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        Narrative Essay | Step-by-Step Guide with Examples

        • calenderMay 19, 2023
        • calender 5 min read

        The narrative essay is a unique and creative form of academic writing. It tests your ability to narrate personal anecdotes in a structured, meaningful, and engaging manner. This type of writing vastly differs from other academic writing types, which rely more on facts and statistics. 

        In this article, we’re going to understand what is a narrative essay, how to write one, and its various types with the help of plenty of examples. We have also provided a narrative essay outline to help you craft a foolproof essay. But before we get into all of that, let’s start with something simple: what’s a narrative essay in the first place?

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        What is a narrative essay?

        A narrative essay is a highly creative form of academic writing which involves recounting personal anecdotes in an organized and climactic format. Although not as frequently used as expository essays or argumentative essays, this type of essay is a common requirement in high schools and creative writing courses in colleges. A personal statement is also a common requirement for many college admissions. 

        A narrative essay uses literary devices such as similes, metaphors, and alliteration that add depth and character to your essay. The objective is to express yourself in a creative and compelling way, and not just convey information.

        Now that you understand the narrative essay definition, it’s time to look at some common topics you may have to write on.

        Topics for a narrative essay

        Narrative essay topics can range from a personal narrative and specific essay topics to loose open-ended prompts. Let’s better understand this with the help of a few good narrative essay topics.

        Here are a few topics. 

        1. Write about your last day of school.

        2. Write about your favorite book and your interpretation of its message.

        3. An awkward encounter that led to a long-lasting friendship.

        4. Your favorite vacation.

        5. The moment you realized, you’re finally an adult.

        Here are a few narrative essay examples of open-ended prompts.

        1. Describe a life changing event and how it impacted you.

        2. What is your favorite childhood memory? 

        3. A personal accomplishment that you are proud of and how it has shaped you as a person.

        4. The time when you overcame a fear or obstacle and how it helped you grow as a person.

        5. A moment of personal growth and reflection that helped you realize something important about yourself.

        Here are a few personal narrative essay topics.

        1. The moment you realized what you wanted to do with your life.

        2. A time when you felt like an outsider and how you dealt with it.

        3. A moment when you had to make a difficult moral decision.

        4. An experience that changed your perspective on a particular issue.

        5. A personal passion or interest and how it has impacted your life.

        Narrative essay structure

        Although less formulaic than an expository or argumentative essay, your narrative essay format still needs to be well-structured and cohesive for it to be impactful. Like all essay types, the narrative format essay consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. However, this structure is less rigid than most essay types and mainly serves as a guideline. 

        Let’s look at the main components of the structure of a narrative essay.

        1. Introduction

        In order to write a well-structured narrative essay, you need to know how to start it. The introduction of a narrative essay plays a crucial role in capturing the reader’s attention and setting the stage for the story that follows. 

        A good introduction should include three key elements. First, an attractive, eye-catching opening statement that intrigues the reader and creates suspense. Second, background information that provides context for the story. Finally, a central idea or narrative that serves as a foundation of the story. 

        Here are examples of a narrative essay introduction:

        1. Hook
        2. Background information
        3. Central idea

        As I stepped off the plane and took my first breath of the humid air, I knew my life was about to change forever. The next few weeks would be filled with new experiences, new people, and a new perspective that would stay with me for a long time. My study trip to Costa Rica was an unforgettable experience that had a significant impact on me.

        2. Body paragraph

        You can showcase most of your creative writing skills in the body paragraphs of your narrative essay. Use a topic sentence to introduce each experience, provide detailed elaboration, and conclude with a key takeaway or moral.

        The body paragraphs of a narrative essay are also used to showcase numerous artistic elements. These elements may include the introduction of fresh characters, vivid descriptions of settings, subtle hints toward the conclusion, and the build-up of a pivotal event or a climactic situation. You can use these elements to transform a boring piece of writing into an impactful and captivating essay. 

        Here’s an example of a vivid and highly descriptive body paragraph:

        1. Topic sentence with descriptions of setting
        2. Sensory descriptors elaborating the topic sentences
        3. Key takeaway

        The moment I set foot on Central American soil, I was welcomed by the tropical rainforest, the vibrant colors of the flowers, and the sounds of exotic birds. The air was filled with the sweet scent of fresh fruits, and I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. This trip was not only a cultural and educational experience, but it was also an adventure of a lifetime.

        3. Conclusion

        When writing the conclusion of a narrative essay, it’s important to include three essential elements: an updated version of your thesis statement, reflections on all your experiences, and your final thoughts and key takeaways. 

        You can remind your readers of the central idea you explored throughout your essay, by revisiting your thesis statement. Reflecting on your experiences allows you to explore the personal impact of your narrative. Whereas, your final thoughts help in providing a cohesive and impactful summary of your message.

        Here’s an example of a strong conclusion:

        1. Updated thesis statement
        2. Reflections on experiences
        3. Final thought

        My study trip to Costa Rica was certainly a transformative experience. This trip taught me how to approach the world with an open mind and strive in the face of difficulties. It also inspired me to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Experiencing the rich culture of Costa Rica is something I would highly recommend to all students. It’s an opportunity to break free from our comfort zones, challenge our perspectives, and immerse ourselves in a world of stunning natural beauty. 

        Now that we’ve looked at how to structure a narrative essay, let’s move on to writing a narrative essay.

        How to write a narrative essay

        Writing narrative essays is not just about telling a captivating story, but also about communicating a message to the reader. Although less formal than other types of essays, it still requires a coherent sequence of events, a clear central idea, a moral or message, and a structured outline.

        Let’s understand how to write a narrative essay step by step. 

        1. Choose an appropriate topic.

        While essay topics are often predetermined, certain classes may give you the freedom to select your own topic. When choosing a topic for your narrative essay, it is crucial to consider the message that you want to convey. 

        Simply recounting a one-dimensional, uneventful story can bore the reader. It is necessary to keep the reader in mind and choose an engaging story topic. This topic should encompass surprising plot twists, a recurring theme, and a significant takeaway or moral.

        Here are a few examples of narrative essay topics for college:

        Describe a moment in your life that challenged your beliefs or values and forced you to reconsider your perspective.

        Describe a time in your life when you faced a difficult decision that required you to choose between two equally compelling options.

        2. Form a central idea.

        Your narrative essay should revolve around a central idea or theme, which is similar to a thesis statement. This idea should be unique and have a moral or message that sets the tone for your entire essay. Keep in mind that the central idea is crucial to your essay, so choose one carefully and make sure it’s unique and impactful.

        Here are a few examples of central ideas:

        Growing up as a first-generation immigrant, I faced several setbacks. But these setbacks motivated me to overcome language barriers and also taught me the value of hard work, and determination.

        My journey of learning a new language in a foreign country challenged me in ways I never imagined. However, it also taught me the importance of persistence, adaptability, and embracing discomfort to achieve personal growth and success.

        3. Construct an essay outline. 

        While a narrative essay allows for a great deal of creative expression, it still sticks to a loose structure that includes a clear beginning, middle, and end. A well-organized narrative allows readers to follow and understand your story. Before writing your essay it’s crucial to answer key questions in your narrative essay outline. 

        Here are a few questions you need to answer before starting your essay:

        • What central idea or message do I want to convey through my essay?
        • Which personal experiences and anecdotes will best support my central idea?
        • In what ways can I incorporate dialogues or other creative expressions to enhance my essay?
        • How can I effectively structure my essay to ensure it flows cohesively and logically?
        • What techniques can I use to build up to a climactic end that leaves a lasting impression on the reader?
        • What key takeaway do I want my audience to have after reading my essay?

        4. Begin writing your essay.

        The narrative essay differs from other forms of essay writing and typically follows a chronological order. Hence, it’s advisable to start by fleshing out your introduction and providing sufficient background information to give relevance to your central idea.

        Written in the first-person point of view, the narrative essay shares several similarities with a short story. These include a clear plot structure with a beginning, middle, and end, vivid and detailed settings, a climactic point or peak, dialogues, and a key takeaway or moral. These elements can be incorporated to add depth and dimension to your essay.

        Narrative essay outline

        An outline for a narrative essay differs significantly from that of an evidence-based essay. The narrative essay outline provides structure and coherence to your essay, helping you map out a clear and logical flow of your ideas. This can guide your writing and help ensure that your story is well-organized, engaging, and effectively conveys your central message.

        Here’s an example of a personal narrative essay outline that focuses on the challenges of low self-esteem and the ways to overcome them.

        Journey to Self-Acceptance

        I. Introduction

        A. Hook: Start with an anecdote or a shocking statistic that highlights the rampantness of low self-esteem.

        B. Background information: Explain what low self-esteem is, how it affects people, and how it can manifest in different ways.

        C. Thesis statement: Describe your challenges with low self-esteem and how you overcame them.

        II. Tackling Challenges

        A. Describe the situation that challenged your self-esteem, such as a particular event or a persistent feeling.

        B. Explain how it affected your life, such as your relationships, academic and professional performance, or your mental health.

        C. Share your thoughts and feelings about the situation, and how they contributed to your low self-esteem.

        III. Seeking Help

        A. Describe how you recognized that you needed help, and what motivated you to seek it.

        B. Discuss the steps you took, such as talking to a friend or therapist.

        C. Explain the challenges you faced, such as stigma, fear of judgment, or financial barriers.

        IV. Building Self-Esteem

        A. Describe the strategies you used to build your self-esteem, such as positive self-talk, affirmations, or therapy.

        B. Share your progress, and how you measured it, such as tracking your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

        C. Explain how these strategies helped you, and how they impacted your life, such as improved relationships, academic or professional success, or mental health.

        V. Maintaining Self-Esteem

        A. Describe how you maintain your self-esteem on a daily basis, and what routines or habits you have developed.

        B. Share your challenges and setbacks, and how you cope with them.

        C. Explain the importance of self-care in maintaining self-esteem, and what self-care practices you use.

        VI. Conclusion

        A. Summarize the key points of your essay, and what you have learned from them.

        B. Restate your thesis, and how you successfully overcame the challenge of low self-esteem.

        C. Discuss how the experience has impacted your life, and what advice you would give to someone who is struggling with low self-esteem.

        Narrative essay examples

        To guide you in writing a foolproof narrative essay, we’ve constructed an example of a narrative essay. The following is a personal narrative essay example that explores the challenges faced by a student who was bullied in school. This personal narrative essay example will guide you on how you write a personal narrative essay.

        Beyond the Shadows

        Starting high school as a timid and shy kid was a daunting experience for me. I craved new opportunities and friendships but was overcome by the fear of being judged. Unfortunately, my fears soon became a reality as I found myself being relentlessly bullied.

        It began with verbal abuse but soon escalated to physical aggression. Consulting my teachers was of no help since they did not understand the gravity of the situation. The only option was to ignore the bullies and concentrate on my classes, but the constant harassment made it difficult.

        The bullying soon took its toll on my mental health, and I spiraled into a pit of anxiety and depression. I lost faith in myself and I believed I was undeserving of happiness. I retreated from my loved ones and spent my days battling my inner demons.

        Despite the pain and anguish, I still decided to hold onto hope. I realized that standing up for myself and others was the only way to combat the bullying. I began speaking out against the harassment and also spoke up for those who were scared to raise their voice.

        In an attempt to break out of my shell, I made a conscious effort to socialize with my fellow students and offered support to those going through a tough time. As a result, I encountered several friends who had shared experiences with mine. We bonded over our shared struggles and formed a tight-knit community of support and solidarity. Together, we worked to raise awareness of the devastating impact of bullying.

        With time and effort, I began to heal from the trauma of my experiences. I learned to embrace my unique qualities and appreciate myself for who I am. The challenges I faced made me stronger and more resilient. As a result, I became more outgoing and confident, which allowed me to forge genuine friendships with my peers.

        The bullying I experienced during high school transformed me in ways I could never have imagined. It instilled in me the value of empathy and courage and compelled me to use my voice to create positive change in the world.

        Once you’re done writing your narrative essay, the process of editing and proofreading still remains. You can either choose to do this on your own or consider working with an essay editing service. 

        Keep reading with more resources from your loyal editors and proofreaders:

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        Nandita Linkedin

        Nandita is a budding writer with a background in Psychology. She adores mysterious movies with unusual plots, cozy coffee houses, and any conversation involving Agatha Christie!

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