Guide to Writing Narrative Essays

More so than other types of essay, narrative writing gives the writer the opportunity to think or reflect on themselves and write something accordingly. Every person has some experiences buried somewhere in their memories, and these are often worth sharing with others. However, these memories are frequently mingled together and, as a result, a considerable amount of the time it takes to write a narrative essay is often devoted to the early stage i.e. before writing actually begins.  

In writing a narrative-style essay, the writer is recounting some type of story. A narrative essay is usually written from a definite viewpoint, usually that of the writer, so the essay contains feeling and frequently an amount of sensory detail in order to involve readers in the sequence and elements of the writer’s story. The writer should use precise and vivid verbs. The writer is required to make a point in a narrative essay, a point that is normally made clear early on i.e. in the first sentence of their essay. However, this point is sometimes found at the end of the introductory paragraph i.e. it can be the last sentence of this paragraph.

Because narratives are based on the writer’s own experiences, this type of writing is often story-like in form. In using the story-telling technique, the writer needs to employ the usual conventions that are used in storytelling i.e. their writing should have characters, a plot, a setting, a high point, and an end. These essays are normally full of carefully-chosen detail to support, explain or enhance the writer’s story. Every detail should in some way relate to the writer’s main idea or point i.e. to the crux of their story.

To sum-up, a narrative essay should be:

  • Relayed from a very particular viewpoint
  • Based on a main point, which the writer supports over the course of writing their essay
  • Full of accurate detail
  • Written in a precise manner with vivid and descriptive verbs as well as suitable modifiers
  • Based on sequence and conflict just as every story is  
  • Filled to varying degrees with dialogue if desired.

A narrative’s purpose is to describe or report on some particular thing. When students are asked to write narrative reports, many of them believe these are some type of college essay or paper. Although the information contained in these types of reports is fairly basic compared to other types of writing, a narrative report does not require the “higher” level of thinking that is expected in most essays. Therefore, in most cases, a narrative report does not usually fetch a very high grade, at least not in the case of most college and university courses. For instance, book reports are an example of a basic type of narrative report whereby these outline a book’s content e.g. its characters, the actions of the characters, and possibly a plot and various scenes. Essentially, these reports describe the happenings in a book while still omitting a great deal.

Usually what is omitted from such a report is what an article or book is about i.e. any assumptions made by the author, any concepts that underlie the text, any arguments put forward by the author, or any viewpoint expressed in the article or book. Narrative reports do not include any discussion that gives context to the events or happenings in an article or book. What is the text about? Love? The fast pace of modern life? Society in general? Poverty? Or perhaps it is about power and wealth? Essentially, a narrative report does not consider any viewpoint the author expresses in their text or their purpose.  

Once they have chosen a topic for their narrative, there are three rules or principles the writer needs to keep to the forefront of their mind:   

  1. The readers should be involved in the narrative or story. Recreating an event for readers is a lot more interesting for them than just telling them about something.  
  2. Identify a general point, which you can support in your story. This method is the only way a writer’s own experience will have meaning for the reader. This general point need not involve the whole of the human race. It may concern only the writer or any women, men, or children of various ages and/or backgrounds.
  3. Undoubtedly, the story is the main element of any narrative. However, the writer needs to choose every detail carefully in order to explain, support or embellish their story.

Conventions or Rules of Narrative Essay Writing

The following are a few conventions to bear in mind when writing a narrative essay:

  • It is usual to write narratives from the first person viewpoint, e.g., “I.” It is, however, also permissible to use the third person perspective, e.g., “she,” “he,” or “it.”  
  • A narrative is reliant on solid, sensory detail to get the point of the story across. Details of this type are used to create a strong and unified effect, a forceful overall impression.
  • Since they are stories, narratives need to contain the conventions of a story, e.g., plot, characters, setting, high point, and an end.