What is a Narrative Essay?
A narrative essay tells a story. Personal pronouns and experience from the writer’s life are key aspects of this essay form. The purpose of this type of essay is to connect with the audience with the help of the narrative – a story with a point. Unlike other essays which may focus on research or argument, the narrative essay relies on carefully crafted details. Narrative essays take the format of a memoir – they should have a clear beginning, middle, and an end.
Personal Narrative Essay: from Outline to a Refined Piece
Like all good narratives, whether a novel, short story, or essay, this form should contain characters, a climax, and a resolution. The major characters are introduced in the introduction paragraph, the climax shared in the body paragraphs, and the resolution (or conclusion) offers a unique insight – a meditative reflection upon a lesson learned through the experience of one’s own life lens.
While many other essays follow the typical five paragraph format, the narrative essay enjoys much more freedom.
An A-level narrative essay requires a student to outline, draft, and revise the narrative to ensure that it not only flows; but fully develops the main idea with specific details. The narrative essay is more personal than other essay forms, and some students struggle with this aspect. Our professional writers love narrative essays and have put together this guide to help you craft a unique assignment.
Here are the main parts of the narrative essay outline:
In narrative essays, the introduction paragraph is typically shorter than most and ultimately works to set the stage for the personal story about to unfold. While the story itself will be personal, it should link to larger ideas. For example, the loss of one’s first goldfish could trigger a reflection on life, or the act of losing one’s car keys could morph into an essay on all different kinds of loss.
Within this paragraph, the writer should introduce him or herself and provide any key background the reader requires to fully immerse themselves within the narrative essay. While narrative essay outline may have a thesis, it may not look like a typical roadmap. Just like with any good novel or short story, the opening paragraph or chapter doesn’t always reveal what is coming next; this structure compels the reader to continue reading in order to fully enjoy the conclusion of the narrative.
Since narrative essays are more creative than conventional academic ones, the minimum three paragraph rule may not apply. While some narrative essays will be five paragraphs, others may be two or eight or more. It really depends on how the narrative within the essay needs to progress in order to fully communicate the writer’s goal. Just as the persuasive essay’s goal is to persuade and the informative essay is to inform, the narrative essay’s goal is to entertain—or perhaps to contemplate. The body paragraphs listed in the narrative essay outline should include all the ideas you are about to unravel to the reader.
While a narrative essay lacks heavy research components, it will follow a typical body paragraph format:
- Topic sentence
- Background sentence(s)
- Detail sentences
While other essays frown upon relying on personal anecdotes, narrative essays thrive on them. Additionally, this essay format can include dialogue as well. Recounting key conversations can strengthen the narrative text. However, including dialogue means that the writer should pay attention to dialogue rules.
Know how to use both single and double quotation marks when writing about a conversation between two or more people.
Usually, the conclusion paragraph exists to review the major points within the body paragraphs. However, in a narrative essay, the conclusion is sometimes the most important paragraph; it serves to bring the narrative, the story to an end.
This paragraph’s purpose is to share how the conflict was resolved or how a resolution was reached. It doesn’t so much as review the ideas of the body paragraphs as it reveals what the writer’s been working towards since the opening sentence. Many narrative essays offer a “reveal” in this section; there may be a surprise or an unexpected twist. Such literary tactics are appropriate in a narrative essay. Conclusion tops up the narrative itself – it should be planned accordingly within the outline.
Not sure how to switch from an academic to a more personal form of an essay? No problem! Here are the tips to help you navigate the narrative essay:
Tip #1. Figure out how your narrative essay would look like with a proper outline
This is the most important one to follow. Basically, this is what this whole article is about. An utmost outline will be your roadmap.
Here is a narrative essay outline example we made for you:
- Introduction: A lifelong journey of mine trying to gain confidence.
- Body Paragraph 1: Exploring how many people lack confidence.
- Body Paragraph 2: Discussing the moment I realized I lacked confidence.
- Body Paragraph 3: Sharing the experience of traveling to a new country and finding the confidence I needed to enjoy the new culture on my own.
- Conclusion: What I learned about building confidence and the importance of taking the steps to do so.
Tip #2. Use Transitions
Transition words or sentences are perhaps more important in a narrative essay – these words help to establish the order of events. Useful transitions in this essay format can include the following:
- Most importantly
Other Tips from our Expert Writers
- Choose a non-embarrassing topic
Your teacher, and possibly your classmates will be reading this essay so choose a topic that you’re comfortable sharing with others.
- Connect beyond the experience
The point of a narrative essay is to connect an experience in your life to a larger idea – in recalling memory lane, remember to link it to something bigger than yourself.
- Start early
Don’t wait until the last minute. While you likely won’t need to hit the library to conduct research, you will be writing about yourself, and sometimes that can be harder.
- Write a draft
Know that first drafts are always riddled with mistakes. Just get your ideas down on paper and then worry about fixing all the grammatical stuff.
- Schedule an appointment with your teacher
All teachers have “office hours”—take your professor up in their office hours and get their feedback to ensure you’re on the right track. And don’t wait until the last minute!
Take any constructive criticism from classmates, friends, or professional editing services and make your draft better.
- Read it backwards
Begin with the last sentence and read the narrative essay until you end with the first sentence. While this won’t help with content issues, it does help the brain spot issues with grammar.
- Check the formatting
Before handing in any final copy, always check the formatting. Make sure that the headings, titles, font, spacing, and margins all conform with the professor’s preferences.
- Review the rubric
Once last time, check your final draft against the rubric to ensure that you’ve met all the requirements provided by the teacher.
Remember: not all stories are appropriate for all audiences, so it’s important to select a narrative topic appropriate for your teacher. Use literary devices as appropriate—especially ones that create stronger images such as metaphors, similes, imagery, and personification among others.
Most importantly, review your narrative essay to ensure that it tells a story; sharing an important story is the most defining characteristic of this essay form. Ultimately, your narrative essay should strive to meet Chuck Klosterman’s definition:
“The essays are different because ultimately it’s things I’m interested in, and I’m really just writing about myself and using those subjects as a prism.”