Restate thesis: Summarize the essay's main point and how the events in the story support it. Example: 'Through this experience, I learned that taking risks and pushing past my comfort zone can lead to personal growth and unexpected rewards.'
B. Reflection: Reflect on the significance of the experience and what you learned from it. Example: 'Looking back, I realize that this experience not only taught me about acting and performance but also about the power of perseverance and self-belief.'
C. Call to action: if you're still wondering how to write an essay conclusion , consider ending it with a call to action or final thought that leaves the reader with something to consider or act on. Example: 'I encourage everyone to take risks and embrace new challenges because you never know what kind of amazing experiences and growth they may lead to.
You might also be interested in getting detailed info on 'HOW TO WRITE AN ESSAY CONCLUSION'
Narrative Essay Examples
Are you looking for inspiration for your next narrative essay? Look no further than our narrative essay example. Through vivid storytelling and personal reflections, this essay takes the reader on a journey of discovery and leaves them with a powerful lesson about the importance of compassion and empathy. Use this sample from our expert essay writer as a guide for crafting your own narrative essay, and let your unique voice and experiences shine through.
Narrative Essay Example for College
College professors search for the following qualities in their students:
- the ability to adapt to different situations,
- the ability to solve problems creatively,
- and the ability to learn from mistakes.
Your work must demonstrate these qualities, regardless of whether your narrative paper is a college application essay or a class assignment. Additionally, you want to demonstrate your character and creativity. Describe a situation where you have encountered a problem, tell the story of how you came up with a unique approach to solving it, and connect it to your field of interest. The narrative can be exciting and informative if you present it in such fashion.
Narrative Essay Example for High School
High school is all about showing that you can make mature choices. You accept the consequences of your actions and retrieve valuable life lessons. Think of an event in which you believe your actions were exemplary and made an adult choice. A personal narrative essay example will showcase the best of your abilities. Finally, use other sources to help you get the best results possible. Try searching for a sample narrative essay to see how others have approached it.
So now that you know what is a narrative essay you might want to produce high-quality paper. For that let our team of experienced writers help. Our research paper writing service offers a range of professional writing services that cater to your unique needs and requirements, from narrative essays to research papers, also offering dissertation help and more.
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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application
What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?
How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Start early. Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
- Keep the focus narrow. Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
- Be yourself. Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
- Be creative. “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
- Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.
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We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.
What exactly goes into writing a great college essay, and more importantly, what does it take to write one that stands out from thousands of others, landing itself in the “Accept” vs. “Reject” pile?
Breaking Down the College Essay
Let’s start by breaking it down into manageable parts and examining the required elements.
What’s the point of the college essay?
Almost every standard college application requires first-year applicants to submit a personal essay. If you are one of these applicants, you may be wondering, what’s the point?
With so many colleges deciding to go test-optional, (many do not require standardized tests and instead focus solely on your transcripts, essay, and recommendations), the essay is the one place in your application where you can illuminate your character in words and ideas, rather than in numbers and percentages. It is your chance to show schools who you are, what makes you tick, and why you stand out from the crowd.
Admissions counselors will read your essay and try to determine whether or not they want you at their school. While reading, they will be asking themselves, “What will this person bring to our community? Will they make our school a more valuable place?”
What are the prompts?
There are seven personal essay prompts in the Common Application. You may choose to write about obstacles you’ve encountered, your accomplishments and realizations, moments when you experienced extreme gratitude, or select your own topic.
No one prompt is considered “better” than another, but they can vary slightly from year to year, so be sure to read through all of them for your application cycle. At the end of the day, if there is something you feel really passionate about, you can likely adapt it to fit a prompt.
How long should your essay be?
The essay should be 650 words, which might sound like a lot at first, but you will be surprised by how quickly you reach that limit once you get going. Most of the students I work with end up making cuts to shorten their essays before submitting. The word limit is non-negotiable. You will not be able to submit an essay that’s even one word over the limit.
Writing the College Essay
Your parents, teachers, and guidance counselors know what they are talking about when they tell you to get started on the essay during the summer before your senior year. Don’t leave it until the last minute. Once senior year starts, life is a whirlwind. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay. Aim to start in July or August before senior year.
Starting can be as easy as creating a document where you generate an ongoing list of potential topics. You will want to draft your essay in a separate document anyway. You can copy and paste it over into the Common Application once you have a final, edited version.
Additionally, starting doesn’t always mean sitting down in front of a computer and typing. Talk about topic ideas out loud with anyone who will listen. Discuss ideas for topics with your family members over dinner or on car rides with friends. Think about ideas when you are out for a run or bike ride. Almost all colleges and universities have samples of “College Essays That Worked” in the admissions section of their websites. Reading through these may inspire you.
Keep the focus narrow.
Do not think too big. Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
That leads to another suggestion: Don’t write about Covid-19. Your essay might touch on something that’s an offshoot of your time spent in quarantine or a loss connected to Covid, but it should not be about the pandemic specifically. There’s no question Covid-19 had, and still has, a major impact on all of us, but that topic has been written about by many students from every angle possible. Colleges want to read something different.
The Common Application has added an optional question that gives all applicants a place to address the impact that Covid has had on them personally and educationally. If you feel you have a story you must tell connected to the pandemic, this is the place to share it.
So, what should you write about?
When brainstorming topics, think about challenges you have faced and how you’ve handled them. You can also ask people who know you best how they would describe you in a few words and why. Their responses can be great jumping off points for writing your essay.
Some students choose to write about seemingly small, ordinary topics that illuminate their character beautifully, and are both poignant and thought-provoking. One student I worked with wrote about growing up hiking with her parents from the time when she was a baby in a backpack carrier, to a grumpy middle schooler, to an appreciative, nature-loving young adult who found outdoor experiences were an essential part of who she was at her core.
Other students choose to describe major life events, or especially challenging experiences that have impacted them deeply. An essay that comes to mind is one written by a student who battled loneliness and isolation due to anxiety and depression, and ultimately found invaluable reprieve in the arts, a passion that they hoped to continue to pursue at the college level.
Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, be sure the essay rises above a strict recounting of a story. Instead, use the narrative to reveal your true self. It’s okay to be vulnerable and honest; in fact, it’s critical you do so. Admissions counselors will not judge you negatively for depicting moments of weakness or fear, or for having different politics than they might. More likely, they will be impressed by your level of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and introspection.
Admissions counselors want value-adders. What adds value to a college campus? Students who display energy, resilience, leadership, passion, inclusivity, unique outlooks, and people who can inspire others. Your essay should tell a story that highlights traits like these. No one else has lived your life or experienced what you have in the way that you have; tell your unique story. Use a voice that’s real to you.
This is not the time to experiment with overly formal academic nor romantic, flowery language. Use words you would normally use and show the reader what makes you, you. There is no need to over-inflate things. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
The college essay is not like a typical English paper. It’s a true blend of the creative and the literary. In creative writing classes you often hear the advice, “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece. Describe sights, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and sounds as you write.
That said, just because you are being creative does not mean your essay should lack structure. This is not the time to experiment with a completely outlandish form. You don’t want to make your readers work to understand what you are trying to say. You want them to be entirely absorbed in the story you are telling. The easiest way to do this is by making your essay easy to read.
Think of the typical five paragraph structure for English papers. Your essay should have an introductory paragraph with a thesis/hook, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion that ties everything together. Your story might lend itself to six or seven paragraphs instead of five, depending on where the natural narrative breaks lie, and that’s fine. Just make sure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Your essay should not have any spelling, formatting, or grammatical errors. Mistakes do not put your best foot forward to admissions counselors, and they are distracting.
Be sure to read, re-read, and share your submission with others to prevent the possibility of mistakes. Use tools like spell and grammar check, and ask at least two other people to read your essay and offer feedback. You can ask a trusted family member to take a look, or even reach out to a friend with exceptionally good writing skills. We often get so close to our own words that we miss obvious errors. Even the best writers in the world rely on editors to help catch mistakes.
Another option is to ask your English teacher or guidance counselor to review your essay. In some schools, students will work on the college essay in English class during the fall of their senior year. This gives them a chance to receive both teacher and peer feedback, which can be incredibly valuable.
Finally, read your essay aloud before hitting submit. It may feel silly, but you will be amazed at the errors you will catch this way.
Make a point.
By the time you reach your conclusion, be sure your essay makes some sort of point. This is what will separate it from the competition. Ask yourself what you want your reader to walk away thinking and knowing about you, and allude to that in your final sentences. A strong conclusion that helps tie the entire essay together, and also points to the bigger picture, is key.
To achieve this, as you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had. Above all, remember that the conclusion should not be an afterthought, nor should it simply summarize the previous few paragraphs.
In many ways, the conclusion is the most important part of your essay as it’s the last thing people will read. Be sure to give it the time, effort, and energy it deserves. You want your readers to pause and reflect at the end of your essay. You want them to feel something, versus just moving on to the next essay on their list.
While some students are able to afford pricey college counselors to help guide them through the application process, at the end of the day, there is no magic formula that someone can pay thousands of dollars for when it comes to writing the college essay. Everyone has a unique story to tell and that is priceless. As long as you give yourself the time to brainstorm, and write and then rewrite, as well as ask for feedback from others along the way, you can end up with a solid final product.
One lesson you will learn at college is that the world is full of a wide array of brilliant, interesting, diverse individuals who all have unique life experiences. You are one of those people. Enjoy the process of telling your story, and then relish the opportunity you will have to create more stories as you move onto the next chapter of your life.
- AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business, All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including Pine Row Press , Months to Years, and Atlanta Review .
How to Start a Narrative Essay for College
Of all the writing you will do in the course of your education, most students will find that narrative essay writing is the most enjoyable. Not that it does not demand attention, critical thinking, and proper planning, but because it only takes your knowledge, understanding and (sometimes experience) about the topic.
Although the definition of a narrative essay may depend on the rules of each school and professor’s instructions, the main focus is telling a story in which you share personal, inspirational, and informative content. Therefore, you should take time to develop an effective structure, come up with a suspenseful plot, and employ grammar rules. It’s not always easy to wrap your mind around all the rules of essay writing, so if you really get stuck, many students explore an essay writing service to help them navigate the finer nuances of writing.
So, why is it critical to know how to start an essay? The right answer for this is dependent on a number of factors, such as the writer’s objective and the writing instructions at hand. The most important reason is the way you start a narrative determined by how many readers would read your story. If you start off with the incorrect approach, and many of those readers will abandon your essay by the time they read the introduction, and the rest might not even bother to complete it. Knowing how to start a narrative essay ensures that your readers are engaged to the end. Without spending much time on this, let us dive into the steps needed to start a narrative essay.
Step 1- Select a topic
The topic of your narrative essay should, in most cases, be provided for by the prompt or question from the professor. If not, review the instructions so that you can develop the most satisfying topic for your essay. Once the topic is clear, go to the next stage.
Step 2- Chose one single event to narrate about
A narrative essay must have a key event, which you want the readers to know about. For this reason, you must decide on the key event, which you will focus on to express your thoughts and the point of view regarding the occurrence. The event should be meaningful, leaving others that are not relevant to the topic outside the picture. For this reason, it should demonstrate understand and linkage to the prompt or writing instructions.
Step-3 Prepare a draft
A draft is an important tool when it comes to planning for your essay and organizing thoughts as they come to your mind. Essentially, a draft is an outline with your key ideas, and information about the characters, settings, and plot. It will not only help preserve these key ideas but also guide your research. The following elements of a narrative must be included on the draft for proper planning;
- The climax of the story
Let us look at these elements briefly to help understand how you should approach each.
- Introduction – Your introduction should be developed from a general idea about the topic before narrowing it down to a specific issue. Two key aspects of a great introduction are the hook and the thesis statement. An interesting start that adequately grabs readers’ attention involves a hook. Usually, a hook refers to an interesting statement that you begin your introduction with to convince readers that your story is worth your time. In most cases, items used as hooks include quotes, anecdotes, a shocking or emotive statement, or an extract from literature. Find one of these items that work well with the topic of the essay, and you are good to go. A thesis statement stands as your position key argument that you will be developing in the paper. As such, it requires attention and critical thinking to ensure that it is well served in other parts of the paper.
- Plot – A plot lets leaders know about the characters, setting, the key event, and the cooling point. Map your plot by first developing characters, settings, and then the key events. Such mapping should ensure that everything in the story climaxes well before cooling off. That way, your readers will remain engaged in reading and excited about the story. Settings. Describe the locations in which the events are occurring and the time when they occur in detail. Setting arrangements should make sense to the readers. Therefore, focus on developing the story chronologically. At this point, only a few descriptors are necessary. The rest will come later in the bulk of the writing.
- Characters – Even when the story is about you, you’ll still need to develop the best character of yourself. Introduce yourself (if it is a personal narrative) or the main characters — the villain and the hero, in a way that you will remember to describe them in the story. Finally, reveal details about the characters such as interests, education, or desires to place them well in the story. Conclusion. Finally, plan your exit in a way that leaves readers feeling some kind of emotion following the event in the story. The conclusion should reveal some changes among characters or the reader’s understanding of the topic.
Step 4- Organize
Organize your elements according to how they will appear in the paper. Arguments and key information you chose to put in the story should also follow a logical organization. As you organize, consider the following;
- Make sure your point of view is clear
- There are adequate supporting facts
- That you do not provide unnecessary details
- All arguments and descriptions are clear.
In conclusion, if you can follow some of these key points, starting a narrative should be relatively easy and enjoyable. Find a great hook and a thesis statement, and remember that using your initial draft will make things much easier. Such a draft should contain the key parts of your essay. Finally, ensure arguments are clear—including the thesis statement.
For more great college essay writing tips , check out the other blogs on College Basics .
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A narrative essay is one of the most intimidating assignments you can be handed at any level of your education. Where you've previously written argumentative essays that make a point or analytic essays that dissect meaning, a narrative essay asks you to write what is effectively a story .
But unlike a simple work of creative fiction, your narrative essay must have a clear and concrete motif —a recurring theme or idea that you’ll explore throughout. Narrative essays are less rigid, more creative in expression, and therefore pretty different from most other essays you’ll be writing.
But not to fear—in this article, we’ll be covering what a narrative essay is, how to write a good one, and also analyzing some personal narrative essay examples to show you what a great one looks like.
What Is a Narrative Essay?
At first glance, a narrative essay might sound like you’re just writing a story. Like the stories you're used to reading, a narrative essay is generally (but not always) chronological, following a clear throughline from beginning to end. Even if the story jumps around in time, all the details will come back to one specific theme, demonstrated through your choice in motifs.
Unlike many creative stories, however, your narrative essay should be based in fact. That doesn’t mean that every detail needs to be pure and untainted by imagination, but rather that you shouldn’t wholly invent the events of your narrative essay. There’s nothing wrong with inventing a person’s words if you can’t remember them exactly, but you shouldn’t say they said something they weren’t even close to saying.
Another big difference between narrative essays and creative fiction—as well as other kinds of essays—is that narrative essays are based on motifs. A motif is a dominant idea or theme, one that you establish before writing the essay. As you’re crafting the narrative, it’ll feed back into your motif to create a comprehensive picture of whatever that motif is.
For example, say you want to write a narrative essay about how your first day in high school helped you establish your identity. You might discuss events like trying to figure out where to sit in the cafeteria, having to describe yourself in five words as an icebreaker in your math class, or being unsure what to do during your lunch break because it’s no longer acceptable to go outside and play during lunch. All of those ideas feed back into the central motif of establishing your identity.
The important thing to remember is that while a narrative essay is typically told chronologically and intended to read like a story, it is not purely for entertainment value. A narrative essay delivers its theme by deliberately weaving the motifs through the events, scenes, and details. While a narrative essay may be entertaining, its primary purpose is to tell a complete story based on a central meaning.
Unlike other essay forms, it is totally okay—even expected—to use first-person narration in narrative essays. If you’re writing a story about yourself, it’s natural to refer to yourself within the essay. It’s also okay to use other perspectives, such as third- or even second-person, but that should only be done if it better serves your motif. Generally speaking, your narrative essay should be in first-person perspective.
Though your motif choices may feel at times like you’re making a point the way you would in an argumentative essay, a narrative essay’s goal is to tell a story, not convince the reader of anything. Your reader should be able to tell what your motif is from reading, but you don’t have to change their mind about anything. If they don’t understand the point you are making, you should consider strengthening the delivery of the events and descriptions that support your motif.
Narrative essays also share some features with analytical essays, in which you derive meaning from a book, film, or other media. But narrative essays work differently—you’re not trying to draw meaning from an existing text, but rather using an event you’ve experienced to convey meaning. In an analytical essay, you examine narrative, whereas in a narrative essay you create narrative.
The structure of a narrative essay is also a bit different than other essays. You’ll generally be getting your point across chronologically as opposed to grouping together specific arguments in paragraphs or sections. To return to the example of an essay discussing your first day of high school and how it impacted the shaping of your identity, it would be weird to put the events out of order, even if not knowing what to do after lunch feels like a stronger idea than choosing where to sit. Instead of organizing to deliver your information based on maximum impact, you’ll be telling your story as it happened, using concrete details to reinforce your theme.
3 Great Narrative Essay Examples
One of the best ways to learn how to write a narrative essay is to look at a great narrative essay sample. Let’s take a look at some truly stellar narrative essay examples and dive into what exactly makes them work so well.
A Ticket to the Fair by David Foster Wallace
Today is Press Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, and I’m supposed to be at the fairgrounds by 9:00 A.M. to get my credentials. I imagine credentials to be a small white card in the band of a fedora. I’ve never been considered press before. My real interest in credentials is getting into rides and shows for free. I’m fresh in from the East Coast, for an East Coast magazine. Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish. I think they asked me to do this because I grew up here, just a couple hours’ drive from downstate Springfield. I never did go to the state fair, though—I pretty much topped out at the county fair level. Actually, I haven’t been back to Illinois for a long time, and I can’t say I’ve missed it.
Throughout this essay, David Foster Wallace recounts his experience as press at the Illinois State Fair. But it’s clear from this opening that he’s not just reporting on the events exactly as they happened—though that’s also true— but rather making a point about how the East Coast, where he lives and works, thinks about the Midwest.
In his opening paragraph, Wallace states that outright: “Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish.”
Not every motif needs to be stated this clearly , but in an essay as long as Wallace’s, particularly since the audience for such a piece may feel similarly and forget that such a large portion of the country exists, it’s important to make that point clear.
But Wallace doesn’t just rest on introducing his motif and telling the events exactly as they occurred from there. It’s clear that he selects events that remind us of that idea of East Coast cynicism , such as when he realizes that the Help Me Grow tent is standing on top of fake grass that is killing the real grass beneath, when he realizes the hypocrisy of craving a corn dog when faced with a real, suffering pig, when he’s upset for his friend even though he’s not the one being sexually harassed, and when he witnesses another East Coast person doing something he wouldn’t dare to do.
Wallace is literally telling the audience exactly what happened, complete with dates and timestamps for when each event occurred. But he’s also choosing those events with a purpose—he doesn’t focus on details that don’t serve his motif. That’s why he discusses the experiences of people, how the smells are unappealing to him, and how all the people he meets, in cowboy hats, overalls, or “black spandex that looks like cheesecake leotards,” feel almost alien to him.
All of these details feed back into the throughline of East Coast thinking that Wallace introduces in the first paragraph. He also refers back to it in the essay’s final paragraph, stating:
At last, an overarching theory blooms inside my head: megalopolitan East Coasters’ summer treats and breaks and literally ‘getaways,’ flights-from—from crowds, noise, heat, dirt, the stress of too many sensory choices….The East Coast existential treat is escape from confines and stimuli—quiet, rustic vistas that hold still, turn inward, turn away. Not so in the rural Midwest. Here you’re pretty much away all the time….Something in a Midwesterner sort of actuates , deep down, at a public event….The real spectacle that draws us here is us.
Throughout this journey, Wallace has tried to demonstrate how the East Coast thinks about the Midwest, ultimately concluding that they are captivated by the Midwest’s less stimuli-filled life, but that the real reason they are interested in events like the Illinois State Fair is that they are, in some ways, a means of looking at the East Coast in a new, estranging way.
The reason this works so well is that Wallace has carefully chosen his examples, outlined his motif and themes in the first paragraph, and eventually circled back to the original motif with a clearer understanding of his original point.
When outlining your own narrative essay, try to do the same. Start with a theme, build upon it with examples, and return to it in the end with an even deeper understanding of the original issue. You don’t need this much space to explore a theme, either—as we’ll see in the next example, a strong narrative essay can also be very short.
Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf
After a time, tired by his dancing apparently, he settled on the window ledge in the sun, and, the queer spectacle being at an end, I forgot about him. Then, looking up, my eye was caught by him. He was trying to resume his dancing, but seemed either so stiff or so awkward that he could only flutter to the bottom of the window-pane; and when he tried to fly across it he failed. Being intent on other matters I watched these futile attempts for a time without thinking, unconsciously waiting for him to resume his flight, as one waits for a machine, that has stopped momentarily, to start again without considering the reason of its failure. After perhaps a seventh attempt he slipped from the wooden ledge and fell, fluttering his wings, on to his back on the window sill. The helplessness of his attitude roused me. It flashed upon me that he was in difficulties; he could no longer raise himself; his legs struggled vainly. But, as I stretched out a pencil, meaning to help him to right himself, it came over me that the failure and awkwardness were the approach of death. I laid the pencil down again.
In this essay, Virginia Woolf explains her encounter with a dying moth. On surface level, this essay is just a recounting of an afternoon in which she watched a moth die—it’s even established in the title. But there’s more to it than that. Though Woolf does not begin her essay with as clear a motif as Wallace, it’s not hard to pick out the evidence she uses to support her point, which is that the experience of this moth is also the human experience.
In the title, Woolf tells us this essay is about death. But in the first paragraph, she seems to mostly be discussing life—the moth is “content with life,” people are working in the fields, and birds are flying. However, she mentions that it is mid-September and that the fields were being plowed. It’s autumn and it’s time for the harvest; the time of year in which many things die.
In this short essay, she chronicles the experience of watching a moth seemingly embody life, then die. Though this essay is literally about a moth, it’s also about a whole lot more than that. After all, moths aren’t the only things that die—Woolf is also reflecting on her own mortality, as well as the mortality of everything around her.
At its core, the essay discusses the push and pull of life and death, not in a way that’s necessarily sad, but in a way that is accepting of both. Woolf begins by setting up the transitional fall season, often associated with things coming to an end, and raises the ideas of pleasure, vitality, and pity.
At one point, Woolf tries to help the dying moth, but reconsiders, as it would interfere with the natural order of the world. The moth’s death is part of the natural order of the world, just like fall, just like her own eventual death.
All these themes are set up in the beginning and explored throughout the essay’s narrative. Though Woolf doesn’t directly state her theme, she reinforces it by choosing a small, isolated event—watching a moth die—and illustrating her point through details.
With this essay, we can see that you don’t need a big, weird, exciting event to discuss an important meaning. Woolf is able to explore complicated ideas in a short essay by being deliberate about what details she includes, just as you can be in your own essays.
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
On the twenty-ninth of July, in 1943, my father died. On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born. Over a month before this, while all our energies were concentrated in waiting for these events, there had been, in Detroit, one of the bloodiest race riots of the century. A few hours after my father’s funeral, while he lay in state in the undertaker’s chapel, a race riot broke out in Harlem. On the morning of the third of August, we drove my father to the graveyard through a wilderness of smashed plate glass.
Like Woolf, Baldwin does not lay out his themes in concrete terms—unlike Wallace, there’s no clear sentence that explains what he’ll be talking about. However, you can see the motifs quite clearly: death, fatherhood, struggle, and race.
Throughout the narrative essay, Baldwin discusses the circumstances of his father’s death, including his complicated relationship with his father. By introducing those motifs in the first paragraph, the reader understands that everything discussed in the essay will come back to those core ideas. When Baldwin talks about his experience with a white teacher taking an interest in him and his father’s resistance to that, he is also talking about race and his father’s death. When he talks about his father’s death, he is also talking about his views on race. When he talks about his encounters with segregation and racism, he is talking, in part, about his father.
Because his father was a hard, uncompromising man, Baldwin struggles to reconcile the knowledge that his father was right about many things with his desire to not let that hardness consume him, as well.
Baldwin doesn’t explicitly state any of this, but his writing so often touches on the same motifs that it becomes clear he wants us to think about all these ideas in conversation with one another.
At the end of the essay, Baldwin makes it more clear:
This fight begins, however, in the heart and it had now been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. This intimation made my heart heavy and, now that my father was irrecoverable, I wished that he had been beside me so that I could have searched his face for the answers which only the future would give me now.
Here, Baldwin ties together the themes and motifs into one clear statement: that he must continue to fight and recognize injustice, especially racial injustice, just as his father did. But unlike his father, he must do it beginning with himself—he must not let himself be closed off to the world as his father was. And yet, he still wishes he had his father for guidance, even as he establishes that he hopes to be a different man than his father.
In this essay, Baldwin loads the front of the essay with his motifs, and, through his narrative, weaves them together into a theme. In the end, he comes to a conclusion that connects all of those things together and leaves the reader with a lasting impression of completion—though the elements may have been initially disparate, in the end everything makes sense.
You can replicate this tactic of introducing seemingly unattached ideas and weaving them together in your own essays. By introducing those motifs, developing them throughout, and bringing them together in the end, you can demonstrate to your reader how all of them are related. However, it’s especially important to be sure that your motifs and clear and consistent throughout your essay so that the conclusion feels earned and consistent—if not, readers may feel mislead.
5 Key Tips for Writing Narrative Essays
Narrative essays can be a lot of fun to write since they’re so heavily based on creativity. But that can also feel intimidating—sometimes it’s easier to have strict guidelines than to have to make it all up yourself. Here are a few tips to keep your narrative essay feeling strong and fresh.
Develop Strong Motifs
Motifs are the foundation of a narrative essay . What are you trying to say? How can you say that using specific symbols or events? Those are your motifs.
In the same way that an argumentative essay’s body should support its thesis, the body of your narrative essay should include motifs that support your theme.
Try to avoid cliches, as these will feel tired to your readers. Instead of roses to symbolize love, try succulents. Instead of the ocean representing some vast, unknowable truth, try the depths of your brother’s bedroom. Keep your language and motifs fresh and your essay will be even stronger!
Use First-Person Perspective
In many essays, you’re expected to remove yourself so that your points stand on their own. Not so in a narrative essay—in this case, you want to make use of your own perspective.
Sometimes a different perspective can make your point even stronger. If you want someone to identify with your point of view, it may be tempting to choose a second-person perspective. However, be sure you really understand the function of second-person; it’s very easy to put a reader off if the narration isn’t expertly deployed.
If you want a little bit of distance, third-person perspective may be okay. But be careful—too much distance and your reader may feel like the narrative lacks truth.
That’s why first-person perspective is the standard. It keeps you, the writer, close to the narrative, reminding the reader that it really happened. And because you really know what happened and how, you’re free to inject your own opinion into the story without it detracting from your point, as it would in a different type of essay.
Stick to the Truth
Your essay should be true. However, this is a creative essay, and it’s okay to embellish a little. Rarely in life do we experience anything with a clear, concrete meaning the way somebody in a book might. If you flub the details a little, it’s okay—just don’t make them up entirely.
Also, nobody expects you to perfectly recall details that may have happened years ago. You may have to reconstruct dialog from your memory and your imagination. That’s okay, again, as long as you aren’t making it up entirely and assigning made-up statements to somebody.
Dialog is a powerful tool. A good conversation can add flavor and interest to a story, as we saw demonstrated in David Foster Wallace’s essay. As previously mentioned, it’s okay to flub it a little, especially because you’re likely writing about an experience you had without knowing that you’d be writing about it later.
However, don’t rely too much on it. Your narrative essay shouldn’t be told through people explaining things to one another; the motif comes through in the details. Dialog can be one of those details, but it shouldn’t be the only one.
Use Sensory Descriptions
Because a narrative essay is a story, you can use sensory details to make your writing more interesting. If you’re describing a particular experience, you can go into detail about things like taste, smell, and hearing in a way that you probably wouldn’t do in any other essay style.
These details can tie into your overall motifs and further your point. Woolf describes in great detail what she sees while watching the moth, giving us the sense that we, too, are watching the moth. In Wallace’s essay, he discusses the sights, sounds, and smells of the Illinois State Fair to help emphasize his point about its strangeness. And in Baldwin’s essay, he describes shattered glass as a “wilderness,” and uses the feelings of his body to describe his mental state.
All these descriptions anchor us not only in the story, but in the motifs and themes as well. One of the tools of a writer is making the reader feel as you felt, and sensory details help you achieve that.
Looking to brush up on your essay-writing capabilities before the ACT? This guide to ACT English will walk you through some of the best strategies and practice questions to get you prepared!
Part of practicing for the ACT is ensuring your word choice and diction are on point. Check out this guide to some of the most common errors on the ACT English section to be sure that you're not making these common mistakes!
A solid understanding of English principles will help you make an effective point in a narrative essay, and you can get that understanding through taking a rigorous assortment of high school English classes !
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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.
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Three components of a good paragraph, differences between a book report & essay writing, where is the thesis statement often found in an essay.
- How to Write a Good Argumentative Essay Introduction
- What Are the Four Tips for Writing a Good Thesis Statement for an Expository Essay?
Narrative essays serve a simple purpose -- to tell a compelling story. Many colleges and universities request a narrative essay as part of their admissions application, but they aren’t looking for fanciful accounts of werewolves or vampires. They’re looking for meaningful stories revealed in personal essays. The essay form requires a coherent structure, with a beginning, middle and end.
Students applying for college are probably familiar with the idea of a thesis -- a clear and compelling assertion or argument introduced somewhere in the beginning of the essay and supported throughout. In narrative writing, the thesis takes on a slightly different role. As many narrative essays focus on personal experience, the thesis then becomes the lesson of that experience. It answers the question of why the experience is important in the first place. According to the Santa Barbara City College Writing Center, this kind of thesis can offer the moral of the story or reveal a universal theme.
Show, Don't Tell
One golden rule of narrative writing is to show rather than tell. This means that the writer should not simply tell the reader what occurred in the story but rather show the reader the events of the story in vivid detail. For example, the narrator of a story about a car accident might say, “I was in a car wreck." Although a complete statement, the telling lacks the visceral emotion of an actual car wreck. A better passage would be, “I awoke in a heap of twisted metal and shattered glass, bleeding from my left shoulder.”
After writing a captivating introduction, the writer should develop the plot, or the sequential events of the story. In other types of essay writing, the writer would use the main body of the essay to lay out subtopics, quotes and research that supports the thesis. In narrative essays, the main body should be the experience itself. The writer should unfold events chronologically, using transitions from paragraph to paragraph that don’t halt the reader. The Online Writing Lab of Purdue University urges writers "to evoke specific emotions and senses in the reader."
Climax and Conclusion
As in any good story, the events in a narrative essay should culminate in a dramatic moment of significant change, otherwise known as the climax. In a personal essay about a car wreck, the accident itself may be the climax, or the climax may occur later when the victim passes out or nearly dies on the operating table. The climax should reveal the point where the character changes, for better or worse. It should lead back to the thesis that was touched upon in the introduction, which in turn should be reiterated, even nuanced, in the conclusion. Requirements for narrative essays vary from college to college. The University of Texas at Austin recommends an essay no longer than one page, single-spaced, for basic admission requirements.
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Narrative Essays
- University of Texas at Austin: Admission Essays
- AcademicHelp.net: Narrative Essay Samples
Scott Neuffer is an award-winning journalist and writer who lives in Nevada. He holds a bachelor's degree in English and spent five years as an education and business reporter for Sierra Nevada Media Group. His first collection of short stories, "Scars of the New Order," was published in 2014.
How to Take a Stand in a Thesis Statement
How to write a persuasive essay, the differences between a reflective & narrative essay, how to write a rebuttal essay, teacher tips: how to write thesis statements for high school papers, sample personal statement for undergraduate school, teaching kids how to write an introductory paragraph, how to start an introduction when writing an essay about poetry, how to write a college expository essay, most popular.
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Narrative Essay Writing
How to Write a Narrative Essay - Beginner’s Guide
Published on: Mar 31, 2020
Last updated on: Jul 21, 2023
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A narrative essay, unlike other essay writing, provides a chance for the writers to present themselves. Though they are written in accordance with your personal experiences and stories, students find it hard to write.
Adding a personal touch to your writing and narrating your stories and inspiring lessons from your life is fun but presenting them in a format and a prompt can be crucial.
Students with poor writing skills always feel dreadful when given a narrative essay to write in their academics. They always need a guide and help to show them the right track to follow for their explanation of thoughts and experiences.
What is a Narrative Essay?
A narrative essay is a type of essay about your personal experiences and compelling stories of your life that left a major significance on you. It is not just the narration of stories from your life but you have to make a point as well.
A narrative essay usually has a single motive and a key idea on which the entire essay revolves. All the characters in your story, happenings, and incidents serve one motive.
Narrative essays are written from a defined point of view of the writer with feelings and few sensory details. This is to grab your reader and involve them to have a glimpse of your experience.
Now that the definition of a narrative essay is clear to the readers, we shall now discuss the elements that make up a narrative essay.
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Elements of a Narrative Essay
The plot of this essay is the main idea around which the narrative essay revolves. All of the points you make in your essay about your life story help make the climax of the piece exciting and engaging.
A basic narrative essay has three elements:
Let's discuss them in detail.
- Characters - they are the main part of your narrative essay. Even if your topic is an autobiography, it includes a character that is you and some other characters that play their roles in your life in different ways.
- Theme - there is always a theme that a narrative essay follows. This theme is presented in the thesis statement and the entire body of your essay to follow this theme by providing relevant and supporting information.
- Dialogue - Dialogues help to portray the conversations held between the characters. A character totally loses his worth if dialogues are not presented.
Difference Between a Narrative Essay and a Short Story
As the narrative essay includes characters and a story, students often confuse it with short stories.
In order to begin with, a narrative essay follows a certain format, an aspect to reveal and discover, and a specific motive. It orbits around the basic motive of the writer that he decides prior to writing that essay.
In contrast to this, a short story has nothing to do with the pre-set motive of the writing. In addition, a short story doesn't even follow a specific format. A short story often leaves its readers in suspense and hungry to discover what happened to the story and its characters.
While a narrative essay makes sure that the audience is satisfied and clear of the story and incidents presented in the essay.
How to Start a Narrative Essay
The very first line of an essay decides its fate. The target of an essay is to be read by readers with interest and attention. The opening statement of an essay should be the charm of your essay.
It is the first line defines whether the reader will remain glued till the end or not. If the beginning of your narrative essay is interesting and appealing, the readers will surely enjoy reading your essay.
In order to make the starting and the entire essay impactful and catchy, use a hook to take a grip on your readerâs interest. A hook is an amusing opening line of your essay, written in different forms to make your introduction intriguing.
Following are the types of hooks that can be used as openers for the essay:
- Funny statement
Note, that relevant and appropriate hooks should be used according to the topic sentence and essay type.
Narrative Essay Outline
Like other essays, a narrative essay follows a traditional and basic outline with the minor changes. It is very important to give your essay an outline, as the purpose of the essay is lost if it isn't presented in a structured form with a proper outline.
After you have come up with a topic and brainstorming phase, the next important step is to structure them according to the outline. An outline is formed to give meaning to your ideas and to maintain a logical and smooth flow in your essay.
An example of a narrative essay outline is provided for the help of the students.
Narrative Essay Outline Template (PDF)
The narrative writing structure is simple and easy. A strong narrative essay has the following structure or outline:
- Introduction - An introduction of a narrative essay contains a hook statement, which is used as an attention grabber. The purpose of an introduction is to make your audience familiar with the topic.
- Thesis Statement - Apart from the hook, an introduction carries a thesis statement that comes in the last lines of an introductory paragraph. A thesis statement is a narrative essay that presents the main story or confession of the writer.
- Body - The body of a narrative essay includes the incidents, experiences, lessons, logical statements, etc that revolve around the thesis statement leading up to a conclusion. The body of the essay is written in paragraphs in which every paragraph has a new idea to introduce but the transition is maintained.
- Conclusion - A conclusion of a narrative essay summarizes the whole essay highlighting the essay's main idea and present that the argument and statement made in the introduction are proved.
How to Write a Narrative Essay
In order to make your narrative essay impactful, follow the correct essay writing procedure. If you carry out all the steps carefully, your document will be well structured. Follow the writing steps provided below:
To do your narrative writing correctly and effectively follow the steps below:
The very first step is to think of an engaging and impressive topic for your essay. While thinking of topics, make sure to select a topic on which you can open up about your personal life experiences and stories that would inspire the readers.
As this is a personal narrative essay, make sure to give it your tone and sensory details.
For your ease and making the essay effective, draft an outline. The outline will provide you a guide on what are the important things that should go in your essay and what are the irrelevant information that needs to be discarded.
At this point, only a rough outline is drafted and it can be changed according to the preference of a writer.
People consider writing rough drafts as a major component of the writing process.
In a narrative essay, everything is written from the writerâs perspective. This characteristic makes the narrative essay different from essays like argumentative essays and descriptive essays.
Because you are sharing your personal experience and your lifeâs inspirational and good story, write in the past tense. Make your readers understand the worth significance or your story by stating what you have been through.
The tone of your essay matters a lot. Readers cannot see you. They can only read the essay and to make them understand the concept of your essay, you have to choose a relevant tone with your topic.
If anything matters to you, show how passionate you are about it by choosing the related words and sentences.
Add elements like a firm plot, characters, and setting to your essay to give it a personal and a lively feel.
Including different characters and settings are important to give better details to your narrative essay.
The best part of narrative essays is that you can add your opinion freely. It is totally up to the requirement of the topic that you can include strong narrations and descriptions in your essay.
If you are presenting an argument or a statement, you have to provide evidence and reasons to support it.
In order to keep your audience intact with your essay, the language should be simple and appropriate so that the audience does not lose interest.
Not every reader has a rich vocabulary and a professional, use a language that is understandable by everyone. Use compelling words that perfectly match your emotions.
Before you start writing your narrative essay it is recommended to first go through some examples and samples for a better understanding of the concept and outline.
Always follow the guidelines provided by our instructor. Make sure you have provided everything that was required. If you have quoted or added information from other links, provide sources.
Make sure you always revise and recheck your essay before submitting it. Proofread and check for mistakes and errors. Take feedback about your essay from the people around you.
Narrative Essay Examples
In order to make your life easier, experts have provided some examples of a narrative essay.
Narrative Essay Example (PDF)
Narrative Descriptive Essay Example (PDF)
Personal Narrative Essay Example (PDF)
Follow these examples to write the best and winning narrative essays and score higher grades.
Narrative Essay Topics
Writing about an experience can be challenging but giving a title to it is even harder. If you are looking for some topics to start your essay, we have gathered some interesting topics for your guide.
- The happiest day of your life.
- Your favorite field trip
- Your favorite summer vacation memory
- A day that left a mark on you forever
- Most frightening experience in high school
- A moment you realize you cannot change anything
- First day of you with your pet
- Most embarrassing memory
- A most influential incident that changed your life
- Worst birthday
- Your experience living without your family
- A moment you realized how great life is
- A blessing you are most grateful of
- First day at the job
- The most dreadful experience in life
- How it feels like losing a loved one
- A disease or illness that was a lesson
- Your first fight with your best friend
- How heroes of the movies you see influenced you
- A moment you realized you are a grown-up
It is important to follow the basic guidelines in order to write a college essay impressive enough to achieve top academic levels. You can also seek professional help if you feel you need assistance with your writing.
CollegeEssay.org is a professional writing company that provides custom essay and paper writing services. It provides assistance for all kinds of essays and academic writings. Hire an ai essay writer by placing an order at the most reasonable price.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the narrative format look like.
The essay format is standard; it follows the 5 paragraph essay outline: one introductory, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.
What are the five parts of a narrative essay?
The five parts of the narrative essay are:
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- College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines
College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines
Published on September 24, 2021 by Meredith Testa . Revised on May 31, 2023.
There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay, but you should carefully plan and outline to make sure your essay flows smoothly and logically.
Typical structural choices include
- a series of vignettes with a common theme
- a single story that demonstrates your positive qualities
Table of contents
Formatting your essay, outlining the essay, structures that work: two example outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.
You should keep the formatting as simple as possible. Admissions officers need to work very quickly, so fancy formatting, unnecessary flourishes, and unique fonts will come off as more distracting than individual. Keep in mind that, if you’re pasting your essay into a text box, formatting like italics may not transfer.
Your essay will be easier for admissions officers to read if it is 1.5- or double-spaced. If you choose to attach a file, ensure that it is a PDF.
You don’t need a title for your essay, but you can include one, especially if you think it will add something important.
Most importantly, ensure that you stick to the word count. Most successful essays are 500–600 words. Because you’re limited in length, make sure that you write concisely . Say everything that you need to express to get your point across, but don’t use more words than necessary, and don’t repeat yourself.
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Once you’ve finished brainstorming topics but before you start writing, think about your writing’s trajectory: how you’ll start the essay , develop it, and end it .
Do you want to organize it chronologically? Would you prefer to make a “sandwich” structure by introducing a topic or idea, moving away from it, and then coming back to it at the end? There’s a variety of options (and a pair of strong examples below), but make sure you consider how you’d like to structure the essay before you start writing.
Although you should organize your thoughts in an outline, you don’t have to stick to it strictly. Once you begin writing, you may find that the structure you’d originally chosen doesn’t quite work. In that case, it’s fine to try something else. Multiple drafts of the same essay are key to a good final product.
Whatever structure you choose, it should be clear and easy to follow, and it should be feasible to keep it within the word count . Never write in a way that could confuse the reader. Remember, your audience will not be reading your essay closely!
Vignettes with a common theme
The vignette structure discusses several experiences that may seem unrelated, but the author weaves them together and unites them with a common theme.
For example, a student could write an essay exploring various instances of their ability to make the best of bad situations. A rough outline for that essay might look like this:
- In a rehearsal for a school play when a lighting fixture malfunctioned and the set caught fire, I helped extinguish it.
- To help the situation, I improvised fixes for the set and talked with the director about adding lines referencing the “disaster.”
- I didn’t get into my first-choice high school, but I became class president at the school where I ended up.
- When I had ACL surgery, I used the downtime to work on my upper body strength and challenged my friends to pull-up contests.
- How these qualities will serve me in college and in my career
Single story that demonstrates traits
The narrative structure focuses on a single overarching story that shows many aspects of a student’s character.
Some such essays focus on a relatively short event that the author details moment by moment, while others discuss the story of a longer journey, one that may cover months or years.
For example, a student might discuss trying out for a sports team as a middle schooler, high school freshman, and high school senior, using each of those instances to describe an aspect of their personality. A rough outline for that essay might look like this:
- Confident, there to have fun
- Very passionate and in love with the sport
- Little sister was born that day, so I had to go alone with a friend’s parents
- Learned to be independent and less self-centered
- Realized that as much as I love gymnastics, there are more important things
- Gave up first homecoming of high school, had to quit other activities, lost countless hours with friends
- I had to repeat level 9 and didn’t progress quickly
- I had a terrible beam routine at one competition the previous year and still had a mental block
- I got stuck on some skills, and it took over a year to learn them
- Passion from age 7, perspective from age 11, diligence from age 15
If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Writing process
- Transition words
- Passive voice
- How to end an email
- Ms, mrs, miss
- How to start an email
- I hope this email finds you well
- Hope you are doing well
Parts of speech
- Personal pronouns
There are no set rules for how to structure a college application essay , but these are two common structures that work:
- A montage structure, a series of vignettes with a common theme.
- A narrative structure, a single story that shows your personal growth or how you overcame a challenge.
Avoid the five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in high school.
Your college essay’s format should be as simple as possible:
- Use a standard, readable font
- Use 1.5 or double spacing
- If attaching a file, save it as a PDF
- Stick to the word count
- Avoid unusual formatting and unnecessary decorative touches
You don’t need a title for your college admissions essay , but you can include one if you think it adds something important.
Cite this Scribbr article
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Testa, M. (2023, May 31). College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines. Scribbr. Retrieved September 10, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/college-essay/format-outline-structure/
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How To Write A Narrative Essay: General Guidelines
08 May 2022
❔What Is A Narrative Essay?
📑Purpose Of A Narrative Essay
🖇️Elements Of A Narrative Essay
✒️ Types Of A Narrative Essay
🗒️ Length Of A Narrative Essay
✍️Guidelines For Writing A Narrative Essay
Essays come in several forms . Some are descriptive in nature, and others can be more persuasive. In this guide, the focus is on the narrative essay. This is a particular type of work that involves the use of narration or telling a story.
We'll give you a further explanation of what this type of essay is. Additionally, we'll show you how to write a narrative essay so you're more confident about writing your own. Our guide also covers the narrative format and the different essay types you can write.
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A Narrative Essay Explained
To define this type of essay, we should explore what narrative writing is. This is a type of writing whose purpose is to tell the reader a story. It involves characters, settings, and a plot that gets resolved. If it's fictional, everything's made up. Novels are a good example of fictional narrative writing. On the other hand, if the writing is factual, everything is based on real-life events.
Academic assignments that involve narrative essay writing nearly always require you to write factual content. Therefore, the bulk of your work should be a true story whose details can be backed up by facts.
If you're wondering how to write narrative writing, imagine you're telling a story to someone you know. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The opening sets the scene, and the ending concludes everything. The middle consists of the story's most important parts; it can be as short or long as you need. However long your narrative text is, you should remember that you're telling a story,y and it should flow well.
Some students type into search engines ' Write my narrative essay ' and come across services like ours. We have a team of high-quality writers. They produce written work that students use to help them write their own assignments.
- Write about the time you met your best friend.
- Write a story about your first trip to the beach.
- Write about something you did that you are very happy about.
- Write a story about what you'd like your future life to be.
The Narrative Essay and the Short Story: Key Differences
This type of essay and the short story have some similarities and differences. It's important to understand what structures the two have so your own piece of work sticks to the required format.
You'll have to rely on facts when writing a narrative essay for a college or university assessment. Your writing should give the reader a clear summary of what happened. You'll also have to stick to a word count, if there is one, and follow the general narrative essay structure that markers are looking for. A thesis statement in the opening section should summarise your paper's key argument.
As for a short story, this is fictional, and what happens is the product of the writer's imagination. It doesn't require a thesis statement, and its structure is much more fluid than a narrative essay. There's no set way to approach one and you can be as creative as you like with the content.
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A Narrative Essay's Aim
If you're not sure how to start a narrative essay, ask yourself why you want to tell people this particular story; what's your purpose in sharing it with others. When someone writes a story, no matter what genre it is, they want it to impact those who read it; they want their readers to react in a particular way. If someone writes a horror story, for example, their purpose will be to make their readers feel afraid and frightened.
You should want readers to be engaged with your story. The more closely someone reads your work, the more likely they will take it in and react to it. To make the story more compelling and effective, write it in the best way possible. This involves using the right language, having a clear structure, and making sure your writing is clear.
- Write about the moment you overcame your biggest concern.
- Write a story about your thoughts on what courage is.
- Write about a trip you will never forget.
- Write a story about starting a relationship.
What Makes a Good Narrative Essay?
A good narrative essay should draw readers in, tell them a story that leaves an impression on them and finish with a definitive conclusion. It includes all the familiar elements of a story without being as long as one. It should also let the reader know what you make of the story and your thoughts about it.
What's also crucial is the structure and format of a narrative essay. These make your work presentable and readable.
Elements of Narrative Essays
Several key components, or elements, make up this type of essay. These include characters, speech, and theme.
- Characters are the backbone of any story and are very significant in narrative essays. Not only do they drive the plot forward, but they also interact with one another. Each has a personality and background; sometimes, one or both may directly influence the story's action.
- More often than not, the story part will include some speech. This reflects the conversations that characters have with one another or thoughts they may have.
- The theme is the main idea or meaning behind the story. It's a concept that a writer can express to the reader through the story's plot, setting, and characters. The thesis statement should mention the theme and summarize what it is.
Crafting a compelling narrative essay that effectively communicates your point and captivates the reader can be a valuable skill to acquire. If you're struggling with the process, you can always seek the help of an essay writer from Papersowl.com. With their expertise and guidance, you can create an engaging narrative essay that shares your unique experiences and insights with the audience.
Common Narrative Essay Types
There are multiple types of narrative essays. Most college and university assignments require your work to be factual. Your work will be fictional for some courses, such as creative writing. You'll find some of the main types below:
- Factual. When writing a factual (or nonfiction) narrative essay, you retell real-life events for others. You'll look at evidence from one or more sources to put the story together.
- Fictional. For fictional narrative essays, you can be creative and develop any story you want. Since it's for an academic assignment, it should still have some purpose and meaning.
- Autobiographical. An autobiographical essay involves writing down a story you're directly involved in. This is a factual piece of academic writing where you're sharing with the reader something you've experienced. If you want, you'll use the first person and can inject your telling of the story with thoughts and opinions.
- Write about an experience that put you in danger.
- Write a story about a time when you discovered a secret.
- Write about a day you experienced that was unlike any other.
- Write a story about a memorable summer vacation.
Types of Narrative Writing
When thinking of how to start an essay for college , you should try to decide on the writing you'll be using. Below are some types to consider:
- Linear. When taking a linear approach to the writing, you'll describe the story's events in the order they happened. One event will follow from the previous one and lead into the next one.
- Non-linear. Should you take a non-linear approach, you'll tell the story's events out of sequence. This may include flashbacks or even flashforwards.
- Quest. Some stories are a sequence of events and characters reacting to these. Others are more like a quest where a person actively tries to complete a goal, which becomes their entire purpose.
- Viewpoint. With a viewpoint type of narration, the main character narrates the events from their point of view. Instead of just about the plot, it's just as much about the narrator's opinions, ideas, and feelings.
- Descriptive. For this type of narrative writing, you should be very descriptive and use vivid details. Readers should be able to picture the story's setting and visualize what the characters in it look like.
Your story should make sense, whatever type of narrative writing you choose. The paragraphs should connect in a clear and logical way. If you choose a non-linear style, the reader should be able to tell that the events aren't in the right order.
If you're stuck on how to write a narrative paragraph, remember that it should be concise. It should also connect with the one before and after it. Your work ideally won't have any blocks of text that stand out or are separate from the rest of the writing. For your essay to read well, there should be links from one paragraph to the next.
If you still need help, buy an essay online safely from us. We're a team of experienced writers who want to help students with their assignments by providing them with essays to use as examples.
The Length of a Narrative Essay
When it comes to writing a narrative essay, there's no set length. The required word count will vary depending on who's setting the work and what institution is running your course. Some narrative essays can be as short as 500 words, whereas others may have a few hundred more. Sometimes, your narrative essay guidelines may require at least 1,000 words.
You must stick to it if given a word count, e.g., 500-600 words. Without restriction, it's up to you how long your work should be. An ideal narrative essay should be at least a few hundred words long. It should have a clear beginning and conclusion, with three or more body sections.
However long your assignment is, it should be direct and to the point. An essay that's narrative should retell the critical points of a story without necessarily going into detail. You should only include the most important characters, locations, and events. By all means, have some descriptive language, but don't overdo it.
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Guidelines for Writing a Narrative Essay
If you're wondering how to write a good narrative essay, we'll cover some of the most important guidelines in this section. Follow these, and you should find your work much easier to approach and complete. Use our guidelines, and you should better understand how to write narrative essays.
How Do You Start a Narrative Essay?
First, you'll receive a prompt from your lecturer/tutor. This is the instruction your lecturer/tutor gives you when setting the assignment. When you have this, you should start gathering ideas about your writing. Come up with a title - unless your essay has a set title - and consider how you will approach the story aspect of your writing.
When coming up with your story, think about how you would tell it to someone else. Break it down into a number of events that follow one another. When writing it, you should try to draw the reader in by using descriptive language and adding plenty of relevant details. The aim is to interest whoever's reading your work but not to bore them. They should want to keep reading and find out the story's conclusion.
Here are some prompts that you can use:
- Write about the best birthday party you had.
- Write a story about the first time you cooked a meal by yourself.
- Write about a life lesson you have learned.
- Write a story about your best childhood memory.
How to Choose an Essay Topic?
The topic you'll be writing about will depend on your prompt. This can fall under two categories: specific and open-ended.
If you have a specific prompt, you will write about a particular event or series of events. If it's an open-ended one, you don't have to write about something specific and have more choice in your topic.
The number and range of narrative writing topics are endless. The benefit of having a specific prompt is that it's easier to determine what you'll be writing about. All you'll have to do is think about what the prompt directs you toward and tell the story it asks of you.
If your prompt is open-ended, choosing a topic to write about can be tricky because there can be many possibilities. It would be best to settle on one that the reader will find interesting, engaging, and relevant.
- Write about an old friend you've lost touch with and why it happened.
- Write a story about your observation of a cowardly act.
- Write about a hobby you like.
- Write a story about the first time you took a trip abroad.
How to Format and Structure a Narrative Essay?
The structure of the narrative essay is straightforward. There are four key parts: the introduction, the thesis statement, the body, and the conclusion.
- The introduction provides the reader with an overview of your essay. The thesis statement is a brief summary of your work's main points.
- The body is where you tell the story. After introducing your characters and establishing the setting, you'll narrate the story's events and move the plot forward. Most narrative essays have a minimum of three body paragraphs.
- The conclusion is where you bring the story's plot to an end. You should also comment on it, explaining why it's significant and what benefits it may have.
It's important for you to stick to the standard structure of a narrative essay. Doing so helps you present the story in a logical way. It also makes your piece of writing easier to read.
As for the format of a narrative essay, this should be professional. The final work you submit should look like any other academic essay. The writing should have an appropriate font and size. As well as this, things like indentation, spacing, and paragraph sizing should all be consistent. Your narrative essay format is just as important as the content because academic submissions require certain standard formatting.
The exact type of narrative writing format you use will depend on your college or university. Some institutions will have a set formatting style that all academic writing submissions will have to follow.
Narrative Essay Outline
A narative essay outline is a general sort of plan that you'll use to write your essay. When putting one together, you should think about the content of your work and how you will present this to the reader. It's a good idea to consider the language you'll be using, how long your sentences and paragraphs will be, how often you'll use speech, and so on.
The introduction should do two things: catch the attention of the reader; make them want to continue reading. It should also intrigue them about your essay's topic and what you have to say about it. Once you've written one, it's a good idea to let others read it and see if it makes them want to find out more about your work.
The body is the bulk of your essay and is where most storytelling takes place. The first paragraph should set the scene, introduce at least one character and establish the basics of the plot. Over the next few paragraphs, you should develop everything you previously introduced. Once the reader is done with the body section, they should know your characters and plot quite well.
The conclusion is very important because it's where you conclude the story and reflect on it. This final section should sum up what you've learned and how you want the story to affect others. It should also link back to your thesis statement in some way.
For more information and help with writing, read our narrative essay outline example article. This includes a full step-by-step guide that you may find useful.
Narrative Essay Thesis Statement
The thesis statement is a short sentence in the introduction that sums up what your essay is about. It gives the reader a clear idea of the paper's key argument without revealing too much about the story. If you're wondering how to structure a narrative essay, a rule of thumb is to place the thesis statement at the end of the introduction. This way, it naturally leads into the main part of your paper.
Here are some examples of a good thesis statement:
I have only one life and will use every opportunity to be happy.
Love has changed my whole life and made me a new person; here's why.
Writing a good thesis statement is vital for any essay type. If yours reads well, it can help the reader engage with your work more. If you're struggling to write a thesis statement, buy narrative essays online and see some examples from our team. Reading other people's work, you'll better understand how to write things yourself.
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How to write a narrative essay [Updated 2023]
A narrative essay is an opportunity to flex your creative muscles and craft a compelling story. In this blog post, we define what a narrative essay is and provide strategies and examples for writing one.
What is a narrative essay?
Similarly to a descriptive essay or a reflective essay, a narrative essay asks you to tell a story, rather than make an argument and present evidence. Most narrative essays describe a real, personal experience from your own life (for example, the story of your first big success).
Alternately, your narrative essay might focus on an imagined experience (for example, how your life would be if you had been born into different circumstances). While you don’t need to present a thesis statement or scholarly evidence, a narrative essay still needs to be well-structured and clearly organized so that the reader can follow your story.
When you might be asked to write a narrative essay
Although less popular than argumentative essays or expository essays, narrative essays are relatively common in high school and college writing classes.
The same techniques that you would use to write a college essay as part of a college or scholarship application are applicable to narrative essays, as well. In fact, the Common App that many students use to apply to multiple colleges asks you to submit a narrative essay.
How to choose a topic for a narrative essay
When you are asked to write a narrative essay, a topic may be assigned to you or you may be able to choose your own. With an assigned topic, the prompt will likely fall into one of two categories: specific or open-ended.
Examples of specific prompts:
- Write about the last vacation you took.
- Write about your final year of middle school.
Examples of open-ended prompts:
- Write about a time when you felt all hope was lost.
- Write about a brief, seemingly insignificant event that ended up having a big impact on your life.
A narrative essay tells a story and all good stories are centered on a conflict of some sort. Experiences with unexpected obstacles, twists, or turns make for much more compelling essays and reveal more about your character and views on life.
If you’re writing a narrative essay as part of an admissions application, remember that the people reviewing your essay will be looking at it to gain a sense of not just your writing ability, but who you are as a person.
In these cases, it’s wise to choose a topic and experience from your life that demonstrates the qualities that the prompt is looking for, such as resilience, perseverance, the ability to stay calm under pressure, etc.
It’s also important to remember that your choice of topic is just a starting point. Many students find that they arrive at new ideas and insights as they write their first draft, so the final form of your essay may have a different focus than the one you started with.
How to outline and format a narrative essay
Even though you’re not advancing an argument or proving a point of view, a narrative essay still needs to have a coherent structure. Your reader has to be able to follow you as you tell the story and to figure out the larger point that you’re making.
You’ll be evaluated on is your handling of the topic and how you structure your essay. Even though a narrative essay doesn’t use the same structure as other essay types, you should still sketch out a loose outline so you can tell your story in a clear and compelling way.
To outline a narrative essay, you’ll want to determine:
- how your story will start
- what points or specifics that you want to cover
- how your story will end
- what pace and tone you will use
In the vast majority of cases, a narrative essay should be written in the first-person, using “I.” Also, most narrative essays will follow typical formatting guidelines, so you should choose a readable font like Times New Roman in size 11 or 12. Double-space your paragraphs and use 1” margins.
To get your creative wheels turning, consider how your story compares to archetypes and famous historical and literary figures both past and present. Weave these comparisons into your essay to improve the quality of your writing and connect your personal experience to a larger context.
How to write a narrative essay
Writing a narrative essay can sometimes be a challenge for students who typically write argumentative essays or research papers in a formal, objective style. To give you a better sense of how you can write a narrative essay, here is a short example of an essay in response to the prompt, “Write about an experience that challenged your view of yourself.”
Narrative essay example
Even as a child, I always had what people might call a reserved personality. It was sometimes framed as a positive (“Sarah is a good listener”) and at other times it was put in less-than-admiring terms (“Sarah is withdrawn and not very talkative”). It was the latter kind of comments that caused me to see my introverted nature as a drawback and as something I should work to eliminate. That is, until I joined my high school’s student council.
The first paragraph, or introduction, sets up the context, establishing the situation and introducing the meaningful event upon which the essay will focus.
The other four students making up the council were very outspoken and enthusiastic. I enjoyed being around them, and I often agreed with their ideas. However, when it came to overhauling our school’s recycling plan, we butted heads. When I spoke up and offered a different point of view, one of my fellow student council members launched into a speech, advocating for her point of view. As her voice filled the room, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I wondered if I should try to match her tone, volume, and assertiveness as a way to be heard. But I just couldn’t do it—it’s not my way, and it never has been. For a fleeting moment, I felt defeated. But then, something in me shifted.
In this paragraph, the writer goes into greater depth about how her existing thinking brought her to this point.
I reminded myself that my view was valid and deserved to be heard. So I waited. I let my fellow council member speak her piece and when she was finished, I deliberately waited a few moments before calmly stating my case. I chose my words well, and I spoke them succinctly. Just because I’m not a big talker doesn’t mean I’m not a big thinker. I thought of the quotation “still waters run deep” and I tried to embody that. The effect on the room was palpable. People listened. And I hadn’t had to shout my point to be heard.
This paragraph demonstrates the turn in the story, the moment when everything changed. The use of the quotation “still waters run deep” imbues the story with a dash of poetry and emotion.
We eventually reached a compromise on the matter and concluded the student council meeting. Our council supervisor came to me afterward and said: “You handled that so well, with such grace and poise. I was very impressed.” Her words in that moment changed me. I realized that a bombastic nature isn't necessarily a powerful one. There is power in quiet, too. This experience taught me to view my reserved personality not as a character flaw, but as a strength.
The final paragraph, or conclusion, closes with a statement about the significance of this event and how it ended up changing the writer in a meaningful way.
Narrative essay writing tips
1. pick a meaningful story that has a conflict and a clear “moral.”.
If you’re able to choose your own topic, pick a story that has meaning and that reveals how you became the person your are today. In other words, write a narrative with a clear “moral” that you can connect with your main points.
2. Use an outline to arrange the structure of your story and organize your main points.
Although a narrative essay is different from argumentative essays, it’s still beneficial to construct an outline so that your story is well-structured and organized. Note how you want to start and end your story, and what points you want to make to tie everything together.
3. Be clear, concise, concrete, and correct in your writing.
You should use descriptive writing in your narrative essay, but don’t overdo it. Use clear, concise, and correct language and grammar throughout. Additionally, make concrete points that reinforce the main idea of your narrative.
4. Ask a friend or family member to proofread your essay.
No matter what kind of writing you’re doing, you should always plan to proofread and revise. To ensure that your narrative essay is coherent and interesting, ask a friend or family member to read over your paper. This is especially important if your essay is responding to a prompt. It helps to have another person check to make sure that you’ve fully responded to the prompt or question.
Frequently Asked Questions about narrative essays
A narrative essay, like any essay, has three main parts: an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Structuring and outlining your essay before you start writing will help you write a clear story that your readers can follow.
The first paragraph of your essay, or introduction, sets up the context, establishing the situation and introducing the meaningful event upon which the essay will focus.
In the vast majority of cases, a narrative essay should be written in the first-person, using “I.”
The 4 main types of essays are the argumentative essay, narrative essay, exploratory essay, and expository essay. You may be asked to write different types of essays at different points in your education.
Most narrative essays will be around five paragraphs, or more, depending on the topic and requirements. Make sure to check in with your instructor about the guidelines for your essay. If you’re writing a narrative essay for a college application, pay close attention to word or page count requirements.
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How to Write a Narrative Essay
Last Updated: August 3, 2023 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 52 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,888,204 times.
Narrative essays are commonly assigned pieces of writing at different stages through school. Like any story, they have a plot, conflict, and characters. Typically, assignments involve telling a story from your own life that connects with class themes. It can be a fun type of assignment to write, if you approach it properly. Learn how to choose a good topic, get a solid rough draft on paper, and revise your narrative essay.
Choosing a Good Topic
- Most of the time, narrative essays will involve no outside research or references. Instead, you'll be using your personal story to provide the evidence of some point that you're trying to make.  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source However, in some cases using research may enhance your story because it will allow you to provide additional detail.
- Narrative essays are a common school assignment used to test your creative story-telling skills, as well as your ability to connect some element of your personal life to a topic you might be discussing in class.
- You experienced adversity and had to overcome
- You failed and had to deal with the consequences of that failure
- Your personality or character was transformed
- Bad narrative essays are generally too broad. "My senior year of high school" or "This summer" are examples of stories that would be far too big to tell in the amount of specific detail that a good narrative essay requires. Pick a single event from the summer, or a single week of your senior year, not something that takes months to unfold.
- It's also good to limit the number of characters you introduce. Only include other characters who are absolutely essential. Every single friend from your fifth grade class will be too many names to keep track of. Pick one.
- Let your imagination fill in the gaps. When you're describing your grandmother's house and a specific weekend you remember spending there, it's not important to remember exactly what was cooked for dinner on Friday night, unless that's an important part of the story. What did your grandmother typically cook? What did it usually smell like? Those are the details we need.
- Typically, narrative essays are "non-fiction," which means that you can't just make up a story. It needs to have really happened. Force yourself to stay as true as possible to the straight story.
Writing a Draft
- It helps to limit things as much as possible. While it might seem like we need to know a bunch of specific details from your senior year, try to think of a particularly tumultuous day from that year and tell us that story. Where does that story start? Not the first day of school that year. Find a better starting point.
- If you want to tell the story of your prom night, does it start when you get dressed? Maybe. Does it start when you spill spaghetti sauce all down your dress before the dance? While that might seem like the climax of a story you want to tell, it might make a better starting place. Go straight to the drama.
- You don't need to write up a formal outline for a narrative essay unless it's part of the assignment or it really helps you write. Listing the major scenes that need to be a part of the story will help you get organized and find a good place to start.
- Don't switch perspectives throughout the story. This is a difficult and advanced technique to try to pull off, and it usually has the effect of being too complicated. There should only be one "I" in the story.
- In general, narrative essays (and short stories for that matter) should also be told in past tense. So, you would write "Johnny and I walked to the store every Thursday" not "Johnny and I are walking to the store, like we do every Thursday."
- You may be instructed to write in the 3rd person (such as he, she, it, they, them, their). If so, be consistent with your pronouns throughout the story.
- Particular details are specific and only particular to the character being described. While it may be specific to say that your friend has brown hair, green eyes, is 5 feet (1.5 m) tall with an athletic build, these things don't tell us much about the character. The fact that he only wears silk dragon shirts? Now that gives us something interesting.
- Try writing up a brief sketch of each principal character in your narrative essay, along with the specific details you remember about them. Pick a few essentials.
- Who or what is the antagonist in your story? To answer this question, you also need to find out what the protagonist wants. What is the goal? What's the best case scenario for the protagonist? What stands in the protagonist's way?
- The antagonist isn't "the bad guy" of the story, necessarily, and not every story has a clear antagonist. Also keep in mind that for some good personal narratives, you might be the antagonist yourself.
- Do a freewrite about the location that your story takes place. What do you know about the place? What can you remember? What can you find out?
- If you do any research for your narrative essay, it will probably be here. Try to find out extra details about the setting of your story, or double-check your memory to make sure it's right.
- A popular creative writing phrase tells writers to "show" not to "tell." What this means is that you should give us details whenever possible, rather than telling us facts. You might tell us something like, "My dad was always sad that year," but if you wrote "Dad never spoke when he got home from work. We heard his truck, then heard as he laid his battered hardhat on the kitchen table. Then we heard him sigh deeply and take off his work clothes, which were stained with grease."
Revising Your Essay
- Get the theme into the very beginning of the essay. Just as a researched argument essay needs to have a thesis statement somewhere in the first few paragraphs of the essay, a narrative essay needs a topic statement or a thesis statement to explain the main idea of the story.
- This isn't "ruining the surprise" of the story, this is foreshadowing the important themes and details to notice over the course of the story as you tell it. A good writer doesn't need suspense in a narrative essay. The ending should seem inevitable.
- Scene: "On our walk to the store, Jared and I stopped at the empty grass lot to talk. 'What's your problem lately?' he asked, his eyes welling with tears. I didn't know what to tell him. I fidgeted, kicked an empty paint bucket that was rusted over at the edge of the lot. 'Remember when we used to play baseball here?' I asked him."
- Analysis: "We finished walking to the store and bought all the stuff for the big holiday dinner. We got a turkey, cornbread, cranberries. The works. The store was crazy-packed with happy holiday shoppers, but we walked through them all, not saying a word to each other. It took forever to lug it all home."
- Anything spoken by a character out loud needs to be included in quotation marks and attributed to the character speaking it: "I've never been to Paris," said James.
- Each time a new character speaks, you need to make a new paragraph . If the same character speaks, multiple instances of dialog can exist in the same paragraph.
- Revise for clarity first. Are your main points clear? If not, make them clear by including more details or narration in the writing. Hammer home your points.
- Was the decision you made about the starting place of the story correct? Or, now that you've written, might it be better to start the story later? Ask the tough questions.
- Proofreading is one part of revision, but it's a very minor part and it should be done last. Checking punctuation and spelling is the last thing you should be worried about in your narrative essay.
- Be sensible while writing. It is necessary to stay on the topic rather than moving away from it. Do not lose your focus. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- Divide your essay into paragraphs, according to your limit: an introduction, two body paragraph and one conclusion. Your introduction can be either a shocker one, or one just describing the setting; the conclusion can reveal a surprise, or end with just a hint of the climax, keeping the final question to be answered by the readers. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Write only when you have a perfect story to tell. When a reader finishes reading the story, he\she should feel all those emotions seep right through his\her rib cage. Only then as a narrator, have you succeeded. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ https://examples.yourdictionary.com/narrative-essay-examples.html
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/narrative_essays.html
- ↑ https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/20/learning/lesson-plans/650-prompts-for-narrative-and-personal-writing.html
- ↑ https://miamioh.edu/hcwe/handouts/narrative-essays/index.html
- ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-write-narrative-essay
- ↑ https://crk.umn.edu/units/writing-center/how-revise-drafts
About This Article
To write a narrative essay, start by choosing an interesting personal story from your life to write about. Try to connect your story to a broader theme or topic so your essay has more substance. Then, write out your story in the past tense using the first person point of view. As you write your story, use vivid details to describe the setting and characters so readers are able to visualize what you're writing. Once you've written your essay, read it several times and make sure you've illustrated your theme or topic. To learn more from our Professor of English co-author, like how to write scenes and analyses, keep reading the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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The Story of Our Universe May Be Starting to Unravel
By Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser
Dr. Frank is an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester. Dr. Gleiser is a theoretical physicist at Dartmouth College.
Not long after the James Webb Space Telescope began beaming back from outer space its stunning images of planets and nebulae last year, astronomers, though dazzled, had to admit that something was amiss. Eight months later, based in part on what the telescope has revealed, it’s beginning to look as if we may need to rethink key features of the origin and development of the universe.
Launched at the end of 2021 as a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, the Webb, a tool with unmatched powers of observation, is on an exciting mission to look back in time, in effect, at the first stars and galaxies. But one of the Webb’s first major findings was exciting in an uncomfortable sense: It discovered the existence of fully formed galaxies far earlier than should have been possible according to the so-called standard model of cosmology.
According to the standard model, which is the basis for essentially all research in the field, there is a fixed and precise sequence of events that followed the Big Bang: First, the force of gravity pulled together denser regions in the cooling cosmic gas, which grew to become stars and black holes; then, the force of gravity pulled together the stars into galaxies.
The Webb data, though, revealed that some very large galaxies formed really fast, in too short a time, at least according to the standard model. This was no minor discrepancy. The finding is akin to parents and their children appearing in a story when the grandparents are still children themselves.
It was not, unfortunately, an isolated incident. There have been other recent occasions in which the evidence behind science’s basic understanding of the universe has been found to be alarmingly inconsistent.
Take the matter of how fast the universe is expanding. This is a foundational fact in cosmological science — the so-called Hubble constant — yet scientists have not been able to settle on a number. There are two main ways to calculate it: One involves measurements of the early universe (such as the sort that the Webb is providing); the other involves measurements of nearby stars in the modern universe. Despite decades of effort, these two methods continue to yield different answers.
At first, scientists expected this discrepancy to resolve as the data got better. But the problem has stubbornly persisted even as the data have gotten far more precise. And now new data from the Webb have exacerbated the problem. This trend suggests a flaw in the model, not in the data.
Two serious issues with the standard model of cosmology would be concerning enough. But the model has already been patched up numerous times over the past half century to better conform with the best available data — alterations that may well be necessary and correct, but which, in light of the problems we are now confronting, could strike a skeptic as a bit too convenient.
Physicists and astronomers are starting to get the sense that something may be really wrong. It’s not just that some of us believe we might have to rethink the standard model of cosmology; we might also have to change the way we think about some of the most basic features of our universe — a conceptual revolution that would have implications far beyond the world of science.
A potent mix of hard-won data and rarefied abstract mathematical physics, the standard model of cosmology is rightfully understood as a triumph of human ingenuity. It has its origins in Edwin Hubble’s discovery in the 1920s that the universe was expanding — the first piece of evidence for the Big Bang. Then, in 1964, radio astronomers discovered the so-called Cosmic Microwave Background , the “fossil” radiation reaching us from shortly after the universe began expanding. That finding told us that the early universe was a hot, dense soup of subatomic particles that has been continually cooling and becoming less dense ever since.
Over the past 60 years, cosmology has become ever more precise in its ability to account for the best available data about the universe. But along the way, to gain such a high degree of precision, astrophysicists have had to postulate the existence of components of the universe for which we have no direct evidence. The standard model today holds that “normal” matter — the stuff that makes up people and planets and everything else we can see — constitutes only about 4 percent of the universe. The rest is invisible stuff called dark matter and dark energy (roughly 27 percent and 68 percent).
Cosmic inflation is an example of yet another exotic adjustment made to the standard model. Devised in 1981 to resolve paradoxes arising from an older version of the Big Bang, the theory holds that the early universe expanded exponentially fast for a fraction of a second after the Big Bang. This theory solves certain problems but creates others. Notably, according to most versions of the theory, rather than there being one universe, ours is just one universe in a multiverse — an infinite number of universes, the others of which may be forever unobservable to us not just in practice but also in principle.
There is nothing inherently fishy about these features of the standard model. Scientists often discover good indirect evidence for things that we cannot see, such as the hyperdense singularities inside a black hole. But in the wake of the Webb’s confounding data about galaxy formation, and the worsening problem with the Hubble constant, you can’t be blamed for starting to wonder if the model is out of joint.
A familiar narrative about how science works is often trotted out at this point to assuage anxieties. It goes like this: Researchers think they have a successful theory, but new data show it is flawed. Courageously rolling up their sleeves, the scientists go back to their blackboards and come up with new ideas that allow them to improve their theory by better matching the evidence.
It’s a story of both humility and triumph, and we scientists love to tell it. And it may be what happens in this case, too. Perhaps the solution to the problems the Webb is forcing us to confront will require only that cosmologists come up with a new “dark” something or other that will allow our picture of the universe to continue to match the best cosmological data.
There is, however, another possibility. We may be at a point where we need a radical departure from the standard model, one that may even require us to change how we think of the elemental components of the universe, possibly even the nature of space and time.
Cosmology is not like other sciences. It’s not like studying mice in a maze or watching chemicals boil in a beaker in a lab. The universe is everything there is; there’s only one and we can’t look at it from the outside. You can’t put it in a box on a table and run controlled experiments on it. Because it is all-encompassing, cosmology forces scientists to tackle questions about the very environment in which science operates: the nature of time, the nature of space, the nature of lawlike regularity, the role of the observers doing the observations.
These rarefied issues don’t come up in most “regular” science (though one encounters similarly shadowy issues in the science of consciousness and in quantum physics). Working so close to the boundary between science and philosophy, cosmologists are continually haunted by the ghosts of basic assumptions hiding unseen in the tools we use — such as the assumption that scientific laws don’t change over time.
But that’s precisely the sort of assumption we might have to start questioning in order to figure out what’s wrong with the standard model. One possibility, raised by the physicist Lee Smolin and the philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger, is that the laws of physics can evolve and change over time. Different laws might even compete for effectiveness. An even more radical possibility, discussed by the physicist John Wheeler, is that every act of observation influences the future and even the past history of the universe. (Dr. Wheeler, working to understand the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, conceived of a “ participatory universe ” in which every act of observation was in some sense a new act of creation.)
It is not obvious, to say the least, how such revolutionary reconsiderations of our science might help us better understand the cosmological data that is flummoxing us. (Part of the difficulty is that the data themselves are shaped by the theoretical assumptions of those who collect them.) It would necessarily be a leap of faith to step back and rethink such fundamentals about our science.
But a revolution may end up being the best path to progress. That has certainly been the case in the past with scientific breakthroughs like Copernicus’s heliocentrism, Darwin’s theory of evolution and Einstein’s relativity. All three of those theories also ended up having enormous cultural influence — threatening our sense of our special place in the cosmos, challenging our intuition that we were fundamentally different than other animals, upending our faith in common sense ideas about the flow of time. Any scientific revolution of the sort we’re imagining would presumably have comparable reverberations in our understanding of ourselves.
The philosopher Robert Crease has written that philosophy is what’s required when doing more science may not answer a scientific question. It’s not clear yet if that’s what’s needed to overcome the crisis in cosmology. But if more tweaks and adjustments don’t do the trick, we may need not just a new story of the universe but also a new way to tell stories about it.
Adam Frank ( @AdamFrank4 ) is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester and the author of the forthcoming book “The Little Book of Aliens.” Marcelo Gleiser ( @MGleiser ) is a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College and the author of “The Dawn of a Mindful Universe: A Manifesto for Humanity’s Future.”
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