Overview

Apart from expository essays and argumentative essays, narrative essays too are commonly assigned to students as a part of their assessment or admissions process. As the name suggests, narrative essays narrate stories pertaining to individuals or incidents. Having said that, as a student, you get creative liberty while writing narrative essays unlike other forms of essays which demand a strictly academic style of writing involving academic references.

Still not sure how narrative essays are different from other forms of academic essays? Well, you need not worry at all! This exclusive guide on narrative essays will put forth all the details of writing excellent narrative essays. On the other side of this elaborate guide, you will have a great idea of how you should approach a narrative essay. So, let us get started by delving deep into the understanding of narrative essays.

What is a narrative essay?

A narrative essay is basically a description of a personal experience pertaining to your life, learning, events, or your goals. While in other forms of academic essays you are not supposed to use personal references, narrative essays are all about personal pronouns and context.

Simply put, narrative essays assess students’ ability to describe their personal experiences in an engaging and compelling way. Your narrative essay should be immersive and compelling in a way that your instructors or the members of the admissions committee find your experience realistic.

For a greater understanding, let us look at some examples of narrative essay prompts. A few essay prompts for narrative essays are listed below.

1. Talk about a summer vacation experience you enjoyed the most

2. Talk about a time when you won an award at school

3. Describe a time when you helped an elderly person

4. Describe a negative social media experience you had to face

5. Talk about a group activity you participated in

Clearly, all the essay prompts for narrative essays correlate with your personal experiences. This is where you get the liberty to be creative and showcase your unique writing style. However, despite the freedom to express yourself freely, there is a proper format and structure that you need to follow while writing a narrative essay.

Going ahead, let us now delve into the section-wise approach of writing a narrative essay.

How to write a narrative essay?

Like any other essay, the structure of a narrative essay includes the following sections:

1. Introduction

2. Body Paragraphs

3. Conclusion

The number of body paragraphs will vary subject to the word limit of the essay or the scope of the essay. Moreover, in case your instructor has given you a specific number of body paragraphs that you need to include, you need to go with the specified instructions.

Going ahead, we have elaborated on the stepwise process of writing a narrative essay section by section. So, let us start with the introduction.

Introduction of narrative essay

The introduction paragraph may not even account for ten percent of your total word count but it still happens to be the most important section of your essay. Especially when it comes to narrative essays, the introduction paragraph becomes far more important.

To elaborate, when you are narrating a personal experience, it becomes essential to engage the readers from the word go. If your introduction does not indulge the reader, there is little chance that you will be able to engage them with the further stages of the narrative.

Besides, the introduction should clearly state what the essay is about and the talking points that the body paragraphs will emphasize. The purpose of an effective introduction is to give brief background information on the topic and the outline of the essay. For that, you need to know that an essay’s introduction is inclusive of the following components:

1. Hook

2. Background brief

3. Purpose

4. Thesis statement/ Theme

5. Essay outline

To understand each of the above components in detail with effective examples, you can go through our exclusive guide on how to write essay introductions. This guide will explain with utmost clarity what it takes to write a cohesive and impressive essay introduction.

Speaking of essay hooks, in the case of expository essays or argumentative essays, a statistical hook or a hook presenting a strong claim will mark a perfect starting point. However, in a narrative essay, a claim or statistic will certainly make no sense, right? So, what can be a great hook for a personal narrative essay?

Beginning a narrative essay by mentioning your source of inspiration or highlighting a key strength in your personality can be a perfect hook. To understand this in a more lucid way, let us consider an example of a narrative essay prompt. We will further explain the entire process of writing a narrative essay continuing with this example section by section.

Example essay prompt: Talk about a time when you expressed gratitude to someone

Now, with respect to this essay prompt example, let’s see how we can write a great hook for the introduction paragraph.

Topic: Talk about a time when you expressed gratitude to someone

Sample hook

Since the early years of my childhood, my parents have laid great emphasis on teaching me the value of gratitude and the significance of practicing it. I feel I have a strong personal connection with the idea of expressing gratitude.

Now, after the hook, you need to take the introduction forward and explain the theme of the essay along with the outline. While in the case of argumentative essays and expository essays you need to give a clear thesis statementexplaining the central idea of the essay, in narrative essays, you provide a theme in the introduction paragraph.

This will be much clearer in the entire introduction of our example prompt presented below

Topic: Talk about a time when you expressed gratitude to someone

Sample introduction (complete)

Since the early years of my childhood, my parents have laid great emphasis on teaching me the value of gratitude and the significance of practicing it. I feel I have a strong personal connection with the idea of expressing gratitude. Throughout the course of my life, I have never felt shy to express thankfulness to people who have helped me even in the most insignificant ways. In a recent experience, I expressed thankfulness to a local shopkeeper who returned my phone after I had forgotten it at the shop. Firstly, the essay will elaborate on my experience of expressing gratitude to a shopkeeper. Secondly, the essay will highlight the implication of the experience in my life and lastly, the essay summarizes my learning from this experience.

So, now you have a great idea of how you need to go about writing the introduction of a narrative essay. Next comes the body of your essay where you further need to build on the description of the experience you have initiated in the introduction paragraph.

Body paragraphs of a narrative essay

In the body paragraphs of your essay, you need to take care of the cohesion as mentioned above. For cohesion, you should use connectors that fit the best in the context of the sentence. Moreover, it is also important to know that each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence.

If we talk about other forms of academic essays, in the body paragraphs, you need to include facts based on evidence and then discuss the implications of what you have analyzed. However, in a narrative essay, the structure of a body paragraph is completely different. Without engaging with any evidence or analysis, you simply share the experience in a flow.

With respect to the example essay prompt that we have chosen, the body paragraphs are provided below for a clearer understanding.

Topic: Talk about a time when you expressed gratitude to someone

Sample body paragraphs

Last week when I visited a local shop in my locality to buy some essential groceries, I had forgotten my phone at the billing counter. After leaving the groceries at home, I straight away went to the playground in my housing society to play cricket with my friends. Until this time, I had not realized that I did not have my phone with me. Once we were done playing, I realized that I was not carrying my phone. At first, I thought that I must have forgotten my phone at home so I went back home.

When I reached home, my mother told me that I forgot my phone at the grocery shop and the shopkeeper came home to return it. First, my mother scolded me a little for such irresponsible behavior, and then she said that we must be thankful that such good people still exist who are happy to help us by going out of the way. As she said this, I felt a sudden urge to personally thank the shopkeeper for his kind deed.

So, I decided that I would immediately visit the shop and express thankfulness to the shopkeeper for personally returning my phone. Also, I had a bar of chocolate with me which I decided to offer to the shopkeeper as a token of gratitude. I rushed to the shop and greeted the shopkeeper with a big smile and conveyed heartfelt gratitude to him for returning my phone. Next, I offered the chocolate to him and insisted that he should accept it. He said welcome and after some reluctance, he accepted the chocolate. I was overwhelmed to see the sense of happiness and satisfaction on his face being on the receiving end of my thankfulness. My father often used to say that gratitude fills people with joy and happiness and that day, I could clearly see those feelings personified on the shopkeeper’s face.

As showcased above, this is the kind of flow and coherence the body of your essay should have. After the body paragraphs, we then move to the last section, the conclusion of your essay.

Conclusion of a narrative essay

To make your narrative essay more impactful and impressive, in the conclusion, you can reflect on the learning you attained through the experience. After all, when you associate a personal experience with learning, it comes out as far more appealing to the readers.

An example of an ideal conclusion to a narrative essay will help you comprehend it better. The sample conclusion of our essay prompt example is provided below.

Topic: Talk about a time when you expressed gratitude to someone

Sample conclusion

Not only this experience made my belief in gratitude much stronger but also taught me the value of being kind and empathetic. The shopkeeper with his generous deed helped me learn that we should never shy away from helping others even if it takes something extraordinary to complete an act of kindness. I now view gratitude and kindness from a much broader perspective and it has led to a positive change in my overall personality.

Now that you have a clear idea of how to write a narrative essay, let us look at some additional tips that can further help you to perform exceptionally well.

Quick tips to consider when writing a narrative essay

How to write a narrative essay

1. Create a rough draft first

Before you begin with the actual draft of your narrative essay, it is always a great idea to first create a rough draft. When you are tasked with writing any essay, there is a word limit you need to adhere to. Hence, when you are sharing a personal experience, you need to filter out the information as per the word count.

Let us try to understand this through an example. Let’s say your essay prompt is: Talk about a time when you received appreciation from your teacher. In such an essay, you would surely want to express the entire narrative in an elaborate way.

You would want to give every little detail of why you received appreciation from your teacher and how you felt. However, to fit the details within the word limit, you will have to filter out some details and only include the key details in the rough draft. Hence, creating a rough draft will give you a clear idea of what you should include in the final draft of the essay. Hence, it gives your essay a sense of purpose and direction.

2. Maintain clarity and coherence

The next thing that you need to keep in mind is to maintain great clarity throughout the essay. Yes, you can be creative with your narrative essay but it should not get confusing at any point in time. There should be an impressive sense of purpose and clarity of thought in your essay. Having said that, you need to take care of the thesis statement, topic sentences, and clear purpose of the central ideas included in the body paragraph.

Besides, maintaining coherence is as important as clarity. You need to ensure that the flow of ideas or thoughts is such that things are in coherence with each other. The greater the coherence the greater will be the consistency of your essay. Hence, the readers will remain engaged in a continuous way throughout the narrative.

3. Narrow down the perspective

It is better to stick to that one experience that you are narrating through your essay. Do not mix it with a set of similar experiences or other experiences of your life. For instance, when you are talking about a time when you received a teacher’s appreciation, there is no point in emphasizing the fact that you have received appreciation from your teachers often discussing various instances along similar lines.

Since there is a word limit that you need to adhere to, it is recommended that you narrow down on one experience from an early stage in the essay. The mistake that students often make is that they unnecessarily elaborate on the background story of the essay and this is where they end up losing credits. Hence, make sure that you don’t commit the same mistake.

4. Don’t overuse the first-person narrative

Going forward, another thing you should keep in mind is that you should not overuse the first-person narrative in your essay. Yes, the essay is about your personal experience and you will ‘I’ in various instances in the essay. However, it is better to write your narrative essay in a way that the personal pronouns are not overused.

5. Emphasize key details

Every experience has some key talking points that form the core of the narrative. Having said that, irrespective of the narrative essay prompt you get, you need to lay great emphasis on the key details. When you highlight the key details, it adds impact to your essay.

Specific details trigger curiosity among readers and make engagement far more intense. Besides, a narrative with attention to detail will definitely seem more wholesome.

6. Conclude on a strong note

An impressive narrative essay should also end on a strong note. Having said that, the conclusion of your essay should be affirmative of the central ideas discussed by you in the body paragraphs. Also, an impressive conclusion of a narrative essay will reflect on the experience shared in the narrative and how that experience shaped your thought process or life.

7. Proofread your essay

Even though proofreading is a pretty obvious thing to do before submitting an essay, we often overlook the need to proofread effectively. Eventually, we submit work that has typing errors, spelling mistakes, or grammatical errors. This is where we lose grades despite writing a meticulous and thorough essay.

Recommended readings

How to write an assignment

Types of plagiarism and how to avoid it

How to write thesis statement of an essay