How to Write a Narrative Essay

November 3, 2016

We deal with literature and creative writing regularly – through our studies, work or even leisure activities. Essays are one of the most common assignments, and each of them has a particular set of requirements to fulfill.

Right now, instead of delving deeper into other varieties of essays (descriptive, expository, persuasive, analytical), we’ll take a look on how to write a personal narrative essay.

What is a Narrative Essay?

To give a proper definition, we’ll need to outline some associated terms.

Narration is an act of presenting something to an audience; the narrative is a sequence of events (real or imaginary) organized in a specific way to instigate an emotional response; narrator (or the writer) is the person telling or writing the article, usually from a personal point of view.

Narrative essays are not simple short stories and are still defined as essays, so don’t deviate significantly from the structure when writing one.

In general, some stories can incorporate atypical methods of storytelling — like unreliable narration; this is the first thing you need to avoid when writing a narrative essay. Your goal is not to come up with a creative method of storytelling, but rather get the point across by linearly establishing your plot.

How Long are Narrative Essays?

There is no standard regarding the length when it comes to narrative essays; they can be quite long.

Don’t forget to ask your professor about the word count when you receive your assignment.

Usually, a total of 5 paragraphs is the norm; we’ll go over the format in greater detail.

Also, ask your college and high school professor for samples of writing, if possible. It will give you some ideas on how to begin.

Narrative Essay Format


How to write a narrative essay

A narrative essay is not just a story; it is an essay that makes a point by telling a story.

You need the information to be compressed and easily accessible.

How to start a narrative essay? Choose a topic that is grounded in reality, since narrative essays are usually non-fiction. Nothing stops you from asking your professor if going the fantasy route is possible, though.

Choosing a Topic

Choosing the right topic is crucial when writing a narrative essay. It sets the foundation for your entire story and determines the level of engagement for your readers. The key is to select a topic that captivates both you and your audience. Look for events, experiences, or moments in your life that have changed you in some way or left a lasting impression. Consider themes such as personal growth, overcoming obstacles, or a significant life lesson learned. Reflect on your own unique experiences to find a topic that resonates with you. Additionally, think about the potential emotional impact of the story on your readers. Ultimately, the chosen topic should allow for a compelling narrative and ample opportunities for character development and storytelling.

You can pick any topic you like and use our essay generator to help you write it.

Possible Narrative Essay Topics:

  1. A life-changing travel experience
  2. Overcoming a fear or phobia
  3. The day I met my role model
  4. A lesson learned from a mistake
  5. An unforgettable family gathering
  6. A challenging academic achievement
  7. A volunteer experience that impacted me
  8. The most memorable concert I attended
  9. A childhood memory that shaped me
  10. How I discovered my passion for a hobby

Creating an Outline:

Creating a well-structured outline is essential to write a narrative essay effectively. It helps organize your thoughts, ensures a logical progression of ideas, and provides a roadmap for your storytelling. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating an effective outline:


  • Hook to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Background information to set the context.
  • Thesis statement, outlining the main idea or theme of your narrative.

Body paragraphs:

  • Start with the main plot or event of your story.
  • Introduce characters and provide essential details about them.
  • Include vivid descriptions and sensory details to bring your narrative to life.
  • Build tension and conflict to keep the reader engaged.
  • Incorporate dialogue to make the story dynamic and authentic.
  • Show the progression of the story and its impact on the characters.
  • Consider using flashbacks or foreshadowing techniques to enhance the narrative.


  • Reflect on the significance of the story and its impact on the characters or readers.
  • Summarize the main points and lessons learned.
  • End with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action.

By following this outline, you can ensure that your narrative essay flows smoothly, engages the reader, and effectively communicates your intended message. Remember, while an outline provides structure, be open to adjusting it as your story unfolds during the writing process.

Creating an Engaging Introduction:

The introduction of a narrative essay sets the stage for the rest of the story. It serves as a hook to grab the reader’s attention and establish the tone and direction of the narrative. To create an engaging introduction, consider the following strategies:

  1. Start with a captivating opening line or an intriguing question that piques curiosity.
  2. Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of the setting or scene.
  3. Introduce the main character(s) and provide a brief overview of their background or motivation.
  4. Set the context by offering a bit of background information or a relevant anecdote.
  5. Establish the central conflict or problem that will be explored in the narrative.
  6. Engage the reader’s emotions by sharing a relatable experience or highlighting a universal theme.
  7. Create anticipation by hinting at the outcome or foreshadowing future events.
  8. Use dialogue to bring the narrative to life and make it more dynamic.
  9. Consider starting “in medias res” (in the middle of the action) for a dramatic and attention-grabbing opening.
  10. End the introduction with a powerful thesis statement that highlights the main theme or idea to be explored in the essay.

By incorporating these elements, you can hook the reader from the beginning and compel them to continue reading your narrative essay.

Structuring Body Paragraphs:

Writing effective body paragraphs is crucial for a compelling narrative essay. The body should contain the bulk of the story and provide ample detail and description to engage the reader. Here are some tips for structuring your body paragraphs:

  1. Start with a clear topic sentence that relates to your thesis statement and sets the stage for the rest of the paragraph.
  2. Use descriptive language and sensory details to bring your story to life and engage the reader’s imagination.
  3. Write in chronological order to ensure a logical progression of events and keep the reader engaged.
  4. Include dialogue to add depth and authenticity to the characters and their interactions.
  5. Use transitional phrases to link ideas and signal changes in time or place.
  6. Build tension and conflict to keep the reader invested and curious about the outcome of the story.
  7. Use foreshadowing to create anticipation and intrigue.
  8. Include reflections and personal insights to deepen the narrative and convey meaning to the reader.
  9. Vary sentence structure and length to maintain the reader’s attention and create a dynamic narrative flow.
  10. Use strong concluding sentences to wrap up the paragraph and lead into the next one.

By following these guidelines, you can effectively structure your body paragraphs and create a compelling and engaging narrative essay.

Incorporating a Conclusion:

A conclusion is an essential element of any essay, including a narrative essay. It is the final opportunity to convey the significance of the story and leave a lasting impression on the reader. Here are some tips for incorporating an effective conclusion:

  1. Restate the thesis statement to remind the reader of the central theme or idea of the narrative.
  2. Summarize the main points of the story and the journey the main character(s) took.
  3. Offer a final reflection or insight that provides closure and meaning to the narrative.
  4. Use descriptive language to create a lasting impression on the reader.
  5. End with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action that encourages further reflection or exploration.
  6. Avoid introducing new information or plot points in the conclusion.
  7. Consider ending with a quote or reference to a shared cultural experience that relates to the narrative.

The conclusion should leave the reader feeling satisfied and understanding the significance of the journey or experience described in the narrative. By incorporating these elements, you can effectively create a memorable and impactful conclusion to your narrative essay.


Some ways to improve the quality of your writing.

For example, there are three stylistic essentials — Rhythm, Flow, and Tone.

You can attain rhythm be varying the length of sentences and changing their structure.

Use interrogative, declarative, imperative and exclamatory sentences to add personal flair.

Try to vary the length of sentences; use general and specific verbs; add simple, complex and compound sentences.

These small things add up to create a personal literary style.

Good presentation and a well-written manner are not enough if the story has no emotional effect on your audience, you need it to be engaging. Flow is closely tied to rhythm, but it mostly refers to the meaning of writing – how the sentences flow into each other, the continuous progression of thoughts and ideas.

By incorporating flow into your story, will be able to influence your audience directly. A good story always prompts to think and analyze.

The tone of writing needs to fit the topic. Disregard irony and sarcasm if you intend to express serious ideas. Proper tone also helps to get the audience on your side.

A Couple of Additional Suggestions

  • Narrative essays have a point.
  • Avoid saturating the narrative with irrelevant information – creating needless exposition is never an advantage. This applies to secondary characters, plot details that don’t get revisited or off-hand remarks that serve no purpose.
  • Use vivid language and detailed descriptions to create a sense of place. This will help to draw the audience in the narrative.
  • Draw relevant and proper conclusions.
  • Dialogue is allowed and is a big plus.
  • When you’re considering the events to choose as a basis for the essay, try going with a something special, momentous or significant. The best stories are never based on unexciting topics.
  • Make your life easier with our affordable essay help!

Once your essay is done, don’t forget to proofread. The last thing you need is to tank your grade by an unfortunate typo.

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