What is a Narrative Essay?
A narrative essay tells a story. Personal pronouns and experience from the writer’s life are crucial aspects of this essay form. The purpose of this type of paper is to connect with the audience with the help of the narrative – a story with a point. Unlike other essays which may focus on research or argument, the narrative essay relies on carefully crafted details. Narrative essays take the format of a memoir – they should have a clear beginning, middle, and an end.
Personal Narrative Essay: From Outline to a Refined Piece
Like all good narratives, whether a novel or a short story, this form should contain characters, a climax, and a resolution. The major characters are introduced in the introduction paragraph, the climax shared in the body paragraphs, and the resolution (or conclusion) offers a unique insight – a meditative reflection upon a lesson learned through the experience of one’s life lens.
While many other essays follow the typical five paragraph format, the narrative essay enjoys much more freedom.
An A-level narrative essay requires a student to outline, draft, and revise the story to ensure that it not only flows; but fully develops the main idea with specific details. Supporting all the ideas with the vivid example for real-life experience is a must, just like in an illustration essay.
It is more a lot more personal than any other essay, and some students struggle with this aspect. Our professional writers love narrative essays and have put together this guide to help you craft a unique assignment.
Here are the main parts of the narrative essay outline:
In narrative essays, the introduction section is typically shorter than most and ultimately works to set the stage for the personal story about to unfold. While the story itself will be personal, it should link to larger ideas. For example, the loss of one’s first goldfish could trigger a reflection on life, or the act of losing one’s car keys could morph into an essay on all different kinds of loss.
Within this paragraph, the writer should introduce him or herself and provide any important background the reader requires to immerse themselves within the narrative essay thoroughly. While narrative essay outline may have a thesis, it may not look like a typical road map. Just like with any good novel or short story, the opening paragraph or chapter doesn’t always reveal what is coming next; this structure compels the reader to continue reading to enjoy the conclusion of the narrative fully.
Since narrative essays are more creative than conventional academic ones, the minimum three paragraph rule may not apply. While some narrative essays will be five paragraphs, others may be two or eight or more. It really depends on how the narrative within the essay needs to progress to communicate the writer’s goal sufficiently. Just as the persuasive essay’s goal is to persuade and the informative essay is to inform, the narrative essay’s goal is to entertain—or perhaps to contemplate. The body paragraphs listed in the narrative essay outline should include all the ideas you are about to unravel to the reader.
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While a narrative essay lacks heavy research components, it will follow a typical body paragraph format:
- Topic sentence
- Background sentence(s)
- Detail sentences
While other essays frown upon relying on personal anecdotes, narrative essays thrive on them. Additionally, this essay format can include dialogue as well. Recounting key conversations can strengthen the narrative text. However, including dialogue means that the writer should pay attention to dialogue rules.
Know how to use both single and double quotation marks when writing about a conversation between two or more people.
Usually, the conclusion paragraph exists to review the major points within the body paragraphs. However, in a narrative essay, the conclusion is sometimes the most important paragraph; it serves to bring the narrative, the story to an end.
This section’s purpose is to share how the conflict was resolved or how a resolution was reached. Pretty much like with the definition essay, the point here is not to review the ideas of the body paragraphs as to reveal what the writer’s been working towards since the opening sentence. Many narrative essays offer a “reveal” in this section; there may be a surprise or an unexpected twist. Such literary tactics are appropriate in a narrative essay. Conclusion tops up the narrative itself – it should be planned accordingly within the outline.
Not sure how to switch from an academic to a more personal form of an essay? No problem! Here are the tips to help you navigate the narrative essay:
Tip #1. Figure out how your narrative essay would look like with a proper outline
This is the most important one to follow. Basically, this is what this whole article is about. An entire outline will be your roadmap.
Here is a narrative essay outline example we made for you:
- Introduction: A lifelong journey of mine trying to gain confidence.
- Body Paragraph 1: Exploring how many people lack confidence.
- Body Paragraph 2: Discussing the moment I realized I lacked confidence.
- Body Paragraph 3: Sharing the experience of traveling to a new country and finding the confidence I needed to enjoy the new culture on my own.
- Conclusion: What I learned about building confidence and the importance of taking the steps to do so.
Tip #2. Use Transitions
Transition words or sentences are perhaps more important in a narrative essay – these words help to establish the order of events. Useful transitions in this essay format can include the following:
- Most importantly
Narrative Essay Sample
Be sure to check the sample essay, completed by our writers. Use it as an example to write your own essay. Link: Personal Narrative Essay Sample
Other Tips from our Expert Writers
- Choose a non-embarrassing topic
Your teacher, and possibly your classmates will be reading this essay so pick a topic that you’re comfortable sharing with others.
- Connect beyond the experience
The point of a narrative essay is to relate an experience in your life to a larger idea – in recalling memory lane, remember to link it to something bigger than yourself.
- Start early
Don’t wait until the last minute. While you likely won’t need to hit the library to conduct research, you will be writing about yourself, and sometimes that can be harder.
- Write a draft
Know that first drafts are always riddled with mistakes. Just get your ideas down on paper and then worry about fixing all the grammatical stuff.
- Schedule an appointment with your teacher
All teachers have “office hours”—take your professor up in their office hours and get their feedback to ensure you’re on the right track. And don’t wait until the last minute!
Take any constructive criticism from classmates, friends, or professional editing services and make your draft better.
- Read it backward
Begin with the last sentence and read the narrative essay until you end with the first sentence. While this won’t help with content issues, it does help the brain spot problems with grammar.
- Check the formatting
Before handing in any final copy, always check the formatting. Make sure that the headings, titles, font, spacing, and margins all conform with the professor’s preferences.
- Review the rubric
Once last time, check your final draft against the rubric to ensure that you’ve met all the requirements provided by the teacher.
Remember: not all stories are appropriate for all audiences, so it’s important to select a narrative topic suitable for your tutor. Use literary devices as appropriate—especially ones that create stronger images such as metaphors, similes, imagery, and personification among others.
Most importantly, review your narrative essay to ensure that it tells a story; sharing an important story is the most defining characteristic of this essay form. Ultimately, your narrative essay should strive to meet Chuck Klosterman’s definition:
“The essays are different because ultimately it’s things I’m interested in, and I’m really just writing about myself and using those subjects as a prism.”
The very first thing you think of when someone mentions essay is that you have to make an argument, find evidence, and write it in a somewhat philosophical manner. But, it doesn’t always have to be like that. Did you know you can tell a story through essay? I’m talking about narrative essays, a unique style of writing that combines the best of both worlds: storytelling and essay composing. The chances are high you’ll have to compose this type of paper sooner or later, and when the time comes this post will come handy. Throughout this article, I’m going to show you how to create an outline for a narrative essay and make your professor or client happy with the quality of your work.
What is a narrative essay?
A narrative essay is defined as a type of writing wherein the author narrates or tells the story. The story is non-fictional and usually, deals with the writer’s personal development. Unlike in other essay forms, using the first person is acceptable in these papers. Narrative essays can also be anecdotal, experiential thus allowing writers to express themselves in a creative and more personal manner.
Despite the fact you’re telling the story through the narrative essay, you must not identify it with a short story. How? Short stories are usually fictional and allow essay writers to change the plot, add different characters or rewrite the ending in a bid to better fit the narrative. On the other hand, with these essays, the author is required to pull a cohesive narrative arc from memory and events that, actually, happened. Just like other forms of essays, this style of writing needs a thesis statement. In fact, the entire narrative in your essay aims to support the thesis you wrote in the introduction. As you already know, short stories don’t require thesis statement and you’re not required to prove anything.
Narrative essay structure
If you’ve never written a narrative essay before and you need help essay online at this moment you’re thinking how complicated it seems. The beauty of this writing style is the ability to get your point across through a story and it’s not that difficult when you know how to structure it correctly.
Just like with other types of essays, a functional outline is essential. That way you know what to include in different parts of the paper and everything it entails. I have created diagram below to help you out.
An intro isn’t just a small paragraph that you have to write in order to get to the “real stuff”. If an entrance of some amusement park isn’t interesting, you’d feel reluctant to go in. If the first chapter of the book is boring, you’re less likely to ditch it. Essays aren’t exceptions here, the beginning or starting point is essential. Introductions attract reader’s attention, makes him/her wonder about what you’re going to write next.
The introduction of the narrative essay is written either in the first or third person. It’s recommended to start off your work with a hook including some strong statement or a quote. The sole purpose of the hook is to immediately intrigue your professor, client, audience, and so on. As seen in the diagram above, after the hook you have to write a sentence or two about the importance of the topic to both you and the reader. Basically, this part has to be written in a manner that readers of the paper can relate to. You want them to think “I feel that way”, “I’ve been through that” etc.
The last sentence (or two) of your paper account for the thesis statement, the vital part of your essay. The reason is simple, the thesis informs readers about the direction you’re going to take. It allows the audience to tune into author’s mind. Since the primary purpose of every essay is to prove some point and your story is going to be told for a reason, the thesis cements your overall attitude and approach throughout the paper.
The introduction should be:
Now that your introduction is complete, you get to proceed to write body paragraphs. This is where all the magic happens, it’s the part wherein you start, develop, and end the narration. The number of paragraphs in this section depends on the type of narration or event you want to write about and the plot itself.
This segment starts with the setting or background of the event to allow readers to understand relevant details and other necessary info. Every great story starts with the background, a part where you introduce the reader to the subject. Make sure you enter precise details because that way the readers are more involved in the story.
Besides important details about the subject and event you’re going to describe through the narrative essay, it’s highly practical to introduce characters or people that are involved in some particular situation. Describe their physical and personality characteristics. However, ensure that characteristics you include are relevant to the essay itself. This is yet another point where narrative essay differs from the short story. When writing a short story, you get to include all sorts of personality traits to develop your character. Here, you only mention those that are important for your thesis and narrative. Instead of listing characters one after another, introduce them through the story. The best way to do so depends on the type of the subject or event you’re going to write about, different kinds of topic require a different approach. Regardless of the approach, you opt for to introduce characters, always stick to the “relevant characteristics” rule.
Short anecdote or foreshadowing, basically, refers to details establishing conflict or the stakes for people regarding some specific situation. This part is a sort of precursor to the onset of the event. Use these paragraphs to explain:
- How things started to happen
- What people involved (characters) did to reach the point where the event of your story was imminent i.e. point of no return
- Detailed description of the situation
- How you felt about everything
TIP: Bear in mind that this doesn’t, necessarily, have to refer to some unfortunate event with tragic consequences. You can use the same approach to writing about other kinds of situations that lead to a more optimistic outcome.
Logically, the event has to reach its climax, a breaking point of the story, which requires detailed description. Don’t forget to include emotions, how it made you (or someone else) feel. The climax should be accurate, don’t exaggerate and stray from the truth just to make it more interesting. Instead, make this part more vivid, include powerful words and adjectives to make readers feel the tension and emotions you experienced.
After every climax, there comes the resolution good or bad. This is the part where you write how everything resolved. Without this segment, the narrative would seem incomplete and your hard work would be ruined.
So, body paragraphs should contain the following qualities:
- Detailed descriptions
- Relevant details
- Accurate information
- Powerful adjectives to truly depict the situation
You finished the narrative and before you’re done with the writing part of the essay, it’s time to conclude it. Just like the intro, this paragraph also bears a major importance. The conclusion should provide moral of the story, reflection or analysis of the significance of the event to you and the reader. This is yet another opportunity to make readers relate to your paper. Use this segment to describe what lesson you learned, how did this event affect/change your life, and so on. Depending on the subject, you could also include call-to-action to raise awareness of some growing issue in the society.
Dos and don’ts
- DO start your essay with a question, fact, definition, quote, anything that you deem interesting, relevant, and catchy at the same time
- DON’T focus only on the sense of sight when writing narrative essay, use all five senses, add details about what you heard or felt
- DO use formal language
- DO use vivid details
- DO use dialogue if necessary
- DON’T use the same structure of sentences, vary them to make the writing more interesting
- DO describe events chronologically (it’s the easiest way to tell the story)
- DO use transition words to make it clear what happened first, next, and last
Tips to remember
- The goal of narrative essay is to make a point, the event or story you’re going to tell needs some purpose
- Use clear and concise language
- Every word or detail you write needs to contribute to the overall meaning of the narrative
- Record yourself talking about the event to easily organize different details
- Don’t complicate the story; imagine you’re writing the narrative for a child. Would he/she understand the narrative? That always helps to simplify text
- Revise, modify, edit, and proofread
Narrative essays help you get some point across through storytelling, but you shouldn’t mistake them for “regular” short stories. I explained how to structure your work, differentiate it from short stories, and how you can easily develop your narration. Following the outline will help you write a high-quality essay and diagram from this article can serve as a visual clue you can use to compose your work. Start practicing today and write a narrative essay about some major event in your life. You can do it!
Image courtesy of Amra Serdarevich