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How to Write a Narrative Essay

October 12, 2017 Types of essays
How to Write a Narrative Essay

Narrative essay is a widespread and popular type of academic writing among schools, colleges, and universities as it demonstrates your creativity, character, and ability to tell a compelling story. Telling a story is not always easy and telling a great story is even harder. That’s why we have compiled a list of things you might need to know when challenging yourself in writing a personal narrative essay.

Fear not, for we are all authors! Every person's specific life and its path is a story, and who else could be the author besides the person experiencing it? Obviously, writing a short little story is considerably different than writing an essay about an entire life. So they key here is to cut out a small piece of your life that was very revolutionary, more than most others at least!

What is a Narrative Essay?

So what is the narrative essay definition? A narrative essay is an academic type of writing that describes a story, usually from a singular point of view. Your purpose as an author is to create a visual experience for the reader, placing them in the middle of the action.

Do not forget that you should use vivid and specific details. Moreover, you need to be very distinct with the information you use. Use the vocabulary accordingly to communicate the feeling that you want.

There are several types of narrative essays:

Autobiographical Narrative Essay

When writing a narrative essay about yourself, you tell a story from the first-person point of view, usually describing a memorable true event that happened in your life. This is not an autobiography, so do not tell the reader your whole life story. Focus only on most significant events that matter to you to an extent. A literacy narrative essay is a great example of describing an event such as learning how to read or write.

Descriptive Narrative Essay

The purpose of this writing is to tell a beautiful story. If in the autobiographical essay, you would have to watch your descriptions to avoid possible exaggeration, here you able to give your creativity more freedom, however, with certain limits.


The tricky thing about the narrative essay is that there are always some limits to the amount of content you can provide your readers with. Ideally, a well-written narrative paper is one that takes a complex story and crunches it down into a limited number of words while always remaining relevant to the purpose. At the same time, keeping the attention of the audience is crucially important.

Good Narrative Essay Topics

When it comes to narrative essay topics, there are several things you need to take into account.

Start by carefully reading the directions of the assignments. Very often teachers will tell you what they are looking for in your narrative piece. These things are vital for your narrative’s success:

  • A Conflict/Challenge: This is what’s going to set the tone for your story and give it a purpose.
  • A Protagonist: Someone who faces a challenge, someone who the reader can root for or relate to.
  • A Change or Growth: Most people would like to see some kind of change that the protagonist is going to go through. It can be a realization or any kind of personal growth. This will demonstrate that there is a purpose in it.

These variables are the essentials of storytelling and must be present in most cases. Good narrative essay topics do not come easy. You need to spend time brainstorming seriously. Searching for ideas inside your own experience or even doing online research for the creativity boost.

Here are some narrative essay ideas:

  • Overcoming a Fear
  • Facing a Challenge
  • New Experience or Discovery
  • A Moment of Excitement
  • Learning a Tough Lesson
  • Thrilling moment at some sort of event (moments of adrenaline).
  • The transition from your First to Last Day at a job
  • The Relationship Cycle (your experience)
  • A discovery that changed your life
  • A rebellious act

These are just some common examples that students tend to write essays about. However, based on your personal life experiences, whichever moments you ponder upon from the past are usually the ones that hold within a great story!

Related: College Essay Topics


The Narrative Essay should be written in the standard format including such outline/structure: Introduction, Body(s), and Conclusion. Some can follow the 5 paragraph narrative essay outline, which includes 3 body paragraphs with a new idea in each.

Follow the link to learn more about How To Create A Winning Outline

  • The Introduction must lay out the setting and ignite the movement of the story.
  • The Body Paragraphs travel through the story, describing it in vivid detail, while slowly untangling the puzzle that is the purpose.
  • The conclusion fully unravels and restates the purpose for the reader, making sure that he understood the essence of it all. Narrative Essay Outline

Now let’s break down some key parts to each section of the paper!

The Introduction must accomplish 3 main goals:

  • Each Narrative Essay should start out with a strong hook. Obviously, with every paper, you have to show creativity. The perfect way to start would be to create a strong hook that grabs the reader’s attention. Common examples of this can be:
    • Bringing up a future scenario as an initial starting point.
    • Offering a quote that will be relevant later in the essay.
    • An intense moment within the setting.
  • Set the scene for the reader:
    • Lots of times as Authors, we want to throw a reader into the chaotic scene (and that's definitely exciting). However, it doesn't hurt to give them a life jacket, so they don’t sink in the confusion.
    • Allow the reader to get an idea of what's going on. After reading this section, MOST of their confusion should have faded. If not, edit this part!
  • Defining the purpose:
    • Without giving away too much information, give insight into what the essay is really all about.
    • For example, if you are trying to explain how you learned a life lesson, then briefly introduce how the current setting brought about this moment of clarity.

Read more about how to write a great INTRODUCTION

The Body Paragraphs Must Accomplish 4 Main Goals:

Depending on the length of the essay, a number of body paragraphs will vary. The length of the story should usually match its impact. If it’s a quick life lesson that many others have experienced, then don’t stretch out the plot. However, if readers can genuinely take away life advice from what they just read, then that gives the paper a fair reason to be longer and more intensive. This is also acceptable if they feel that the essay was ASTOUNDING.

  • Vivid details put the art in Artist: The narrative essay is all about creating a scene as well as a mood to follow. The best writers in the world spend hours and are meticulous when it comes to detail. Don’t spam your sentences with literary symbols, but as long as each sentence serves a purpose, then you are good to go.
  • Adding dialogue is a plus: Throwing the reader into the scene is an effective way to refresh their attention. You are putting them in “real time” and in a sense giving the essay more life. It also helps you get a grasp of the purpose, from the way the dialect is spoken and the type of vocabulary used.
  • Write chronologically: Besides the hook sentence, the essay should be written in chronological order. It’s hard for a reader to make inferences about the timescale unless the author is blunt. Keeping things chronological is the most reliable way to keep your paper organized.
  • Avoid narration deviation: The simplest way to write most essays would be to stay true invoice and tense. If you are talking about a story that happened in your life, then the first-person voice would be suiting. Obviously, if this a story you heard from a friend, some sort of historical tale, etc., then the third person would make sense.
  • When it comes to choosing tense, there is a lot more maneuverability. Logically it would make sense to tell the story in past-tense as most likely; the story isn’t happening exactly at this instant. However, sometimes writing in either present or future tense may sound strange, but if done properly can be really creative and cool!
  • When all said and done, the Conclusion has one final task: Restate your purpose. The purpose of the narrative essay is to leave something better than how it was found, and the conclusion explains exactly what condition it was transformed into.

Narrative Essay Example

Since the content of narratives essay can vary when it comes to different institutions, we have decided to provide you with examples in case you face a problem.

Narrative Essay Example for College

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing an application essay or you got accepted; college teachers search for the following things in their students: ability to adapt to different situations, the ability to solve problems creatively, ability to learn from mistakes.
If you want to demonstrate your character and creativity, describe a situation where you have encountered a problem, and instead of breaking under pressure you came up with a unique approach to solving it. Connect it to the field of study you are interested in, and you have granted yourself respect of a teacher and an “A”.
Narrative Essay Example

Narrative Essay Example for High School

High school is all about showing that you can make mature choices, accept the consequences and retrieve valuable lessons from events. Select an event where you believe you have acted exemplary and made an adult choice. A personal narrative essay example as such will showcase the best of your abilities.
Finally, use outside sources to help you get the best result possible. Do not be afraid to search for a sample narrative essay to understand how others approached this kind of writing. And always remember, you are not curing cancer, this is just writing!
Narrative Essay Example

General Advice

Writing a narrative essay should be a genuinely positive experience. You aren’t restricted to some kind of linear format that doesn’t allow for variation. This is one of the most free-spirited and creative essays that can be written. That doesn’t mean that rebelling against all rules and writing something absurd is fair play (although it has worked for some people in history).

Your main goal is to interest the readers as much as possible and take them on the ride that is your story. The story should be meaningful enough that the readers take something away from it after reading those final few words.

For one last tip, if you are still struggling in deciding what to write about, think of it as a overall transformation, just like a phoenix. You went from one stage to another and this is the process that brought about this change!

Essay Writing Tip From Our Professional Team

The practice of writing a narrative essay is your first step to creative writing. Something my English teacher always told me in high school and something that I want to pass on to you is: the more personal, the more universal. When we write stories about ourselves we are ultimately writing about everyone else in the world; humanity generally shares the same problems. There are two things that appear in all good narratives: it involves the readers and it presents importance. When a story is important and showcases change, then the reader will pay attention to it. If a story relates to the reader, they feel for it and develop a deeper emotional connection to it. As the article articulates quite well, the story also makes a point. Perhaps your essay does not have a flat out moral, but it has a beginning, a middle, and an end that has an impact. Make sure to select an event that feels important to you and write about it; make it real for the readers.

Prof. Marjorie Eckhart, online essay writer from EssayPro

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