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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How to Write a Narrative Essay | Example & Tips
Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
A narrative essay tells a story. In most cases, this is a story about a personal experience you had. This type of essay , along with the descriptive essay , allows you to get personal and creative, unlike most academic writing .
Table of contents
What is a narrative essay for, choosing a topic, interactive example of a narrative essay, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about narrative essays.
When assigned a narrative essay, you might find yourself wondering: Why does my teacher want to hear this story? Topics for narrative essays can range from the important to the trivial. Usually the point is not so much the story itself, but the way you tell it.
A narrative essay is a way of testing your ability to tell a story in a clear and interesting way. You’re expected to think about where your story begins and ends, and how to convey it with eye-catching language and a satisfying pace.
These skills are quite different from those needed for formal academic writing. For instance, in a narrative essay the use of the first person (“I”) is encouraged, as is the use of figurative language, dialogue, and suspense.
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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.
- Write a story about your first day of school.
- Write a story about your favorite holiday destination.
You may also be given prompts that leave you a much wider choice of topic.
- Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself.
- Write about an achievement you are proud of. What did you accomplish, and how?
In these cases, you might have to think harder to decide what story you want to tell. The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to talk about a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.
For example, a trip where everything went according to plan makes for a less interesting story than one where something unexpected happened that you then had to respond to. Choose an experience that might surprise the reader or teach them something.
Narrative essays in college applications
When applying for college , you might be asked to write a narrative essay that expresses something about your personal qualities.
For example, this application prompt from Common App requires you to respond with a narrative essay.
In this context, choose a story that is not only interesting but also expresses the qualities the prompt is looking for—here, resilience and the ability to learn from failure—and frame the story in a way that emphasizes these qualities.
An example of a short narrative essay, responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” is shown below.
Hover over different parts of the text to see how the structure works.
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.
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If you’re not given much guidance on what your narrative essay should be about, consider the context and scope of the assignment. What kind of story is relevant, interesting, and possible to tell within the word count?
The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to reflect on a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.
Don’t worry too much if your topic seems unoriginal. The point of a narrative essay is how you tell the story and the point you make with it, not the subject of the story itself.
Narrative essays are usually assigned as writing exercises at high school or in university composition classes. They may also form part of a university application.
When you are prompted to tell a story about your own life or experiences, a narrative essay is usually the right response.
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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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 in 5 Steps
When you have a personal story to tell and don’t want to write an entire book, a narrative essay may be the perfect fit. Unlike other types of essays, narrative essays don’t need to stick to certain requirements or include a bibliography. They have a looser structure, more creative language, and just one requirement: to tell a story.
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What is a narrative essay?
A narrative essay typically tells a true story that may have a few elements changed for clarity or dramatic purposes. However, this isn’t a requirement. You can format a fictional story as a narrative essay.
Narrative essays, perhaps unsurprisingly, are defined by the presence of a narrative in the text. Rather than presenting and defending a position, as in an argumentative essay , or analyzing another text, like in an analytical essay , a narrative essay tells a coherent story. They’re often personal essays that detail specific episodes in their authors’ lives, which is why they’re popular for college essays .
Unlike most other types of essays , narrative essays have room for literary devices , such as metaphor and onomatopoeia . You can be creative in a narrative essay because you’re writing a story rather than presenting and dissecting others’ statements or work.
5 steps to writing a narrative essay
Step 1: topic choice (or prompt given).
The first step in writing a narrative essay is to determine the topic. Sometimes, your topic is chosen for you in the form of a prompt. You might map out the topics you want to mention in the essay or think through each point you’d like to make to see how each will fit into the allotted word count (if you’re given one).
At this stage, you can also start thinking about the tone you’ll use in your essay and any stylistic choices you’d like to incorporate, such as starting each paragraph with the same phrase to create anaphora or leaving the reader with a cliffhanger ending. You can change these later if they don’t mesh with your first draft, but playing with these ideas in the idea-generating stage can help you craft multiple drafts.
Step 2: Make an outline
After you’ve explored your ideas and gotten a clear sense of what you’ll write, make an outline. An outline is a bare-bones precursor to your essay that gives a high-level view of the topics it will cover. When you’re writing, your essay outline can act as a map to follow when you’re not sure how to start or help you transition between topics once you’ve started.
Step 3: Write your narrative essay
Next, it’s time to write ! With your outline as a guide, flesh out the sections you’ve listed with clear, engaging language. A narrative essay doesn’t—and shouldn’t—stick to the same requirements as an academic essay, so don’t feel a need to use formal language or summarize your essay in its introductory paragraph.
Tip: Use a first-person point of view
Most narrative essays are written from a first-person point of view . That means using pronouns such as I and me when describing the experiences you explore in your essay.
Tip: Use storytelling or creative language
If you’ve ever written fiction or creative nonfiction, use the same kind of language and conventions in your narrative essay. By this, we mean using storytelling techniques, such as dialogue , flashbacks, and symbolism , to engage readers and communicate your essay’s themes.
Step 4: Revise your narrative essay
If you can, wait at least a few hours—or if possible, a day or so—before rereading your essay and making changes. By doing this, you’ll have an easier time spotting mistakes and catching places where the narrative could be smoothed out or enhanced. As you read your draft, think back to the goals you identified when you approached your topic:
- Does the draft address the points you planned to address?
- Does it fit the tone you decided you would use?
- If you had a prompt, does it sufficiently answer the prompt?
With these points in mind, make any changes you think will improve your narrative essay. Tools such as the Grammarly Editor can help you with this stage by flagging mistakes and making suggestions.
Step 5: Proofread and publish your narrative essay
Give your second draft another read-through to catch any grammatical mistakes you may have missed. At this stage, you’re done making substantial changes to the narrative—you’re polishing it to make sure you’re submitting the best version of your essay.
Once you’ve done your read-through and made any necessary changes, hit “send,” “submit,” or “publish” and congratulate yourself for finishing a narrative essay.
Narrative essay vs. descriptive essay
Both narrative essays and descriptive essays incorporate vivid figurative language to help readers visualize their subjects. However, in a descriptive essay, vividly describing the subject is the goal. In a narrative essay, the goal is to tell a story. In-depth descriptions may be part of the essay, but they need to support the narrative.
Narrative essay outline example
Title: Careful, You Might End Up in My Book!
Introduction: Real-life characters make the best subjects.
Body paragraph: We’re all characters in countless stories.
Body paragraph: It’s possible to be both the protagonist and the antagonist.
Body paragraph: Recognize yourself? Don’t worry, it’s our little secret.
Conclusion: Write whom you know.
Narrative essay FAQs
A narrative essay is an essay that tells a story. Typically, it’s nonfiction but may include some enhanced language to clarify or heighten the dramatic effect.
What are the steps to writing a narrative essay?
1 Choose a topic and generate ideas for your essay.
2 Write an outline.
3 Write a first draft.
4 Edit the draft.
5 Proofread and submit your final draft.
What’s the difference between a narrative essay and a descriptive essay?
While a narrative essay tells a story, a descriptive essay provides a vivid description of a place, person, object, or feeling. In a descriptive essay, the text focuses on exploring its subject, whereas a narrative essay tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
- Literary Terms
I. what is a narrative essay.
By definition, a narrative is a series of connected events – in other words, a story. An essay is a piece of writing that focuses on a specific topic. So, a narrative essay is a piece of writing that focuses on a particular story. In practice, a narrative essay is a story about a personal experience.
These essays examine how certain events affect a person’s emotions, beliefs, and outlook on life. The writer narrates an event that they lived through, and describes the experience from their personal point of view.
A narrative essay is a useful tool that invites readers into a story and shows how an event has affected a person.
II. Examples of Narrative Essays
Narrative essays can focus on any event in a person’s life. A strong narrative essay will be about an important event, one that had a significant impact on the author’s life. Some examples of the kinds of topics that a narrative essay might explore are the experiences of:
- Moving to a new place, school, or job
- Events that lead to a new understanding about life
- Overcoming challenging obstacles
- Time spent during a favorite activity
- Being involved in a large movement, such as a charity event or political protest
In fact, some narrative essays have become famous for their influence on their readers.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , by Frederick Douglass, is an essay that told of the author’s life in slavery. The essay tells how he overcame the challenging obstacle of escaping from slavery and starting life over as a free man. Abolitionists (anti-slavery activists) used Fredrick Douglas’s narrative essay to educate Americans about why they must end slavery.
Walden , by Henry David Thoreau, is a narrative essay about the author’s experience living in a cabin by Walden Pond for two years. He wrote about events he had while he was alone in nature, and he explained how these events led him to a new understanding about life, people, and society . The essay quickly became popular among people who were curious about reconnecting with nature.
III. Types of Narrative Essays with Topics
A memoir is an essay in which a person writes about a period in their life. The events typically cover years – even decades. A person might write a memoir in order to share an experience like the topic examples below.
- raising and training a puppy
- explaining the history of a company
- experience of learning to play a sport
A reflection is a short narrative that focuses on a single event. A writer may choose to reflect on a book they just finished, their visit to a zoo, or their high school graduation. The reflection should focus on the writer’s reactions to the event, and may include a self-evaluation. Reflections can also be as informal or formal, like the topic examples below.
- a journal entry of your school day
- a college entrance essay that describes an accomplishment
- a self-evaluation after playing a sport for a season
c. Personal Experience as a Participant
A narrative essay of this type is written by a person who was personally involved in an event and wants to share their experience. There is more information included in this narrative essay than in a reflection. It is also more focused on details describing the event, and less on the writer’s self-evaluation. Below are some examples for topics.
- living through a natural disaster
- participating in a school play
- new experiences on a family vacation
d. Personal Experience as an Observer
This kind of narrative essay includes journalism and reporting. It is the least personal of these types, and may not be written in first-person point-of-view (‘I’ or ‘we’). Take a look at the sample topics.
- war correspondents giving an update
- sports writers commenting on a game
- historians describing a past event
IV. Parts of Narrative Essays
A. personal point-of-view.
A strong narrative essay lets the reader know who the author is as a person. It reveals the author’s opinions, hopes, and beliefs. The reader should be able to gain insights into the author’s personality in a way that is similar to a reader getting to know a character in a work of fiction.
b. A clearly connected series of events
Without events, there is no narrative. A narrative essay is organized around a number of events. These events are linked through cause-and-effect or action- consequence.
c. Descriptive detail
A narrative essay is a personal experience, and should give the reader a feeling of being ‘there’ as the events unfold. The author will use multi-sensory descriptions (such as sights, sounds, and smells) and pay attention to details in order to ‘show’ the story to the reader.
d. Growth or change as a result of a climactic event
Readers of a narrative essay should be able to identify the most significant event in the story. This event is the climax of the narrative. The climax should lead the narrator (and the reader) to an insight or realization that causes a major change for him or her.
V. How to write a Narrative Essay
A. outline the events of the narrative.
Decide which part of the narrative is the climax, and which part contains an insight or lesson. These parts will be the focus of your essay. Organize the other events in the narrative to support this focus.
In Frederick Douglas’ essay, the climax might be the event in which he finally escapes to the north. Meanwhile, learning how to read and the new knowledge that he gains from reading would be on the outline as important events in the narrative.
b. Describe each event with precise sensory description
Focus on details that relate to your personal experiences. For instance, if the place is very important in the narrative, include details about the setting (place and time). If people play a big role in your narrative essay, take the time to describe how they look and what personality traits they have.
In his essay, Douglass uses details to describe the plantations, their locations, and several events that he witnessed as a child slave. His descriptions almost help readers imagine or picture the places and events in their minds.
c. Describe your role in each of the events
Explain how you felt and what you wanted. Describe how the events affected you emotionally.
In his essay, Douglass also describes how some of the cruel events that he witnessed scared him, as well as the happiness he felt when he was moved to live with and met the Aulds. This also helps the audience understand Douglass as a slave.
d. Identify the significance
Identify the significance of these events on your beliefs, feelings, or world view from where you stand today.
For Douglass, learning how to read was one of the most significant events in his life; it allowed him to learn and understand the injustices of slavery, which lead him to escape and become a leader in the abolitionist movement.
e. The events in the narrative should connect clearly
When you revise, be sure that the events in the narrative connect clearly and have smooth transitions between them
Your conclusion should help the reader understand the importance of your narrative essay.
Douglass concludes his essay by sharing his experience after the escape, like finding a job, and most importantly, speaking at an anti-slavery meeting. This shows the importance of how his experiences lead him to become a speaker for the abolitionist cause.
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"Creating a relatable narrative means digging deep, asking hard questions and potentially airing some uncomfortable truths." 1 Though it follows the same structure as other essay types, the purpose of a narrative essay is to entertain the audience while making them think. Emotive and sensory language is featured in narrative essays to connect with the reader and discuss an idea in a somewhat more informal style than other types of essays.
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Narrative Essay Definition
Another word for narrative is "story." At its foundation, a narrative tells its audience about something, whether through a book report, personal experience, or news story. A narrative essay uses a personal account to examine a theme , such as a moral question or universal truth. Writing a narrative essay involves some creative adventure, as its descriptive nature allows you to write an essay that stretches your creative writing muscles.
Structure of a Narrative Essay
A narrative essay follows the standard essay structure with an introduction , body paragraphs , and conclusion .
The introduction is where you begin to relate the personal story that illustrates the theme of the narrative essay. Immerse the reader in your experience using crisp details. Be sure to balance your introduction evenly by connecting your personal account to your Thesis Statement .
The body paragraphs are the part of the structure where you weave between expressing your story and discussing how it fits into the significant theme. Be mindful of the Transitions in your narrative essay to avoid jarring the audience's attention.
The conclusion brings everything full circle for the reader. Remind the reader of your narrative essay's Thesis and main points by summarizing them.
Leave a lasting impression in your conclusion by:
- Telling the audience what you learned from the experience.
- Discussing why the audience should be aware of your topic.
- Digging deeper into the theme of your narrative essay — without offering new information.
Like the pencil above, your mind creates new branches dedicated to critical thinking, self-awareness, and empathy as you structure a life experience into a narrative essay. Making growth and development visible in your essay will also add complexity to your writing.
Features of Narrative Essays
There are three significant features of narrative essays you'll want to include in your paper: characters , dialogue , theme , setting , plot , and conflict .
The characters are the people in your narrative essay (yourself and anyone else involved). Write your characters in a way that makes them seem authentic. Focus on behavior more than physical description. Another way to flesh out your characters is through the second feature, dialogue.
Dialogue is a valuable tool to describe people in a way that "shows" rather than "tells." You can learn a lot about a person's character by their words and how they say them. The dialogue in your narrative essay can be direct (exact words) or indirect (a paraphrase of the conversation).
The theme is one of the most important features of your narrative essay, as the purpose of the essay is to explore it. Your theme should illustrate some part of the human experience.
The setting of the narrative essay will be where your personal experience took place. When writing about a location, include details about its timeframe, social environment, and physical characteristics. Depending on the length of your essay, it may be best to only feature setting details that support the theme.
The plot is the way things happened. The narrative essay is a dance between your personal story and theme. Allow them to work together as you share and expand on the main points.
The conflict is the struggle that characters come up against. The conflict in your narrative essay gives it a purpose. Use the theme to discuss the conflict and show personal development.
Show don't tell. This piece of advice will pop up in every writing class you take and means that you should describe something using sensory and action words instead of vague descriptive labels. We all agree sunsets are beautiful, but what is beautiful to you?
A feature unique to narrative essays is that they are not "just the facts" and invite personal reflections. However, lest we invite anarchy, let's discuss the rules.
- Do use emotional language in narrative essays, but don't be melodramatic . Use the emotions you felt while living your story to help the audience relate to the topic of your paper. Exaggerated emotions come across as insincere and will disengage the audience.
- Do include sensory details in narrative essays, but don't drown the reader . The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and how things feel are essential parts of a story and bring the reader into that moment. However, it is best to focus on the primary senses used in the situation so you can explore them more deeply.
- Verb tenses can change in narrative essays, but don't overdo it. In a typical essay, only present tense is used and the main points discussed are organized by how important they are to relating information or proving your point. A narrative essay usually unfolds in chronological order, so, whether you choose to share the events first to last or last to first, be consistent. Try to keep time traveling to a minimum to avoid confusing your audience.
- Personal pronouns are welcome in narrative essays but avoid excessive "I" statements. How do you feel when conversing with someone who constantly talks about themselves? Too many "I" statements in your narrative essay come across as egotistical .
Egotistical: an adjective that describes someone who is excessively self-absorbed.
The Importance of Narrative Essays
While you are learning to write a compelling narrative essay, you:
- Improve your reading skills . Learning about the structure and features of narrative essays helps you recognize them while you read others' writing.
- Improve your writing skills . Developing your writing style through a narrative essay teaches you to be conscious of your intended audience.
- Develop a richer understanding of language . Playing with emotive and sensory language while writing a narrative essay allows you to appreciate more experimental writers.
- Learn to refine your thoughts . As you examine your experience and structure it into a narrative essay, your writing helps you logically process your feelings. Writing a narrative allows you to analyze cultural beliefs relative to your perspective.
Real-World Applications of Narrative Essays
A more practical reason to master the narrative essay is its use as a standard tool (often taking the form of a personal Statement or cover letter) for judging how well a person fits into an organization.
Personal Statements as Narrative Essays
Personal statements are required by many college and scholarship applications. As the admission board reads over your account, they consider what you write and how you talk about yourself in your writing. Personal statements are expected to be about a page long.
Personal statements include two categories.
- Open : You are allowed to choose the topic. It is difficult to narrow your whole life down to fit an essay. Don't overthink it. Accentuate your insightful decision-making skills by choosing an experience you can structure with a deep narrative rather than stringing together various life events.
- Prompt : The application asks you to answer a question or outlines what to feature in your essay. A prompt eliminates the task of choosing a topic, but how do we describe ourselves to a stranger? Ask the people who know you best for their input.
Cover Letters as Narrative Essays
A cover letter is a document that features your skills in a way that supplements your job application or resume and helps you to build a positive relationship with the employer before you meet them. It is similar to the narrative essay because you write about how you gained your knowledge and experience. However, the tone should be friendly yet professional, and the letter should not exceed one page.
Structure the cover letter to feature:
- Your qualifications.
- How you will be a positive addition to the team.
- Experiences that are directly relatable to the position.
- Skills you've learned in other contexts that are transferable to the position.
Once your awesome cover letter lands you an interview, prepare yourself for the verbal equivalent of a narrative essay by brainstorming answers to questions like, "What was a difficult situation you found yourself in and your reaction to it?"
Example of a Narrative Essay
Read the following example of a narrative essay and consider these questions:
- The theme of this narrative essay is the fleeting nature of time. Does the author clearly express this? Which sentence is the thesis statement?
- The example essay includes the narrative features of characters and dialogue . Direct and indirect dialogue are both present. Are the characters lifelike? Is the dialogue effective?
- Are there enough concrete details in the example narrative essay to draw the reader into the moment?
- The writing sample follows the structure of a narrative essay. Are there smooth Transitions between the paragraphs?
Time behaves oddly. Some periods in my life have felt like they were never going to end, and others like they barely had the chance to happen at all. It's distressing to learn that Time doesn't consider our needs when we lose someone we love. Scratch distressing — it feels like we are waiting inside the penthouse elevator, and the cables just got cut . Getting caught up in the day-to-day, infinite nature of time often leaves us wishing we had been more conscious of the finite way it operates in our personal lives.
Narrative Essay - Key takeaways
- A narrative essay uses personal experience, featuring characters and dialogue, to discuss a theme.
- A narrative essay is structured into an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion that conform to its unique stylistic features.
- Narrative essays feature emotional language, sensory details, and can switch verb tenses. Personal pronouns are welcome when used with care.
- Learning to write narrative essays is essential because it can improve your reading, writing, and comprehension skills. They can also help you develop your critical thinking skills.
- Personal statements and cover letters are situations where you will use your narrative essay skills.
1 Badillo, Ann, Tim Donovan, and Tobin Trevarthen. Narrative Generation: Why Narrative Will Become Your Most Valuable Asset in the Next Five Years . 2016
Frequently Asked Questions about Narrative Essay
--> what is a narrative essay.
A narrative essay uses personal experience to discuss a theme.
--> How do you write a narrative essay?
To write a narrative essay, pick a moral or universal truth to explore. Think about your life experiences and choose one that connects with your theme. Use concrete details to share your story and examine the theme.
--> What are the structures of a narrative essay?
A narrative essay begins with an introduction, explores its theme in the body paragraphs, and ties everything together in its conclusion. A thesis statement is included in the Introduction to convey the subject and ideas of the essay.
--> What are some examples of narrative essays?
Some examples of narrative essays are:
- "Goodbye to All That" by Joan Didion
- "Writing Into the Wound" by Roxanne Gay
- "Death of a Moth" by Virginia Woolf
- "Notes of a Native Son" by James Baldwin
--> What are the five basic components of narrative essays?
Narrative essays contain five basic components:
Final Narrative Essay Quiz
Narrative essay quiz - teste dein wissen.
A _____ essay uses personal experience to examine a moral or universal truth.
How are events in a narrative essay ordered?
Events are told in chronological order in a narrative essay.
What are three things learning to write a narrative essay can improve?
Learning to write a narrative essay can improve your comprehension, your reading, and your writing abilities.
How is a narrative essay structured?
A narrative essay is structured into an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
Where is the thesis statement located in a narrative essay?
What are the two types of dialogue you can include in your narrative essay?
The two types of dialogue you can include in your narrative essay are:
- Direct (exact words)
- Indirect (a paraphrase of the conversation)
Which features are unique to a Narrative essay?
All of the above
Why are transitions important in a Narrative essay?
Transitions are important in a Narrative essay because it's disorienting to readers to have to stop reading to figure out what's going on.
How can you leave a lasting impression in the conclusion of a Narrative essay?
Why are concrete details in a Narrative important?
Concrete details in a narrative essay are important because they draw the reader into the experience.
True or false: cover letters and personal statements are real-world applications of narrative essays.
True. Personal statements ask you to talk about yourself within the guidelines of a theme. Cover letters ask you to tell the story of how you gained your skills.
It is a central message in a work of art or writing.
It is where you begin to relate the personal story that illustrates the theme of the narrative essay.
It is the part of the structure where you weave between expressing your story and discussing how it fits into the significant theme.
It brings everything full circle for the reader.
It is the people in your narrative essay (yourself and anyone else involved).
It is is a valuable tool to describe people in a way that "shows" rather than "tells."
It is where your personal experience took place.
It is the way things happened.
It is the struggle that characters come up against.
It is exaggerated emotions.
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Detailed Guide on How to Write a Narrative Essay with Tips
Defining What Is a Narrative Essay
We can explain a narrative essay definition as a piece of writing that tells a story. It's like a window into someone's life or a page torn from a diary. Similarly to a descriptive essay, a narrative essay tells a story, rather than make a claim and use evidence. It can be about anything – a personal experience, a childhood memory, a moment of triumph or defeat – as long as it's told in a way that captures the reader's imagination.
You might ask - 'which sentence most likely comes from a narrative essay?'. Let's take this for example: 'I could hear the waves crashing against the shore, their rhythm a soothing lullaby that carried me off to sleep.' You could even use such an opening for your essay when wondering how to start a narrative essay.
To further define a narrative essay, consider it storytelling with a purpose. The purpose of a narrative essay is not just to entertain but also to convey a message or lesson in first person. It's a way to share your experiences and insights with others and connect with your audience. Whether you're writing about your first love, a harrowing adventure, or a life-changing moment, your goal is to take the reader on a journey that will leave them feeling moved, inspired, or enlightened.
So if you're looking for a way to express yourself creatively and connect with others through your writing, try your hand at a narrative essay. Who knows – you might just discover a hidden talent for storytelling that you never knew you had!
Meanwhile, let's delve into the article to better understand this type of paper through our narrative essay examples, topic ideas, and tips on constructing a perfect essay.
Types of Narrative Essays
If you were wondering, 'what is a personal narrative essay?', know that narrative essays come in different forms, each with a unique structure and purpose. Regardless of the type of narrative essay, each aims to transport the reader to a different time and place and to create an emotional connection between the reader and the author's experiences. So, let's discuss each type in more detail:
- A personal narrative essay is based on one's unique experience or event. Personal narrative essay examples include a story about overcoming a fear or obstacle or reflecting on a particularly meaningful moment in one's life.
- A fictional narrative is a made-up story that still follows the basic elements of storytelling. Fictional narratives can take many forms, from science fiction to romance to historical fiction.
- A memoir is similar to personal narratives but focuses on a specific period or theme in a person's life. Memoirs might be centered around a particular relationship, a struggle with addiction, or a cultural identity. If you wish to describe your life in greater depth, you might look at how to write an autobiography .
- A literacy narrative essay explores the writer's experiences with literacy and how it has influenced their life. The essay typically tells a personal story about a significant moment or series of moments that impacted the writer's relationship with reading, writing, or communication.
You might also be interested in discovering 'HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY'
Pros and Cons of Narrative Writing
Writing a narrative essay can be a powerful tool for self-expression and creative storytelling, but like any form of writing, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Let's explore the pros and cons of narrative writing in more detail, helping you to decide whether it's the right writing style for your needs.
- It can be a powerful way to convey personal experiences and emotions.
- Allows for creative expression and unique voice
- Engages the reader through storytelling and vivid details
- It can be used to teach a lesson or convey a message.
- Offers an opportunity for self-reflection and growth
- It can be challenging to balance personal storytelling with the needs of the reader
- It may not be as effective for conveying factual information or arguments
- It may require vulnerability and sharing personal details that some writers may find uncomfortable
- It can be subjective, as the reader's interpretation of the narrative may vary
If sharing your personal stories is not your cup of tea, you can buy essays online from our expert writers, who will customize the paper to your particular writing style and tone.
20 Excellent Narrative Essay Topics and How to Choose One
Choosing a good topic among many narrative essay ideas can be challenging, but some tips can help you make the right choice. Here are some original and helpful tips on how to choose a good narrative essay topic:
- Consider your own experiences: One of the best sources of inspiration for a narrative essay is your own life experiences. Consider moments that have had a significant impact on you, whether they are positive or negative. For example, you could write about a memorable trip or a challenging experience you overcame.
- Choose a topic relevant to your audience: Consider your audience and their interests when choosing a narrative essay topic. If you're writing for a class, consider what topics might be relevant to the course material. If you're writing for a broader audience, consider what topics might be interesting or informative to them.
- Find inspiration in literature: Literature can be a great source of inspiration for a narrative essay. Consider the books or stories that have had an impact on you, and think about how you can incorporate elements of them into your own narrative. For example, you could start by using a title for narrative essay inspired by the themes of a favorite novel or short story.
- Focus on a specific moment or event: Most narrative essays tell a story, so it's important to focus on a specific moment or event. For example, you could write a short narrative essay about a conversation you had with a friend or a moment of realization while traveling.
- Experiment with different perspectives: Consider writing from different perspectives to add depth and complexity to your narrative. For example, you could write about the same event from multiple perspectives or explore the thoughts and feelings of a secondary character.
- Use writing prompts: Writing prompts can be a great source of inspiration if you struggle to develop a topic. Consider using a prompt related to a specific theme, such as love, loss, or growth.
- Choose a topic with rich sensory details: A good narrative essay should engage the senses and create a vivid picture in the reader's mind. Choose a topic with rich sensory details that you can use to create a vivid description. For example, you could write about a bustling city's sights, sounds, and smells.
- Choose a topic meaningful to you: Ultimately, the best narrative essays are meaningful to the writer. Choose a topic that resonates with you and that you feel passionate about. For example, you could write about a personal goal you achieved or a struggle you overcame.
Here are some good narrative essay topics for inspiration from our experts:
- A life-changing event that altered your perspective on the world
- The story of a personal accomplishment or achievement
- An experience that tested your resilience and strength
- A time when you faced a difficult decision and how you handled it
- A childhood memory that still holds meaning for you
- The impact of a significant person in your life
- A travel experience that taught you something new
- A story about a mistake or failure that ultimately led to growth and learning
- The first day of a new job or school
- The story of a family tradition or ritual that is meaningful to you
- A time when you had to confront a fear or phobia
- A memorable concert or music festival experience
- An experience that taught you the importance of communication or listening
- A story about a time when you had to stand up for what you believed in
- A time when you had to persevere through a challenging task or project
- A story about a significant cultural or societal event that impacted your life
- The impact of a book, movie, or other work of art on your life
- A time when you had to let go of something or someone important to you
- A memorable encounter with a stranger that left an impression on you
- The story of a personal hobby or interest that has enriched your life
Narrative Format and Structure
The narrative essay format and structure are essential elements of any good story. A well-structured narrative can engage readers, evoke emotions, and create lasting memories. Whether you're writing a personal essay or a work of fiction, the following guidelines on how to write a narrative essay can help you create a compelling paper:
- Introduction : The introduction sets the scene for your story and introduces your main characters and setting. It should also provide a hook to capture your reader's attention and make them want to keep reading. When unsure how to begin a narrative essay, describe the setting vividly or an intriguing question that draws the reader in.
- Plot : The plot is the sequence of events that make up your story. It should have a clear beginning, middle, and end, with each part building on the previous one. The plot should also have a clear conflict or problem the protagonist must overcome.
- Characters : Characters are the people who drive the story. They should be well-developed and have distinct personalities and motivations. The protagonist should have a clear goal or desire, and the antagonist should provide a challenge or obstacle to overcome.
- Setting : The setting is the time and place the story takes place. It should be well-described and help to create a mood or atmosphere that supports the story's themes.
- Dialogue : Dialogue is the conversation between characters. It should be realistic and help to reveal the characters' personalities and motivations. It can also help to move the plot forward.
- Climax : The climax is the highest tension or conflict point in the story. It should be the turning point that leads to resolving the conflict.
- Resolution : The resolution is the end of the story. It should provide a satisfying conclusion to the conflict and tie up any loose ends.
Following these guidelines, you can create a narrative essay structure that engages readers and leaves a lasting impression. Remember, a well-structured story can take readers on a journey and make them feel part of the action.
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Narrative Essay Outline
Here is a detailed narrative essay outline from our custom term paper writing :
A. Hook: Start with an attention-grabbing statement, question, or anecdote that introduces the topic and draws the reader in. Example: 'The sun beat down on my skin as I stepped onto the stage, my heart pounding with nervous excitement.'
B. Background information: Provide context for the story, such as the setting or the characters involved. Example: 'I had been preparing for this moment for weeks, rehearsing my lines and perfecting my performance for the school play.'
C. Thesis statement: State the essay's main point and preview the events to come. Example: 'This experience taught me that taking risks and stepping outside my comfort zone can lead to unexpected rewards and personal growth.'
A. First event: Describe the first event in the story, including details about the setting, characters, and actions. Example: 'As I delivered my first lines on stage, I felt a rush of adrenaline and a sense of pride in my hard work paying off.'
B. Second event: Describe the second event in the story, including how it builds on the first event and moves the story forward. Example: 'As the play progressed, I became more comfortable in my role and connecting with the other actors on stage.'
C. Turning point: Describe the turning point in the story, when something unexpected or significant changes the course of events. Example: 'In the final act, my character faced a difficult decision that required me to improvise and trust my instincts.'
D. Climax: Describe the story's climax, the highest tension or conflict point. Example: 'As the play reached its climax, I delivered my final lines with confidence and emotion, feeling a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.'
A. Restate thesis: Summarize the essay's main point and how the events in the story support it. Example: 'Through this experience, I learned that taking risks and pushing past my comfort zone can lead to personal growth and unexpected rewards.'
B. Reflection: Reflect on the significance of the experience and what you learned from it. Example: 'Looking back, I realize that this experience not only taught me about acting and performance but also about the power of perseverance and self-belief.'
C. Call to action: if you're still wondering how to write an essay conclusion , consider ending it with a call to action or final thought that leaves the reader with something to consider or act on. Example: 'I encourage everyone to take risks and embrace new challenges because you never know what kind of amazing experiences and growth they may lead to.
You might also be interested in getting detailed info on 'HOW TO WRITE AN ESSAY CONCLUSION'
Narrative Essay Examples
Are you looking for inspiration for your next narrative essay? Look no further than our narrative essay example. Through vivid storytelling and personal reflections, this essay takes the reader on a journey of discovery and leaves them with a powerful lesson about the importance of compassion and empathy. Use this sample from our expert essay writer as a guide for crafting your own narrative essay, and let your unique voice and experiences shine through.
Narrative Essay Example for College
College professors search for the following qualities in their students:
- the ability to adapt to different situations,
- the ability to solve problems creatively,
- and the ability to learn from mistakes.
Your work must demonstrate these qualities, regardless of whether your narrative paper is a college application essay or a class assignment. Additionally, you want to demonstrate your character and creativity. Describe a situation where you have encountered a problem, tell the story of how you came up with a unique approach to solving it, and connect it to your field of interest. The narrative can be exciting and informative if you present it in such fashion.
Narrative Essay Example for High School
High school is all about showing that you can make mature choices. You accept the consequences of your actions and retrieve valuable life lessons. Think of an event in which you believe your actions were exemplary and made an adult choice. A personal narrative essay example will showcase the best of your abilities. Finally, use other sources to help you get the best results possible. Try searching for a sample narrative essay to see how others have approached it.
So now that you know what is a narrative essay you might want to produce high-quality paper. For that let our team of experienced writers help. Our research paper writing service offers a range of professional writing services that cater to your unique needs and requirements, from narrative essays to research papers, also offering dissertation help and more.
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- Citation Styles
How to write a narrative essay [Updated 2023]
A narrative essay is an opportunity to flex your creative muscles and craft a compelling story. In this blog post, we define what a narrative essay is and provide strategies and examples for writing one.
What is a narrative essay?
Similarly to a descriptive essay or a reflective essay, a narrative essay asks you to tell a story, rather than make an argument and present evidence. Most narrative essays describe a real, personal experience from your own life (for example, the story of your first big success).
Alternately, your narrative essay might focus on an imagined experience (for example, how your life would be if you had been born into different circumstances). While you don’t need to present a thesis statement or scholarly evidence, a narrative essay still needs to be well-structured and clearly organized so that the reader can follow your story.
When you might be asked to write a narrative essay
Although less popular than argumentative essays or expository essays, narrative essays are relatively common in high school and college writing classes.
The same techniques that you would use to write a college essay as part of a college or scholarship application are applicable to narrative essays, as well. In fact, the Common App that many students use to apply to multiple colleges asks you to submit a narrative essay.
How to choose a topic for a narrative essay
When you are asked to write a narrative essay, a topic may be assigned to you or you may be able to choose your own. With an assigned topic, the prompt will likely fall into one of two categories: specific or open-ended.
Examples of specific prompts:
- Write about the last vacation you took.
- Write about your final year of middle school.
Examples of open-ended prompts:
- Write about a time when you felt all hope was lost.
- Write about a brief, seemingly insignificant event that ended up having a big impact on your life.
A narrative essay tells a story and all good stories are centered on a conflict of some sort. Experiences with unexpected obstacles, twists, or turns make for much more compelling essays and reveal more about your character and views on life.
If you’re writing a narrative essay as part of an admissions application, remember that the people reviewing your essay will be looking at it to gain a sense of not just your writing ability, but who you are as a person.
In these cases, it’s wise to choose a topic and experience from your life that demonstrates the qualities that the prompt is looking for, such as resilience, perseverance, the ability to stay calm under pressure, etc.
It’s also important to remember that your choice of topic is just a starting point. Many students find that they arrive at new ideas and insights as they write their first draft, so the final form of your essay may have a different focus than the one you started with.
How to outline and format a narrative essay
Even though you’re not advancing an argument or proving a point of view, a narrative essay still needs to have a coherent structure. Your reader has to be able to follow you as you tell the story and to figure out the larger point that you’re making.
You’ll be evaluated on is your handling of the topic and how you structure your essay. Even though a narrative essay doesn’t use the same structure as other essay types, you should still sketch out a loose outline so you can tell your story in a clear and compelling way.
To outline a narrative essay, you’ll want to determine:
- how your story will start
- what points or specifics that you want to cover
- how your story will end
- what pace and tone you will use
In the vast majority of cases, a narrative essay should be written in the first-person, using “I.” Also, most narrative essays will follow typical formatting guidelines, so you should choose a readable font like Times New Roman in size 11 or 12. Double-space your paragraphs and use 1” margins.
To get your creative wheels turning, consider how your story compares to archetypes and famous historical and literary figures both past and present. Weave these comparisons into your essay to improve the quality of your writing and connect your personal experience to a larger context.
How to write a narrative essay
Writing a narrative essay can sometimes be a challenge for students who typically write argumentative essays or research papers in a formal, objective style. To give you a better sense of how you can write a narrative essay, here is a short example of an essay in response to the prompt, “Write about an experience that challenged your view of yourself.”
Narrative essay example
Even as a child, I always had what people might call a reserved personality. It was sometimes framed as a positive (“Sarah is a good listener”) and at other times it was put in less-than-admiring terms (“Sarah is withdrawn and not very talkative”). It was the latter kind of comments that caused me to see my introverted nature as a drawback and as something I should work to eliminate. That is, until I joined my high school’s student council.
The first paragraph, or introduction, sets up the context, establishing the situation and introducing the meaningful event upon which the essay will focus.
The other four students making up the council were very outspoken and enthusiastic. I enjoyed being around them, and I often agreed with their ideas. However, when it came to overhauling our school’s recycling plan, we butted heads. When I spoke up and offered a different point of view, one of my fellow student council members launched into a speech, advocating for her point of view. As her voice filled the room, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I wondered if I should try to match her tone, volume, and assertiveness as a way to be heard. But I just couldn’t do it—it’s not my way, and it never has been. For a fleeting moment, I felt defeated. But then, something in me shifted.
In this paragraph, the writer goes into greater depth about how her existing thinking brought her to this point.
I reminded myself that my view was valid and deserved to be heard. So I waited. I let my fellow council member speak her piece and when she was finished, I deliberately waited a few moments before calmly stating my case. I chose my words well, and I spoke them succinctly. Just because I’m not a big talker doesn’t mean I’m not a big thinker. I thought of the quotation “still waters run deep” and I tried to embody that. The effect on the room was palpable. People listened. And I hadn’t had to shout my point to be heard.
This paragraph demonstrates the turn in the story, the moment when everything changed. The use of the quotation “still waters run deep” imbues the story with a dash of poetry and emotion.
We eventually reached a compromise on the matter and concluded the student council meeting. Our council supervisor came to me afterward and said: “You handled that so well, with such grace and poise. I was very impressed.” Her words in that moment changed me. I realized that a bombastic nature isn't necessarily a powerful one. There is power in quiet, too. This experience taught me to view my reserved personality not as a character flaw, but as a strength.
The final paragraph, or conclusion, closes with a statement about the significance of this event and how it ended up changing the writer in a meaningful way.
Narrative essay writing tips
1. pick a meaningful story that has a conflict and a clear “moral.”.
If you’re able to choose your own topic, pick a story that has meaning and that reveals how you became the person your are today. In other words, write a narrative with a clear “moral” that you can connect with your main points.
2. Use an outline to arrange the structure of your story and organize your main points.
Although a narrative essay is different from argumentative essays, it’s still beneficial to construct an outline so that your story is well-structured and organized. Note how you want to start and end your story, and what points you want to make to tie everything together.
3. Be clear, concise, concrete, and correct in your writing.
You should use descriptive writing in your narrative essay, but don’t overdo it. Use clear, concise, and correct language and grammar throughout. Additionally, make concrete points that reinforce the main idea of your narrative.
4. Ask a friend or family member to proofread your essay.
No matter what kind of writing you’re doing, you should always plan to proofread and revise. To ensure that your narrative essay is coherent and interesting, ask a friend or family member to read over your paper. This is especially important if your essay is responding to a prompt. It helps to have another person check to make sure that you’ve fully responded to the prompt or question.
Frequently Asked Questions about narrative essays
A narrative essay, like any essay, has three main parts: an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Structuring and outlining your essay before you start writing will help you write a clear story that your readers can follow.
The first paragraph of your essay, or introduction, sets up the context, establishing the situation and introducing the meaningful event upon which the essay will focus.
In the vast majority of cases, a narrative essay should be written in the first-person, using “I.”
The 4 main types of essays are the argumentative essay, narrative essay, exploratory essay, and expository essay. You may be asked to write different types of essays at different points in your education.
Most narrative essays will be around five paragraphs, or more, depending on the topic and requirements. Make sure to check in with your instructor about the guidelines for your essay. If you’re writing a narrative essay for a college application, pay close attention to word or page count requirements.
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Definition of narrative essay.
A narrative essay is a type of essay that has a single motif , or a central point, around which the whole narrative revolves. All incidents, happenings, and characters revolve around a single motif presented in the narrative. A narrative essay is similar to a simple five-paragraph essay, in that it has the same format. It is only different in that it is a narrative, having characters, incidents, and dialogues.
Difference Between a Narrative Essay and a Short Story
A narrative essay has a specific format, specific aspects to discover, and a specific motif. It revolves around that motif set by the writer prior to writing the essay. A short story , however, is different from a narrative essay in that it does not revolve around a pre-set motif, and that it does not have a specific format. Also, a short story always leaves readers at a critical juncture with the desire to discover more. In contrast , a narrative essay ends when the readers are fully satisfied. They do not wish to read anymore or do not want to discover anymore.
Elements of a Narrative Essay
A narrative essay has three required elements: character , theme , and dialogue :
Characters are an important part of a narrative essay. Even if the essay is autobiographical in nature, the person writing the essay is a character involving some other characters who act, behave, and do like all other characters presented in stories and novels .
Theme or Motif
A narrative essay revolves around a theme or a motif. This theme or motif is presented in its thesis statement, which breaks it down into three distinct pieces of evidence . These three distinct pieces of evidence are then further elaborated through characters in body paragraphs .
Dialogue is used to capture the conversation between characters. In a narrative essay, dialogue is the third important element, without which the characters lose their worth and liveliness.
How to Choose a Topic for Narrative Essay
There are four major steps to choosing the topic of a narrative essay:
- Choose a theme or thematic strand around which to weave a story.
- Outline the character, events, and happenings.
- Think about the conversation of the characters and place them in a setting and plot
- Synchronize the characters with the plot and the setting to see if they integrate with each other.
MLA and APA Formats in Narrative Essay
MLA and APA are used in all types of essays. However, APA is mostly used in social sciences, while MLA is used in humanities. Whereas the application of MLA in a narrative is concerned, it is used in the format, intext citation , and in the Works Cited page. The first page comprises the student’s name, class, tutor’s name, and date with the topic of the essay given after all of them. However, in APA, all this information appears on the cover page. Similarly, both MLA and APA differ in intext citation, with MLA having only the author’s name and page without any comma. In contrast, APA has the author’s name as well as page number with a comma and ‘p’ with a period before the number of the page, such as (Hardy, p. 45). Regarding the sources, MLA shows Works Cited page at the end, while APA shows Reference at the end.
Reflective Narrative Essay
As the name suggests, a reflection narrative is an essay that presents the reflections of a person who is writing that essay. He takes an incident from his life and gives it an organization on the pattern of an essay with a narrative having a beginning, middle, and an end. The essay may or may not have moral lessons, which does not make a lot of difference if the experiences carry the deeper meaning. What matters is that the writer reflects on his own life, taking out some significant moment to make it a storied essay or a narrative essay with a theme in it.
Examples of Narrative Essays in Literature
Example #1: new directions (by maya angelou).
“Annie, over six feet tall, big-boned, decided that she would not go to work as a domestic and leave her “precious babes” to anyone else’s care. There was no possibility of being hired at the town’s cotton gin or lumber mill, but maybe there was a way to make the two factories work for her. In her words, “I looked up the road I was going and back the way I come, and since I wasn’t satisfied, I decided to step off the road and cut me a new path.” She told herself that she wasn’t a fancy cook but that she could “mix groceries well enough to scare hungry away and keep from starving a man.”
This paragraph is an example from a narrative essay of Maya Angelou. She has described how a girl looks, and how she behaves. She has also written direct dialogues to show that it is a narrative.
Example #2: Saturday Evening Post (by Russell Baker)
“When I burst in that afternoon she was in conference with an executive of the Curtis Publishing Company. She introduced me. He bent low from the waist and shook my hand. Was it true as my mother had told him, he asked, that I longed for the opportunity to conquer the world of business? My Mother replied that I was blessed with a rare determination to make something of myself. ‘That’s right,’ I whispered. ‘But have you got the grit, the character, the never-say-quit spirit it takes to succeed in business?’ My Mother said I certainly did.”
In this piece from a narrative essay by Russell Baker of the famed Saturday Evening Post , the author has fully described the efforts of his mother by her dialogue. Both character and dialogue are very clear.
Example #3: Only Daughter (by Sandra Cisneros)
“Once several years ago, when I was just starting out my writing career, I was asked to write my own contributor’s note for an anthology I was part of, I wrote: ‘ I am the only daughter in a family of six sons. That explains everything.’ “Well, I’ve thought about that ever since, and yes, it explains a lot to me, but for the reader’s sake I should have written: ‘I am the only daughter in a Mexican family of six sons.’ Or even: ‘I am the only daughter of a Mexican father and a Mexican-American mother.’ Or: ‘I am the only daughter of a working-class family of nine.’ All of these had everything to do with who I am today.”
In this essay, the author has given a full description of a daughter – how she looks and how she behaves.
Function of Narrative Essay
A narrative essay describes people, presents their conversations, and narrates their experiences to teach lessons to readers. In fact, it is like a story, but different in that it is weaved around a motif. A motif is given before the incidents of the essay. Readers become aware of this single theme, central idea, or motif once they go through the essay. Its major aim is to provide information about life experiences and lessons learned from those experiences.
Synonyms of Narrative Essay
Some of the words closely related to the narrative essay are reflective account, chronicle, chronology , and historical narrative. However, these words cannot be interchangeably used to replace this title.
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