What is A Narrative Essay?

A narrative essay tells a story, usually concerning an event or issue in your life.

The story must have a purpose:

  • such as describing how the event changed your life, altered your outlook or taught you a lesson.

In writing your essay, using vivid, detailed language and emphasizing conflict will draw readers into your narrative.

Tips for Writing Your Narrative Essay:

1. Pick a Strong Topic

You should choose a compelling topic to grab readers' attention.

  • Think of a time in your life when you had to overcome a challenge
  • For instance:
    • learning how to deal with one of your fears
    • reconciling with someone with whom you were fighting
    • if you had a fear of public speaking, you could write about how you overcame the phobia

Centering your paper on a topic where there is conflict and growth will make your readers want to finish your paper and see how your problems were resolved.

Alternatively, you can amuse and intrigue your readers by writing about an exciting adventure or a funny event that happened to you.

2. Write Chronologically

Once you have chosen a topic, you can begin to organize your essay.

Since you are telling a story about an event or series of events in your life, the easiest way to structure your essay is chronologically. This both provides a simple way to organize your thoughts and makes your essay easier for your readers to follow.

  • For example, say you and your mother had a big fight, and afterward you had a conversation where you resolved your issues with each other.
    • You might begin your essay by describing your relationship with your mother, and the events that led up to the fight.
    • You would then recount the actual fight from beginning to end.
    • Finally, you would finish your essay by describing the conversation the two of you had, and what you learned from the experience.

3. Use Vivid Language

You should tell your story with detailed, concrete language.

  • Describe the environment in which your story takes place, including any sights, sounds and smells that you remember.
  • Avoid general statements; every sentence in your story should describe something you specifically thought, felt or experienced.
  • You should also avoid weak verbs and modifiers in your essay, as well as the passive voice.
  • Words that skirt around the point you are trying to make will make your essay less exciting to read.

For example:

Compare the following sentences: "Sometimes I had a feeling that Joan might not like me." "Sometimes I felt Joan hated me." The second sentence is stronger than the first because it makes its point directly.


When in doubt, if you can use fewer words to say something, do so.

4. Provide Conflict and Resolution

The bulk of your essay should concentrate on the conflict of your story -- the problem you are trying to resolve.

  • The last few paragraphs should provide resolution for the conflict.
    • The resolution allows your readers to see how you have changed as a result of the story's events.
  • For example, if you're writing about dealing with a school bully, you might begin your story by describing your initial nervousness at coming to a new school.
    • You would then introduce the bully and describe the bullying, including your reaction to it.
    • The majority of your paper should center on how you tried to deal with the bully.
    • The climax of the story could focus on a specific event that changed your relationship with the bully.
    • The conclusion should state what you learned from dealing with the bully.
    • Maybe you learned their outward aggression wasn't intended to be cruel, and the two of you became friends, or maybe you learned how to stand up for yourself against them.

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