How to Write a Narrative Essay


A narrative essay is one of the most common types of academic writing assignments. Students in various educational facilities face this type of task on a regular basis, which is why knowing how to handle it is critical for their success.

The primary goal of narrative writing is to tell a compelling story. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, does it? You couldn’t be more mistaken. Even if it appears simple at first glance, telling an engaging story can be difficult. Our writers have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to write a narrative essay step by step to assist you in overcoming this challenge.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

A narrative essay is a type of academic writing in which the author attempts to tell a story. Your goal as an author is to create the right atmosphere and a lifelike experience for your readers.

Typically, this type of paper is written in the first person. You must keep readers engaged by placing them at the center of the plot. Narrative writing employs a plethora of vivid details, descriptive techniques, and so on to accomplish this and create the desired atmosphere.

The most difficult aspect of writing a narrative essay is that it is always limited in length. Thus, your task is to take a complex story and distill it down to its key points in order to fit it into a short essay while still providing enough detail to keep readers engaged.

Purpose of a Narrative Essay

The primary goal of this type of writing is to share stories. As a writer, your job is to tell readers about a real-life experience while also making it clear why you’re telling that story and why it matters.

What distinguishes it from other types of essays? All you do in a narrative essay is guide readers through the story; you don’t make arguments, criticize, or try to persuade them. You’re simply telling a story and allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. That is the most distinguishing feature of these papers.

Types of Narrative Essays

There are two types of essays that can be written in narrative form:

Descriptive Nerrative Essay

This is the most inventive version of the task. A descriptive narrative essay’s main goal is to use vivid details to describe an experience, situation, or memory. The main tenet of writing a descriptive narrative paper is “show, don’t tell.” The author’s goal is to elicit the different senses of the readers and paint a clear picture of an event.

A well-written descriptive narrative paper is typically simple. It simplifies a complicated story, allowing the reader to infer the rest. Great writers avoid exaggeration and stay focused on their goals. There are always some constraints to the amount of content you can provide to your readers; keep this in mind as you decide what to include in your work.


This type of assignment requires you to share a true story from your life. It should be noted that this type of assignment should concentrate on a single event. Unlike a descriptive essay, an autobiographical essay focuses on the story and its purpose rather than the details.

Narrative Essay Characteristics

Here are the basic characteristics that define this type of writing:

  • Nonfiction – written about actual events;
  •  Written from the author’s point of view (1st person);
  •  Contains elements of a story but is written in a basic structure;
  •  Provides information in chronological order;
  •  Uses a lot of details to describe an event, person, or scene;
  •  Attempts to inform readers rather than argue or teach.

10 Good Narrative Essay Topics and How to Pick One

There are a few things to consider when selecting a good narrative essay topic. First and foremost, you should carefully review the requirements. Teachers will usually specify exactly what you are expected to do.

Some of the basic characteristics a teacher may be looking for in your paper are:

  • A Conflict/Challenge: An inciting incident that establishes the tone and propels the story forward.
  • A Protagonist: A likable character who is confronted with a conflict or challenge against overwhelming odds.
  • Change or Growth: Overcoming the conflict or challenge causes the protagonist to change. This shift could have been precipitated by a realization. This realization may also be a result of the character’s growth throughout the story.
  •  To come up with a brilliant topic for a narrative essay, you must first brainstorm.. To get on the right track, try using the following techniques:
  •  Consider your previous experiences and memories, and try to find something truly exciting.
  •  Consider what bothers you and what stories you’d like to tell others.
  •  Go for a walk to recharge your batteries and generate new ideas.
  • Take advantage of the Internet – social media, online magazines, blogs, and other resources can help you learn about what stories your peers have shared, what they are interested in, and what they discuss. This can also help you generate some ideas.
  • Try freewriting – this is a great technique for getting your story flowing. To give it a shot, all you need is a pen and paper and to start writing down your ideas.

Follow these tips to generate some great ideas, then choose the one that appears to be the most compelling. The final piece of advice is to pick something that is both interesting to you and appealing enough to pique your audience’s interest.

Here are some narrative essay ideas to help you brainstorm:

  • Overcoming Fear
  • Facing a Challenge
  • A New Experience or Discovery
  • A Moment of Excitement
  • Learning a Tough Lesson
  • A Thrilling Moment of Adrenaline
  • The Moment You Stood Up for Yourself
  • A Relationship Experience
  • A Discovery That Changed Your Life
  • A Rebellious Act

These are some common examples that students investigate. Consider writing a story based on your own personal experiences. Usually, the most vivid memories are those that tell a good story.

Narrative Format and Structure

The format and structure of a narrative essay are standard. This type of paper, like other assignments, usually follows a 5 paragraph essay outline: one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion narrative paragraph. However, unlike other types of essays, the paragraphs in a narrative paper serve a specific purpose:

  •  Introduction – provides insight into the story, states the purpose of writing, and includes an engaging element to pique the reader’s interest.
  • Main body paragraph 1 – rising action;
  • Main body paragraph 2 – climax;
  • Main body paragraph 3 – falling action;
  • Conclusion – lessons learned from the story.

In the next section of this article, we will look at each element closer.

Narrative Essay Outline

Let’s take a look at how to begin a narrative essay. We recommend that you follow this specific sequence of actions when writing this type of academic task.

  1. Brainstorm ideas
  2. Pick the right topic
  3. Define your purpose of writing
  4. Plan your story – it should have a rising action, climax, and a falling action, and you should be able to draw logical conclusions from it
  5. Create an outline

If you approach your writing in the manner described above, the entire process will be less stressful and much faster. Let’s return to the narrative essay outline.


The opening clause of your story has to accomplish 3 goals:

  1. Use a hook to draw readers into the story. You can use a question, fact, quote, or intriguing statement to create a powerful hook that will entice readers to read on.

Example:“ I’m not sure if it’s a true memory or a false belief that grew stronger and more convincing in me over time, but I remember my sister once attempting to murder me…”

  1. Set the scene and give readers a sense of what is going on. However, it should not yet tell the entire story; instead, it should provide a glimpse into it; don’t give it all away and keep your readers interested.

Example“It was another hot summer day as we made our way home from the beach.” The next thing I remember is a loud bang and a pounding ache in my head.”

  1. Specify the goal of your writing. Finally, your narrative introduction should provide some context for the story. Give readers a preview of what’s to come, but don’t reveal the lessons you’ve learned from the situation just yet. Maintain their interest!

Example:“ Our memories can be tricky at times. Simply changing your point of view on a situation will result in a completely different picture.”

As a rule, your introduction should contain a thesis statement.

Narrative Essay Thesis Statement

Another critical component of your paper is the thesis statement. It should be stated in the first paragraph and then restated in the conclusion to maximize the impact of the essay.

Your main argument is expressed in a thesis statement. Its primary goal is to introduce the problem or conflict that you will investigate in your paper and to pique the readers’ interest.

A good thesis statement is not a fact or general truth, nor is it a suggestion, recommendation, or question. Instead, it should provide a sneak peek into the problem, briefly explain it, and provide some hints about the outcome.

Main Body

The most important part of your paper is the main body. This is the section in which you tell the story, share facts and details, and guide readers through the plot.

The body of a narrative essay can be made up of three or more paragraphs, and its length is determined by the overall word count of your paper.

Here are 4 important points to consider in the body paragraphs of your narrative essay:

  1. Include vivid and relevant detail: A narrative essay is all about setting the scene and creating a mood for the reader to follow. Even the best essay writers can spend hours writing and are meticulous in their attention to detail. However, don’t overburden your sentences with literary allusions. You’re good to go as long as each sentence serves a purpose.
  2. Incorporate dialogue: Including the reader in dialogues is a good way to keep their attention. Dialogue is an excellent way to breathe life into a story and support its atmosphere. Use this technique constructively once more.

Example:If you have two New Yorkers talking to each other, using British slang won’t be a great choice.

  1. Write chronologically: Unless the author is blunt, it is difficult for readers to understand the timeline of events in a paper. Keeping things in chronological order is the best way to keep your paper organized.
  2. Avoid narration deviation: When discussing a personal experience, the first-person voice works best. If you heard this story from a friend, writing in the third person will make more sense.

To find a compelling narrative paragraph example, keep on reading.


You are expected to make some final comments about your story at the end of your paper. This is where you can restate some of the main points and ideas from the body. Furthermore, you should emphasize the lessons you’ve learned from a specific situation and leave readers with something to think about.

Example:“ As I replay these events in my mind, I realize how much they have taught me. Everything in our lives has at least two sides to it. To see the true image, you must collect all of the details piece by piece—you must see both sides. Furthermore, not all memories should be trusted. Isn’t it sometimes just our brains that try to make up false stories?”

Narrative Essay Examples

The content of narrative essays can vary depending on your institution’s requirements. In case you have a problem, we have decided to provide you with narrative essay examples.

Example Narrative Essay: Visiting the Top of the Rock in New York

New York City, New York City. The never-sleeping city. With a population of over 8.5 million people, someone is always awake! And there are so many sights to see, hear, and experience throughout this vast metropolis. A visitor could spend their entire life there and discover something new every day.

I recently visited New York for the first time and spent four days in this iconic city of the world. I saw some of New York’s most famous landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and, of course, the Top of the Rock in midtown Manhattan.

Narrative Essay Example for College

College professors search for the following qualities in their students:

  • the ability to adapt to different situations,
  • the ability to solve problems creatively,
  • and the ability to learn from mistakes.

Whether your narrative paper is a college application essay or a class assignment, it must demonstrate these qualities. You also want to show off your personality and creativity. Describe a situation in which you encountered a problem, tell the story of how you came up with a novel solution, and relate it to your field of interest. If you present the story in this manner, it can be both exciting and informative.

College Narrative Essay Example: My Identity

By observing a person’s immediate surroundings, it is possible to identify the traits that define them. My personality and the constant interactions in the environments I’ve been in since I was a child can explain my identity. Finding one’s identity is not a one-time event. I believe that defining oneself is a lifelong process. After all, psychologists contend that one’s identity evolves and shifts over time. Understanding myself is critical for me in order to live well, interact smoothly with others, and achieve my goals. I realize that I can identify with a variety of things, including my family, gender, college, community, race, religion, and even the decisions I make every day. Both my choices and the factors over which I have no control help to define who I am and, as a result, the role I play in life. Life is a broad concept, and I am aware of the role I play in various settings, including my home, church, school, and community.

Narrative Essay Example for High School

High school is all about demonstrating your ability to make mature decisions. You accept the consequences of your actions and learn valuable life lessons as a result. Consider an instance in which you believe your actions were exemplary and you made an adult decision. A personal narrative essay example will highlight your best qualities. Finally, use additional resources to help you achieve the best results possible. Try looking up a sample narrative essay to see how others handled it.

High School Narrative Essay Example: Moments of Adrenaline

I was just listening to music in my car while I rested and waited for my grandmother to finish so that we could leave. On the other side of the road, some kids were playing football, and I hadn’t given it much thought because they were just playing—a routine activity. For a brief moment, I thought I heard a hard-kicked ball, followed by some noise from the children. Then I decided to peer out the window to see how far the ball had traveled. Before I could even move an inch, another even louder sound from the playground shook my car. That’s when I felt fear all over my body and began sweating profusely, despite the fact that I wasn’t sure what had just happened.

General Advice

The process of writing a narrative essay should be enjoyable. It does not force you to use a linear format with no room for variation. This is one of the most free-spirited and unique essays I’ve ever written. That doesn’t mean that breaking all the rules and writing something ridiculous is a good idea.

If you’re still stuck on what to write about, consider your story as a coming-of-age story. An experience that shaped you into the person you are today.

The primary goal of your writing is to take the readers on a journey. Allow them to share your experience and learn from it. The best stories are always those that take readers out of their comfort zones.

Now, let us give you a few more tips on how to write a flawless narrative story:

  1. Keep It Clear. Your narrative writing should be simple to read and comprehend. As a result, try to avoid overly complex phrasing and syntax. Keep your language simple and clear.
  2. Don’t Overuse Details. A narrative essay should describe a story in great detail. However, it is also important not to overuse details. As previously stated, your word count will be limited, but you will still need enough space to allow your story to unfold fully. As a result, instead of describing everything, concentrate on what is important and adds value.
  3. Use the First-Person Narrative. In general, narrative writing attempts to describe real-life events and experiences that occurred in the author’s life. That is why you should avoid writing in the second person.
  4. Use Dynamic Words. A narrative story should be dynamic and engaging. Don’t make it too repetitive, and don’t overuse the passive voice.
  5. Limit References. Most papers written in MLA format must include in-text citations, which results in a large number of references. However, this is not a good practice for a narrative essay. Because this type of assignment is much more personal in nature, it would be ideal if you could write it using your own thoughts and feelings. If you used any additional resources while writing, include them on a “Works Cited” page.

Do’s and Don’ts of Narrative Writing

Keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind to make the writing process less stressful:


  • Write your story in the first person if possible (or third-person if necessary).
  • Begin with a hook, such as a fact, quote, question, definition, etc., to pique the readers’ interest.
  • State your point clearly: what are you going to say with this paper?
  • Stick to the proper narrative format.
  • Include some kind of conflict in your story.
  • Try to address all five senses at once – tell readers not only what the characters in a story saw, but also what they smelled, heard, felt, and so on.
  • Follow a logical presentation sequence – ideally, move from one event to the next in chronological order.
  • Use simple, easy-to-read language.
  • Don’t be afraid to use various descriptive techniques such as power words, transitions, and so on.


  • Do not write a narrative essay in the second person.
  • Instead of making up stories, write about real-life events.
  • Avoid using overly formal language, arguments, slang, and so on.
  • Don’t write about everything – too many details are also not good, so stick to the main ideas and details that drive your story’s plot.
  • Instead of telling a story, show it!