Essays come in several forms. Some are descriptive in nature, and others can be more persuasive. In this guide, the focus is on the narrative essay. This is a particular type of work that involves the use of narration or telling a story.
We'll give you a further explanation of what this type of essay is. Additionally, we'll show you how to write a narrative essay so you're more confident about writing your own. Our guide also covers the narrative format and the different essay types you can write.
A Narrative Essay Explained
To define this type of essay, we should explore what narrative writing is. This is a type of writing whose purpose is to tell the reader a story. It involves characters, settings, and a plot that gets resolved. If it's fictional, everything's made up. Novels are a good example of fictional narrative writing. On the other hand, if the writing is factual, everything is based on real-life events.
Academic assignments that involve narrative essay writing nearly always require you to write factual content. Therefore, the bulk of your work should be a true story whose details can be backed up by facts.
If you're wondering how to write narrative writing, imagine you're telling a story to someone you know. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The opening sets the scene, and the ending concludes everything. The middle consists of the story's most important parts; it can be as short or long as you need. However long your narrative text is, you should remember that you're telling a story,y and it should flow well.
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- Write about the time you met your best friend.
- Write a story about your first trip to the beach.
- Write about something you did that you are very happy about.
- Write a story about what you'd like your future life to be.
The Narrative Essay and the Short Story: Key Differences
This type of essay and the short story have some similarities and differences. It's important to understand what structures the two have so your own piece of work sticks to the required format.
You'll have to rely on facts when writing a narrative essay for a college or university assessment. Your writing should give the reader a clear summary of what happened. You'll also have to stick to a word count, if there is one, and follow the general narrative essay structure that markers are looking for. A thesis statement in the opening section should summarise your paper's key argument.
As for a short story, this is fictional, and what happens is the product of the writer's imagination. It doesn't require a thesis statement, and its structure is much more fluid than a narrative essay. There's no set way to approach one and you can be as creative as you like with the content.
A Narrative Essay's Aim
If you're not sure how to start a narrative essay, ask yourself why you want to tell people this particular story; what's your purpose in sharing it with others. When someone writes a story, no matter what genre it is, they want it to impact those who read it; they want their readers to react in a particular way. If someone writes a horror story, for example, their purpose will be to make their readers feel afraid and frightened.
You should want readers to be engaged with your story. The more closely someone reads your work, the more likely they will take it in and react to it. To make the story more compelling and effective, write it in the best way possible. This involves using the right language, having a clear structure, and making sure your writing is clear.
- Write about the moment you overcame your biggest concern.
- Write a story about your thoughts on what courage is.
- Write about a trip you will never forget.
- Write a story about starting a relationship.
What Makes a Good Narrative Essay?
A good narrative essay should draw readers in, tell them a story that leaves an impression on them and finish with a definitive conclusion. It includes all the familiar elements of a story without being as long as one. It should also let the reader know what you make of the story and your thoughts about it.
What's also crucial is the structure and format of a narrative essay. These make your work presentable and readable.
Elements of Narrative Essays
Several key components, or elements, make up this type of essay. These include characters, speech, and theme.
- Characters are the backbone of any story and are very significant in narrative essays. Not only do they drive the plot forward, but they also interact with one another. Each has a personality and background; sometimes, one or both may directly influence the story's action.
- More often than not, the story part will include some speech. This reflects the conversations that characters have with one another or thoughts they may have.
- The theme is the main idea or meaning behind the story. It's a concept that a writer can express to the reader through the story's plot, setting, and characters. The thesis statement should mention the theme and summarize what it is.
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Common Narrative Essay Types
There are multiple types of narrative essays. Most college and university assignments require your work to be factual. Your work will be fictional for some courses, such as creative writing. You'll find some of the main types below:
- Factual. When writing a factual (or nonfiction) narrative essay, you retell real-life events for others. You'll look at evidence from one or more sources to put the story together.
- Fictional. For fictional narrative essays, you can be creative and develop any story you want. Since it's for an academic assignment, it should still have some purpose and meaning.
- Autobiographical. An autobiographical essay involves writing down a story you're directly involved in. This is a factual piece of academic writing where you're sharing with the reader something you've experienced. If you want, you'll use the first person and can inject your telling of the story with thoughts and opinions.
- Write about an experience that put you in danger.
- Write a story about a time when you discovered a secret.
- Write about a day you experienced that was unlike any other.
- Write a story about a memorable summer vacation.
Types of Narrative Writing
When thinking of how to start an essay for college, you should try to decide on the writing you'll be using. Below are some types to consider:
- Linear. When taking a linear approach to the writing, you'll describe the story's events in the order they happened. One event will follow from the previous one and lead into the next one.
- Non-linear. Should you take a non-linear approach, you'll tell the story's events out of sequence. This may include flashbacks or even flashforwards.
- Quest. Some stories are a sequence of events and characters reacting to these. Others are more like a quest where a person actively tries to complete a goal, which becomes their entire purpose.
- Viewpoint. With a viewpoint type of narration, the main character narrates the events from their point of view. Instead of just about the plot, it's just as much about the narrator's opinions, ideas, and feelings.
- Descriptive. For this type of narrative writing, you should be very descriptive and use vivid details. Readers should be able to picture the story's setting and visualize what the characters in it look like.
Your story should make sense, whatever type of narrative writing you choose. The paragraphs should connect in a clear and logical way. If you choose a non-linear style, the reader should be able to tell that the events aren't in the right order.
If you're stuck on how to write a narrative paragraph, remember that it should be concise. It should also connect with the one before and after it. Your work ideally won't have any blocks of text that stand out or are separate from the rest of the writing. For your essay to read well, there should be links from one paragraph to the next.
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The Length of a Narrative Essay
When it comes to writing a narrative essay, there's no set length. The required word count will vary depending on who's setting the work and what institution is running your course. Some narrative essays can be as short as 500 words, whereas others may have a few hundred more. Sometimes, your narrative essay guidelines may require at least 1,000 words.
You must stick to it if given a word count, e.g., 500-600 words. Without restriction, it's up to you how long your work should be. An ideal narrative essay should be at least a few hundred words long. It should have a clear beginning and conclusion, with three or more body sections.
However long your assignment is, it should be direct and to the point. An essay that's narrative should retell the critical points of a story without necessarily going into detail. You should only include the most important characters, locations, and events. By all means, have some descriptive language, but don't overdo it.
Guidelines for Writing a Narrative Essay
If you're wondering how to write a good narrative essay, we'll cover some of the most important guidelines in this section. Follow these, and you should find your work much easier to approach and complete. Use our guidelines, and you should better understand how to write narrative essays.
How Do You Start a Narrative Essay?
First, you'll receive a prompt from your lecturer/tutor. This is the instruction your lecturer/tutor gives you when setting the assignment. When you have this, you should start gathering ideas about your writing. Come up with a title - unless your essay has a set title - and consider how you will approach the story aspect of your writing.
When coming up with your story, think about how you would tell it to someone else. Break it down into a number of events that follow one another. When writing it, you should try to draw the reader in by using descriptive language and adding plenty of relevant details. The aim is to interest whoever's reading your work but not to bore them. They should want to keep reading and find out the story's conclusion.
Here are some prompts that you can use:
- Write about the best birthday party you had.
- Write a story about the first time you cooked a meal by yourself.
- Write about a life lesson you have learned.
- Write a story about your best childhood memory.
How to Choose an Essay Topic?
The topic you'll be writing about will depend on your prompt. This can fall under two categories: specific and open-ended.
If you have a specific prompt, you will write about a particular event or series of events. If it's an open-ended one, you don't have to write about something specific and have more choice in your topic.
The number and range of narrative writing topics are endless. The benefit of having a specific prompt is that it's easier to determine what you'll be writing about. All you'll have to do is think about what the prompt directs you toward and tell the story it asks of you.
If your prompt is open-ended, choosing a topic to write about can be tricky because there can be many possibilities. It would be best to settle on one that the reader will find interesting, engaging, and relevant.
- Write about an old friend you've lost touch with and why it happened.
- Write a story about your observation of a cowardly act.
- Write about a hobby you like.
- Write a story about the first time you took a trip abroad.
How to Format and Structure a Narrative Essay?
The structure of the narrative essay is straightforward. There are four key parts: the introduction, the thesis statement, the body, and the conclusion.
- The introduction provides the reader with an overview of your essay. The thesis statement is a brief summary of your work's main points.
- The body is where you tell the story. After introducing your characters and establishing the setting, you'll narrate the story's events and move the plot forward. Most narrative essays have a minimum of three body paragraphs.
- The conclusion is where you bring the story's plot to an end. You should also comment on it, explaining why it's significant and what benefits it may have.
It's important for you to stick to the standard structure of a narrative essay. Doing so helps you present the story in a logical way. It also makes your piece of writing easier to read.
As for the format of a narrative essay, this should be professional. The final work you submit should look like any other academic essay. The writing should have an appropriate font and size. As well as this, things like indentation, spacing, and paragraph sizing should all be consistent. Your narrative essay format is just as important as the content because academic submissions require certain standard formatting.
The exact type of narrative writing format you use will depend on your college or university. Some institutions will have a set formatting style that all academic writing submissions will have to follow.
Narrative Essay Outline
A narative essay outline is a general sort of plan that you'll use to write your essay. When putting one together, you should think about the content of your work and how you will present this to the reader. It's a good idea to consider the language you'll be using, how long your sentences and paragraphs will be, how often you'll use speech, and so on.
The introduction should do two things: catch the attention of the reader; make them want to continue reading. It should also intrigue them about your essay's topic and what you have to say about it. Once you've written one, it's a good idea to let others read it and see if it makes them want to find out more about your work.
The body is the bulk of your essay and is where most storytelling takes place. The first paragraph should set the scene, introduce at least one character and establish the basics of the plot. Over the next few paragraphs, you should develop everything you previously introduced. Once the reader is done with the body section, they should know your characters and plot quite well.
The conclusion is very important because it's where you conclude the story and reflect on it. This final section should sum up what you've learned and how you want the story to affect others. It should also link back to your thesis statement in some way.
For more information and help with writing, read our narrative essay outline example article. This includes a full step-by-step guide that you may find useful.
Narrative Essay Thesis Statement
The thesis statement is a short sentence in the introduction that sums up what your essay is about. It gives the reader a clear idea of the paper's key argument without revealing too much about the story. If you're wondering how to structure a narrative essay, a rule of thumb is to place the thesis statement at the end of the introduction. This way, it naturally leads into the main part of your paper.
Here are some examples of a good thesis statement:
I have only one life and will use every opportunity to be happy.
Love has changed my whole life and made me a new person; here's why.
Writing a good thesis statement is vital for any essay type. If yours reads well, it can help the reader engage with your work more. If you're struggling to write a thesis statement, buy narrative essays online and see some examples from our team. Reading other people's work, you'll better understand how to write things yourself.