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How to Write a Narrative Essay | Example & Tips

Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 6, 2021.

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, 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.

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.

You may also be given prompts that leave you a much wider choice of topic.

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.

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narrative essay definition and examples

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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.

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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Narrative Essay

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

Elements of a narrative essay.

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 .

How to Choose a Topic for Narrative Essay

Mla and apa formats in narrative essay, 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.”

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.”

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.”

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

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What is a Narrative Essay Examples Format and Techniques Featured

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:

By keeping these major tenets in mind, you’ll be better prepared to recognize weaknesses and strengths in your own works.


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

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.

Structure of A Narrative Essay

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. 

 Up Next

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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narrative essay definition and examples

Narrative Essays

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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.

This means that you must include an introduction, plot, characters, setting, climax, and conclusion.

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.

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?

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.

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.

Do not abuse this guideline! Though it is welcomed it is not necessary—nor should it be overused for lack of clearer diction.

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).

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Narrative Essay Examples and Key Elements

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In a narrative essay , you tell a story, often about a personal experience, but you also make a point. So, the purpose is not only to tell an entertaining tale, but also to expound on the importance of the experience. In the narrative essay examples below, see if you can pull out the moral or theme . When it’s your time to draft a similar type of essay, hopefully, you can stir the heart of the reader.

Sample Narrative Essays

Below, you’ll find two narrative essay samples. One has a sad little twist and the other is a personal narrative essay that details the importance of hope. Note that they tell a story, while emphasizing an integral moral or theme.

He Left So I Could Learn

In this first essay example, we explore a lesson on dying:

It was my second day on the job. I was sitting in my seemingly gilded cubicle, overlooking Manhattan, and pinching my right arm to make sure it was real. I landed an internship at Condé Nast Traveler. Every aspiring writer I’ve ever known secretly dreamt of an Anthony Bourdain lifestyle. Travel the world and write about its most colorful pockets. When my phone rang, and it was Mom telling me Dad had a heart attack. He didn’t make it. I felt as though the perfectly carpeted floors had dropped out from under me. Now that I’ve come out the other side, I realize Dad left me with a hefty stack of teachings. Here are three ideals I know he would’ve liked for me to embrace. First, you have to stand on your own two feet. As much as our parents love and support us, they can’t go to our school and confess to the principal that we stole a candy bar from Sara. We have to do that. Neither can they walk into the Condé Nast office and nail a job interview for us. At some point, we have to put on our “big girl pants” and be brave, even if we’re not. Also, there’s a difference between love and co-dependence. Being grateful to have someone to turn to for love and support is not the same as needing someone to turn to for love and support. With the loss of my father, I’ve also lost my sounding board. All I can glean from that is it’s time to look within myself and make proper assessments. If I can’t make sound decisions with the tools already in my kit, then I risk falling for anything. Finally, memories are, perhaps, the only item that cannot be taken away from us. Will I miss my father? Every single day. What can I do in those times? I can open up our suitcase of memories, pick out my favorite one, and dream about it, talk about it, or write about it. Maybe I can’t pick up the phone and call him anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s gone. Next week, I’m off to Istanbul to explore their art scene. As soon as I read the email from my editor, I picked up my phone to call Dad. Then, I realized he’ll never answer my calls again. I fought back the tears, got up to make a cup of peppermint tea, and added a new note to my iPhone titled, “Istanbul Packing List.” In the end, life goes on. I’m not sure why he had to leave during the single most poignant chapter in my life. So, I won’t dwell on that. Instead, I’ll hold tightly to these three ideals and write about Karaköy in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district. Dad will be with me every step of the way.

A Teeny, Tiny Treasure Box

The next short narrative essay takes a different approach. Instead of living in a comfortably loving home, the writer had to deal with the uncertainty of the foster system. Here’s a short lesson on hope:

She took me by the hand and walked me into the lobby like a five-year old child. Didn’t she know I was pushing 15? This was the third home Nancy was placing me in - in a span of eight months. I guess she felt a little sorry for me. The bright fluorescent lights threatened to burn my skin as I walked towards a bouncy-looking lady with curly hair and a sweetly-smiling man. They called themselves Allie and Alex. Cute, I thought. After they exchanged the usual reams of paperwork, it was off in their Chevy Suburban to get situated into another new home. This time, there were no other foster children and no other biological children. Anything could happen. Over the next few weeks, Allie, Alex, and I fell into quite a nice routine. She’d make pancakes for breakfast, or he’d fry up some sausage and eggs. They sang a lot, even danced as they cooked. They must have just bought the house because, most weekends, we were painting a living room butter yellow or staining a coffee table mocha brown. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. When would they start threatening a loss of pancakes if I didn’t mow the lawn? When would the sausage and eggs be replaced with unidentifiable slosh because he didn’t feel like cooking in the morning? But, it never happened. They kept cooking, singing, and dancing like a couple of happy fools. It was a Saturday afternoon when Allie decided it was time to paint the brick fireplace white. As we crawled closer to the dirty old firepit, we pulled out the petrified wood and noticed a teeny, tiny treasure box. We looked at each other in wonder and excitement. She actually said, “I wonder if the leprechauns left it!” While judging her for being such a silly woman, I couldn’t help but laugh and lean into her a little. Together, we reached for the box and pulled it out. Inside was a shimmering solitaire ring. Folded underneath was a short piece of paper that read: “My darling, my heart. Only 80 days have passed since I first held your hand. I simply cannot imagine my next 80 years without you in them. Will you take this ring, take my heart, and build a life with me? This tiny little solitaire is my offering to you. Will you be my bride?” As I stared up at Allie, she asked me a question. “Do you know what today is?” I shook my head. “It’s May 20th. That’s 80 days since Nancy passed your hand into mine and we took you home.” It turns out, love comes in all shapes and sizes, even a teeny, tiny treasure box from a wonderfully silly lady who believes in leprechauns.

Essential Elements of Narrative Essays

Let’s go back to basics first. Generally speaking, there are four types of essays: argumentative essays , descriptive essays , expository essays , and narrative essays .

Narrative essays tell a vivid story, usually from one person's viewpoint. A narrative essay uses all the story elements — a beginning, middle and ending, as well as plot, characters, setting and climax — bringing them together to complete the story. The focus of a narrative essay is the plot, which is told with enough detail to build to a climax. Here's how:

Quick Tips on Writing a Narrative Essay

When writing a narrative essay, remember that you are sharing sensory and emotional details with the reader.

Tell Your Story

Use your next narrative essay to tell your story. It’s possible to focus on yourself, while offering the reader some sort of lesson or truth. Encourage them to move past terrible loss or maintain hope in a seemingly bleak foster system.

Narrative essays are close cousins to short stories. If you feel compelled to share another story, fiction or nonfiction, with the world, check out Get Creative: How to Write a Short Story . Who knows how many lives you’ll brighten and shape with your words. Remember, there’s great power in them.

Narrative Essay

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:

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.

b. Reflection

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.

Sample Topics

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.

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.

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.

List of Terms

Narrative Essay

Caleb S.

Narrative Essay - A Complete Writing Guide with Examples

13 min read

Published on: Jun 11, 2018

Last updated on: Feb 28, 2023

Narrative essay

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All students are asked to submit a narrative essay during their studies. But not everyone knows how to do it. Are you one of them? 

A narrative essay is a common form of academic writing that students write in schools, colleges, and universities. Narrative essays are also required by many college applications.

So knowing how to handle this type of essay effectively can help you succeed in your studies. That’s why our experts have prepared this comprehensive guide for you.

Let’s dive into the blog to know everything about narrative essay writing.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

A narrative essay gives writers a chance to write about their personal experiences. 

When you write a narrative essay, you tell a story to your reader. The story could be real, or it could be fictional, but it is defined from a particular perspective. It is usually written in the first-person perspective.

A narrative essay is quite similar to a descriptive essay but, in that, it makes the reader feel and experience. However, it carries its unique aspects.

Here is a narrative essay definition:

It should incorporate the following points:

You can also watch the video below to understand it better:

The purpose of a narrative essay is to tell a real-life or fictional story to the reader. It usually relies on personal experience and is often written in the form of a story. For writing a perfect narration, the writer must include the conventions of storytelling, climax, setting, plot, and ending.

Purpose of a Narrative Essay

The purpose of a narrative essay is to tell a real-life or fictional story to the reader. They are often part of college admissions processes, where you write narrative essays based on specific prompts.

A narrative essay usually relies on personal experience and is often written in the form of a story. 

For writing a perfect narration, the writer must include the conventions of storytelling, climax, setting, plot, and ending. 

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Types of Narrative Essay 

The four types of narrative essays are:

Descriptive Narrative Essay

A descriptive narrative essay is used to describe an experience, situation, or memory in vivid detail. The main goal is to show the reader what is happening, not tell. 

A good descriptive essay is usually easy to follow. It takes a complicated story and makes it simpler for the reader. 

You should avoid over-exaggerating and only put in what is important. There are always limits to the amount of information you can give your readers. Keep this in mind when deciding what to include in your work.

Expository Narrative Essay 

An expository narrative essay combines elements of both expository writing and narrative writing. 

It is a type of essay that explains or describes a particular topic or concept while also telling a story or sharing personal experiences. 

The purpose of an expository essay is to educate or inform the reader about a particular subject matter while also engaging them through storytelling.

Biographical Narrative Essay 

This type asks you to share a story from your life. It should focus on one specific event. 

Moreover, an autobiographical narrative essay should not just be descriptive. It should be an exploration of the meaning behind your experiences. 

Your story should be written from your perspective, with an emotional connection to it. Don’t forget to explain the impact of this experience on you and how it has shaped you into who you are now.

Personal Narrative Essay

A personal narrative essay is a form of writing that tells a story from the author's own life experiences. It is a type of essay that allows the writer to reflect on their past and share moments that impacted them in a significant way. 

Personal narrative essays often explore the writer's emotions, thoughts, and feelings during a particular event or period in their life. 

See the personal narrative essay example pdf below. It will give you a better understanding of a personal narrative.

Personal Narrative Essay Example

Features of a Narrative Essay  

Below are the main characteristics of a narrative essay.

Narrative Essay Format and Structure

A typical 5 paragraph narrative essay structure has one introduction, three paragraphs in the main body, and one conclusion paragraph. If needed, you can change the number of body paragraphs according to the topic.

It usually has these five elements: plot, characters, setting, conflict, and theme.

The plot is the incident you intend to share in the story. It is about the sequence of events that occurred in your story. 

The setting is the location where the event occurred. It can be your house, your school, or any other place where you were at the time of the event.

Characters are the people involved in the incident. You have to mention everyone involved, whether the main or a side character.

Conflict is the problem faced by the characters during the incident. A moment of tension in the plot is considered a conflict that needs to be resolved. 

The essay’s theme elaborates on the story’s overall purpose and the writer’s reasons for choosing the topic.

Here is a narrative essay sample that will give you a deep understanding of the above-mentioned elements.  

Narrative Essay Format with Sample Essay

How to Start a Narrative Essay?  

Starting the essay writing process can be overwhelming, but you will find it much easier with these steps.

1. Choose a Topic

The type of writing assignment you get will depend largely on the direction your teacher gives for the topic. You may be given specific guidelines or suggestions about what topics might work well.

However, if your teacher doesn’t assign a topic or guidelines, then you pick something you are interested in. Always choose the one that you can easily cover in your essay. 

You need a topic that interests you and is also appealing enough to your audience. The best way to find an interesting idea is to do some brainstorming! 

2. Do Some Research

After choosing the topic, start the research phase. In this step, you must think about the events you want to add to your essay. 

There are no strict rules for writing a narrative essay, so you can choose what information to include and how it should be presented. You may want your readership to know more about the person who is writing them or their experiences in life. This would mean giving background on topics such as family history before moving forward with any story ideas.

3. Create an Outline

Always create an outline before writing the essay. With the help of an essay outline, you will easily organize your thoughts and ideas. 

The narrative essay outline consists of three parts;

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How to Write a Narrative Essay?

There are numerous types of essays you get to write in high school and college. However, a narrative essay demands a little more creativity. 

Here is a step-by-step process for writing an impressive essay.

1. Write an Introduction

The introduction to a story is important because it sets the scene. An interesting introduction will make readers want to know more about the story.

There are a few different ways to start a narrative essay introduction. The best way is often to start in the middle of the action so that the reader is immediately drawn into the story. 

Another way to start a narrative is to provide some background information first so that readers understand why the story matters.

The following are different ways to start the essay:

The thesis statement is the most important part of your paper. It should be in the first paragraph, and it should tell the readers what your paper is about. The thesis statement also says what you think about the problem or conflict you are writing about.

A good thesis statement should introduce the topic, explain it briefly, and hint at the outcome. It should not be a fact or general truth, and it also shouldn't be a suggestion, recommendation, or question.

2. Main Body Paragraphs

The main part of your essay is very important. This is where you share the story, facts, and details. You will also guide the readers through the plot. The body of a narrative essay can have three or more paragraphs, depending on your chosen topic.

Below are some main things you should include in your narrative essay body paragraphs.

How to End a Narrative Essay

Here are some tips on how to effectively end a narrative essay:

1. Write the Conclusion

In your conclusion, you should restate some of the key details and ideas from the body of your paper. It is the part where you wrap up your essay and re-establish the central point.

You should also talk about what you learned from the situation and leave readers with something to think about.

2. Proofreading and Editing

Proofreading and editing is the process of checking a text for mistakes and making appropriate changes. This can include grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors. 

It is important to proofread your essay carefully to ensure that they are error-free.

Narrative Essay Writing Tips

Here are some tips for writing a narrative essay:

Choose a topic that is meaningful to you: Select a topic that is personal and meaningful to you. This will make it easier for you to convey your emotions and experiences in a genuine and authentic way.

Create an outline: Before you start writing, create an outline of the key events and details you want to include in your narrative essay. This will help you stay organized and focused as you write.

Use vivid and descriptive language: Use descriptive language to help your readers visualize the events and emotions being described. Use sensory details to create a more immersive experience for your readers.

Show, don't tell: Instead of simply telling your readers what happened, show them through your descriptions and dialogue. This will help them better understand and connect with your story.

Use a consistent point of view: Choose a consistent point of view, such as first-person or third-person, and stick with it throughout your narrative essay. This will help your readers better understand your perspective and connect with your story.

Do’s and Don’ts of Narrative Writing

The below table will help you understand the do and don’ts of narrative writing.

Narrative Essay Examples

Reading example essays is a good way to start learning about narrative writing. Here are some example essays that will help you craft a perfect essay in no time. 

Short Narrative Essay Example PDF

Literacy Narrative Essay Example

Narrative Essay Example About Life

Personal Narrative Essay Outline

Check out more narrative essay examples to improve your understanding.

Narrative Essay Topics

Here are a few best narrative essay topics and ideas for your successful narrative writing.

Check out other narrative essay topics to get more ideas!

In conclusion, narrative essays are an important tool for communication and storytelling. They can help readers understand a topic in a more vivid and engaging way. While writing, it is important to structure your essay correctly so it becomes more engaging. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a narrative essay.

A narrative essay usually ranges from 300 to 1000 words. Ultimately, the word length depends on: 

What makes a good narrative essay?

Here are some key elements that contribute to a good narrative essay:

What are 3 things that a narrative must have?

A narrative must have three essential elements: characters, conflict, and resolution. These elements are crucial in telling a story and engaging the reader.

Characters: Characters are the people or entities that are central to the narrative. Conflict: Conflict is the central problem or challenge that the characters face in the narrative.  Resolution: Resolution is the outcome of the conflict. It's how the characters resolve the problem or challenge they faced in the narrative. 

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What Is A Narrative? Definition, Examples & How To Write Them Effectively

narrative essay definition and examples

What is a narrative essay? Narrative essays tell a story. Sometimes it’s a personal experience, and sometimes it can be something you’ve read or seen.

The main point of a narrative essay is to tell a story that has a beginning, middle, and end.

Telling stories is something we do every day . When we’re giving directions to a friend, breaking down what happened during our favorite sporting event or even just explaining why we like a certain TV show, we are telling a story.

narrative in literature and film

What is a narrative in literature and film.

Narrative means story, but it also refers to the techniques used to tell the story.

In literature and film, a narrative is the combination of story and plot. The story is simply what happens in a work.

Plot, on the other hand, involves the questions of when things happen and why they happen.

Narratives can be informative, entertaining, or both.

The narrative structure of a novel or film often includes the exposition , rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

The goal of the narrative structure is to keep readers or viewers curious about what will happen next.

Narratives can be found in all languages and cultures. They are not just stories told to entertain but convey messages about reality. The earliest known narrative, The Epic of Gilgamesh , was written down on clay tablets 5,000 years ago.

For centuries, narratives were passed down by word of mouth before they were ever written. In this way, they were able to develop and change over time without losing their power or meaning.

The study of narratives is called narratology and deals with how narratives are assembled and interpreted.

The modern novel is often credited with being the first narrative art form that was widely read by a large audience.

Beginning with Don Quixote in 1605, modern novels grew out of medieval romances like Tristan and Iseult .

While romances told fanciful stories set in pre-Christian Europe, modern novels also explored more realistic settings as well as complex psychological issues.

What Is a Narrative?

We all have stories to tell and when you write an essay, whether it’s for school or work, you want to make sure the reader gets interested in your topic and knows why they should care about it.

A narrative essay accomplishes this by telling someone a story that they either want to hear or would never have heard if you hadn’t shared it with them. Narratives can be nonlinear, meaning the events don’t occur in chronological order.

In transmedia storytelling, for example, a single narrative may be presented in different media at different times. In this case, the story can be understood only by experiencing all of these pieces.

The best way to learn how to write an effective narrative essay is to practice writing one. If you’re in school, most teachers will assign at least one narrative essay for you to complete so you can practice your skills before trying anything else.

If you’ve never written one before, try jotting down different things that happened throughout the day, and then try turning those events into a story.

Examples of Narratives in Literature

Narrative is a literary technique that describes a story or event in sequential order, with the intention of creating a coherent story. The events of narrative are presented as if they are a story being told by an observer or participant.

The term “narrative” is derived from the Latin word narrare , which was used to refer to the telling of a tale or story. The purpose of using narrative in literature is to engage the reader and create interest.

Narrative also allows writers to present complex ideas and concepts without having to rely on simple facts and information. Authors have been using narrative for thousands of years in different formats, such as oral tales and written stories. Narratives contain elements that are considered universal across all cultures. 

An author will choose characters who overcome conflict through internal struggles and by developing strategies to achieve their goals throughout their journey. Characters who go on journeys commonly encounter obstacles such as conflicts with other characters, self-doubt, and bad luck. These conflicts typically result in learning experiences that help move the character toward his or her ultimate goal.

In addition to characters, authors use settings, themes, and plots to create narratives.

Examples of Narrative in Film

Narrative as a literary term is defined as the arrangement of events in a story. It is the way in which the plot unfolds and is structured so that the reader or audience can follow along. The narrative style has been around for centuries, and has become an essential part of how storytelling is presented in film , television, and other forms of media.

Narrative examples can be found all over popular culture. There are some films that follow a very simple narrative while others are more complex and difficult to understand.

Some films use narrative to tell a story while others use it to move the action forward, and still others serve both purposes at once. A screenplay serves not only as a blueprint for the actors and crew but also as a narrative guide for film viewers.

It tells them what the characters are thinking, how they feel about each other, and how they relate to their surroundings. The screenplay does not have to be overly complicated or dull; it just needs to serve its purpose well enough that the story can play out on screen without confusing viewers.

The Different Types of Narrative

Narrative essays tell a story. They include storytelling, description, and exposition. The best narrative essay will have a clear plot with a beginning, middle, and end.

A narrative essay can be very interesting to read because it gives us an insight into someone else’s life. It can also give us an inside view of an experience or event. It can show us something new about ourselves or about another person or thing.

The Quest Narrative

The quest narrative is a story structure that describes a character’s journey towards achieving a goal. It represents the struggle of mankind to rise above its physical limitations and become better, stronger, faster.

The structure of the quest narrative can be broken down into five parts. 

The Call to Adventure is when the protagonist is introduced to their goal, and decides (whether consciously or subconsciously) that they want to achieve it.

narrative essay definition and examples

The Refusal of the Call is when the protagonist decides not to set off on their adventure, or attempts to give up during their journey.

If the protagonist perseveres, something, known as a Supernatural Aid, happens that helps them achieve their goal.

This could be a gift from a helpful spirit, an enchanted weapon given by a friend or even just good luck. This event often coincides with the Crossing of the First Threshold from “the normal world” into “the special world”.\

The Bildungsroman

In contemporary usage, the term bildungsroman has come to denote a story that follows the psychological and moral growth of a central character from youth to adulthood. In its strictest definition, the bildungsroman is defined as a novel where the main character comes of age.

The most significant aspect of this definition is that this process of “coming of age” is the dominant theme in the novel. It’s not enough that something happens to the protagonist; the protagonist must learn something along the way. The bildungsroman follows an individual on his or her path towards maturity, through their trials and tribulations.

Expect protagonists in bildungsroman novels to be young and inexperienced at the start of their journey. As they progress through their coming-of-age story, they will generally develop some type of maturity, whether it’s learning how to accept responsibilities or deciding to take control of their own lives.

The term “coming of age” can be a little misleading for novels set during wartime or other periods where teenagers are expected to become adults quickly. Many classic coming-of-age stories follow characters well into adulthood, including adulthood beyond marriage and prosaic life choices such as career and family.

The Characteristics of a Narrative

Narrative essays are similar to personal essays or memoirs because the writer uses this method to tell a story about an experience, event, or situation. In other words, narrative essays tend to be descriptive in nature as opposed to analytical.

To write a good narrative essay, it is essential that you learn how to think like a writer . A writer’s main goal is to communicate effectively with others. When you communicate effectively through writing, you are doing more than just telling a story. You are allowing someone else the privilege of experiencing a story through your eyes.

In order to do this, it is important that your writing has a purpose and that you take the time to develop your ideas. This will help you stay focused on what you want to say. With a clear point of view and purpose in mind, you will be able to create an essay which is not only interesting but also memorable for the reader.

A good narrative essay should have an engaging opening. Your introduction must capture the attention of your audience and make them want to read the rest of your essay.

Looking at Narrative in Famous Films

Narrative is a term used to describe the flow of a story, and it’s the way we see things happen in specific order. It is one of the most important elements of cinema because it allows us to understand what is happening on-screen. Whether you’re watching an action film, a documentary, or something in between, narrative helps us to understand what we are watching as well as how it all fits together.

Narratives can be divided into two main categories: non-linear narratives and linear narratives. Non-linear narratives are stories where we jump back and forth between different time periods or perspectives. A good example of this would be the film Pulp Fiction .

In Pulp Fiction , there are multiple stories being told at the same time. However, they all connect into each other in some way. This allows us to see the different timelines and perspectives that make up the overall narrative of the film.

On the other hand, linear narratives are stories where everything happens in chronological order. Most documentaries are linear narratives. In documentaries, everything we see happens sequentially, rather than jumping back and forth between different times and perspectives.

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