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How to Write a Narrative Essay

December 11, 2017 Types of essays
How to Write a Narrative Essay

Narrative essays are a popular type of academic writing. Both high school and college students write loads of them. These essays show your creativity, character, and ability to tell a compelling story. Telling a great story could be a challenging task. That’s why we have compiled a list of things you need to know before writing a personal narrative essay.


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Fear not, for we are all authors! Every person's life is a story. Who else could be the author besides the person experiencing it? Writing a short story is different than writing an essay about your entire life. They key here is to cut out a memory or experience that stands out for you and turn it into a great story.

What Is A Narrative Essay?

A simple narrative essay definition is a piece of academic writing that tells a story. As the author, your purpose is to create a lifelike experience for the reader. You must place them in the middle of the action and keep them engaged. You would normally tell this story from your point of view.

You need to use vivid and evocative detail to create an atmosphere for the reader. Moreover, you need to be very specific with the information you use. Use the type of vocabulary that sounds most realistic to your scenario. This will support the atmosphere you want to create.

There are several types of narrative essays:

Autobiographical Narrative Essay

This assignment prompts you to describe a memorable event that happened in your life. It's not an autobiography, contrary to what the title suggests. You must think of a specific event that matters to you and explore it. Focus on the story and its purpose, instead of details.

Descriptive Narrative Essay

The autobiographical essay would have you focus on the story without exaggerating details. In a descriptive narrative essay, you have more creative freedom. You must describe a situation, memory, or experience in vivid detail. Your goal is to paint a picture for the reader and tell a beautiful story.

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 describe in your work.

Transformation

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 topics, there are several things you need to take into account.

Start by carefully reading the directions of your assignment. Teachers will often tell you what they are looking for in your narrative piece. Most narrative essays share a few common characteristics:

  • A Conflict/Challenge: An inciting incident that creates the tone and sets the story in motion.

  • A Protagonist: A relatable character that faces the conflict or challenge to overwhelming odds.

  • A Change or Growth: Overcoming the conflict or challenge sparks some change in the protagonist. A realization may have sparked this change. It could also be an after-effect of the characters development throughout the story.

These variables are the essentials of storytelling. You need to spend time brainstorming to connect all the dots and create great story ideas. Search your memories and experiences, and you’ll find something worth writing about!

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
  • Relationship Experience
  • A Discovery That Changed Your Life
  • A Rebellious Act

These are a few common examples that students tend to explore. Consider making a story based on your personal life experiences. The most vivid memories are usually the ones that tell a great story!

Related: College Essay Topics

Narrative Essay Outline

Narratives have a standard format. This includes the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion. Some follow the 5 paragraph narrative essay outline. Composed of 3 body paragraphs, each contains a new idea.

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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, they slowly untangle the puzzle that is the purpose.
  • The conclusion unravels the purpose for the reader. You must ensure that the reader understands the essence of your story.

Narrative Essay Outline

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

The Introduction must accomplish 3 main goals:

  • Each Narrative Essay should start out with a strong hook. It carries the reader through the introduction and gets them engaged in the story. To create a strong hook you can:
  • Bring up a future scenario as an initial starting point.
  • Offering a quote that will be relevant later in the essay.
  • Place your reader in the middle of the action.
  • Set the scene for the reader:
  • As authors, we want to throw the reader’s boat into a chaotic storm and get them engaged.
  • However, it doesn't hurt to give them a life jacket, in case they start sinking in confusion.
  • Allow the reader to get an idea of what's going on. Don’t give it all away, and keep them thinking!
  • Defining the purpose:
  • Without giving away too much information, give insight into what the essay is all about.
  • Don’t give away the lesson you’ve learned just yet. Give your reader merely a sneak peek of what’s about to come.

Read more about how to write a great INTRODUCTION

The Body Paragraphs Must Accomplish 4 Main Goals:

The body paragraphs will vary depending on the length of the essay. The range of the story should match its impact. If it’s a quick life lesson that many others have experienced, don’t stretch out the plot. Perhaps you need to put the reader in your shoes for the story to work. In this case, you have a fair reason to make it more prolonged and intense.

Vivid and relevant detail: 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. As long as each sentence serves a purpose, then you are good to go.

  • Dialogue: Throwing the reader into a spoken scene is an effective way to refresh their attention. Dialogue is a great way to give a story life and support the atmosphere. Still, you must use it constructively. For example, if you have two New Yorkers talking to each other, using London slang won’t be a great choice.

  • Write chronologically: It’s hard for the reader to understand the timeline unless the author is blunt. Keeping things sequential is the best way to keep your paper organized.

  • Avoid narration deviation: If you are talking about personal experience, the first-person voice would work best. If this a story you heard from a friend - using the third person would make more sense.

  • Your conclusion has the task of stating your purpose and offering a final comment. As the story wraps up, the reader must have lived through your experience. In the end, it would be good to leave them with something to think about.

Narrative Essay Example

The content of narratives essays 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

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 show these qualities. Regardless of whether your narrative is a college application essay or an assignment.

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. Connect it to your field of interest. The narrative can be exciting and informative if you present it in such fashion.

Narrative Essay Example

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 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. Try searching for a sample narrative essay to see how others approached it.

Narrative Essay Example

General Advice

Writing a narrative essay should be a positive experience. It doesn't restrict you to a linear format that doesn’t allow for variation. This is one of the most free-spirited and creative essays to write. That doesn’t mean that rebelling against all rules and writing something absurd is fair play.

If you are still struggling in deciding 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 reader on a journey. Have them share your experience and take something away from it. The best stories are always the ones that teleport the reader out of their comfort zone.

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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