How to Write a Narrative Essay | 13 Best Examples & Tips

A Narrative Essay is a genre of writing in which the writer tells the reader about experiences, interactions, and events that have happened to him/her during a particular period of time in the form of a story.

Narrative essays usually follow a proper structure, and they always incorporate a vivid plot. Whereas the story could be real or fictional, it has to be defined from a particular perspective- in most cases, the first-person perspective. Narrative essays, along with the descriptive essay, allows writers to get creative and personal, unlike most forms of academic writings.

Objectives

The prime objective of writing a narrative essay is to tell a compelling story about a personal experience vividly and engagingly and, at the same time, expound on the importance of the experience for the readers. The writer is expected to think about where the story begins and ends and convey it using appealing language and a satisfying pace.

Narrative essay writing skills often differ from the skills needed to write extraordinary academic essays. For example, in narrative writing, writers are encouraged to use the first-person point of view or perspective, as is the use of figurative language, dialogue, and suspense.

Most higher learning institutions such as colleges and universities require students to write a narrative essay as part of their admissions application process. However, in such cases, the narration should not be about a fanciful account of events or a fairy tale, but it should be a personal statement that informs the readers who you are (your personal qualities) to persuade them to consider admitting you into their institution.

Importantly: As part of their coursework assignment, personal narratives assigned to college students should meet the professor’s specific length requirement. However, they should review their narrative essay to ensure that it is not too long and that they have written enough to fully inform and engage readers about the given topic. The essay should also follow the standard format of structuring a narrative essay, including an introduction, the main body, and the conclusion.

Writing a Narrative Essay

Writing a robust narrative essay can be difficult for most college students as the essay often requires the student to share their personal experience in a more inspirational way than usual. However, if students master the skill of developing a good structure for their essay, write an exciting story, and follow the required guidelines for writing compelling narrations, they can develop their narrative essay writing skills and become experts.

Here is a procedural guide for writing an effective narrative essay:

Select the topic of your choice

Narrative essay assignment topics may vary. Students may be assigned a specific topic or an array of topics to work with. In either of these cases, the student is encouraged to brainstorm ideas about the given prompt before selecting a theme that they are comfortable narrating. The potential theme should also be interesting for the writer as well as the readers. Because narrative essays tend to refer to the writer’s experiences, there is no need to use data from external sources.

As such, writers should consider the following tips when selecting a suitable essay topic:

  • Choose a unique topic that cannot be found on the web
  • Select a topic that is relatively narrow rather than wide
  • It should encourage the reader to read the essay’s introduction

Note:  A good narrative essay topic is one that the writer can use to discuss a particular theme or teach a lesson or one that is unpredictable for the readers. A predictable narrative essay makes the story less interesting as the reader already knows or can predict what will happen next. Thus, college students should choose a compelling topic or experience that might surprise the reader or have a moral lesson.

When prompted to write a narrative essay for a college application, writers should choose a story or an exciting experience for the readers and express the specific qualities that the prompt is looking for. The story should also be framed in such a way that it emphasizes the relevant qualities.

Select & consider the point of view

The point of view is the eye through which a writer tells a story. The selected point of view informs readers about the writer’s role in the story. This is why it is significant for writers to choose a point of view from which the story is told and remain consistent to avoid disrupting the readers. If the writer chooses a wrong or ineffective point of view, the story could fall flat. However, if they choose the right or the most effective point of view, the story can become epic for the readers.

Normally, there are three main points of view in narrations.

They include:

  • The first-person point of view- I/ We
  • Second person point of view-You
  • Third-person point of view-He/she/they

Note: Narrative essays tend to be personal. Writers should therefore highlight the significance of the ongoing events for their identity. Thus, while narrating a story, writers are encouraged to use the first-person point of view and ensure consistency in perspective throughout the essay.

Use a graphic organizer to outline

The next guideline for successful narration writing involves organizing the work into three key parts. This includes a set-up (introduction), the main part, a climax (essay’s body), and a conclusion. Writers can use a graphic organizer to outline their essay into these three main parts. In narrative essay writing, a graphic organizer helps college students learn the elements of a story. It identifies the story’s characters, plot, setting, problem, and solution, thus enabling them to develop a story’s beginning, middle, and end.

Tip: Outlining helps college students find the best details of the disclosed issues in the narrative essay, making the writing process more convenient and efficient.

Start with the introduction

When it comes to structuring the narrative essay, college students should begin their essay with an introduction. The introduction will serve as a hook for the audience to encourage them to read the rest of the story; therefore, it should be written interestingly.

A narrative hook is a literary technique of creating an exciting beginning in the first line or opening of a story designed to capture the reader’s interest. There are various types of narrative hooks, but strong hooks will typically grab the reader’s attention by throwing them into the middle of dramatic action, generating curiosity about an intriguing character, unusual situation, or asking an important rhetorical question.

Common examples of strong hooks include:

  • Interesting question hook that relates to the essay where the reader has to read the rest of the essay to get answers
  • Story hook where the writer begins with a short story or episode that connects to their essay’s topic
  • Strong statement hook; for example, write a sentence or two that makes an assertive claim about the essay’s topic.
  • Quotation hook, where the writer begins their essay by stating a powerful, striking, and memorable quotation related to the essay’s topic.

The introduction should also provide the main idea of what the story is about. Again, this should be written briefly and concisely, using 3-5 sentences.

Main body

A narrative essay’s main body will contain different supportive arguments for the story, organized in a logical order. Each new idea represents a paragraph with a topic sentence and a supportive argument relevant to the story’s main point or idea. Generally, the standard 3-5 body paragraphs are enough to present the essay’s supportive arguments. The events discussed in the essay’s body should be described chronologically with clear transitions between the body paragraphs to avoid confusing the readers and allow them to follow the writer’s thoughts easily and with interest.

Conclusion

Generally, the conclusion of a narrative essay is usually a summary of the main points described in the plot of the story and where the writer proves what they claimed in the introduction. Readers should be able to draw the moral lesson of the story from the conclusion. Writers should avoid being too wordy in this section, and the standard 3-5 well-arranged sentences should be enough to conclude the essay.

Editing/proofreading

The final step of writing an effective college narrative essay is editing and proofreading to polish the essay and enliven it further. To successfully edit the work and make it better, writers are encouraged to consider some editing tips.

Following are some helpful tips:

  • Reconsider the structure of the work
  • Paraphrase where necessary to make it easier for the readers to understand the point or sense
  • Verify the general format of the essay and all citations using a guide
  • Find any repeated ideas or arguments and remove them from the essay to make it short and informative
  • Simplify any complicated sentences to make the essay readable and compelling for the readers.
  • Proofread the essay and correct any grammatical issues, spacing errors, and spelling mistakes
  • Ask a friend to review the essay and provide feedback to allow editing from a fresh perspective.

Pro Tips for a Well-Formed Essay

Narrative essays allow writers to make a point by subtly guiding the reader, rather than providing them with an in-depth analysis of events like a critical essay would. Here the writer is only required to recount an account of events or a story and let the reader draw their own conclusion.

By observing the following pro-tips, writers can present a well-formed narrative essay:

Always plan the storyline elements

Before writing a narrative essay, writers should first brainstorm the topic or prompt and try to create a draft outline of any major points they will write about in the essay. This also includes the storyline elements such as the plot, characters, settings, among other components.  This helps to ease the tension that often results in a loss of words amid writing. It also allows the writer to polish the main points to meet the specific requirements of the essay’s prompt or topic.

Provide supporting facts

When writing a narrative essay, college students should show their opinion and make a point for the readers. This includes proving the story using facts and providing reference points supporting their thoughts and conclusion results. This helps to validate the story, and it influences the way readers will perceive it. 

Use apt language & techniques

Unlike other formal or academic writing forms, narrative essays allow writers to get personal and creative. As such, college students can use various literary techniques to tell their stories uniquely and creatively. Common techniques relevant to style or the language that should be chosen to tell a story include metaphors, similes, imagery, personification, hyperbole, and alteration.

Common techniques relevant to the plot (a sequence of events that make up a narrative) include backstory, flash-forward, flashback, and foreshadowing.  To make the story seem more personal, writers are encouraged to use the first-person perspective of telling a story and the use of dialogue and suspense. While a narrative essay is not a descriptive essay, writers are encouraged to provide sensory details of objects, places, events, emotions, etc., mentioned in the plot. This makes the story more exciting for the readers, and it allows writers to connect with their audience at a deeper level.

Periodically review narrative essay examples

The more they read narrative essay examples, the more they are likely to develop a well-developed plot for their essays.

Watch video presentations

Watch videos in which other authors describe their experiences. This helps writers to learn about how to express themselves creatively and how to present their thoughts correctly.

Double-check the requirements and writing guidelines

Before embarking on writing a narrative essay, writers should double-check the essay’s requirements and writing guidelines to understand what it is all about and how to go about it. If there are no guidelines provided, college students should consider requesting more details from the relevant college professor or instructor.

Never drag the information

Avoid being too wordy in the essay and delete irrelevant details or include storyline elements that don’t add any value to the story’s plot. Including too much irrelevant information can be overwhelming and confusing for the readers.

Concise writing

Narrative essays should be written concisely, and they should generally be no more than 1-5 pages long. To meet the essay’s standard or specific length requirement, it is advisable to write it using simple words and appropriate language. Avoid including any unambiguous information as this may be unclear to the readers, disrupting them from the main point or takeaway of the story.

Keep the chronological order

The simplest and most common method of organization in the body of a narrative essay is the chronological or time order method. This is mainly because telling a story typically involves talking about a series of occurrences, and following the time order seems most logical. In the body paragraphs, the chronological sequence begins with the earliest events and moves forward based on the events’ time. The use of transitions such as then, next, and second to connect ideas or paragraphs is encouraged to make it easier for the reader to understand what happened, when, and how the events generally tie together.

Highlight the main points

After the first draft, writers are encouraged to revise their essay and highlight the most significant points, arguments, or facts to help readers identify them quickly and help them understand their role in the story and their influence on the outcome.

Get Help from Narrative Essay Examples

Mastering the art of writing an effective narrative essay typically involves continuous practice and learning from good narrative essay examples online and in print. This is why we are providing our readers with top personal narrative essay examples to help them determine what successful narrative essays look like. Our narrative essay examples also incorporate the ideal step-by-step process of writing and all the essential tips for writing a well-formed narrative essay. So read and learn from these narrative essay examples today, and become an expert narrative essay writer!

Free Examples

Following are some free downloadable templates for you:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a narrative essay and a descriptive essay?

The main difference between a narrative essay and a descriptive essay is that a descriptive essay provides a detailed description of a particular person, an object, a scene, or a given concept. On the other hand, a narrative essay conveys a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Both the narrative and descriptive essays allow writers a considerable degree of creative freedom, unlike other forms of essays, and similar writing skills can apply to both of these essays.

Final Thoughts

College narrative essays focus on particular real-life events that were pivotal for the writer. To write a narration that expresses a writer’s thoughts consistently and intriguingly, so people get involved and inspired by the story, start by coming up with an engaging idea. Then, write the essay with an opening hook and a detailed, organized structure. Additionally, use figurative language and vividly describe the series of events using sensory details to help readers connect with the storyline elements. Finally, review and revise the narrative essay before handing it in to be at its best.

Scroll to Top