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How is narrative essay written

How To Write A Narrative Essay: General Guidelines

Learn how to write a narrative essay step-by-step with this easy and professional guide.

The art of writing consists of four main types: descriptive, narrative, expository, and persuasive. Each has a unique style and its own purpose.

Narration, also known as the ability to tell stories, has its sole purpose to describe and transmit both fictional and factual tales. Every time you tell a friend or relative something that happened to you, you engage in a form of narration. The difference between factual and fictional narration lies in the amount of “proofs” the storyteller has to offer to its listener. For fictional stories, those that are made-up or imagined, the writer is in charge of creating the characters and events he or she seems relevant to the story.

Further, another difference between both narratives has to do with the writer’s purpose. Factual storytellers, such as memoirs and biographies, try to describe and explain events as they happened or as they remember them happening, whereas fictional tale makers, like novels or short stories, can depart from real events or people because they do not intend to retell a factual situation.

To help you understand the concept and its different stages better, below there’s a detailed guide with narrative essay ideas to help you succeed every time you write.

1. What Is A Narrative Essay?

If you want to know how to write a good narrative essay there are a few concepts we have to describe first.

A narrative essay is a text used to construct and communicate a story, with characters, conflicts, and settings. Narrative writing is used in almost every piece of writing, whether fiction or nonfiction. It has a central point that the whole narrative revolves around, including incidents and characters. 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. Narrative writing includes poetry, anecdotes, and novels.

  • Write about the time you met your best friend.
  • Write a story about your first trip to the beach.
  • Write about something you did that you are very happy for.
  • Write a story about what you’d like your future life to be.

Bonus: Difference Between Narrative Essay And Short Story

Both writings have a few differences that come to play big on paper. In a narrative essay, you will use facts to tell the story, typically relying on your memory. With short stories, you will make up the content, creating characters and events that suit the story. The first one is known to make writers struggle with accuracy because they fully rely on their memory for details or exact dialogue. Further, when writing a narrative paragraph you’ll need a thesis statement, where the first paragraph of the text has to inform the reader of the main idea of the paper

As you tell the story throughout your essay, you will work towards proving or showing the accuracy of your thesis statement.

Although a short story does not have a thesis statement, many short stories do have a central theme.

2. Purpose Of A Narrative Essay

Ultimately, whether the story is fact or fiction, narrative writing tries to relay a series of events in an emotionally engaging way. If you want to know how to start a narrative essay there’s one fundamental question you should ask yourself: what is my purpose? You want your audience to be moved by your story, which could mean through laughter, sympathy, fear, anger, and so on. The more clearly you tell your story, the more emotionally engaged your audience is likely to be. Having in mind the correct style and approach to perfectly communicate your idea

  • Write about the moment you overcame your biggest concern.
  • Write a story about your thoughts on what courage is.
  • Write about a trip you will never forget.
  • Write a story about starting a relationship.

Bonus: What Makes A Good Narrative Essay?

Narrative essays tell a vivid story, usually from one person’s viewpoint. A narrative essay uses all the story elements such as a beginning, middle, and ending, as well as plot, characters, setting, and climax. Use different body paragraphs for each to visually allow the reader to have some rest while reading and also separate the different periods in your story. The plot’s usually told chronologically and the story always has a purpose. Further, it might use dialogue if the writer chooses to. It’s written with sensory details and bright descriptions that involve the reader. All these details relate in some way to the main point the writer is making.

For example, if you choose to write about a place you visited alone, it could be told without dialogue, but if you want to narrate about the time you met a celebrity, for example, a conversation should be included.

3. Elements Of A Narrative Essay

What makes a narrative essay relies on three fundamental elements: character, theme, and dialogue.

Characters are very important in this type of writing, even if the essay is an autobiography, the person writing the essay becomes a character that involves some other characters who behave, act and do things like the rest of the participants presented in novels and stories.

It revolves around a theme or a motif, which it’s presented in a thesis statement that breaks down into three different parts. Further, in the text, these parts are elaborated through characters in body paragraphs that follow the essay structure.

Lastly, dialogue is used between characters to capture a conversation. It is the third most important element in which the narrative essay writer decides how to tell the story he or she wants to portray.

4. Types Of Narrative Essay

Writing a narrative essay can seem difficult if you don’t have a clear view of what you want to communicate or how to do it. There are several types of narrative essays: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

  • Fiction is an imaginary narrative, based on the writer’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings presented as a series of many events. It can be presented in a form of a novel, folk-tale, short story, and a play, among others.
  • Non-fiction, on the other hand, counts as a personal narrative essay where it’s based on real information, facts, or happenings. Biographies along with journals and diaries are the most common non-fiction writings.
  • Poetry can be both fictional or non-fictional because it’s a narrative where the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the distinctive style and rhythm. Sonnets and epics are the most frequently used.
  • Write about an experience that put you in danger.
  • Write a story about a time when you discovered a secret.
  • Write about a day you experienced that was unlike any other.
  • Write a story about a memorable summer vacation.

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Bonus: Types Of Narrative Writing

There are four common narrative essay writing: linear, non-linear, quest, and viewpoint.

  1. A linear narrative presents the story in the same order as the events that happened; it can be done through any narrative perspective (first-person narration, second, third). An example of a linear narrative can be found in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most famous book.
  2. On the other hand, a non-linear narrative presents the story’s events out of order, usually employing flashbacks and other literary resources that shift the chronology of a story. The Odyssey, Homer’s epic poem, presents the events in different orders.
  3. A quest narrative is a story in which the protagonist works tirelessly toward a goal, which becomes the all-consuming passion of the story and makes the character face a huge amount of obstacles along the way. Moby Dick and Sherlock Holmes are two top examples of a quest narrative.
  4. A viewpoint narrative is designed to express the points of view or subjective personal experience of the main character or other fictional characters in the story. In this one, writing, moods, feelings, and other sensory details are filtered through the narrator’s own life and subjective point of view. In Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov, the first-person narrative comes from Humbert Humbert, a man who has been in a psychiatric clinic multiple times and casts the entire story in a subjective, untrustworthy light.

5. Length Of A Narrative Essay

How long is a narrative essay? Well, it all depends, but generally, a good narrative essay is about five pages long and has a few standard requirements along the way. Some colleges require a narrative essay of 500 words only, so if it’s your case, just modify the number of blocks to fit the required word count.

Narrative essays should be as short and informative as possible, creating an engaging story without lacking information and following the established format.

A narrative essay structure consists of an introduction, where the main idea is presented in about 3-5 sentences. The main body collects supportive arguments for the story, where every new idea has a paragraph of around 3-5 blocks. And finally, a conclusion where you can sum up and prove what you stated in the introduction. Generally, in 3-5 well-arranged sentences you can succeed at this.

6. Guidelines For Writing A Narrative Essay

If you’re looking at how to start a narrative essay here is a narrative essay outline that will make your writing process a bit easier.

How To Start A Narrative Essay?

To begin, read your assignment carefully and take notes on what your professor is asking you to include. Brainstorm some ideas of what your essay might be about and just let your imagination flow. Take notes on a piece of paper of possible locations, characters, and conversations to later see if you can use them. Here are some prompts to help you with the process.

One of the best ways to start a narrative essay is through a provoking statement or by asking a question to the person reading the paper. A tip to have in mind is to rely on descriptive words and adjectives that allow the reader to visualize the story better, try to be as detailed as possible without boring the other person. The text should be informative and engaging and at the same time authentic and compelling.

Here are some prompts that you can use:

  • Write about the best birthday party you had.
  • Write a story about the first time you cooked a meal by yourself.
  • Write about a life lesson you have learned.
  • Write a story about your best childhood memory.

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How To Choose An Essay Topic?

To choose an essay topic, there are a few considerations to have in mind. If you can freely choose a topic, make sure it is one where you can find details and relevant information. A “half-done” narrative essay is not desirable, so take your time brainstorming ideas and coming up with a few different topics and start reading and searching for information. To write a narrative essay that looks professional and well put, try to search on official websites or use Scholar Google for scientific prompts. It helps to picture yourself as the reader, you know what things you like to read about and what things you look for on a paper, incorporating those in your work will make things easier.

Once you’ve found the topic you’d like to write about, try writing possible essay titles to allow your mind to begin working and coming up with ideas. Below are some specific and open-ended prompts that might help.

  • Write about an old friend you’ve lost touch with and why it happened.
  • Write a story about your observation of a cowardly act.
  • Write about a hobby you like.
  • Write a story about the first time in your life you took a trip abroad.

How to Format And Structure A Narrative Essay?

The narrative essay format consists of an introduction, a thesis statement, the main body, and a conclusion. The first two are an overview of what your whole text will talk about; the main body will introduce and develop your characters, locations, and dialogues to further sum up the story in the conclusion.

Your essay must have a clear introduction, body paragraphs that are not only sequential, but also transitional, and an ending that leaves the reader with something to think about.

The introduction must contain a hook sentence that catches the attention of the reader, a thesis statement explaining what your essay is going to be about, and a clear description of why the topic is relevant to you. The main body should include an overview of the background and setting, all of the key people involved, some semblance of foreshadowing as well as the onset of the event and the climax, finally the resolution.

The conclusion has to address the moral of the story or the event’s significance; it could be used to add a call-to-action as well.

Narrative Essay Outline

One of the most important things to consider is elaborating a relevant point, where the reader can understand the connection between the story and the topic you chose. This includes writing concisely and from a clear point of view, as well as a clear and crisp language where the use of descriptive words and phrases is frequent. Having a dictionary nearby to look for synonyms and new words is a great tool to guarantee an amazing essay.

To create your outline you just have to consider 3 essential parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

As we stated before, an introduction is the most crucial section of any essay. It should be compelling enough that it makes the reader excited to read the full paper. The first introductory paragraph is the one you should pay more attention to, make sure it catches the reader’s attention. If you’re struggling with this part, write down the paragraph or sentence and ask a friend or relative to take a look and ask them if they’d read the complete essay.

The main body should contain all of the details of the story, including background, characters, thoughts, and more, share facts, and guide readers through the plot. Use vivid descriptions of the events to help the reader paint a better picture. Dialogues also help with presenting the story more effectively, and they give life to the story as well as support to the story’s atmosphere. As for characters, they are the people acting and behaving in the story. Provide detailed descriptions and explain what role they’re playing in the story.

The conclusion is the final part of the essay, and it provides the outcome of the story. It bears the same importance as the introduction paragraph, and it should contain the moral of the story or the lesson you’ve learned from the story. If required, a call-to-action too.

Narrative Essay Thesis Statement

This is the most important element of the introductory paragraph because it provides the full picture for the rest of the paper. Usually, it is written at the end of the introduction paragraph to give the essay more power. It is the main theme around which the whole story of the paper will revolve

To write a good thesis statement, make sure you have selected the topic beforehand. Once done with that, try to remember the event you’ll write about as detailed as possible. Ask yourself how you would react to that situation or event and turn it into a question or sentence for your readers.

Here are some examples of a good thesis statement

  • I have only one life and I will use every opportunity to be happy.
  • Love has changed my whole life and made me a new person, here’s why.

We covered the basics of a narrative essay, what it is, and the difference between a short story. The essential parts of a narrative essay, introduction, main body, and conclusion where details are the most important thing, as well as a clear and variant use of language.

Considerations for a good narrative essay like a clean and organized format, where the main idea of the paper is explained in the thesis statement and things to include in the paper such as a conflict or a climax to make the story more interesting to readers. The conclusion should be the closing scene where the moral of the story can be seen or a message can be left for the readers.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Write a Professional Narrative Essay

There are numerous kinds of essays you may be assigned to complete. Sometimes, it can be hard to understand the difference between two similar papers. Narrative essay is commonly confused with the descriptive one. This article will lead you through all necessary steps and help you write a successful piece adhering to the particular formatting rules.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

The main purpose of a narrative essay is to tell the reader about events, interactions, and experience that have happened to the author during the particular period of time. It always has a vivid plot. On the contrary, the descriptive essay is aimed at providing an image of a person, a place, some experience or an object without demonstrating a chain of events. The plot is absent or vague.

To write a breathtaking narrative essay quickly, let us introduce you the most compelling step-by-step sequence:

#1. Preparation

Before your creative process actually starts, you should learn a bit more about the general requirements inherent in this kind of the paper, choose the topic, and collect some relevant information to use it as the reference.

What to Write About?

Your potential theme should be interesting for both you and your audience. The topic of the narrative essay usually refers to the writer’s experience and there is no need to use any data from the outside sources. Besides, there are 3 signs of a successful title of your essay whether it is narrative or something else:

  1. You could barely see it on the web;
  2. It’s quite narrow than wide;
  3. It encourages reading the first sentence of the paper.

What is Required of Me?

Asking to compose such a specific kind of academic paper, professors don’t demand of their students to follow strict rules as for other writing assignments and only give them a basic structure. The idea is simple: you take a story from a real life and dwell upon the most vibrant points as far as events are unfolding. The narrative’s parts should be coherent and convey a particular mood.

Where to Search for Evidence?

You may take them from your own memories since you started writing it. Forget about the exhausting web-research and let your memories pour out on a paper.

#2. Writing Process

Obviously, this stage is the most time-consuming. It can be less if you take into account the following:

Making a Structure and Outlining

Divide your plot into three parts: a setup, the main part and a climax, and a thrilling conclusion. In the introduction, you should hook a reader and make them read the rest of your essay. Allocate the major points of the essay and describe each of them briefly in the body and end up your story with an unpredictable twist and a delightful punch line. In its turn, outlining helps you find the best details of the disclosed issues in the narrative essay.

Providing Information in First-Person

The narrative is very personal, so you should underline the significance of the ongoing events for your identity. That is why it is common to use “I” statements without switching a perspective in favor of another person.

Describing the Characters and Places

Even though it’s not a descriptive essay, try to adorn your story with vivid details of crucial objects mentioned in the plot. Especially, that goes for people who affected the outcome of the whole case; their personalities should be disclosed as comprehensive as possible.

Mention places serving as a location of where an action is held because it reflects the picture’s ambience. Background information which may change the reader’s attitude to characters or even to the meaning of your idea has to be also provided.

Adding a Little Spice

What a narrative without a zest! Dilute your smooth passages with a detail that will turn everything around. It may be antagonist character who is eagerly interfering with your purposes, an unpredictable twist and embarrassing ending or funny jokes and coincidences to break your audience out laughing.

#3. Editing

After crafting the first draft, revise it thoroughly. You will definitely find one, two or a few rough spots while looking through your essay. Make sure you didn’t miss any important points.

Tips for the successful editing:

  • Don’t start to search for mistakes right after finishing the essay. Have a rest and only then take a fresh look at it;
  • Transform big and complicated sentences into simple ones to make them compelling;
  • Avoid use of terms of many meanings;
  • Find all repeats of ideas or arguments and delete them;
  • Verify all citations and formatting in general with a guide;
  • Paraphrase where it is hard to grasp the sense;
  • Reconsider the structure of the essay.

#4. Proofreading

Many students deem that subtitles 3 and 4 in this guide are the same things. But it is not really so: when editing is all about content, style, and paragraph structure, proofreading is performed to detect misspellings and grammar errors. Also, it is the final phase of the writing.

What Should I Do During This Process?

  • Check grammar yourself or use some applications such as or other services from Infographics below, but do not rely on them heavily;
  • Remove double spacing;
  • Replace misspellings with correct words.

It will be more effective if you entrust someone else to reread your piece: your friends, parents or college mates. They may notice mistakes you missed and share their general opinion on the essay.

As you can see, the narrative essay is not complicated at all. It is one of the most pleasant forms of writing assignments due to the great involvement of your personality in the paper’s body. Even the rules and requirement can’t get you down – they are practically absent or are as simple as a pie if professor mentions a structure. Turn on your imagination and start crafting a brilliant piece adhering to our recommendations.

Author: Patricia Jenkins

Patricia Jenkins is the senior writing advisor at FastEssay blog for international students that seek quick paper assistance. In her blog, Patricia shares useful tips on productivity, writing, research, references. Sometimes Patricia goes off topic by sharing her personal experience peppered with lively humor and healthy irony. View all posts by Patricia Jenkins