How to Write a Narrative Essay

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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 for the essay to be successful, 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.

  1. Brainstorming

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.

  1. 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.
  • Start your narrative 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.
  1. Revision

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.

  1. Editing

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.

  1. 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.

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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.

Please feel free to use our Teacher Plagiarism Checker for the texts you have written.

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. 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.

Introduction:

  • The hook
  • The thesis statement
  • A clear description of why the topic is significant

Body:

  • An overview of the setting, background, etc.
  • All of the key people involved
  • Some semblance of foreshadowing
  • The onset of the event
  • The climax
  • The resolution or the ending

Conclusion:

  • What was the moral of the story?
  • How was the event significant?
  • What is the call-to-action?

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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