When you’re going through high school and college, you’re going to be assigned several different essays. And maybe you’ve written them all before, but perhaps you haven’t. Either way, you’re likely looking for some way to make the process easier and to make sure that you’re following the instructions correctly, right? Well, that’s where we’re going to help you out.
This guide is going to help you with how to write a narrative essay step-by-step. That way, you’re going to have a better plan for how you can create that next assignment. Whether you’re looking for a simple essay to use for a high school class or a highly polished one you can publish, it’s essential to start with the right process in mind, and that’s going to start with just what this type of essay is.
What is a Narrative Essay?
So, what is a narrative essay? Well, this type of essay is designed to help you share a story. It might be a personal story (and in many cases, it will be), but it might also be someone else’s story. The idea is that you’re going to present that story in a way that’s interesting to the reader and really gets your point across. It should always have some type of plot to the story you’re expressing.
How to Write a Narrative Essay
The next step in the process is to figure out just how to write a narrative account, right? Well, we’re going to explain that throughout the following several sections, but for this moment, we’re just going to give you a brief overview of what you need to know in order to write this type of essay. It’s going to start with creating a topic, and we’re going to proceed through the general points you need to know.
Create an exciting topic. Remember, the narrative essay is generally going to be all about you, which means you’re going to need to come up with something about your story that’s interesting. Sometimes your teacher will give you a prompt like ‘something interesting that happened over summer break’ or ‘the biggest mistake you’ve made and what it taught you.’ Sometimes you’ll just have to come up with something on your own.
Can you make it fit? Remember to ask yourself if the topic or idea you want to write about is going to meet the parameters of what you need. Is it going to be broad enough that you can write as much as you need to (hit the word count required) but narrow enough that you won’t have to leave a lot of the story out?
Create an outline. Focus on the prompt that you’ve been given or the story you’re going to tell and create an overview of what your essay should include. This means the introduction (including your thesis and hook), the body (including the story and point), and the conclusion.
Know your point. You need to actually have a point to the story you’re telling, or it’s not an essay, it’s just a story. So, how are you going to do that? You’re going to want to think about the prompt and how you’re going to approach it.
Do you have emotional ties to it? If you’re not emotionally invested in the story that you’re telling, then no one else is going to be either. You could find yourself struggling to draw up the level of feeling and description that it would take to really get people interested in what you’re talking about.
Write what you remember. Don’t be afraid to create a list that goes along with your outline. List out whatever you remember of the event, as well as the order in which the events happened. You may also want to list out some of the details that you might forget as you’re writing.
How to Start a Narrative Essay Introduction
Starting out your narrative essay properly is an essential part of the process. You want to make sure you’re setting up the story in a way that people are going to be interested in reading. After all, the entire point of this type of essay is to get people to want to know more about your story, right?
Start with a question. Introduce your story by starting with a question like ‘have you ever felt like your heart was ripped out of your chest?’ ‘When is the last time you ran through a sprinkler in your underwear without a care in the world?’ Or any other question that will get people thinking.
Make your point. You still need a thesis statement, even in a narrative essay. With this type of essay, however, you’re going to create a thesis that’s more personal. ‘The best day of my life was January 17th, 2008.’ Or ‘the most influential person in my life was my grandmother, who taught me …’
Set the stage. Finally, set the stage for what you’re going to talk about in the body of the essay. They know what your thesis is, but how are you going to tell them about that important thing?
What to Include in the Body of a Narrative Essay
When it comes to the body of your essay, you want to make sure that you include all of the critical information and that you’re keeping people there. You want to be sure that you have an excellent narrative essay outline to start you out right and that you’re moving forward in the best way.
Give the backstory. You might need to lead into the story that you really want to tell, so take the first paragraph to set things up with a bit of backstory or a bit of information to make sure the people you’re ‘talking’ to are going to understand what you have to say.
Explain the event. Next, talk about just why this specific event or whatever it is that you’re telling about has anything to do with the prompt. How do they tie in together? How was January 17th, 2008, the best day ever? How did your grandmother become your favorite person?
Build some suspense. You want to make sure that you’re introducing the story in a way that’s going to get people interested and make sure that they want to read more, and that means adding in a little suspense. Don’t just jump right into saying ‘that’s the day I got my license’ or ‘that’s the day I was adopted.’ You need to build your reader into the reveal.
Resolve the situation. You’re also going to want to use this section to resolve whatever it is that’s happening in the essay. That means you’re going to close it all out by explaining just how the event mattered to you and why you think it’s tied in.
One idea per paragraph. Just like with any other essay, you want to be sure that you’re putting only a single idea or thought into a paragraph. This also helps to break up your story a little more and get the right amount of description into it.
How to Write a Great Conclusion for a Narrative Essay
Writing a conclusion is what’s really going to sell the entire thing. You want to have an outcome that leaves the reader possibly even wanting to learn more about you. But in general, this section needs to show significance to the story and make sure that you show the purpose behind it.
End on a high note. Explain why the event you’re talking about was so significant to you in reference to the prompt you were given. Talk about why it was such a meaningful experience and why that’s the one that you chose.
Is there a moral? Do you have a moral to your story? Sometimes a narrative essay will showcase a moral, and you’ll want to reiterate just what it is in the closing so that your reader is left remembering that piece of advice.
What do they do next? Do you have something that you want your reader to do when they read your story? Maybe your call-to-action is something as simple as ‘so hug your family because you don’t know how long you have.’ Or perhaps it’s something like ‘that’s why we all need to write our representative to make a difference.’
How to Cite Sources for a Narrative Essay
Generally, when it comes to writing a narrative essay, you’re not going to have any sources because you’re writing your own accounts. Since you’re telling everything from your own personal experience, you don’t need to cite sources. This isn’t the type of essay that relies on historical facts or statistics.
In most cases, you will actually be told not to use sources of any type in this essay, and you’ll need to rely entirely on your own mind. If you do need to use sources, however, in order to get something right, make sure you use the citation method that your teacher has recommended (MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, etc.).
Other Narrative Essay Tips and Best Practices
There are a few very basic and simple tips that you should be using when it comes to writing this type of essay as well. We’re going to look at some of the more general things that you need to know to make sure that you’re off to a great start and that you’re going to create a quality piece.
Write in the first person. First of all, your narrative essay is about you and something that happened to you. That means that you need to keep it in the first person like you’re talking about yourself. (Which you are.) Keep this in mind for how to write a narrative paragraph.
Detail is your best friend. You’re telling a story, and that means you really need to paint a picture. So, use as much detail as you can to make sure that people are drawn right into your story and want to know more. You want them intrigued right from the start.
Know a story vs. an essay. You’re writing about a specific topic, which means that even though you’re telling a story, you need to write it so that it leads toward that topic. You don’t want just to tell a story and have everyone get to the end, not knowing what the point was.
Keep it in order. Chronological order is going to be the easiest to follow along with, and it’s going to make things a whole lot simpler for you as well. You’re writing a short essay, after all, not a novel. You don’t have a lot of space for jumping around and explaining things. Keep everything in chronological order as you write.
Know your point of view. In general, you’re going to have free reign over this, and you get to decide which way you want to write out the story. The vital thing to note is that you use the same point of view throughout the story. If you start in the present tense, then keep it that way (though past tense is generally easier to write).
Stick to the story. It’s easy to get pulled off on a tangent or to get sidetracked by details and information that isn’t part of the main story. Maybe it was something that happened around the same time, and so the two things get tied together in your mind, but if it doesn’t matter to the story, you’re telling leave it out.
Skip to the good stuff. Similar to not getting sidetracked, you also don’t want to spend so long setting up your backstory that you don’t actually get into the story itself. You need to get to things quickly, so you don’t find yourself struggling with space (or to get the reader interested).
Use your senses. What this means is to explore all five of your senses in the story. Write out what you heard, saw, smelled, touched, and tasted during the story (as it makes sense, of course) so that you can draw the reader into the experience.
Dress it up. As you’re writing, you want to use plenty of details and descriptive words. That’s how you’re going to make the most of your story, and it’s how you’re going to get people to really picture what’s happening just like they were there.
Example Narrative Essay Prompts and Topics
What if you’re not quite sure what to write about, and you need a little bit more assistance? Well, it’s not going to be too hard. We have a few narrative essay topics that you could check out for yourself. Maybe these will make it easier for you to get that first draft out and start writing.
1. What was the best field trip you ever took in school?
2. What was the scariest moment you’ve ever had?
3. When did you get your very first pet?
4. When did you learn about the importance of family?
5. What was the best time you ever had with a friend?
3 Other Resources to Find Example Narrative Essays
If you’re looking for some narrative essay examples, then you might want to check out the websites that we’ve listed below. These are going to help you see some sample good narrative essay topics, and they’ll make sure that you’re on the right track. You’ll be able to get even more topic ideas as well as some example essays to use.
1. YourDictionary. With this website, you’re actually getting a couple of narrative samples, and you’re also going to get some additional advice about just what this type of essay is meant to do. You’ll get a little bit more of the background you need to differ this type of essay from the other types of essays that you’re going to be assigned at some point during your school career.
2. Literary Devices. Here you’re going to find a website that gives you a general overview of just what a narrative essay is and then gives you a few examples of them in popular writing. Not only that but they’re going to go over what the difference is between a narrative essay and a short story, so you can make sure that your essay is better focused on what you need.
3. Prepscholar. For those who are trying to prepare themselves for writing a high-quality narrative essay, this is definitely the way to go. This website is going to give you a whole lot of information, and it’s going to give you some examples. Even better, it actually discusses the examples that you’re given so you can see what’s so good about them and apply that to your own essays.
If you’re looking to write a narrative essay for your next class project, hopefully, each of these narrative essay tips is going to make it easier for you. Before you know it, you’re going to have no problem writing a narrative essay and definitely no problem getting the grades you’re looking for. You just need to understand the different parts of your essay and just how they can all work together.
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