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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).
How to Write a Narrative Essay
A narrative essay is one of the most commonly assigned forms of academic writing. Starting from school, students of various educational facilities face this type of task quite often, which is why knowing how to handle it is vital for their success.
The main purpose of the narrative style of writing is to tell a compelling story. It doesn't sound like too big of a deal, right? You couldn't be more wrong. Even if it might seem easy at first sight, telling an engaging story can be rather challenging. To help you overcome this challenge, our custom term paper writing service compiled a comprehensive guide on how to write a narrative essay step by step.
What Is a Narrative Essay?
A narrative essay is a form of academic writing that aims to tell a story. As the author, your goal is to create the right atmosphere and a lifelike experience for your readers.
As a rule, this type of paper is written from the first-person perspective. Therefore, you have to put readers at the epicenter of the plot and keep them engaged. To do this and to ensure the right atmosphere, narrative writing uses plenty of vivid details, descriptive techniques, etc.
The biggest challenge in writing a narrative essay is that it is always limited in length. Thus, your task is to take a complex story and narrow it down to incorporate its key points to fit into a short essay while at the same time providing enough detail to keep readers engaged. You can always get help from our research paper writing service .
Purpose of a Narrative Essay
This form of writing is about sharing stories—that's the key purpose. As for an essay writer , your task is to tell readers about a real-life experience and, simultaneously, to make a clear point of why you are suggesting that particular story and why it matters.
What makes it different from other types of essays? In a narrative essay, all you do is guide readers through the story; you don't make arguments, criticize, or attempt to persuade them. Instead, you are just telling a story, letting readers draw their own conclusions. That's the most distinctive feature of such papers.
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Types of Narrative Essays
There are two types of custom writing essays to be put into narrative form:
Descriptive Narrative Essay
This is the most creative form of this task. The main goal of a descriptive narrative essay is to describe an experience, situation, or memory using vivid details. ‘Show, don't tell’ is the main credo of writing a descriptive narrative paper. The author's goal is to evoke the readers' different senses and paint a clear picture of an event.
A well-written descriptive narrative paper is usually straightforward. It takes a complicated story and narrows it down—allowing the reader to infer the rest. Great writers avoid over-exaggeration and stick to their purpose. There are always some limits to the amount of content you can provide to your readers; keep this in mind when choosing what to include in your work.
This task requires you to share a true story throughout your life. Note that this type of assignment should focus on one specific event. Unlike a descriptive essay, an autobiographical one places a bigger focus on the story itself and its purpose, not details.
Narrative Essay Characteristics
Here are the basic characteristics that define this type of writing:
- Non-fiction – written about events that happened;
- Written from the author's viewpoint (1st person);
- Includes elements of a story but is written with a basic structure;
- Provides information in chronological order;
- Uses lots of details to describe an event, person, or scene;
- Strives to inform readers of something, not argue or teach.
Video Guide on How to Write a Narrative Essay
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10 Good Narrative Essay Topics and How to Pick One
When choosing a good narrative essay topic, there are a few things to remember. First of all, you should start by carefully studying the given requirements. Typically, teachers will specify exactly what you are expected to do.
Some of the basic characteristics a teacher may be looking for in your paper are:
- A Conflict/Challenge: An inciting incident that creates the tone and sets the story in motion.
- A Protagonist: A relatable character that faces a conflict or challenge against overwhelming odds.
- Change or Growth: Overcoming the conflict or challenge sparks some change in the protagonist. A realization may have sparked this change. This realization can also be an after-effect of the character's development throughout the story.
To come up with a brilliant topic for a narrative essay, you will need to take some time to brainstorm. To get on the right track, try using the following techniques:
- Think of your past experiences and memories, and try to find something truly exciting.
- Think of what bothers you and what stories you'd want to share with others.
- Take a walk to refresh and generate some good ideas.
- Use the Internet to your benefit – social media, online magazines, blogs, and other resources can help you discover your peers' stories, what they are interested in, and what they discuss. This can also help you find a few ideas.
- Try freewriting – this very handy technique can help you get your story flowing. To try it, all you need is to get a pen and paper and start writing your thoughts down.
Follow these tips to generate some great ideas, and then pick one that looks the most compelling. The final information is to choose something interesting to you and appealing enough to engage your audience.
Here are some narrative essay ideas to help you brainstorm:
- Overcoming Fear
- Facing a Challenge
- A New Experience or Discovery
- A Moment of Excitement
- Learning a Tough Lesson
- A Thrilling Moment of Adrenaline
- The Moment You Stood Up for Yourself
- A Relationship Experience
- A Discovery That Changed Your Life
- A Rebellious Act
These are a few typical examples that students tend to explore. Next, consider making a story based on your personal life experiences. The most vivid memories are usually the ones that tell a great story.
Narrative Format and Structure
The narrative essay format and structure are standard. Like other assignments, this type of paper normally follows a 5 paragraph essay outline: one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and the last narrative paragraph is the conclusion. However, unlike other types of essays, a narrative paper's paragraphs have specifically designated purposes:
- Introduction – makes an insight into the story, states the purpose of writing, and includes an engaging element to hook the reader;
- Main body paragraph 1 – rising action;
- Main body paragraph 2 – climax;
- Main body paragraph 3 – falling action;
- Conclusion – lessons learned from the story.
In the next section of this article, we will look at each element more closely.
Narrative Essay Outline
Let's look at how to start a narrative essay. When writing this type of academic task, we recommend that you follow this specific sequence of actions.
- Brainstorm ideas
- Pick the right topic
- Define your purpose for writing
- Plan your story – it should have rising action, climax, and falling action, and you should be able to draw logical conclusions from it
- Create an outline
If you approach your writing step by step, as described above, the whole process will become less stressful and much quicker. So now, let's get back to the narrative essay outline.
The opening clause of your story has to accomplish 3 goals:
- Engage readers in the story with the help of a hook. To create a powerful hook, you can use a question, fact, quote, or an intriguing statement that will make readers want to read further.
Example: “I’m not quite sure whether it is a real memory or just some false belief that grew stronger and more convincing in me over time, but I remember my sister once trying to kill me...”
- Set the scene and give readers an idea of what is happening. However, it shouldn’t tell the entire story yet, just give a glimpse into it; don’t give it all away, and keep your readers intrigued.
Example: “It was another warm summer day when we were making our way back home from the beach. The next thing I remember was a loud bang and a pounding ache in my head.”
- Define the purpose of your writing. Finally, your narrative introduction should provide some insight into what the story is all about. Give readers a sneak peek of what’s to come, but don’t state the lessons you’ve learned from the situation yet. Keep them engaged!
Example: “Our memory can be a tricky thing sometimes. Just switch the point of view for a situation and you will get a completely different picture.”
As a rule, your introduction should contain a thesis statement.
Narrative Essay Thesis Statement
The thesis statement is another important element of your paper. It should be placed in the introductory paragraph and can later be restated in your conclusion to empower the effect of the essay.
A thesis statement is your main argument. Its main goal is to introduce the problem or conflict you will investigate in your paper and to spark the readers' interest.
A good thesis statement should not be a fact or general truth, and it also shouldn't be a suggestion, recommendation, or question. Instead, it should give a sneak peek into the problem, explain it briefly, and provide some hints about the outcome.
The main body of your paper is the most important part. This is where you tell the story, share facts and details, and guide readers through the plot.
The body of a narrative essay can consist of 3 or more paragraphs, and its length depends on the general word count of your paper.
Here are 4 important points to consider in the body paragraphs of your narrative essay:
- Include vivid and relevant detail: A narrative essay is about creating a scene and a mood to follow. Even the best essay writers can spend hours writing and meticulously including details. However, make sure to spam your sentences with literary symbols. You are good to go as long as each sentence serves a purpose.
- Incorporate dialogue: Throwing the reader into dialogue is an effective way to refresh their attention. Dialogue is a great way to give a story life and support the story's atmosphere. Again, use this technique constructively.
Example: If you have two New Yorkers talking to each other, using British slang won’t be a great choice.
- Write chronologically: It's easier for readers to understand the timeline of events in a paper if the author is blunt. Keeping things sequential is the best way to keep your writing organized.
- Avoid narration deviation: The first-person voice will work best if you are talking about a personal experience. If this is a story you heard from a friend, writing in the third person will make more sense.
To find a compelling narrative paragraph example, keep on reading.
In the conclusion part, you are expected to give some final comments about your story. This is where you can restate some of the key details and ideas mentioned in the body. In addition, you should stress the lessons you've learned from a particular situation and leave readers with something to think about.
Example: “As I go through these events over and over in my head, I realize how much it has taught me. Everything that happens in our lives has at least two sides. To see the real image, it is necessary to collect all of the details piece by piece—to see both sides. And, not all memories should be trusted. Sometimes, it is just our brains that try to make up false stories, isn’t it?”
Narrative Essay Examples
The content of narrative essays can vary depending on the requirements of your institution. Leave us a notice if you need dissertation help . We have decided to provide you with narrative essay examples in case you have a problem.
New York, New York. The city that never sleeps. With a population of over 8.5m people, someone's always bound to be awake! And so many sights to see, hear, and experience across this sprawling metropolis. A visitor could spend a lifetime there and see something new every day. I recently traveled to New York, my first time in fact, and spent four days in this iconic city of the world. I visited some of the best known landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and of course, the Top of the Rock down in central Manhattan.
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.
There is an ability to identify the traits that characterise a person by looking at their immediate environment. My identity can be explained by my personality and the continuous interactions in the environments I have been in since I was young. Finding an identity is not a one-time phenomenon. I believe that identifying myself is a lifelong endeavor. After all, psychologists argue that one’s identity orients and changes over time. I find it essential to understand my self so that I can live well, interact smoothly with others, and pursue my goals. I realize that there are plenty of things to identify with: my family, gender, college, community, race, religion, and even the choices that I make every single day. Both the choices, and the factors I have no control over, eventually help define who I am and therefore, the role I have in life. Life is a broad term, and I can realize the role I play in various environments, such as home, church, school, and my community.
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.
I was just listening to some music in my car as I rested and waited for my grandmother to finish up so that we could drive off. From the other side of the road there were some kids playing football, and I had not given it much thought since they were just playing—a regular activity. For a moment, I thought I had heard a sound made by a hard-kicked ball, followed by some noise from the children. Then, I decided to look through the window to see how far the ball had gone. Before I could even move an inch, another even louder sound, which shook my car, came from the playground. That is when I felt fear all throughout my body and I started sweating profusely, even though I was still not quite sure enough about what had just happened.
Writing a narrative essay should be a positive experience. It does not restrict you to a linear format with no allowance for variation. This is one of the most free-spirited and original essays to write. That doesn't mean that rebelling against all rules and writing something absurd is appropriate, though.
If you are still struggling to decide what to write about – think of your story as a coming-of-age tale. An event that transformed you into the person you are today.
Your primary goal is to take the readers on a journey. Have them share your experience and take something away from it. The best stories are always the ones that teleport the readers out of their comfort zones.
Now, let us give you a few more tips on how to write a flawless narrative story:
- Keep It Clear. Your narrative writing should be easy to read and understand. Thus, try to avoid phrasing and syntax that is too complex. Keep your language clear and simple.
- Refrain from Overusing Details. A narrative essay should tell a story in vivid detail. However, it is important to use details sparingly. As mentioned, your word count will be limited, and you still need to have enough space to let your story unfold fully. Thus, describe only some things, focus on things that matter, and add value.
- Use the First-Person Narrative. As a rule, narrative writing describes real events and experiences in the author's life. That's why you should avoid writing in the second-person perspective.
- Use Dynamic Words. A narrative story should be engaging and dynamic. Make it simple and use passive voice sparingly.
- Limit References. Most papers in MLA format have to include in-text citations and, thus, many references. This is, however, a better practice for a narrative essay. Essentially, this type of assignment is much more personal, so it would be great if you could use your thoughts and feelings to write it. If you still used other helpful resources while writing, cite them on a ‘Works Cited’ page.
You can always buy essays online on EssayPro.
Do’s and Don’ts of Narrative Writing
To make the writing process less stressful, keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind:
- Preferably write your story in the first-person point of view (or third-person if necessary).
- Begin with a hook in the form of a fact, quote, question, definition, etc., to grab the readers' attention.
- Make a clear statement of your point: What will you say with this paper?
- Follow the proper narrative format.
- Spice up your story with some conflict.
- Try to address all five senses simultaneously – tell the readers what the characters of a story saw, what they smelled, heard, felt, etc.
- Follow a logical presentation sequence – ideally, move from one event to another in chronological order.
- Keep your language clear and easy to read.
- Don't hesitate to use different descriptive techniques such as power words, transitions, etc.
- Do not write a narrative essay in the second-person perspective.
- Don’t create fictional stories, write about events that really happened.
- Don’t use exceedingly formal language, arguments, slang, etc.
- Don’t write about everything – too many details are also not good, so be sure to be specific only about the main ideas and details that drive the plot of your story.
- Don’t tell a story, show it!
Get a Perfect Narrative Essay from Pros!
Storytelling is a skill that doesn’t come naturally. It takes time and effort to acquire it, which is why writing a good narrative essay can be so challenging sometimes. Hopefully this guide will help you get a better idea of how to write a good narrative paper. And if you still have any concerns, contact our service and find the perfect author.
What is a Narrative Essay — Examples, Format & Techniques
I was in the Amazon jungle the first time I wrote a narrative essay, enlightened and enraptured by the influence of ayahuasca. That’s not true. I’ve never been to South America nor have I ever taken ayahuasca. The purpose of that opening is to show how to craft a narrative essay intro — hook, line, and sinker. Narrative essays rely on hooking the reader, and enticing them to read on. But what is a narrative essay? We’re going to break down everything you need to know about these essays — definition, examples, tips and tricks included. By the end, you’ll be ready to craft your own narrative essay for school or for publication.
What’s a Narrative Essay?
First, let’s define narrative essay.
Narrative essays share a lot of similarities with personal essays, but whereas the former can be fictional or non-fictional, the latter are strictly non-fictional. The goal of the narrative essay is to use established storytelling techniques, like theme , conflict , and irony , in a uniquely personal way.
The responsibility of the narrative essayist is to make the reader feel connected to their story, regardless of the topic. This next video explores how writers can use structural elements and techniques to better engage their readers.
Personal Narrative Essay Examples With Essay Pro
Narrative essays rely on tried and true structure components, including:
- First-person POV
- Personal inspiration
- Focus on a central theme
By keeping these major tenets in mind, you’ll be better prepared to recognize weaknesses and strengths in your own works.
NARRATIVE ESSAY DEFINITION
What is a narrative essay.
A narrative essay is a prose-written story that’s focused on the commentary of a central theme. Narrative essays are generally written in the first-person POV, and are usually about a topic that’s personal to the writer. Everything in these essays should take place in an established timeline, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Famous Narrative Essay Examples
- Ticker to the Fair by David Foster Wallace
- After Life by Joan Didion
- Here is a Lesson in Creative Writing by Kurt Vonnegut
Narrative Writing Explained
How to start a narrative essay.
When you go to sleep at night, what do you think of? Flying squirrels? Lost loved ones? That time you called your teacher ‘mom’? Whatever it is, that’s what you need to write about. There’s a reason those ideas and moments have stuck with you over time. Your job is to figure out why.
Once you realize what makes a moment important to you, it’s your job to make it important to the reader too. In this next video, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker J. Christian Jensen explains the power of the personal narrative.
Narrative Writing and the Personal Narrative Essay • Video by TEDx Talks
Anything and everything can be the topic of your essay. It could be as benign as a walk to school or as grandiose as a trip to the moon — so long as that narrative exists within reality. Give your thoughts and opinions on the matter too — don’t be afraid to say “this is what I think” so long as it’s supported by storytelling techniques. Remember, never limit yourself as a writer, just keep in mind that certain topics will be harder to make engaging than others.
Narrative Essay Outline
How to write a narrative essay.
First step, game plan. You’re going to want to map out the story from beginning to end, then mark major story beats in your document.
Like all stories, your narrative essay needs a clear beginning, middle, and end. Each section should generally conform to a specifically outlined structure. For reference, check out the outline below.
Narrative Essay Format • How to Write a Narrative Essay Step by Step
Make sure to reference back to this outline throughout the writing process to make sure you have all your major beats covered.
Purpose of narrative essay writing
Narrative essays give writers the ability to freely express themselves within the structure of a traditional story. Nearly all universities ask applicants to submit a narrative essay with their formal application. This is done for two reasons: they allow institutions to judge the linguistic and grammar capabilities of its applicants, as well as their raw creative side.
If you’re considering studying creative writing in an undergraduate or graduate program, then you’re going to write A LOT of narrative style essays. This process may seem indomitable; How am I supposed to write hundreds of pages about… me? But by the end, you’ll be a better writer and you’ll have a better understanding of yourself.
One thing that all successful essayists have in common is that they make radical, often defiant statements on the world at large. Think Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, and Langston Hughes for example.
Being a professional essayist isn’t easy, and it’s near-impossible to be one who makes a lot of money. Many essayists work as professors, editors, and curriculum designers as well.
This next video features the late, award-winning essayist Brian Doyle. He explains all the things you need to hear when thinking about writing a story.
Narrative Essay Examples “Lecture” via Boston University
We can learn a lot from the way Doyle “opens” his stories. My favorite is how he begins with the statement, “I met the Dalai Lama once.” How can we not be interested in learning more?
This brings us all the way back to the beginning. Start with a hook, rattle off the line, then reel in the sinker. If you entice the reader, develop a personal plot, and finish with a resolute ending, you’ll have a lot of success in essay writing.
Adapting a true story.
A narrative essay is often rooted in real-events, then extrapolated upon with fictional elements. Many of the challenges presented with narrative essays also exist with adapting a true story. In this next article, we look at how pro-writers like Quentin Tarantino, Charlie Kaufmann, and the Safdie Brothers adapt true stories with renewed creative license.
Up Next: Writing fiction based on real events →
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- The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples
The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples
Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 6, 2021.
An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.
Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type.
In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.
Table of contents
Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, frequently asked questions about types of essays.
An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.
Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.
The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:
- The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
- The body presents your evidence and arguments
- The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance
The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.
A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.
An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.
Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.
The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.
A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.
The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.
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A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.
Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.
A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.
Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.
Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.
Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.
A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.
The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.
A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.
Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.
A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.
Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.
On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.
My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.
With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…
Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.
Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.
A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.
The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.
The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.
The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.
King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.
A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.
Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.
The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.
Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.
At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.
Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”
The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.
Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:
- In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
- In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
- In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory
An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.
An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.
The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.
Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.
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What Is Narrative Writing?
Narrative writing is, essentially, story writing. A narrative can be fiction or nonfiction, and it can also occupy the space between these as a semi-autobiographical story, historical fiction, or a dramatized retelling of actual events. As long as a piece tells a story through a narrative structure, it’s narrative writing.
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Types of narrative writing
There are multiple ways to write a narrative. The right kind of narrative for your story or essay depends on your goals for the piece you’re writing .
With a linear narrative, a story’s events are told in chronological order. Most books, movies, TV shows, and other pieces of media are linear narratives. With a linear narrative, each scene is followed by the next logical scene. There can be gaps between scenes, such as a book’s third chapter taking place two years after its second chapter’s events.
One specific type of linear narrative you may be familiar with is the quest narrative . This kind of narrative tells the story of a character’s quest to reach a goal. Often, this quest involves traveling to a far-off location and overcoming obstacles to achieve the goal. Shrek is an example of a quest narrative. In addition to following the standard quest narrative structure, Shrek also satirizes many of the tropes associated with this kind of story, like a princess locked in a tower guarded by a dragon.
Another specific type of linear narrative you may have encountered is the historical narrative . A historical narrative follows a linear timeline to tell the story of an actual event or series of events.
In contrast to a linear narrative, a nonlinear narrative presents its story’s events in nonchronological order. A well-known example of a nonlinear narrative is House of Leaves, a novel told through first-person narration, recovered documents, and footnotes throughout the book.
By choosing a nonlinear narrative for your writing, you can emphasize your characters’ emotions and perspectives on the events in the story. You can also highlight key events and include scenes that provide necessary details that wouldn’t fit into your story’s timeline otherwise.
A viewpoint narrative focuses on the narrator’s perspective of the story’s events. Generally, these kinds of stories are more character driven than plot driven . The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most popular examples of a viewpoint narrative. By putting the reader in protagonist Holden Caulfield’s head, author J. D. Salinger created a unique perspective that allows the reader to experience Holden’s romp through New York City firsthand and feel what he feels as the narrative unfolds. Imagine if the novel was a linear narrative told through a third-person point of view—reading it would be a very different experience, wouldn’t it?
Through a narrative viewpoint, you can explore facets of your protagonist’s personality and expose your readers to their thoughts. This kind of narrative is an effective choice for personal essays and stories with perspective and personal growth themes.
In a descriptive narrative, the focus is on how the story’s setting, characters, and objects look and feel. The goal here is total immersion in the world of the story; this is different from how a viewpoint narrative strives to create immersion in a character’s inner world, a limited perspective on the world of the story. A well-known example of a descriptive narrative is Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart. After murdering a victim and hiding his heart beneath a floorboard, the narrator hears a heartbeat-like thumping, which gets louder and louder until they confess to their crime. The narrative is structured like a conversation between the reader and the narrator, with the narrator’s distressed mental state and strong emotions expressed through Poe’s word choice, sentence structure, and manner of addressing the reader.
If you’re assigned to write a descriptive essay , you’ll use descriptive narrative techniques to discuss the topic you’re covering. These include using vivid imagery to introduce specific objects and ideas, personification, and similes.
Characteristics of narrative writing
Each type of writing has its own unique characteristics, and narrative writing is no different. Here are key characteristics you’ll find in most narratives:
- Descriptive language: This type of language evokes feelings rather than directly stating facts. Descriptive language techniques include metaphors, similes, personification, and onomatopoeia.
- Among the characters, nearly every narrative needs to have a protagonist . The protagonist, also known as the main character , is the character whose story is being told as they work toward a goal or face a challenge.
- Another character found in nearly every narrative is the antagonist . The antagonist isn’t necessarily the “bad guy”; they are simply the character or force imposing obstacles for the protagonist to overcome. In many narratives, the antagonist is a person, a force of nature, the protagonist’s society, or even an aspect of the protagonist’s personality.
- Plot: The plot is the series of events that happen in your narrative. A plot can be simple, with only one or two events, or it can be complex and multi-layered.
- The beginning: This is where the reader meets your writing. Hooking their attention at the beginning is crucial.
- The middle: The middle of your story or essay is where the action happens. This is where your protagonist faces one or more conflicts and reaches the climax, the point where the narrative pivots to the falling action after the protagonist either meets or fails to meet their goal.
- The end: After the narrative’s climax, the ending wraps up loose story threads, satisfies readers’ remaining curiosities, and positions the protagonist for life after the story’s events.
Tips for awesome narrative writing
Use your narrative to build characters.
When you’re writing in the first-person point of view, your story’s narrator is one of the characters in the story. Use this role as an opportunity to shape their character through their word choice, perspective, and reactions to the events in the story. Your narrator doesn’t have to be omniscient, nor do they necessarily have to be trustworthy or even the story’s only narrator—experiment with things like an unreliable narrator, a limited point of view, or alternating narrators (which gives the reader a taste of each character’s perspective).
Listen to how people tell stories
Next time your friend tells you about their day, pay as much attention to how they tell the story as you do to the story itself. Listen for the jumps forward and back, asides, tangents, and how your friend’s volume and animation level change at different parts of the story. You’ll notice that certain parts get “fast-forwarded” while others split from the logical, linear narrative and involve more abstract, descriptive language.
When you sit down to write your next narrative piece, keep these storytelling ebbs and flows in mind. Think about where your friend slowed down to build suspense and where their tone changed to communicate how they felt at different points in the story. You can create these effects in your writing through thoughtful word choice and pacing.
Mix and match narrative styles
Writing a linear narrative doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate elements of a descriptive or viewpoint narrative. If your nonlinear essay about the five best summers of your life calls for a passage that shows the reader everything you saw, smelled, and swatted away one year at camp, write that passage.
Give yourself permission to play. Make up your own onomatopoeia. Put yourself in two different characters’ heads and describe the same building from each character’s perspective. Then write the characters’ conversation with each other about the building. Follow your stream of consciousness as far as it can go and see where you end up.
This playful kind of writing is called freewriting . It’s a fun way to get yourself into a creative mind frame and create a world on the page. There are no structure rules and there’s no reason to worry about grammar —the writing you produce during a freewriting session is the raw content you’ll shape and polish into a coherent narrative later. For now, give yourself permission to play.
Make your writing shine
Grammarly can help you tell your story—any story—with confidence by ensuring that your writing is mistake-free and conveys the exact tone you intend. Consider it a built-in editor that helps you hone your craft as you write.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 3 great narrative essay examples + tips for writing.
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.
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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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Narrative Essay Writing
Narrative Essay Outline
How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline?
Published on: Jul 2, 2019
Last updated on: Jan 20, 2023
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A narrative essay is the simplest and the most exciting type of essay that lets you share your story. It uses the ethos, pathos, and logos to help the reader understand the story. Similar to other types of essays, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
To make narrative writing more interesting and simpler, craft a good outline. Once you have an outline template in hand, you can easily organize your story.
Learn to craft a perfect narrative essay outline from this blog.
What is a Narrative Essay?
A narrative essay is like a short story that has a central point around which the story revolves. It is told from a definite point of view, usually, the writers. So specific sensory details are provided to get the reader involved in the sequence of the story.
It is like a descriptive essay and expository essay , where the writer informs the reader about a particular event. It offers writers a chance to think and write about themselves.
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Elements of a Narrative Essay
Narrative essays rely on personal experiences and are written in the form of a story. When the writer uses this technique, he uses the convention of storytelling. The five elements of a narrative essay are:
- Plot: The main event happened in your story.
- Character: People who played some role in your story.
- Setting: When and where the event happened
- Conflict: The problems faced by the characters
- Theme: Moral of the story
These five elements collectively make a strong narrative essay. Follow the narrative arc format to write a perfect essay. The narrative arc is a five stages process through which your plot passes to become a story.
The first step in writing a narrative essay is creating an outline. Let’s see how to start a narrative essay. Follow these steps to understand the outline writing process:
Let us discuss these steps in detail.
1. Choose an Essay Topic
A topic plays an important role in crafting a perfect essay. When writing a narrative essay, remember that you are telling a story, so you need to get the reader’s interest in the beginning. Choose a topic that interests you the most and gets the reader’s attention immediately.
Before you get into the writing process, brainstorm for different ideas. Think of the things that happened in your story and try to recall the exact sequence. The brainstorming session helps you remember every important aspect related to your story. Make sure you don’t miss out on anything.
3. Write an Eye-catchy Introduction
The opening paragraph needs to accomplish three goals:
- Get the reader involved in the essay with an eye-catchy hook statement.
- Set the scene and give a glimpse of what happened in your story
- State the thesis statement that provides an insight into what the story is all about.
4. Draft an Interesting Body
The body paragraphs comprise the major section of the essay. It describes the character, presents the setting, and discusses the conflicts. Here are the elements of the body paragraph:
- Include a vivid description and present relevant details.
- Incorporate dialogues effectively to get the reader involved in the story.
- Write in the exact sequence in which the event happened.
- Write in the first person while writing a personal story. Use the third person if you are writing someone else’s story.
5. Compose a Compelling Conclusion
In conclusion, you need to present the climax of the story. The following things should be included in the conclusion paragraph:
- Present the climax of the story
- Restate some of the key details
- Share the lesson that you have learned from your story (if any)
- Provide a call to action (if required)
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Narrative Essay Outline Worksheet
Narrative Essay Outline Worksheet (PDF)
Narrative Essay Outline Example
Narrative Essay Outline Format (PDF)
Narrative Essay Outline Structure (PDF)
Narrative Essay Outline MLA Format (PDF)
5 Paragraph Narrative Essay Outline (PDF)
Sample Narrative Essay Outline for Middle school (PDF)
High School Narrative Essay Outline Template (PDF)
Narrative Essay Outline for College (PDF)
Personal Narrative Essay Outline (PDF)
Descriptive Narrative Essay Outline (PDF)
Literacy Narrative Essay Outline (PDF)
Nonfiction Narrative Essay Outline (PDF)
Reflective Narrative Essay Outline (PDF)
Historical Narrative Essay Outline (PDF)
Biographical Narrative Essay Outline (PDF)
What are the Five Rules of Narrative Writing
Now that you have a step-by-step guide and examples for crafting a narrative essay outline. Here are the five essential rules of narrative writing:
1. Keep It Clear
As you are telling a story, make sure it is clear for the reader. Do not mix things up. It should be clear and easy to understand for the reader. Moreover, use simple and clear language.
2. Do Not Exaggerate
The narrative essay has a main theme around which the whole story revolves. Don’t overuse the details; just tell the story in vivid detail. You should sound real.
3. Write in The First Person
Narrative essays are usually the writer’s personal experiences that they share with the reader. Therefore, they should be written in the first person. Do not use the second-person narrative.
4. Use Dynamic Words
The word choice should be dynamic. Avoid making your story monotonous. Avoid using the same slangs or idioms.
5. Limit References
The formatting styles like APA, MLA, etc., recommend including citations in the essay. But, the narrative essays are personal stories; you should limit the references.
Follow this step-by-step guide to craft a perfect outline for your essay. However, if you get into any trouble, feel free to contact us. FreeEssayWriter.net is a professional essay writing service that provides an academic writing help for every level.
Our essay writer is one of the capable writers who can craft top-notch essays, research papers in a short period of time. Check out our free essays to analyze the quality of our work and get some inspiration to place your order .
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Narrative Essay Writing
Narrative Essay Examples
Narrative Essay Examples by Writing Experts
Published on: Apr 12, 2020
Last updated on: Feb 28, 2023
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A narrative essay is a form of writing that includes storytelling using multiple techniques to entertain the audience. Unlike the argumentative essay, a narrative essay does not attempt to persuade its audience and only focuses on sharing personal experiences
The writer forms a central point on which the entire narrative essay revolves. All the events, plot, characters, setting, and happenings present in the essay serve one motif that is the central theme.
Writing a narrative essay requires a writer to effectively use sensory details and other creative elements for the readers. If you are writing a narrative essay, and looking forward to impressing the audience, go through the narrative essay examples.
This article is written to provide some great examples and samples for your narrative essay. Continue reading to learn how an attractive narrative paper is written.
Narrative Essay Outline
Like every other type of essay, a narrative essay requires an outline to be well structured and understandable by the readers. Without an outline, the content will be difficult to read, and the purpose will not be obvious.
A narrative essay uses the traditional essay outline of 5 paragraphs. According to this, the content of the essay is divided into the following sections:
- Body Paragraph 1
- Body Paragraph 2
- Body Paragraph 3
All the information on the topic is presented in these sections in a way that makes the content sensible for the readers.
After you have decided on an interesting topic for your narrative essay, it is time to start drafting it. Are you worried about making a start on your narrative essay? Follow the writing steps provided.
The introduction of a narrative essay is the first section that includes the following information:
- A hook statement
- Scene setting
- The narrative essay thesis statement or the central theme
Narrative Essay Introduction Example:
“The villagers had lost a few goats and poultry to a mystery. The mystery of the missing farm animals spread like wildfire in the village. Many speculated there were thieves in the village, while others suggested a wild beast was on the run.
Despite several speculations, the mystery of the disappearances remained unsolved. The whole village was in a state of dismay when the tiger appeared and launched another attack on the village.”
In the above-given example, the introduction opens from a hook statement followed by the central theme.
2. Main Body
The main body of a narrative essay is based on three paragraphs according to the basic essay structure. Following are the major details that are presented in the body section of a narrative essay:
- Vivid and clear descriptions
- Chronologically ordered events
The purpose of this section is to elaborate on the central theme providing detailed explanations. This is the main section of the content that shares every detail on the topic. A narrative essay builds stories, characters, events, and scenes into the reader’s minds.
Body Paragraph 1 Example:
“The prey was not any farm animal this time; it was a young child playing by the barn. The villagers had had enough; they had to put a stop to it once and for all. They organized a group of the bravest men from the village, armed them with shotguns, and planned to attack the tiger. They also took a goat to lure to the tiger in our trap.”
Body Paragraph 2 Example:
“The plan was to trap the tiger and later kill him. I was amongst the members of the group who left for the jungle late at night. For hours we did not hear anything except the mosquitoes and crickets around us. Then we found paw prints on the muddy ground, which assured us of the tigerâ€™s usual trail. Thereupon, as the sun rose, we set up a trap using a goat as bait. We were assured that this would catch the tiger immediately.”
Body Paragraph 3 Example:
“We had almost given up when suddenly around daybreak, we heard the bushes rustle and the leaves crackle. All of us shivered to our spines and saw the mystery east coming towards us. We changed our guns and pointed it towards the wild beast. We steadied our guns towards the tiger as he jumped to grab the goat. He fell into the trap. One of the members shot the tiger dead, and we rescued the goat safely back to our village.”
The conclusion is the last section of an essay. The closure of your essay should be remarkable in order to make the whole content effective. If you want your audience to remember your essay, draft a tremendous conclusion.
A conclusion of a narrative essay includes the following elements:
- Moral of the story
- Lessons in your essay
- Call-To-Action, if any.
Narrative Essay Conclusion Example:
“The mission was accomplished. We had killed the wild beast and had emerged successfully. It was an amazing hunting trip. One that would always remain in my memory for all time to come.”
Before jumping onto the writing process, go through a plethora of narrative essay examples to make sure that outlining and formatting are done correctly. Moreover, looking at examples will allow the writer to understand the use of sensory details and vocabulary to describe events, settings, characters, and emotions.
In order to help our students, CollegeEssay.org has gathered a few examples. These examples will help you learn the correct formation of a narrative essay.
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Personal Narrative Essay Example
Are you looking for a sample to draft a personal narrative essay? Go through the example provided below to understand how the first-person and third-person perspectives are used in a narrative essay.
Sample Personal Narrative Essay (PDF)
Narrative Essay Example for Middle School
A narrative essay is frequently assigned to middle school students to assess their writing and creative skills. If you are a student looking for a sample narrative essay for your middle school assignment, go through the example provided below.
Sample Middle School Narrative Essay (PDF)
Narrative Essay Example for High School
When drafting assignments for high school, professional writing is essential. Your essays and papers should be well structured and written in order to achieve better grades. If you are assigned a narrative essay, go through the sample provided to see how an effective essay is written.
Sample Narrative Essay For High School (PDF)
Narrative Essay Example for College
College essays are more complex in nature than other academic levels. They require a better understanding of the concept, following a proper writing procedure, and an outline.
Although you are to draft a narrative essay for your college assignment, make sure it is professionally written. Read the sample narrative essay provided below.
Sample Narrative Essay For College (PDF)
Descriptive Narrative Essay Example
If you are to draft a document on the recreation of an event, a descriptive narrative essay is written. It presents an incident that happened to the writer and the backed-up information that supports the story.
The following is a perfect example of a descriptive narrative essay.
Sample Descriptive Narrative Essay (PDF)
Literacy Narrative Essay Example
Academic assignments often require students to draft essays on education. Education is the most significant topic of discussion, and for this purpose, almost every essay type and research paper studies it.
If you are drafting a narrative essay on literacy, go through the sample provided.
Sample Literacy Narrative Essay (PDF)
Fictional Narrative Essay Example
Drafting a fictional piece of a document requires a more vivid description and detail. If you are assigned a narrative essay to draft on a fictional theme, read the example provided below.
Sample Fictional Narrative Essay (PDF)
Narrative Essay Writing Tips
Professional essay writers of CollegeEssay.org have gathered some tips and tricks for you to follow in order to make your narrative essay remarkable. Even if you are aware of the writing procedure, it is advised to use expert tips to make your documents flawless.
Follow the tips provided below to draft an exceptional narrative essay.
- The narrative essay content should be clear. All the details and descriptions provided should be readable and understandable by the audience. Avoid using complex words and distribute content into paragraphs.
- Avoid describing every minor detail or movement. Provide only explanations that are important for the readers to imagine.
- In order to make something believable and interesting for the readers, state it from the first-person perspective. Share your personal experiences, stories, and opinions to make the content impactful.
- Choose appropriate and accurate wordings for your ideas. Whether describing a character or an event, the vocabulary should be completing it.
- Use limited referencing. When drafting an essay, according to the instructed format, avoid using frequent in-text citations.
- Write your point of view clearly, so the readers feel that it is a genuine piece of writing.
Using the tips provided by the professionals and going through the narrative essay samples will let you draft an effective paper.
But if your analyzing and writing skills are not impressive, you can always get professional help. CollegeEssay.org is an expert essay writing company that provides custom services and high-quality content.
No matter which college essay type you are drafting for your academics, you can get assistance from the most qualified writers.
Simply hire an experienced writer by placing an order at the most reasonable price.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is a narrative paragraph.
Paragraphs vary in length depending on the content, but a standard 5-sentence paragraph usually isn't enough to tell an interesting story.
How do I write a narrative essay?
Here are some steps that will help you to write a great narrative essay.
- Consider the topic
- Start writing the draft
- Provide supporting facts
- Revise your essay
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Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > How to Write a Narrative Essay
How to Write a Narrative Essay
Storytelling is a skill as old as time. Cave drawings that date back to the earliest humans tell tales about the change of seasons, hunts, and everyday family life. Writing a narrative essay is a similar method of storytelling. While it doesn’t have to be difficult, it does take some strategy.
Our step-by-step guide will show you how to write a narrative essay the easy way.
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What is a narrative essay?
Understanding the definition of a narrative essay is the first step. A narrative essay is a real-life event that has happened to you, the writer. Because it’s an event that happened to you, it should be written in the first person. Sometimes you’re given a prompt, other times you have to come up with one of your own. Here are some examples of what a narrative essay could cover:
- Your most memorable vacation
- A time you learned a new skill
- The most afraid you’ve ever been
- Your first year away at college
The essential elements
A proper understanding of how to write a narrative essay includes knowing the specific elements required. Every narrative essay needs to have a character and plot to follow. The character (that’s you) will progress through a conflict. The conflict doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering event. It can be as simple as trying a food you don’t like.
As you write your narrative essay, remember the phrase “Show, don’t tell.” Your writing will impact your audience more by using words that show them how something happened rather than simply telling them. Appeal to the reader’s senses so they can feel immersed in the setting.
Every essay type has its own format. While many of them are similar, putting together your essay takes a different shape each time. When it comes to writing a story, there’s a formula that writers must use to ensure that the storyline flows from start to finish and makes sense to the reader. If you think about it, every story follows the format of an introduction to the character and world, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the story conclusion. Let’s address each part individually, so you know the elements of each.
- Introduction. Unlike an informative essay, you’re not going to be introducing the points of your story. Rather, you’re introducing the reader to the setting, plot, and characters. A narrative essay doesn’t have to be long, so do your best to be concise about establishing the setting by showing them where the story takes place. For instance, if the narrative takes place at your favorite restaurant, describe the smells, sounds, what you see, how the food tastes, and what it feels like sitting at the table. While it doesn’t make sense to describe the taste of the food before it reaches the table, you can talk about how your mouth is watering in anticipation of your favorite dish.
- Rising action. Once you’ve established your setting and gotten the plot moving, it’s time to get into the action. The rising action includes the events leading up to the story’s most exciting part. What events are set into motion that will keep the reader moving toward the climax? Returning to your favorite restaurant, what happened the first time you were there? Highlight your first impressions as you walked in, were seated, and looked over the menu. Again, appeal to the reader’s senses with rising action.
- Climax. The climax is the most exciting part of the story. It’s the segment the reader has been anticipating. While a visual representation of a story is often a symmetrical bell curve with the rising action leading uphill toward the climax with the falling action moving downhill, your narrative doesn’t have to be symmetrical. If you take two-thirds of your story building up to your climax, that’s fine, but it needs to be exciting.
- Falling action. The falling action of your story is the fallout of the climax. It’s the result of the most exciting part. If the climax of your story is an exciting car chase scene, the falling action could be the characters dealing with the repercussions of the chase. Whether the hero is being chased or doing the chasing will determine how the action falls.
- Conclusion. Wrap up your narrative by closing out the story. Leave your reader with some kind of satisfying payoff. Your narrative essay shouldn’t be the first part of a story leading into a sequel because it’s a single event that has happened to you. Ending with something like, “Then I ate the sushi, and it was delicious,” doesn’t reward the reader for reaching the end of the essay. Describe why it was a big deal that the sushi was delicious, or not delicious, and appeal to the reader’s senses.
Knowing how to write a narrative essay is all about storytelling. Building a story requires a character, setting, and plot with rising and falling action—with the climax in the middle. Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to write a narrative that will capture your reader’s attention from start to finish.
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Narrative Essay Examples and Key Elements
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In a narrative essay , you tell a story, often about a personal experience, but you also make a point. So, the purpose is not only to tell an entertaining tale, but also to expound on the importance of the experience. In the narrative essay examples below, see if you can pull out the moral or theme . When it’s your time to draft a similar type of essay, hopefully, you can stir the heart of the reader.
Sample Narrative Essays
Below, you’ll find two narrative essay samples. One has a sad little twist and the other is a personal narrative essay that details the importance of hope. Note that they tell a story, while emphasizing an integral moral or theme.
He Left So I Could Learn
In this first essay example, we explore a lesson on dying:
It was my second day on the job. I was sitting in my seemingly gilded cubicle, overlooking Manhattan, and pinching my right arm to make sure it was real. I landed an internship at Condé Nast Traveler. Every aspiring writer I’ve ever known secretly dreamt of an Anthony Bourdain lifestyle. Travel the world and write about its most colorful pockets. When my phone rang, and it was Mom telling me Dad had a heart attack. He didn’t make it. I felt as though the perfectly carpeted floors had dropped out from under me. Now that I’ve come out the other side, I realize Dad left me with a hefty stack of teachings. Here are three ideals I know he would’ve liked for me to embrace. First, you have to stand on your own two feet. As much as our parents love and support us, they can’t go to our school and confess to the principal that we stole a candy bar from Sara. We have to do that. Neither can they walk into the Condé Nast office and nail a job interview for us. At some point, we have to put on our “big girl pants” and be brave, even if we’re not. Also, there’s a difference between love and co-dependence. Being grateful to have someone to turn to for love and support is not the same as needing someone to turn to for love and support. With the loss of my father, I’ve also lost my sounding board. All I can glean from that is it’s time to look within myself and make proper assessments. If I can’t make sound decisions with the tools already in my kit, then I risk falling for anything. Finally, memories are, perhaps, the only item that cannot be taken away from us. Will I miss my father? Every single day. What can I do in those times? I can open up our suitcase of memories, pick out my favorite one, and dream about it, talk about it, or write about it. Maybe I can’t pick up the phone and call him anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s gone. Next week, I’m off to Istanbul to explore their art scene. As soon as I read the email from my editor, I picked up my phone to call Dad. Then, I realized he’ll never answer my calls again. I fought back the tears, got up to make a cup of peppermint tea, and added a new note to my iPhone titled, “Istanbul Packing List.” In the end, life goes on. I’m not sure why he had to leave during the single most poignant chapter in my life. So, I won’t dwell on that. Instead, I’ll hold tightly to these three ideals and write about Karaköy in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district. Dad will be with me every step of the way.
A Teeny, Tiny Treasure Box
The next short narrative essay takes a different approach. Instead of living in a comfortably loving home, the writer had to deal with the uncertainty of the foster system. Here’s a short lesson on hope:
She took me by the hand and walked me into the lobby like a five-year old child. Didn’t she know I was pushing 15? This was the third home Nancy was placing me in - in a span of eight months. I guess she felt a little sorry for me. The bright fluorescent lights threatened to burn my skin as I walked towards a bouncy-looking lady with curly hair and a sweetly-smiling man. They called themselves Allie and Alex. Cute, I thought. After they exchanged the usual reams of paperwork, it was off in their Chevy Suburban to get situated into another new home. This time, there were no other foster children and no other biological children. Anything could happen. Over the next few weeks, Allie, Alex, and I fell into quite a nice routine. She’d make pancakes for breakfast, or he’d fry up some sausage and eggs. They sang a lot, even danced as they cooked. They must have just bought the house because, most weekends, we were painting a living room butter yellow or staining a coffee table mocha brown. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. When would they start threatening a loss of pancakes if I didn’t mow the lawn? When would the sausage and eggs be replaced with unidentifiable slosh because he didn’t feel like cooking in the morning? But, it never happened. They kept cooking, singing, and dancing like a couple of happy fools. It was a Saturday afternoon when Allie decided it was time to paint the brick fireplace white. As we crawled closer to the dirty old firepit, we pulled out the petrified wood and noticed a teeny, tiny treasure box. We looked at each other in wonder and excitement. She actually said, “I wonder if the leprechauns left it!” While judging her for being such a silly woman, I couldn’t help but laugh and lean into her a little. Together, we reached for the box and pulled it out. Inside was a shimmering solitaire ring. Folded underneath was a short piece of paper that read: “My darling, my heart. Only 80 days have passed since I first held your hand. I simply cannot imagine my next 80 years without you in them. Will you take this ring, take my heart, and build a life with me? This tiny little solitaire is my offering to you. Will you be my bride?” As I stared up at Allie, she asked me a question. “Do you know what today is?” I shook my head. “It’s May 20th. That’s 80 days since Nancy passed your hand into mine and we took you home.” It turns out, love comes in all shapes and sizes, even a teeny, tiny treasure box from a wonderfully silly lady who believes in leprechauns.
Essential Elements of Narrative Essays
Let’s go back to basics first. Generally speaking, there are four types of essays: argumentative essays , descriptive essays , expository essays , and narrative essays .
Narrative essays tell a vivid story, usually from one person's viewpoint. A narrative essay uses all the story elements — a beginning, middle and ending, as well as plot, characters, setting and climax — bringing them together to complete the story. The focus of a narrative essay is the plot, which is told with enough detail to build to a climax. Here's how:
- It’s usually told chronologically.
- It always has a purpose. Often, this is stated in your thesis statement in the introductory paragraph.
- It may use dialogue. For more on that, here are the ins and outs on how to punctuate dialogue correcctly .
- It’s written with sensory details and bright descriptions that involve the reader. All these details relate in some way to the main point the writer is making.
Quick Tips on Writing a Narrative Essay
When writing a narrative essay, remember that you are sharing sensory and emotional details with the reader.
- Your words need to be vivid and colorful to help the reader feel the same feelings that you felt.
- Elements of the story need to support the point you are making. And, you need to remember to make reference to that point in the first sentence.
- You should make use of conflict and sequence like in any story.
- You may use flashbacks and flash forwards to help the story build toward a climax.
- It is usually written in the first person , but the third-person perspective may also be used.
Tell Your Story
Use your next narrative essay to tell your story. It’s possible to focus on yourself, while offering the reader some sort of lesson or truth. Encourage them to move past terrible loss or maintain hope in a seemingly bleak foster system.
Narrative essays are close cousins to short stories. If you feel compelled to share another story, fiction or nonfiction, with the world, check out Get Creative: How to Write a Short Story . Who knows how many lives you’ll brighten and shape with your words. Remember, there’s great power in them.
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How to Write a Narrative Essay
Narrative essays evoke emotion in those who read them. As the author of a narrative, your job is to not only deliver a factual account of a deeply personal event, but to also convey to your readers what the aftermath of that event was – and you must do so in a way that leaves your readers with something of value. You might even consider starting your narrative by presenting your audience with a question that they can ponder as they read the rest of the paper. Just be sure to provide a response or some sort of tie in to the question in your closing statement.
Writing a narrative requires, at least to a certain extent, a small degree of story-telling capability. In a typical narrative paper the author recounts a personal experience and shares not only what happened but also what the overall outcome or lesson learned was.
In order to write your essay successfully, the writer must be able to clearly express why the story has value.
There are many different schools of thought when it comes to the best practice for writing narrative essays, however, few are as straightforward as the Five Step Method for Writing Descriptive Narratives. Following this method, anyone writing a narrative paragraph, for example, college students, would follow consecutively that five processes below.
The initial stage is, without doubt, the most important. In the conceptualization phase, writers are asked to call upon past experiences that correlate to the theme of their assignment. Topic examples might be ‘write about overcoming a fear’ or ‘write about rekindling a friendship.’ When choosing an experience to share, be mindful of the fact that even seemingly insignificant events have the potential to make for a superior narrative paragraph if it is meaningful to you – we speak passionately about the things that we are emotionally connected to!
After you’ve decided on a topic, invest time into writing down your recollection of suitable events and recalling as many details as possible. Remember to include the date, time of year, people that were present, important objects, etc. Creating a timeline for the narrative will help the details and storyline to flow with ease.
- Drafting the Narrative Form
Before you can create your finished copy, use the outline created previously to make a draft copy. This is the time to really make your story come to life.
- Narrative essays that are written in first person are often the most well received. Using the descriptor ‘I’ will help to engage the reader by creating the illusion of immediacy.
- Remember your role as the story teller – don’t skimp out on the small details. The reader was not there, they need for you to paint a clear visual of the moment just as it happened. Leave no stone unturned.
- Best way to start an essay is with a thought provoking statement or by asking a question that anyone reading your report can think about as they continue to read your narrative paper.
- Rely on descriptive adjectives and words that create clear visualizations. It is your job to engage with your readers. Connect with them – don’t just tell them what happened, explain how it happened. Consider this sentence: “ When she left me, I felt as if my heart had been torn into pieces. My entire world shattered.” It holds much more significance than had the writer simply stated, “ I was sad that she left me.”
- Call upon your natural storytelling ability to create a text that is both informative and engaging – but remember that a narrative essay is NOT a short story and, therefore, should not be written as such. It must be authentic and compelling.
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When revising a narrative essay, writers will read, modify and reformat their paper with the main objective of creating the best project possible. When revising your essay, consider the following:
- Is the essay written in a manner that is not only easy to read and understand but also makes sense to the average audience?
- Am I involving the reader in my recount of the experience? Should my writing definition have more detail or is there so much detail that I run the risk of confusing my readers?
- Are my word choices informative or descriptive?
- Have I successfully conveyed the big picture message? Is the reader able to grasp the connection between the event and the meaning of it all?
When you attempt to define a narrative essay, remember it is up to you to determine when the best time is to reveal the importance of the event or experience. Some choose to bridge this connection in the initial paragraph, while others may go for a more climactic reveal closer to the end. There are benefits to both: Disclosure in the beginning helps the reader to better understand the story as it progresses, whereas waiting until the end will leave the reader with more to ponder.
This is the part of the process where you will reread your narrative and correct any errors in grammar or spelling. It may be helpful to have someone else read over your piece for you to provide a fresh view before the final product is delivered.
- Create the Final Copy
Given the personal nature of a narrative essay, sharing it with readers can be daunting but is almost always worth it. Consider the feedback received to be part of an invaluable learning experience.
What is a Narrative Essay
A narrative essay is just as it sounds – an essay that tells a story. Not just any story though, narrative essays are experiential, circumstantial, personal and always factual.
Narrative papers require the author to call upon personal experiences that relate to the chosen or assigned topic and clearly convey to the reader what happened, how it happened, and why that event was meaningful and relevant.
Here are a few tips and techniques for creating an A+ narrative essay.
- When written in story format, the essay must include all of the key components of a good story – this includes the introduction, the plot, the relevant character profiles, the setting, the climax and the conclusion.
- The essay should have a relevant point. The reader must understand the connection between the topic and the story.
- You must write concisely and from a clear viewpoint. Using the descriptor ‘I’ helps to better engage the reader.
- Use clear and crisp language. Call upon descriptive words or phrases (you might find these descriptive examples online) that spark emotional response to make the reader feel as if they are a part of the story.
- Use an organized format. Your essay must have a clear introduction, body paragraphs that are not only sequential, but also transitional, and an ending that leaves the reader with something to think about.
Narrative Essay Structure
As with all other essay types, a narrative essay requires a functional outline that clearly details all of the parts of the paper and what key points are needed.
There are three main parts to the structure of a narrative essay. They are: the introduction, the body and the conclusion.
- The thesis statement
- A clear description of why the topic is significant
- An overview of the setting, background, etc.
- All of the key people involved
- Some semblance of foreshadowing
- The onset of the event
- The resolution or the ending
- What was the moral of the story?
- How was the event significant?
- What is the call-to-action?
Read also: Best essay writing service reviews for students.
Narrative Format Examples & Tips
- Always start a narrative essay with either a question, a verifiable fact, a writing definition, a famous quote or some other relevant and thought provoking fact.
- Try to evoke all five senses in your writing. What did you hear? What did you see? What did you smell, etc.
- Avoid using slang.
- Try to be as descriptive as possible.
- Use varying sentence structure to engage the reader and keep them interested.
- Always describe events in chronological order. Not only is this the easiest way to tell a story, it is always the easiest way to make sure that your readers do not get confused or miss important details.
- Use transition words to describe what happened and when.
Narrative essays are fun and interesting ways to convey personal experiences, however, they are not ‘short stories’ and should not be written as such. Narratives, while descriptive and capable of creating emotional connections, must always be truthful and relevant. The best narratives will leave the reader with something to think about.
Creating and sticking to an outline, like the one mentioned above, will assist you in creating a polished and high-quality narrative essay. Call upon a significant event or a special memory from your past and practice writing one today.
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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. As well as this, we’ll show you how to write narrative essay, so you’re more confident about writing your own. Our guide also goes over at narrative format and the different essay types you can write.
A Narrative Essay Explained
To define this type of essay, we should look at 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 ends up getting 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. The bulk of your work should therefore be a story that’s true and whose details can be backed up by facts.
If you’re wondering how to write narrative writing, just imagine you’re telling a story to someone you know. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning sets the scene and the end 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 keep in mind that you’re telling a story 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 for.
- 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 but also some differences. It’s important to understand what structures the two have so your own piece of work sticks to the required format.
When writing a narrative essay for a college or university assessment, you’ll have to rely on facts. 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. There should be a thesis statement in the opening section that summarises 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 a lot more fluid than that of 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 have an impact on those who read it; they want their readers to react to it 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 be to take it in and react to it. To make the story more compelling and effective, you have to write it in the best possible way. 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 but without being as long as one. It should also let the reader know what you make of the story and what your thoughts about it are.
What’s also crucial is structure and format for narrative essay. These make your work presentable and readable. We’ll discuss both of these later on.
Elements of Narrative Essays
There are several key components, or elements, that make up this type of essay. These include characters, speech and theme.
- Characters are the backbone of any story and are, therefore, very significant in narrative essays. Not only do they drive the plot forward, but they also interact with one another. Each one has a personality and background; sometimes, one or both of these 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 provide a summary of what it is.
Common Narrative Essay Types
There are multiple types of narrative essays. Most college and university assignments require your work to be factual. For some courses, such as creative writing, your work will be fictional. You’ll find some of the main types below:
- Factual. When you’re writing a factual (or nonfiction) narrative essay, you’re retelling real-life events for other people. To put the story together, you’ll look at evidence from one or more sources.
- Fictional. For fictional narrative essays, you can be creative and come up with any sort of 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. You’ll use the first person and can, if you want, 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 a narrative essay for college, you should try to decide on the type of 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 in. 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 events of the story out of sequence. This may include flashbacks or even flashforwards.
- Quest. Some stories are a sequence of events taking place and characters reacting to these. Others are more like a quest where a person actively tries to complete a goal and this becomes their entire purpose.
- Viewpoint. With a viewpoint type of narration, the main character narrates the events from their own point of view. Instead of it being just about the plot, it’s just as much about the opinions, ideas and feelings of the narrator.
- Descriptive. For this type of narrative writing, you should be very descriptive and use vivid details throughout. Readers should be able to picture the story’s setting and visualise what the characters in it look like.
Your story should make sense, whatever type of narrative writing you choose. The paragraphs should connect to one another 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 it and the one 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 and we 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.
If you’re given a word count, e.g., 500-600 words, obviously, you will have to stick to it. If there’s no restriction, it’s up to you how long your work should be. An ideal narrative essay should be at least a few hundred words in length. 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 key 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 have a better idea of 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 what you’ll be writing. Come up with a title - unless your essay has a set title - and consider how you’re going to 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 what the conclusion of the story is.
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’re going to be writing 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 you have a lot 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 for you to determine what you’ll be writing about. All you’ll have to do is think about what the prompt is directing you toward and tell the story it’s asking of you.
If your prompt is open-ended, choosing a topic to write about can be tricky because there can be many possibilities. You should 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 in your life you took a trip abroad.
How to Format and Structure a Narrative Essay?
The structure of 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 events of the story 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 narrative essay, this should be professional. The final piece of work you submit should look just like any other type of 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 formatting of a certain standard.
The exact type of narrative writing format you use will depend on the college or university you’re at. Some institutions will have a set formatting style that all academic writing submissions will have to follow.
Narrative Essay Outline
An outline is a general sort of plan that you’ll use to write your essay. When putting one together, you should think about not only the content of your work but also how you’re going to 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 carry on reading. It should also make them intrigued about your essay’s topic and curious to find out 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 of the 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 that 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 learnt 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 what the paper’s key argument is, but 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 I 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. By reading other people’s work, you’ll get a better idea of how to write things yourself.
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Narrative Essay Outline: Format, Worksheet and Example
Before you start writing any essay, it is wise to outline what you intend to include in your essay regardless of the type. This guides you in writing the information that needs to be given. It also helps you organize your thoughts and avoid any distractions by nonessentials.
Writing a Narrative Essay Outline
Usually, most narrative essays are written in three paragraphs. This is, however, not a rule that is etched in stone – the number of paragraphs you decide to use will depend on how much you need to write. The important thing to bear in mind is to ensure that you do not include unnecessary details that can make your essay too long. Your aim should be to write something that retains the interest of whoever is reading your essay without boring or confusing them. The outline of your essay should generally include an introduction, the body of the essay, and a conclusion.
For a three-paragraph essay, the narrative essay structure could look like this:
- Introduction: This is where you introduce your topic and the theme you intend to address. Your introduction should start with a catchy phrase, quote, or saying. You could also use a rhetorical question that gets the reader thinking and wanting to read your story. Since you are giving a narration, the “hook” within the introduction should be very intriguing. A story is useless if it can’t capture and maintain interest.
- Body paragraph one: this paragraph caters to the beginning of your story. It would be best if you started introducing the characters of your story here. This paragraph also gives a background to your story. In this paragraph, you should use descriptive and clear vocabulary to introduce your story. This would be a good place to give information such as your story’s place, time, and period.
- Body paragraph two: The second paragraph begins to share details on actions, consequences, and other important details required by the essay. Build your story in this paragraph to the point of climax.
- Body paragraph three: This paragraph should tell how your story ends. You could use anecdotes or quotes as a wrap-up for your story. Concluding details such as results and consequences can be added to this paragraph.
- Conclusion: The resolution of your story in this paragraph should highlight important details you want your readers to pick from your story. Decisions made, lessons learned, changes made, etc., can be written out in this paragraph. This is also where you restate the reason or theme of your essay.
Narrative Essay Format
Writing a narrative essay is like writing a story, so you can import the style of writing a narrative story format into writing your essay. To form the outline of a story, some approaches have been itemized. These include:
1. The plot-based approach
The plot of a story is the series of acts and actions that make up the story. A plot-based format should itemize the different important actions you intend to include in the storyline. Example
- I graduated from school.
- Search for a job before college.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen while waiting for college
- Take refresher courses etc.
2. The scene-based approach
Every story, including a personal narrative essay, must have a scene(s). You could build the outline of your story based on the places of importance to your story.
Writing down the important places could help jolt your memory in the course of writing so that you don’t leave out any important detail. For example:
- Grandpa’s house – I met the person who introduced me to photography.
- Best friend’s party – I did my first photoshoot
- My aunt’s office – I got introduced to magazine photoshoots etc
3. The theme-based approach
A theme-based outline maps out the central themes you intend to explore in your writing. This approach is suitable when you intend to address more than one theme. This approach does not work for all types of stories, so it may not work for your personal narrative essay. For example:
- Willingness to learn – working with my uncle at his auto shop
- Loyalty – staying with my uncle’s practice regardless of pay
- Dedication – getting to work early to get in some work hours before the full day.
4. Freytag’s Pyramid Approach
Freytag’s approach is based on a pyramid that uses the five basic elements of a story to create an outline. The basic elements considered are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
There is no perfect format for writing a story outline, and it is up to you to choose the best format you can work with. The most important point to note as you write out the outline of your essay is to ensure that you capture all the details you need to cover. Remember to write keywords or phrases that can trigger remembrance of the events you desire to include in the essay.
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How to Write a Narrative Essay or Speech
- Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
- M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
- B.A., English, State University of New York
A narrative essay or speech is used to tell a story, often one that is based on personal experience. This genre of work comprises works of nonfiction that hew closely to the facts and follow a logical chronological progression of events. Writers often use anecdotes to relate their experiences and engage the reader. In doing so, you can give your narrative a level of emotional appeal. It can be serious or humorous, but this emotional appeal is essential if you want to give your audience some way to connect with your story.
The most successful narrative essays usually share these three basic traits:
- They make a central point.
- They contain specific details in support of that point.
- They are clearly organized in time .
Constructing the Essay
Magazines like the New Yorker and websites like Vice are known for the pages-long narrative essays they publish, sometimes called long-format journalism. But an effective narrative essay can be as short as five paragraphs. As with other kinds of essay writing, narratives follow the same basic outline:
- Introduction: This is the opening paragraph of your essay. It contains the hook, which is used to grab the reader's attention, and the thesis or topic, which you'll detail in the next section.
- Body: This is the heart of your essay, usually three to five paragraphs in length. Each paragraph should contain one example, such as a personal anecdote or noteworthy event, that supports your larger topic.
- Conclusion: This is the final paragraph of your essay. In it, you'll sum up the main points of the body and bring your narrative to an end. Writers sometimes embellish the conclusion with an epilogue or a takeaway.
Narrative Essay Topics
Choosing the topic for your essay may be the hardest part. What you're looking for is a particular incident that you can recount in a well-developed and clearly organized essay or speech . We have a few ideas to help you brainstorm topics. They're quite broad, but something will surely spark an idea.
- An embarrassing experience
- A memorable wedding or funeral
- An exciting minute or two of a football game (or another sporting event)
- Your first or last day at a job or new school
- A disastrous date
- A memorable moment of failure or success
- An encounter that changed your life or taught you a lesson
- An experience that led to a renewed faith
- A strange or unexpected encounter
- An experience of how technology is more trouble than it's worth
- An experience that left you disillusioned
- A frightening or dangerous experience
- A memorable journey
- An encounter with someone you were in awe of or afraid of
- An occasion when you experienced rejection
- Your first visit to the countryside (or to a large city)
- The circumstances that led to the breakup of a friendship
- An experience that showed that you should be careful of what you wish for
- A significant or comic misunderstanding
- An experience that showed how appearances can be deceiving
- An account of a difficult decision that you had to make
- An event that marked a turning point in your life
- An experience that changed your viewpoint on a controversial issue
- A memorable encounter with someone in authority
- An act of heroism or cowardice
- An imaginary encounter with a real person
- A rebellious act
- A brush with greatness or death
- A time that you took a stand on an important issue
- An experience that altered your view of someone
- A trip that you would like to take
- A vacation trip from your childhood
- An account of a visit to a fictional place or time
- Your first time away from home
- Two different versions of the same event
- A day when everything went right or wrong
- An experience that made you laugh until you cried
- The experience of being lost
- Surviving a natural disaster
- An important discovery
- An eyewitness account of an important event
- An experience that helped you grow up
- A description of your secret place
- An account of what it would be like to live as a particular animal
- Your dream job and what it would be like
- An invention you'd like to create
- A time when you realized your parents were right
- An account of your earliest memory
- Your reaction when you heard the best news of your life
- A description of the one thing you can't live without
Other Types of Essays
Narrative essays are one of the major essay types. Others include:
- Argumentative: In argumentative essays , the writer makes the case for a specific opinion on a topic, using research and analysis to persuade the reader.
- Descriptive: This kind of writing relies on detail to describe or define a person, place, thing, or experience. Writing may be either objective or subjective.
- Expository: Like argumentative essays, expository writing requires research and analysis in order to expound upon a subject. Unlike argumentative essays, the intention is not to change the readers' opinion but to inform the readers.
- Angelli, Elizabeth; Baker, Jack; and Brizee, Allen. " Essay Writing ." Perdue.edu. 9 February 2018.
- Beck, Kate. " Instructions to Write a Narrative Essay. " SeattlePI.com.
- Santa Barbara City College staff. "Structure of a Personal Narrative Essay." SBCC.edu.
Watch Now: 12 Ideas for Great Persuasive Essay Topics
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How to Write a Narrative Essay?
24 May, 2020
11 minutes read
Author: Tomas White
Understanding how to write a narrative essay means that you have to be "in the know" about the steps of the writing process. In this article, we will walk you through the process and help you not only learn the theory but also utilize this knowledge in practice.
What is a Narrative Essay?
A narrative essay tells a story. Personal pronouns and experience from the writer’s life are crucial aspects of this essay type. The purpose is to connect with the audience with the help of the narrative – a story with a point. Unlike other essays which may focus on research or argument, the narrative essay relies on carefully crafted details. Narrative essays take the format of a memoir – they should have a clear beginning, middle, and an end.
Let’s start by choosing a good topic.
How to Choose a Topic for a Narrative Essay?
Before choosing your topic, you can try to read other narrative essays for inspiration. This helps you gain a better understanding of the genre and receive ideas for your own topic and how to organize it.
Once you understand how the finished essay should look like, you can start to think about your topic in more detail. Think of a topic that could be interesting to both you and your audience. Since the narrative essay should draw from your own experiences, there is usually no need to use data from outside sources. Try to choose a personal topic that is not so widely covered on the web. It’s a good strategy to focus on a more narrow topic that is unique enough to catch the readers’ attention and encourage them to continue reading.
Your narrative essay should contain a story and some analysis of that story. Your goal is to illustrate your chosen issue through a personal story. The function of this personal story is to provide some evidence for the point you’re trying to make. Occasionally, you may choose to enhance your point with research in case you want to use additional details but this is not required. In most cases, a personal story will be enough to engage your audience.
Personal Narrative Essay: From Outline to a Refined Piece
Like all good narratives, whether a novel or a short story, this form should contain characters, a climax, and a resolution. You should introduce the characters in the introduction paragraph, reveal the climax in the last body paragraphs, and finally offer a resolution in the conclusion part, a unique insight or meditative reflection upon a lesson learned through the experience.
This is the universal story arc of a narrative essay that includes a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you establish the setting and characters of your narrative. The middle presents a problem that your character is facing and trying to solve until a solution is revealed at the end.
While many other essays follow the typical five paragraph format, the narrative essay enjoys much more freedom.
An A-level narrative essay requires a student to outline, draft, and revise the story to ensure that it not only flows; but fully develops the main idea with specific details. Supporting all the ideas with vivid examples from real life experiences is a must, just like in an illustration essay .
It is more personal than any other essay, and some students struggle with this aspect. Our professional essay writers love narrative essays and have put together this guide to help you craft a unique assignment.
Here are the main parts of the narrative essay:
Related Posts: What is a Thesis statement | How to write an Essay introduction
In narrative essays, the introduction section is typically shorter than most and ultimately works to set the stage for the personal story about to unfold. While the story itself will be personal, it should link to larger ideas.
For example, the loss of one’s first goldfish could trigger a reflection on life, or the act of losing one’s car keys could morph into an essay on all different kinds of loss.
Within this paragraph, the writer should introduce him or herself and provide any important background the reader requires to immerse themselves within the narrative essay thoroughly.
Just like with any good novel or short story, the opening paragraph or chapter doesn’t always reveal what is coming next; this structure compels the reader to continue reading to enjoy the conclusion of the narrative fully.
Since narrative essays are more creative than conventional academic essays, the minimum three paragraph rule may not apply.
While some narrative essays will be five paragraphs, others may be two or eight or more. It really depends on how the narrative within the essay needs to progress to communicate the writer’s goal sufficiently. Just as the persuasive essay ’s goal is to persuade and the informative essay is to inform, the narrative essay’s goal is to entertain, or perhaps to contemplate.
The body paragraphs should cover all the ideas you are about to unravel to the reader.
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While a narrative essay lacks heavy research components, it will follow a typical body paragraph format:
- Topic sentence
- Background sentence(s)
- Detail sentences
While other essays frown upon relying on personal anecdotes, narrative essays thrive on them. Additionally, this essay format can include dialogue as well. Recounting key conversations can strengthen the narrative text. However, including dialogue means that the writer should pay attention to dialogue rules.
Be sure that you know how to use both single and double quotation marks when writing about a conversation between two or more people.
Usually, the conclusion paragraph exists to review the major points within the body paragraphs. However, in a narrative essay, the conclusion is sometimes the most important paragraph; it serves to bring the narrative to an end.
This section’s purpose is to share how the conflict was resolved or how a resolution was reached. Similar to the definition essay , the point here is not to review the ideas of the body paragraphs and reveal what you have been working towards since the opening sentence.
Many narrative essays offer a “reveal” in this section; there may be a surprise or an unexpected twist. Such literary tactics are appropriate in a narrative essay.
Conclusion tops up the narrative itself – it should be planned accordingly within the outline.
Not sure how to switch from an academic to a more personal type of essay? No problem. Here are some tips to help you navigate the narrative essay:
Tip #1. Figure out how your narrative essay would look like
This is the most important one to follow. Basically, this is what this whole article is about.
Here is an example of the structure of a narrative essay:
Tip #2. Use Transitions
Transition words or sentences are especially important in a narrative essay – these words help establish the order of events. Useful transitions in this essay format can include the following:
Narrative Essay Sample
Be sure to check the sample essay, completed by our writers. Use it as an example to write your own essay. Link: Personal Narrative Essay Sample
Other Tips from our Expert Writers
- Choose a non-embarrassing topic. Your teacher, and possibly your classmates will be reading this essay so pick a topic that you’re comfortable sharing with others.
- Connect beyond the experience. The point of a narrative essay is to relate an experience in your life to a larger idea – in recalling memory lane, remember to link it to something bigger than yourself.
- Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute. While you likely won’t need to hit the library to conduct research, you will be writing about yourself, and sometimes that can be harder.
- Write a draft. Know that first drafts are always riddled with mistakes. Just get your ideas down on paper and then worry about fixing all the grammatical stuff.
- Schedule an appointment with your teacher. All teachers have “office hours”—take your professor up in their office hours and get their feedback to ensure you’re on the right track. And don’t wait until the last minute!
- Revise. Take any constructive criticism from classmates, friends, or professional editing services and make your draft better.
- Read it backward. Begin with the last sentence and read the narrative essay until you end with the first sentence. While this won’t help with content issues, it does help the brain spot problems with grammar.
- Check the formatting. Before handing in any final copy, always check the formatting. Make sure that the headings, titles, font, spacing, and margins all conform to the professor’s preferences.
- Review the rubric. Once last time, check your final draft against the rubric to ensure that you’ve met all the requirements provided by the teacher.
Related post: How to write a Descriptive essay
Remember: not all stories are appropriate for all audiences, so it’s important to select a narrative topic suitable for your tutor. Use literary devices as appropriate —especially ones that create stronger images such as metaphors, similes, imagery, and personification among others.
Most importantly, review your narrative essay to ensure that it tells a story; sharing an important story is the most defining characteristic of this essay type. Ultimately, your narrative essay should strive to meet Chuck Klosterman’s definition:
“The essays are different because ultimately it’s things I’m interested in, and I’m really just writing about myself and using those subjects as a prism.”
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Narrative Essay Guide
Narrative Essay Examples
Last updated on: Feb 9, 2023
Narrative Essay Examples: Samples & Tips
By: Nathan D.
Reviewed By: Chris H.
Published on: May 26, 2020
Writing a narrative essay for the first time?
Don't know how to tell an engaging story?
A narrative essay tells a story. It could be anything like a childhood memory or a personal narrative or experience, or anything that affected you in any way. It is somewhat like a descriptive essay and tells a story in elaborate detail.
But it is different from an argumentative essay as it also includes a person’s perspective.
We have explained the dos and don’ts of narrative writing with the help of few examples here.
Continue to get some great narrative essay examples
On this Page
A Detailed Analysis of a Narrative Essay
Good narrative essay examples help you to understand how this type of essay is written. They are structured and they tell an engaging story. They follow the usual essay structure and includes:
- An introduction
- A thesis statement
Generally, there are 5 paragraphs in an essay. However, you can increase the number based on the topic to write a narrative essay step by step.
Below, we have discussed a narrative essay example in detail and have added some more examples to guide you. You can download the samples and go through them before writing your essay.
A Spontaneous Visit to Ukraine
“Travelling has always been one of my favorite activities. By the time I was 30, I had already visited a number of countries in North America. However, I had never been to Europe. Visiting the grand places like Venice, London and Paris are one of my unfulfilled and burning desires.
My chance of visiting Europe came as a surprise. A distant friend called to give Season Greetings and invited me to visit Ukraine. He was working for an NGO there and wanted me to visit him. I was looking for a chance only and it came quite unexpectedly.
Without further adieu, I booked the first flight to Ukraine. It was a completely different place than what I have known for so far. Its culture is quite different than what we have in the US and Canada and it is situated on a territory that is a bit smaller than Texas. Surprisingly, it was considered quite big by the European standards.
Lvis, where I went, is a beautiful city that is filled with spiritual symbols and objects.
The people are deeply religious and traditional as you will find statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary nearly in every corner. The people are friendly and the place is exquisitely beautiful with traditional churches and wooden houses, mountain rivers, beautiful lush forests and bright meadows.
It is a beautiful place and I believe that everyone should visit it at least once. As for me, I have grown quite a fondness for it and will be coming back to explore it.”
The example is ideal to understand how a good narrative essay is written. It explains the writer's visit to Ukraine and his experience and observation there.
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Narrative Essay Samples - Free and Downloadable
Below are some PDF examples that you can download and save.
Death of a Moth
DEATH OF A MOTH
A Teeny Tiny Treasure Box
A TEENY TINY TREASURE BOX
He Left so I could Learn
HE LEFT SO I COULD LEARN
Violence can be an Answer
VIOLENCE CAN BE AN ANSWER
My College Education
MY COLLEGE EDUCATION
Tips to Write a Great Narrative Essay
Having great narrative writing skills is important. No matter what field you are, there will be a time when you will have to explain some things. And this is why teachers give these types of essays to you. They want to train you to present your point of view engagingly.
Following are some helpful tips that will help you write a narrative essay.
- It should be clear and described in detail.
- It should be in the first person narrative.
- It is presented in chronological order.
- It includes dialogues and vivid sensory details.
- It should have strong motifs and symbols.
- It should be engaging.
Besides, a strong narrative essay topic will make it more engaging. It is important that you have a strong topic for your narrative. Here is a list of narrative essay topics for your help to choose from and write a good essay.
However, it is not possible for every student to write an impressive essay. That is why some students are always looking for professional assistance.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 5 basic components of a narrative essay.
The 5 basic and core elements of a narrative essay are given below.
Without discussing these elements, no narrative essay is complete.
What is a narrative paragraph?
A narrative paragraph tells a story and this story is, most of the time, from your personal experience and event.
Literature, College Essay
Nathan completed his Ph.D. in journalism and has been writing articles for well-respected publications for many years now. His work is carefully researched and insightful, showing a true passion for the written word. Nathan's clients appreciate his expertise, deep understanding of the process, and ability to communicate difficult concepts clearly.
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Narrative essay assignments vary widely in the amount of direction you're given about your topic. You may be assigned quite a specific topic or choice of topics to work with. Specific prompts Write a story about your first day of school. Write a story about your favorite holiday destination.
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?
The narrative essay format and structure are standard. Like other assignments, this type of paper normally follows a 5 paragraph essay outline: one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and the last narrative paragraph is the conclusion.
Narrative essays are generally written in the first-person POV, and are usually about a topic that's personal to the writer. Everything in these essays should take place in an established timeline, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Famous Narrative Essay Examples Ticker to the Fair by David Foster Wallace After Life by Joan Didion
Revised on December 6, 2021. An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays. Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points ...
Narrative writing is, essentially, story writing. A narrative can be fiction or nonfiction, and it can also occupy the space between these as a semi-autobiographical story, historical fiction, or a dramatized retelling of actual events. As long as a piece tells a story through a narrative structure, it's narrative writing.
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.
A narrative essay incorporates all of the story components, such as a beginning, middle, and conclusion, as well as plot, characters, setting, and climax. The narrative essay's goal is the plot, which should be detailed enough to reach a climax. Here's how it works: It's usually presented in chronological order. It has a function.
Narrative essays rely on personal experiences and are written in the form of a story. When the writer uses this technique, he uses the convention of storytelling. The five elements of a narrative essay are: Plot: The main event happened in your story. Character: People who played some role in your story. Setting: When and where the event happened
A narrative essay builds stories, characters, events, and scenes into the reader's minds. Body Paragraph 1 Example: "The prey was not any farm animal this time; it was a young child playing by the barn. The villagers had had enough; they had to put a stop to it once and for all.
A proper understanding of how to write a narrative essay includes knowing the specific elements required. Every narrative essay needs to have a character and plot to follow. The character (that's you) will progress through a conflict. The conflict doesn't have to be an earth-shattering event. It can be as simple as trying a food you don't ...
Narrative Essay Format With Sample Essay The Introduction It was a wonderful week to camp in the great outdoors, even if some of their friends thought it was a strange way to honeymoon. Trudy and Jeff were looking forward to their week at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Little did they know what a learning experience this trip ...
A narrative essay uses all the story elements — a beginning, middle and ending, as well as plot, characters, setting and climax — bringing them together to complete the story. The focus of a narrative essay is the plot, which is told with enough detail to build to a climax. Here's how: It's usually told chronologically. It always has a purpose.
A narrative essay tells a story. It has a focal point, a goal that serves as the jumping pad for every other aspect of the essay. Narrative essays have characters, dialogue, incidents, timelines, and every other component of a familiar story. The essayist is the storyteller in a narrative essay. How to Write a Narrative Essay
Narrative Format. Here are a few tips and techniques for creating an A+ narrative essay. When written in story format, the essay must include all of the key components of a good story - this includes the introduction, the plot, the relevant character profiles, the setting, the climax and the conclusion. The essay should have a relevant point.
Sometimes, your narrative essay guidelines may require at least 1,000 words. If you're given a word count, e.g., 500-600 words, obviously, you will have to stick to it. If there's no restriction, it's up to you how long your work should be. An ideal narrative essay should be at least a few hundred words in length.
Writing a narrative essay is like writing a story, so you can import the style of writing a narrative story format into writing your essay. To form the outline of a story, some approaches have been itemized. These include: 1. The plot-based approach. The plot of a story is the series of acts and actions that make up the story.
Constructing the Essay . Magazines like the New Yorker and websites like Vice are known for the pages-long narrative essays they publish, sometimes called long-format journalism. But an effective narrative essay can be as short as five paragraphs. As with other kinds of essay writing, narratives follow the same basic outline:
While many other essays follow the typical five paragraph format, the narrative essay enjoys much more freedom. An A-level narrative essay requires a student to outline, draft, and revise the story to ensure that it not only flows; but fully develops the main idea with specific details.
A narrative essay tells a story. It could be anything like a childhood memory or a personal narrative or experience, or anything that affected you in any way. It is somewhat like a descriptive essay and tells a story in elaborate detail. But it is different from an argumentative essay as it also includes a person's perspective.