It's essential for high school and college students to learn how to write compelling narrative essays. Why? Tutors love assigning these types of papers! In other words, narrative writing is a pretty common assignment in schools—elementary level inclusive.
As students scale up the education ladder, tutors expect to receive better-written narrations. However, that doesn't mean submitting complex hard to follow narrative essays (even at the college level.)
Instead, it's piecing up ideas into an exciting story. In the process, a student demonstrates their understanding of the subject. Therefore, investing your time in learning how to write a good narrative essay becomes a necessity.
Nonetheless, writing a narrative essay is easy. After all, it's simply telling a real-life story and ensuring that the piece delivers a moral lesson to your readers. In addition, there are other rules to be followed since a narrative paper is an academic piece.
But first, the basics.
What's a Narrative Essay?
Put simply, a narrative essay is an academic assignment that tells a good story. An excellent narrative essay captures a reader's attention by giving vivid details of:
- An event
- The setting or place
- The characters involved in the incident.
- Conflicts and resolutions.
- Dialogues between characters.
A narrative essay is also known as a narration. Unlike other academic papers, a narrative story allows you to exercise your creative skills. So, you can make your narration as exciting and compelling as possible. A properly written narrative story isn't just enjoyable. It also makes a point or delivers a moral lesson to a reader.
Often, you'll have to use the first-person viewpoint when writing specific types of narrative stories like personal statements and personal narrative papers.
For instance, if your tutor assigned you a college essay topic like My Most Memorable Karaoke Night, you'd have to use the pronoun "I" to tell your story. Your paper would be a perfect example of a personal narrative essay.
Unfortunately, it's common for students to overuse the first-person viewpoint. Make sure to avoid that common mistake. Moderation is key.
How to Write a Good Narrative Essay: Step by Step Guide
One of the most frequently asked questions among learners is, "how do I start a narrative essay?" However, learners forget that there are other vital aspects of a well-written narrative paper beyond starting.
Let's get down to it.
1. Choose an Appropriate Topic
Like any other academic paper, the topic greatly determines the quality of your narrative story. There are several approaches: the tutor can assign a single title or give you several topics for you to choose from. Alternatively, you can be given a prompt from which you'll be expected to formulate a catchy narrative title.
Examples of specific narrative essay topics:
- Write a story about a memorable birthday party you attended.
- Write a personal story about a day you saved someone.
- Write about how technology has affected your learning experiences.
Examples of broad prompts:
- Write about an exciting destination you'd want to go to. Why would you like to visit the place?
- While some people prefer living in the city, others like the quiet in the countryside. According to you, which of the two would be a better choice and why? Give specific examples to support your answer.
- The number of reality shows has been increasing steadily. Using specific examples, explain why these programs are good or bad for watching.
The topic or prompt always points you towards a specific theme. So, it's essential to understand the title or prompt to avoid drifting away or mixing up different themes in your story. Also, the topic shouldn't be overly broad. Instead, it's supposed to be narrow to fit a five-paragraph narrative or otherwise, depending on the instructions. In addition, choose an attention-grabbing topic that's not readily available on the web.
2. Structure Your Narrative Essay
It's essential to plan your essay before starting to write it. It not only helps you to craft an organized piece, but it also keeps you on track. So, ensure you list the major events of the story. Next, arrange them to fit the standard outline of a narrative essay by having:
- The introduction – Have a few sentences to mention your thesis statement and set the scene of your narration.
- Body paragraphs – Give details about the characters involved, when and where the story took place. Remember to adhere to the peel paragraph technique.
- The conclusion – Summarize your essay by mentioning the moral lesson you learned.
Often, the draft is for your use. However, be keen on the instructions. If you're requested to provide a formal draft, remember to include it.
3. Create Conflict
A well-written narration often has an antagonist and protagonist. These two are the main characters of the story. They help you achieve tension which hooks a reader to the end. In most cases, the protagonist is the author(you).
As the story unfolds, you'll be struggling to achieve or do something. On the other hand, the antagonist will be hindering you (protagonist) from achieving what you want. However, it's never cast on stone—sometimes, the author can be the protagonist.
Aside from creating Conflict, writing descriptively helps to make your essay interesting. So make sure to give vivid descriptions of the setting and characters. An easy way to write descriptively is through the show, don't tell technique. It simply means not just stating the events. Instead, you use vivid and colorful words plus phrases to write a strong paper.
Unlike other academic papers, research isn't essential when writing narrations. Remember, you're writing a personal story. It's all about being creative. However, reading other narrative essays can help you find inspiration and makes the writing process more manageable.
Proofreading your Narrative Essay
Proofreading helps to refine your personal essay. The general rule is to allow your piece to sit for some time before proofreading. You can take a walk, exercise, snacks, or sleep then, get back to the essay. It helps you look at the piece with fresh eyes and perform the required edits, thereby improving the quality of your paper.
Alternatively, you can ask your friend, parent, or tutor to help you proofread your essay. Better still, you can request editing and proofreading services from reliable academic help services. Not only will they help you beat the deadline, but they'll ensure you've submitted a perfect narration. After all, legit sites hire experienced personnel only.
While reading back your narrative, confirm you've illustrated the theme. Your sentences and paragraphs should relate to each other and point the readers towards the thesis statement. Be sure to check for repetition of ideas. Next, delete sentences and paragraphs that add no value to your narrative essay.
Also, check for complicated and hard-to-follow parts and paraphrase them. Make sure to use shorter sentences and paragraphs. It's a tried and tested technique that can help improve your readability score. That helps to keep your readers glued to your piece from the introduction up to the conclusion.
Compelling narrations often feature dialogues. Ensure you use quotation marks appropriately. Apart from having the speaker's words inside quotation marks, have each speaker's words in a separate paragraph.
In addition, check the structure of your narrative essay—every paragraph and sentence should be in the right place. In other words, pursue a chronological flow of your ideas. Then look out for punctuation and spelling errors and edit appropriately. You may want to use an online editing tool for accuracy and speedy editing. Here are six of the best editing tools for college and high school students:
Tips for Writing a Good Narrative Essay
Understanding the step-by-step procedure helps you to achieve the recommended essay outline. However, it takes more than a perfect layout for you to score good grades. Here are more tips to help you write a better narrative story:
Use the first-person viewpoint: It's easy to honor the first-person narrative rule. After all, the author is almost always the protagonist in a personal narrative story. Since you'll be writing about a personal experience, it can be pretty tricky to use the second person.
Clarity: Studies have shown that the standard attention span for readers is eight seconds. In other words, most people scan through written content. Make sure to avoid syntax and complex sentences in order to have easy-to-understand sentences. Clarity encourages a reader to keep reading
Use descriptive language in moderation: Descriptive language is one of the pillars of narrative essays. However, moderation is key. So, avoid describing each and every movement made by either the protagonist or the antagonist.
Referencing: According to the MLA guidelines, references appear alongside your text—Teenage mental disorders like depression have been linked to heavy social (Asmelash, 2019). However, the rule isn't applicable in narrative essays.
Instead, you should weave the source into your essay as naturally as possible—According to Asmelash (2019), some mental disorders like depression can result from excessive social media use. Nonetheless, if you wish to cite your sources, you can have a 'Works Consulted' list at the end of the essay.
Address the five senses: Plain text is a no for narrative stories. A reader should feel, see, hear, smell and taste the events. So, choose your words carefully.
Types of Narrative Essays
There are two main types of narrative stories—descriptive and autobiographical.
Autobiographical essays are real stories about the writer. They are non-fictional academic pieces that demand accuracy and creativity at the same time. The theme of an autobiographical paper can be to educate or entertain.
Unlike in descriptive writing, you can't choose a topic when writing an autobiographical essay. You're confined to writing about your real-life story. Often, this assignment assumes the first-person narration. So, the pronoun "I" appears through ought the essay.
Descriptive essays are common assignments in high schools. Just like the word suggests, the paper tests your ability to describe something vividly. It could be a memory, place, event, experience, person, object, et cetera.
In descriptive writing, you don't tell but show a story. Your main goal is to evoke your readers' senses. At the same time, you stick to the main idea and avoid exaggerations. So, the choice of words and the depth of the details really matter.
Differences between Narrative Stories and Descriptive Essays
It's common for students to confuse narrative and descriptive essays. To avoid falling into the same trap, here's are the differences:
- Given that an author narrates a real personal experience when writing a narrative, events often follow each other chronologically. In descriptive writing, however, the element of time isn't essential.
- Unlike in descriptive essays, you'll need to have a plot, characters, and setting when writing a narrative essay. In addition, you can include dialogue in narrative essays, which isn't necessary for descriptive writing.
- Narrative essays tell a story which is often a personal experience. On the other hand, descriptive papers are detailed descriptions of places, places, or something.
- A narrative essay describes a sequence of events. As a result, the piece features plenty of action, which lacks in descriptive papers.
- The first-person viewpoint helps to narrate the story in narrative essays. When writing descriptive papers, you can use first or third-person narration.
- The main tools in descriptive pieces are nouns and weak verbs. However, you'll need to use strong verbs to write a winning narrative essay.
Differences between a Short Story and a Narrative Essay
Narrative essays are simply defined as narrations or stories. So, what's a short story, then? Is there a difference between a narrative essay and a short story?
- Generally, the primary purpose of a short story is to entertain. The goal of a narrative essay is to teach a specific lesson.
- A narrative essay often follows a pre-defined outline—the introduction, main body paragraphs, and the conclusion. Contrastingly, a short story doesn't have those three parts.
- Narration is often based on facts (real-life stories); a short story on the other hand, can be fictitious.
- The events in a narrative essay occur in chronological order. Conversely, there are no restrictions in the plot of a short story. Sudden twists and turns of events can happen.
- Given that a short story need not be accurate, you can tweak the characters, places, and events to fit the theme of your story. A narrative essay, however, captures everything as it was.
- Unlike a short story, a compelling thesis statement or the main idea is a must-have in well-written narrations.
- Good narrative essays are often written in the first person. When writing a short story, you can use second or first-person narration.
Narrative Essay Topic Ideas for Elementary Students
- A great day with a friend
- A cozy spot at home
- A sad day
- Your favorite movie character
- Your proudest moment in life
- A great treehouse
- Foods you like
- A memorable day at the zoo
- The games you play with your friends
- A place you'd like to visit
Narrative Essay Topic Ideas for High School Students
- A narration about how you helped someone achieve a challenging goal
- The toughest exam you had in high school
- A narrative about how you got lost and found your way home
- How you lost a valuable friend
- What you love most about yourself
- What people don't know about you
- The most embarrassing moment of your life
- Your best friend
- Your best childhood memory
- The most memorable seminar (one that left a lasting mark in your life)
Narrative Essay Topic Ideas for College Students
- A dangerous experience
- Your first experience at the beach
- Your first day in college
- Starting a new job
- A dangerous experience
- Your most memorable birthday party
- How you overcame fear
- Your favorite subject in high school
- Your favorite pop-star
- Your favorite teacher in high school
Narrative Essay Topic Ideas for University Students
- Life as a university student
- My all-time regret
- Your most memorable day in college
- Your survival strategies in university
- How I handled a stressful situation
- My first heartbreak
- How I stay motivated to complete my assignments
- Effects of technology on my life
- Your most crucial principle
- Your favorite author
Example of a Narrative Essay
Recall: the length of a narrative essay is determined by the instructions. So, ensure you have your draft first to write the essential parts of your story. However, if you're writing a five-paragraph narrative, below is the recommended outline:
- The introduction that features a hook and thesis statement
- Three-body paragraphs
- The conclusion
A Lifelong Lesson from My Proficiency Test
I knew well that sitting for a proficiency test was an important event in my life. It would determine whether I would or would not receive my high school diploma. I had to give it my best. Come March of my eighth grade, and I was fully prepared. I had revised all I could. Since I had performed well in my other exams, I was confident I would pass, but that was not to be.
When I picked my proficiency test results, I couldn't believe it. I had failed. But how could I fail writing? I could not understand how I passed the other challenging tests and score poorly in writing. I went through the result slip once more. Yes, I had seen it right. Math, citizenship, and reading parts were okay. But my downfall was in writing. To make it worse, I missed it by half a point. Then, all my friends, including those who did not do well as I did, had passed that part.
I was still in denial. How could I fail, yet writing was one of my favorite subjects? Wasn't I among the best students in writing. During the exam, I had been super careful with the instructions. I did write the words correctly. I even confirmed what I had written before handing in the paper. But here I was-screwed by a simple subject that I had always passed.
I decided to let it pass. We would be sitting for another test, and I was sure I would get better grades. I put in some more effort. I revised harder. Then came October, we sat for our exam, and I failed again. The same story—missed it by half a mark. I was speechless. I tried to understand what I was doing wrong. I could not find it. I even asked my teacher, and she had no answer too.
"Could it be the graders are rushing up the process?" "Or maybe they don't know what good writing really is." I thought. I considered myself a failure. I was devastated and couldn't help, so I cried desperately. We still had another test, but I decided I would not struggle to pass writing again. I just did my revision, sat for the paper, and waited for the results. This time, I passed all the parts. I was surprised but happy. However, my love for writing dwindled. I stopped being as passionate as I had been.
The experience taught me that people interpreted things differently. I had always been among the best writers in elementary and middle school. My teachers loved my writing style, and even a poem I had written was put on T.V., But the people who graded ninth-grade proficiency test had a different opinion about how I wrote. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out what had happened in the previous two tests.
From the above example, it's evident that writing a good narrative essay is easy. It's as simple as telling your friend a story, but you've to add life to the narration by using vibrant words and images. Also, you've to adhere to the recommended narrative essay outline. Otherwise, you might write a short story instead of a narrative essay.
The last step is to ensure you edit and proofread your narration. Submitting an error-free paper is your only ticket to getting good grades.