Everyone loves good stories, and a narrative essay is your opportunity to tell yours. Knowing how to write a narrative essay will help you sell yourself and show your knowledge and experience using storytelling. This makes narrative writing an invaluable skill to possess when applying for college and finding jobs in the future. Many students find this essay format exciting, as it lets you experiment and draw ideas out of your own life rather than facts from a library book. So exactly what is a narrative essay?
Narrative essays tell a story about the writer's particular experience, sharing the lessons or morals they've learned. A narrative essay has all the elements of a story: a central plot, usually with you as the main character, a conflict, climax, and a resolution. Keep in mind that your story's theme and central message have to demonstrate certain strengths that you've grown to possess from the story you've chosen to tell about.
With the narrative essay definition out of the way, it's time to learn how to write a narrative essay and turn a story from your life into a vivid and moving piece of academic writing.
What to Write a Narrative Essay About
Before you start writing your narrative essay, you've got to think of a story or event from your life where you've experienced growth or change. This takes a little brainstorming. Choosing a story for a narrative essay may be hard, but with some references and external reading, you can get a solid idea of what's expected from you. To familiarize yourself better with this essay style, take some time, and read similar essays by great writers. Here are some good examples of narrative writing that can help get you inspired:
- Karrie Higgins - Strange Flowers
- Roger Rosenblatt - Making Toast
- Virginia Woolf - The Death of a Moth
- Ralph Waldo Emerson - Self-Reliance
- George Orwell - Shooting an Elephant
- Kurt Vonnegut - Here is a Lesson in Creative Writing
- Nora Ephron - A Few Words About Breasts
Narrative essays follow a certain theme or concept, draw conclusions, and show what the central character (you) has learned from the experience. They draw parallels between your personal life and something you'd present in a professional environment as a testament to your skill or positive willpower. Most narrative writing comes with canons or story arcs that typically focus on change and growth.
- A negative experience that you have overcome and how it made you stronger
- Consequences of personal failure and how you've dealt with them
- A moment in your life that transformed your personality
After some external reading and soul-searching, you should have a much easier time writing a narrative essay. Then, you can start searching for stories from your life and finding the one that fits your case.
Remember, if you get lost, you can always refer to your essay rubric or prompt. Your instructor has already set in place all the guidelines you have to follow while writing. Knowing what your professor expects from you will greatly help you when crafting a good narrative essay.
If you haven't figured out what to write a narrative essay on, we've done some brainstorming for you that should help you out.
Crafting a Narrative Essay Outline
When crafting a narrative essay outline, consider the classical structure that any essay has. Although your primary focus is representing a novel about yourself, the essay must be structured in a way where there is a clear focus or a thesis and details that support it, leading up to a conclusion. Here's a narrative essay outline example you can follow.
- The Hook (get your reader excited)
- Set the Background (tell them some background information: who, what, when, where, how)
- Thesis Statement (share the moral of the story or what you've learned from it)
- Show, Don't Tell (use your knack for creative writing to make the reader feel like they're there with you)
- Supporting Evidence (use character dialogue, illustrate your scene, make references that the reader can connect with: famous movies, a can of soda, a billboard with a loud slogan)
- Passage of Time (tell the reader if it's night or day if it's 2016 or 2005)
- Transitions (structure your story in parts and transition smoothly from one part to the next)
- The Moral of the Story (wrap it up, tell the reader what you've learned, and bring out the thesis in a new light)
Once you've got the hang of the narrative essay structure and decided on your topic, try filling in this outline to help guide you throughout your writing process. An outline is an incredible reference tool that enables you to stay on track and not get carried too far away in your story. Even a short narrative essay has structure. So stay focused, and you'll have a great draft in no time.
After having broken down your story into parts, it's time to look at how to write a narrative essay step by step based on this outline.
How to Start a Narrative Essay
Every good piece of narrative writing opens up with a hook. A hook is what captures your reader's attention in the narrative essay introduction and briefly introduces your story's tone and main idea. If you don't know how to craft a hook, don't worry, it's easy. Here are some ideas:
- Pose a rhetorical question to make the reader think
- Start with a famous quote that's relevant to your topic
- Give an interesting fact or statistic and tie it to your story
- Start with a joke or anecdote to lighten up the mood
- Use the shock factor to your advantage, make the reader restless to learn more
After having hooked your reader, it's time to set the scene and introduce the setting and characters. The reader needs to feel like they're in your shoes and see what you have seen. Don't give too much away in your narrative essay introduction, as your characters and setting will develop over the course of your paper. Merely introduce the people who will be in the story, and specify where the story takes place. If you order essay, all these things will be written by a pro writer.
Finally, it's time to wrap up your introduction with a thesis statement for narrative essay. In other essays, the thesis is your main argument, which you have to defend. Conversely, here the thesis begins the story or gives a hint of its conclusion: "I'll never go boat riding with my friends again," or "When I start my next business, it will be with my own money."
Remember that the introduction merely seeks to hook your reader and give them an overview of your narrative. With this in mind, your narrative essay thesis shouldn't spoil the rest of the story. Don't give too much info away, or your intro could backfire and make the reader uninterested in reading the rest of your story. Keep it short, sweet, and enticing.
Narrative Essay Body Paragraphs
Now it's finally time to tell your tale, and the narrative essay body paragraphs are the meat of your story. Consider your body paragraphs within a three-part structure: one that sets up your story, the next telling it up to a climax, and the last sharing how the story ends.
The body of a narrative essay is where the most interesting stuff happens. There are three main paragraphs, each serving their unique purpose within the context of your essay.
The first body paragraph
Sets up the Background and introduces all the main characters in your story. This is where you can show your knack for descriptive writing, as painting a story with pictures rather than words is a great way to keep the reader interested.
Every detail you mention, every trope you introduce will be mirrored or resolved later in your story. So make sure that your first narrative essay body paragraph introduces everything you need the reader to know so that you can continue telling your story without adding anything extra.
The second body paragraph
Focuses primarily on the conflict or problem which the main character is faced with. After you've introduced the setting and the characters, it's important to keep the momentum going and make the reader connect or sympathize with your protagonist.
A tip for the second body paragraph: try maintaining a sense of urgency, and it will help propel your story forward. Like a good movie, your narrative essay structure should have movement and never get stale. Keep it going until you're finally ready to reveal all the cards in the third paragraph.
The Third Body Paragraph
Now we're in the endgame, the point where your story reaches the climax. This is part of your story where the conflict gets resolved, and the protagonist emerges as a changed person. Maybe they've learned something significant from how things turned out, and it has helped them grow and turn into the person they are today.
The best narrative essays are often coming-of-age stories, and you'll find the most recommended topics or ideas for a narrative essay are, in fact, stories about growth and improvement by overcoming hardship. After you're done writing the body of a narrative essay, it's time to proceed to the conclusion.
How to End a Narrative Essay
Just like the introduction, your narrative essay conclusion is a very important and nuanced part of your essay. Imagine one of those Netflix TV shows that's not so good but keeps you interested by leaving you at the edge of a cliff at the end of every season. When thinking about how to end a narrative essay, remember that we want to give the reader a sense of completion. So a Netflix style cliffhanger won't do.
Your story needs a finale, reflecting on the events, and taking out valuable lessons learned along the difficult journey. Consider that your story's conclusion is an explanation of why this story was important to tell and how its resolution will shape your future actions and decisions.
A narrative essay conclusion will often mirror back to significant parts of the plot, which have been introduced at the beginning of the story. This is done on purpose to show how the protagonist has changed their morals, values, or beliefs: giving it the effect of "I was once blind, but I can now see." Reflect back on your introduction and first body paragraph, give the reader a sense of completeness by reminding them of the thesis, and close on a confident and robust note (provide them with something to think about as they put down your essay).
That's how to end a narrative essay: you've not only told a solid story but had an impact on the reader by making them empathize and grow with you on your journey. A powerful conclusion indeed!
Choosing a Proper Narrative Essay Format
So now that you're done with writing a narrative essay, you might think it's time to submit and get dressed for that party, but hold on! A good essay is nothing without editing and formatting. Let's finish dressing your essay in a proper academic narrative essay format before you rush off into the night.
When sitting down to edit, there are a few cosmetic things an online essay writer suggests to make your essay look proper within just a couple of minutes. Here are some tips on how to format a narrative essay:
- Find out the requirements for your format. Most narrative essays are written in APA since they have no reference points or sources. APA format is the easiest way to format your essay; check the guidelines for it here.
- Title Page. Every essay has one, regardless of the format, just place the title of your essay, your name, date, and your professor's full name dead in the middle of a blank page. You know what title pages look like, come on.
- Headers, footers, margins, and spacing. These vary depending on the essay format. Sometimes the headers are just page numbers, and sometimes it's numbered with your name next to them. The margins and line spacing requirements are specified in the guidelines for your essay format. It sounds difficult, but in truth, most of that stuff is done automatically and just takes a few clicks.
- Reference/ bibliography page. A reference page is only relevant when you have references, which include but are not limited to: quotes, passages of text from other sources, statistics, etc. It's very rare to find a reference page in narrative essays because rarely people live their lives and think, "Hey, I should save this moment in case I need to cite it later."
See? It's not that difficult. You've got a solid, well-formatted piece of narrative writing which already looks like it's ready to print. Just remember, reading through it a couple of times and changing little things up never hurt anybody. As they say, writing is only 50% of the job. All the real magic happens in editing. Just look at how much this formatting stuff helped your essay look good. Now you can leave it for a while and give it a second look in the morning.
We hope we've helped you write a superb narrative essay! Good luck!