The narrative essay stands distinctive amongst other academic papers you encounter. Along with descriptive essays, narrative essays allow for more freedom of expression. The entire point of these genres is to see how you can convey your experiences in a creative and personal way. A narrative essay also demands following the narrative structure and keeping a satisfying pace. That is the reason why most of college narrative essay writing happens in composition classes. They are less about the content and more about the form – the craft of writing.
In this post, we will break down the process of composing a narrative essay and walk you through it step by step.
How to Write a Personal Narrative Essay
Narrative essays tell a story that can be either fictional or real. Examples of real stories include a biographical essay about someone else written in a third person or an essay about yourself written from a first-person perspective.
Biographical essays about famous people and historical figures are common for high school, while autobiographical essays are common for college applications and personal statements. The latter are also called personal narrative essays. Their point is to give college admission officers an insight into your character.
The traits they are looking for are usually evident from the prompts, such as “Tell in 500 or fewer words a story of overcoming adversity or challenge”, or “Have your opinions ever been challenged? How have you reacted?” Such prompts aim to elicit such qualities as resilience and the ability to learn from your mistakes. However, some prompts are vaguer and give you more freedom to choose a subject. Their aim is to see not what you write, but rather how you write it to assess your ability to reflect upon your experiences along with your writing prowess.
The key to writing a successful personal narrative essay is knowing its underlying goal. If it cannot be divined from the prompt, you should come up with it yourself. For example, the prompt is hazy and suggests you write about your most vivid memory. Such a prompt gives you the freedom to choose which quality you want to bring front and center. For example, you want to tell others that you are a considerate and selfless person. You can write about the time when you skipped the camping trip with your friends to help your sibling with important exams, or how you stayed up all night to tend a loved one who fell ill.
The important thing is to be sincere and tell about something that really happened. Another thing to keep in mind is the “show don’t tell” rule. Describe your actions that speak for themselves and you can brag and stay humble at the same time.
Tips for Writing a Narrative Essay
If you need a more detailed guide on how to write a great narrative essay, we have a simple sequence of steps for you to follow. Let’s say you already have some idea of the story you wish to tell. You must make sure that this story:
- - Fits the prompt
- - Shows an important experience that transformed you or demonstrates an essential character trait
- - Is true and not embellished
- - Has a scope that is manageable in an essay (isn’t too long and complicated)
- - Has vivid details you make it engaging
If the story you have chosen for a narrative essay checks all the boxes, go ahead to the outlining stage.
How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline
Although narrative essays rarely require a formal outline, you will be better off if you plan the sequence of the major scenes in your story. As a narrative, your essay needs to have a plot with an exposition, rising action, climax, and a resolution. That means you will have to decide where you start your story, what will be the most dramatic part of it, and where you will end it.
Make sure you focus on the most crucial events and leave out the unnecessary details. For example, you do not need to specify what you had for breakfast unless you have spilled it all over your dress or have been self-conscious that something might have stuck in your teeth – and that influenced the important choices you made further in the story.
How to Write a Narrative Essay Introduction
Although you will need to give some necessary information at the very beginning, don’t let your essay’s introduction drag. It is a personal narrative, but it’s not a diary entry. Think of it as of film you’d wanted to watch. What makes it good?
You can start right from the drama, use the incident that sparked the events of your story as a hook – and then write an introduction paragraph to explain the setting or describe the characters of your story. Alternatively, you can start casually – and then deceive the expectations of your readers with an abrupt change trying to recreate the effect that something out-of-the-ordinary had on you that day.
How to Write a Narrative Essay Thesis Statement
You have always heard about the thesis statement as of the most important part of the entire essay. Yet how to write a thesis for a narrative? Although it might not be as formal, your thesis statement must be present – at least in your rough drafts. The thesis is the message, the reason behind your essay. You must know it before you start writing. For example, learning how to ride a bike has taught you to accept failures as markers of progress, or staying home with a broken leg have taught you mindfulness and patience.
Although you don’t have to articulate this in your first paragraph as plainly as “This essay is about how I learned to be patient”, you must be able to convey the crux of your story in a sentence or two before you start fleshing out your essay.
A narrative essay is one of the very few where you can save the thesis for the conclusion or leave it out altogether if you think that your idea is clear from the story as is.
How to Write a Proper Title for a Narrative Essay
As we have already mentioned, narrative and descriptive essays give you more freedom. You might need to brush up your creative writing knowledge and remember how to write dialogue, convey sarcasm in writing, use expressive language, metaphors, similes, personal pronouns, jokes, and other things that are considered faux pas in academic writing. This freedom should be used to its fullest – and this includes the titles!
Do you think that titles like “Cuddle buddies”, “My unpopular decision” or “All worth it” could only be given to a piece of fictional writing? Wrong! These are titles of successful admission essays and they are all nonfiction personal stories.
It is better to come up with the title after you have already written the entire essay. Find the central theme, a recurring sentiment, or a strong symbol that your story revolves around, and try to express it in several words. Make your title as expressive and attention-grabbing as you can! Let it intrigue the readers and make them want to read the essay. If you simply leave the prompt as a title of your essay, it will look generic, like an answer in an exam paper.
For example, you are writing how you struggled when you had to move and change schools, but overcame your anxiety in the end and made the most of it. It was middle school, you were on your way from being a child to being a young adult, on your way from shyness to assertiveness. You can play on the “middle” concept and name your essay “In the middle” or “In the interim”, highlighting the importance of your way through the challenge, rather than the end result.
Yet don’t forget that it’s an essay for college. You still have to make the formatting right. Both in APA format and in MLA format follow these guidelines:
- - Use title case with the standard capitalization
- - Don’t use abbreviations or unnecessary words
- - Use no more than 12 words for your title (preferably less)
- - Your title can take up to two lines
How to Write a Narrative Essay? Examples Serve You Best!
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