How to Craft an A-Worthy Narrative Essay: Expert Opinion

July 19, 2023

On the surface, narrative essays may seem easier to work on than analytical or persuasive ones. You don’t need to spend hours looking for the right sources or coming up with compelling arguments, after all.

But in reality, many students struggle with narrative essays the most as they require solid storytelling skills and a fair share of creativity.

If you’re one of such students, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve asked professional writers at WriteMy to share their secrets to writing excellent narrative essays. Keep reading to find out what they had to say.

But First: What’s a Narrative Essay?

Unlike other types of academic writing, a narrative essay focuses on telling a story, usually from the writer’s own experience. Other typical differences also include:

  • Writing in the first person, as opposed to the third-person narrative;
  • Employing storytelling techniques;
  • Using more descriptive and creative language.

For example, when you’re asked to write about a personal experience that shaped your academic aspirations, that’s a prompt for a narrative essay. Personal statements, as well as college application and scholarship essays, are also forms of narrative essay writing.

These works are subjective by nature and don’t have a rigid introduction-main body-conclusion structure. Paragraphs also don’t have to follow a specific conventional structure.

That said, for the story to be told well, you need to be mindful of where it starts and ends and what the narrative itself is. Your work doesn’t have to be written in a pompous way with tons of adjectives and metaphors to be compelling. It has to be well-paced and tell exactly what you want to get across with it.

You may find it freeing to not have to abide by the standard rules of academic writing, like using objective, fact-based language. However, you need to employ storytelling to write a compelling text, and that’s why students often struggle with it: it’s a completely different kind of writing.

What’s the Purpose of a Narrative Essay?

Narrative essays are meant to tell a story. However, some prompts may seem too trivial for you, making you wonder why your instructor wants you to write about them at all.

Well, oftentimes, the point isn’t so much how outstanding the events themselves are but rather the way you tell them. Great storytelling can turn a mundane course of events into an engaging story, and the assignment’s purpose may be to see how well you employ storytelling in your writing.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it right on the first try. Narrative essay writing, like any other kind of academic writing, is a skill. You need to practice to develop it.

While the purpose of such an assignment is fairly straightforward, the purpose of your particular work is up to you to define.

So, avoid a common mistake and ask yourself: “What’s the point of my story?” What lesson(s) could the reader draw from it? What should it make them wonder about? What do you want to get across to them? What aftertaste should it leave them with?

4 Types of Narrative Essays You May Encounter

Before we dive into how to craft good narrative essays, let’s break down the four types of narrative writing you can opt for in your work:

  • Linear. In such a story, events are described in a linear, i.e., chronological, manner. It’s the default choice for most students since it’s the easiest type of narrative to craft.
  • Non-linear. In this case, you present the events of the story out of order, using flashbacks and flashforwards to reveal valuable information when it’s the most appropriate. Non-linear stories are harder to craft, but they are perfect for making connections between several events or building suspense.
  • Quest. In this type of writing, the story revolves around the protagonist – most likely, you – working towards a goal. The story itself is that of a quest towards achieving this goal (yes, just like in the Lord of the Rings). You can use the hero’s journey as the outline in this case.
  • Viewpoint. This type of narrative revolves around the protagonists’ subjective perception of the events unfolding. It focuses on emotions, feelings, moods, and private thoughts. It also allows for using the unreliable narrator technique.

10 Topic Ideas for Compelling Narrative Essays

In charge of choosing the topic for your assignment yourself? Then you know how challenging it can be to come up with one.

We have you covered. Here are ten good topics for narrative essays that professional writers would like to suggest to you:

  • Think back to a time when you overcame a challenge. What did you learn from that experience?
  • What have you learned from breaking away from societal expectations?
  • How did a childhood incident change your outlook on life?
  • What did you learn from a relationship coming to an end?
  • What travel or family life event shaped you as a person?
  • What ignited your passion for your current field of study?
  • How did your teacher(s) shape your life?
  • Who had a profound influence on you growing up, and in what way?
  • What is the meaning of travel to you?
  • How does social media impact your life?

5 Steps to Follow in Writing a Captivating Narrative Essay

Ready to get to writing a narrative essay? Great! Below you’ll find a five-step guide that will help you ace your assignment – and develop your writing skills in the process.

But before we dive into our step-by-step guide, let’s outline four crucial narrative essay writing tips that will help you avoid common mistakes – and write an excellent story:

  • Pick a narrower topic when in doubt. Describing a single event isn’t just easier – it makes for a more straightforward story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Pay attention to the details. Details make the story more vivid and, therefore, more engaging. So, think about all the five senses and describe what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted, or felt in the moment. But don’t overload the text with details: two to three of them are enough.
  • Stick to one point of view. Larger pieces of work can give you enough space to shift between different characters’ points of view, but essays are usually too short for it.
  • Pay extra attention to the introduction. Your first paragraph should not only set the scene. It should create intrigue that will make the reader want to find out what happened next.

1. Find the Right Topic

There are good topics for narrative essays (like the ten listed above), and then there are the right ones. The right topic is the one that piques your interest, makes a specific point, and revolves around a conflict.

Let’s stop at the conflict part. It doesn’t mean you’re supposed to write about a conflict with someone. The antagonist doesn’t have to be a person; it can be an obstacle you had to overcome, like gender bias. Or, it can be a place, social norm, condition, or even your own behavioral pattern or habit.

2. Put Together an Outline

It’s one of the key tips for writing narrative essays. The recipe for every story includes the following ingredients:

  • Plot: a short outline of the events unfolding in the work;
  • Characters: the protagonist and supporting characters with specific roles and motivations;
  • Setting: the story’s context, such as when it happens, where, and in what environment;
  • Climax: the part of the story where the suspense reaches its maximum.

Jot down these ingredients of your story first. Then, you’re ready to create an outline of your work. There are many ways to do it; professional writers advise writing a topic sentence for each paragraph to create an outline.

3. Write the First Draft

With the outline jotted down, it’s time to start writing. Don’t worry about the quality of your writing at this point: the important thing is to keep writing. You’ll polish off your draft later.

Tip: Use the introduction for setting up the scene and the conclusion – for the event’s impact on you.

Narrate in the First Person

Using the first-person POV is a must for works that describe an event from your life. While it may feel weird to write an assignment using ‘I’ instead of the third person and passive voice, it’s always encouraged in narrative essay writing. So, don’t hesitate to do it!

Employ Storytelling Techniques

To make the most out of this opportunity to tell a story:

  • Embrace conflict as the centerpiece of your story;
  • Build suspense until you provide the conflict’s resolution;
  • Pick a clear central message you want to get across;
  • Keep the scope of your story narrow and filled with detail.

4. Polish Off Your Draft

Letting your draft sit for a day or two is one of the best tips for writing narrative essays anyone can give you. This will allow you to return to it with a fresh pair of eyes; otherwise, you may miss typos or accidentally omit words.

Once you return to your work, proofread it and check the formatting. You can use tools like Grammarly to speed up this part. Then, reread your text and make sure that:

  • Your introduction is intriguing enough to draw the reader in;
  • Your central message is well-communicated and easy to grasp;
  • Your language, while descriptive and creative, is concise;
  • Your antagonist is easily identifiable;
  • You deleted every non-essential part of the text;
  • You strike a fine balance between describing the events and analyzing them.

5. Submit Your Final Draft!

Now that you’ve finished with your draft, it’s time to let it out into the world. Double-check your formatting, run a plagiarism check if required by your professor, and submit it according to the instructions.

If you want to be extra sure your paper is as good as it can ever be, you can let it sit for another day after editing and check it again afterward. This may help you identify more intricate problems with hooks for narrative essays or the pacing of the story.

FAQ: Students Often Ask…

Have an extra question that wasn’t addressed above? Check out WriteMy’s professional essay writers’ answers to the six common questions about this type of assignment!

What is a good example of a narrative essay?

You can find plenty of examples of narrative essays online or help if you suffering from question "who can write my essay for me online"or "write my thesis","write my book report". Here are three signs to help you identify the ones that are actually decent and that you can rely on:

  • You get invested in the story from the first lines. This means that the story’s hook is powerful enough.
  • You feel the tension rising as the story progresses. This means the writer is building suspense to the point of climax.
  • You’re left thoughtful after reading the last lines. This means the writer succeeded at getting across a specific point through the telling of the story.

What is the common structure for a narrative essay?

The common structure for personal narrative essays revolves around the typical storytelling beats:

  • The introduction sets up the context, the plot, and the characters. It doesn’t have to be long but should intrigue the reader.
  • The main body describes the events of the story, building up suspense until the climax, where the tension is at its highest.
  • The conclusion revolves around the resolution and tying up all loose ends. It can also serve as the summing-up point to get your central message across and describe the story’s impact or lesson.

What should each narrative essay paragraph begin with?

There is no specific requirement for the beginning of each paragraph in this paper.

That said, aim for each paragraph to begin with a topic sentence that sets up the rest of the paragraph. For example, if you’re describing the time you lost a writing competition, you can start the paragraph with, “The first time I tried to gain recognition for my work didn’t bear fruit.”

If the paragraph in question is the first one, remember to add a hook to it to draw the reader in.

What are the markings of a good narrative essay?

A good narrative essay isn’t just one that uses one of the compelling topic ideas for narrative essays above. It also:

  • Revolves around a story that is meaningful to you;
  • Has a clear beginning, conflict, climax, and resolution;
  • Uses a clear and concise yet descriptive language;
  • Paints a vivid picture through the use of detail;
  • Has an antagonist and revolves around a conflict;
  • Aims to deliver a specific central message to the reader through the story;
  • Has no typos or mistakes and is properly formatted.

How long should a narrative essay be?

The length of this paper is usually determined by the assignment. Depending on the academic level and the discipline, you may be limited to 650, 1,000, or even 5,000 words. So, check your professor’s requirements for guidance on how long your work should be.

If, for some reason, your assignment doesn’t specify the word count, you can use these average essay lengths to gage how long your text should be:

  • High school: 300-1,000 words;
  • College admission: 200-650 words;
  • Undergraduate: 1,500-5,000 words;
  • Graduate school admission: 500-1,000 words;
  • Graduate: 2,500-6,000 words.

What are the main characteristics of a narrative essay?

A narrative essay is:

  • Story-centric. You should tell a story in your work, usually about your personal experiences. You can also employ storytelling and creative writing techniques like symbolism.
  • Purpose-driven. Your story has to have a point or a message that you want your reader to grasp. Otherwise, it loses its meaning.
  • Written in the first person. While some works may be written in the third person, if you describe your personal experiences, stick to the first-person POV.

If you want to see these characteristics in action, we strongly recommend you check out samples of narrative essays before kicking off your writing.

In Conclusion

Writing a narrative essay can be challenging, especially if it’s your first time. However, with practice, you may come to appreciate this type of assignment: it allows you to let the creative juices flow and tell stories of your choosing. No research and source scouting and no dry academic writing conventions!

The best way to get better at writing such works is by investing your time into practicing this skill. But in case you don’t have it – or developing this skill isn’t a priority for you – you can always turn to professionals for help.

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