How To Write a Narrative Essay

Narrative essays are the most commonly assigned papers. They require the writer to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a subject from a personal perspective in a style of a story. This is more engaging for the reader than other styles of writing encouraging the reader to feel more connected and involved in the process.

But what exactly is a narrative essay? To put it simply, a narrative essay is a text that is used to tell a story. It lets the writer share a personal story in a more inspiring way than other essay formats. Furthermore, Narrative essays allow the writer to explore the impact of the experience they are writing about.  So, the key to writing a great narrative essay is knowing how to tell a compelling story. This article will guide you step by step to do exactly that.

How To Begin Your Narrative Essay

Read Examples of Narrative Essays: It is always a wise idea to read some examples of narrative essays before you start your own. The more you read narrative essays, the easier it will become to write your own with a well-developed plot. Watching video presentations of people describing their experience will help you learn how to present your thoughts clearly in an engaging manner. Follow this link to find examples of narrative essays:

Check Your Requirements: The format for narrative essays will vary depending on the assignment. For example, the word count will influence the length of the main body of your essay. Or perhaps, you will be asked to write on a certain theme. Make sure you check the guidelines and requirements. If you are unsure, speak with your facilitator.

The Topic Is Everything: Before you put pen to paper, you need to choose your subject. Choosing the topic for your narrative essay is vitally important and cannot be overlooked. Make sure you choose a subject that inspires and excites you; something you can easily talk about for hours. This will naturally provide a great basis for your essay. If you don’t choose an idea that interests you, it will be difficult to create a successful narrative essay. Readers can always sense when the writer is genuinely motivated and inspired by their topic so make sure you choose yours carefully. You need to feel invested and involved in your story with a strong desire to share it with others.

Make A Draft: The best way to begin the process of writing your narrative essay is with a draft; this is your first step to writing. Creating a draft means you plan out your story from start to finish. It will allow you to construct a clear beginning, middle and end. This outline should reveal any potential problems in your essay and allow you to make the necessary amendments. It is important to polish this draft until you feel sure that the essay will meet all necessary requirements and will be interesting to read. In your draft, you should be able to determine clear and well-defined segments in your story. This includes rising action, climax, falling action and conclusion.

How to Pick Your Narrative Essay Topic

Step One: Brainstorm Ideas. Brainstorming is a simple exercise of writing all your best ideas down on paper. Let your ideas flow without judging them or thinking too hard about them. Some people like to list their ideas in bullet points. Others enjoy creating cloud diagrams or mind mapping. Here is a link that will help you find the brainstorming technique that works best for you:

To brainstorm effectively, try these techniques:

  • Think about your past memories and be aware of what emotions they generate. Do you feel excited and want to share this experience?
  • Take a walk to clear your head if you feel stuck.
  • Free write past memories and experience. Keep your pen on the page and don’t stop writing for five minutes.
  • Think about what bothers you and what holds deep significance in your life.

Step Two: Pick the Right Topic. Ask yourself the question: which idea excites me the most? Trust your instinct and choose an idea that feels personally exciting to you. An idea that feels vivid and easy to write about. If you aren’t feeling excited and inspired, don’t bother writing!

Step Three: Define Your Purpose. Get clear on why you are writing. What do you want to share with the reader? What do you want the reader to learn or understand from your story? Why is this story important to you and will it be interesting to others? Get clear on how you intend the story to land with the reader. Do you want to make the reader laugh, cry or think more deeply?

A great idea for your narrative essay will exhibit your ability to:

  • Adapt to different situations
  • Solve problems creatively and authentically
  • Learn from mistakes in a mature manner
  • Demonstrate your character and creativity


For example, a great narrative essay story will demonstrate how you have changed and grown as a human being. It will show how you have encountered a problem, or faced a conflict solving it with a unique and inspiring approach. The story will offer you the ability to narrate in an informative yet exhilarating fashion that will also encourage the reader to think outside of their box.

Narrative Essay Topics

Since this aspect of the essay is so integral, we have included 10 ideas to help you brainstorm.

  1. Overcoming a fear
  2. A rebellious act
  3. Learning a tough lessons
  4. A new experience or discovery
  5. Changing your ways
  6. A relationship experience
  7. Realizing an error and making amends
  8. Facing a challenge
  9. A reconciliation
  10. Utilizing a weakness as a strength

How to Structure Your Narrative Essay

An excellent structure equals an excellent story. This structure comprises of:

  • An introduction
  • The main body (rising action, climax and falling action)
  • A


If you structure your narrative essay using the methodical approach, as described below, the process will be more effective, efficient and more enjoyable. With the right structure, the essay will be easier for the reader to absorb and your message will shine through with greater clarity.


How you begin your narrative essay is essential. In those opening sentences, the reader will decide whether they are interested or disinterested in the story. This is where the reader makes their first judgement on the value of your narrative essay so you want the introduction to be great!

The Introduction does four things:

  1. Makes an insight into the story
  2. States the purpose of the writing
  3. Hooks the reader with an engaging element
  4. States the thesis of the story

The Hook: The hook is what catches the reader’s attention. Questions, facts, quotes or an intriguing statement all hook the reader into the story and compels them to read on. For example: ‘Ever since I was a child, my mother always told me it was better to be normal than to be happy but on the day of my fifteenth birthday, I had a realization. This was not true’.

Setting the Scene: The reader needs to know where they are, what’s happening and who the characters are. This is the who, where, what of the story.  If the reader has a clear sense of the scene they will not only understand the story more thoroughly but it will allow the reader to enjoy the story more. However, make sure you don’t give the story away in the introduction. You just want to give the reader a taste of what is to come and keep their curiosity piqued. If you give too much away, this will spoil the story’s intrigue. For example: ‘My sister and I were happily driving to the beach. The sun was shining and we could see the ocean in the distance. Suddenly, my sister bent over coughing violently.’

Purpose: Define the purpose of your story in the introduction. Do you want to make the reader laugh or think more deeply about a topic? Give the reader an insight into what the story is about. The reader needs to sense what is to come without the story being given away. This will keep the reader hungry to learn more. For example: ‘The past is not fixed or static. In fact, it can be altered when we shift our position in the experience we are remembering.’


Thesis Statement: The thesis statement is the main argument of the story. It introduces the problem or conflict that motivates the story and primarily sets the story’s tone. A successful thesis should give a taste of the problem, explaining it briefly and hinting towards what will come. It should also be restated in the conclusion to consolidate and empower the message of the story. The thesis statement should not be a suggestion, question or statement of truth.

Main Body

The main body is the most essential section of the narrative essay. Here, the story is actually told: the plot unfolds, the details are defined and the action occurs.

The main body is comprised of three parts:

Paragraph One: Rising Action

Here the action is starting to gain momentum. The pace of the story quickens and there is a sense of anticipation as the main even is getting closer.

Paragraph Two: Climax

Here the main event occurs. This is the most impactful and dramatic part of the story. This is the main event and should feel exciting and be a captivating experience for the reader.

Paragraph Three: Falling Action

Now the pace slows down and there will be a feeling of integration as the story is moving towards its ending.

To write a compelling narrative in your main body follow these suggestions:

Write in Chronological Order: The timeline of your story is the backbone of your narrative. Make sure you tell the events in sequential order. This will keep your story clear, concise and well organized in the reader’s mind.

First Person: Writing in the first person will prevent you from deviating from the narrative. It will make your story more personable and more relatable. It will also have a greater impact on the reader creating a sense of immediacy and intimacy.

Vivid and Relevant Details: A well-crafted mood and scene will determine the success of a narrative essay. Use descriptive language such as metaphors and similes to ensure that your story is vividly expressed. You want to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. The language you choose has the power to make your characters and scenes real to the reader. However, do not get distracted by too much description and detail. Consider each sentence and make sure that it serves a purpose in your story.


To learn more about descriptive language, follow this link:


Essentially, the conclusion is where the lesson of the story is finalized and learned.

In the conclusion, you need to:

  • Bring your narrative essay to a close in a way that feels satisfying and reassuring for the reader.
  • Make final and conclusive comments about your story whilst emphasizing the lessons you learned from the experience.
  • Underline the key proponents mentioned in the main body of the essay, thus, making your message clear.
  • Leave the reader with themes to consider since a successful story continues to resonate and percolate with the reader even when they have finished reading.

Guidelines For Good Narrative Essay Writing

Writing well is a skill and there are some easy ways to ensure you hone your writing skills. Here are some further pointers to write a successful narrative essay:

Story Line Elements: Characters, plots, setting, description are the key components to a successfully told story. These elements engage the reader and make the story come alive. They need to be equally balanced to create a well-rounded story. Think carefully about these elements. For example, how can you make your characters real in your reader’s mind? What do they say or do?

Point of View: Your point of view is key in this process. It needs to be very clear to the reader what you think and feel about the situation you are writing about. The reader needs to understand your role in the story and this comes through when you clearly explain your behaviour in the situation.

Proofread: Make sure you proofread your narrative essay at least twice. Look out for grammar and punctuation. Grammarly, a free online app, can be very helpful in this process. For further information about Grammarly, follow this link:


Clear Writing: Good writing is often simple but vivid told. Describe your story with dynamic vocabulary and be careful not to repeat words or phrases. The vocabulary is what compels the reader to continue reading. If the writing is too complicated, the reader will feel confused and they are likely to stop reading. Keep your writing clear and concise with simple yet descriptive words. Stick to the five senses when describing to provide the reader with a rich sensory experience and create the sensation that they are experiencing the story first hand.

Keep To The Point: Do not get distracted with details that are not significant or relevant to the story. Going off on tangents or including too many characters or details will be confusing to the reader. Also, be careful not to make your story too wordy. Great stories stick sharply to the point. Every detail and description is considered and counts. Keep asking yourself if the detail or description enhances or detracts from the story.

Describe Events Chronologically: To avoid confusion and allow your story to be easily digested by the reader keep the events in chronological order. This will allow your story to flow with a clear beginning, middle and end.  A confusing timeline will only distort the message of the story and detract from the story’s effectiveness. If you stick closely to the format of introduction, main body and conclusion, you are bound to succeed!

A Quick-Fire Summary To Conclude How To Write A Narrative Essay:

  1. Find a great idea that inspires and excites you: Brainstorming will help with this process.
  2. Keep It Personal: Write about events that happened to you. This is an opportunity to utilize your past.
  3. Draft Your Idea: Make a clear outline of your idea before you begin writing.
  4. Keep It Clear: Use language that is simple yet expressive. The best stories are easy to understand.
  5. First Person Narrative: Do not write your story from the perspective of the second person.
  6. Focus On What Matters: Don’t overuse details or fall into the trap of describing everything.
  7. Use Dynamic Vocabulary: Avoid repeating words and use language that will excite the reader.
  8. Well Structured: Ensure your format is defined into introduction, main body and conclusion.
  9. Proofread: Make sure you take the time to proof read your essay thoroughly before handing it in.



Final Thoughts

Great story writing is a skill and hopefully this article will help you hone your story writing abilities. It is also important to remember to enjoy the process! The more you enjoy writing your narrative essay, the more the reader will enjoy reading it. This is one of the free-spirited essays you can write and it should be a positive experience. Successful narrative essays take their readers on a journey. It gives the reader an opportunity to share your personal experience and live it like their own through your words.

You May Also Like…