How to Write a Narrative Essay Effortlessly
July 26, 2018
At some point of your studying, you will stumble across narrative writing and might wonder how to write a good narrative essay to become a high-flyer. You cannot evade this type of task as it is a commonly written assignment of the school curriculum. So what is a narrative essay? Usually, this type of writing entails recounting a story of a hands-on experience that somehow overlaps with class themes. In fact, writing a narrative essay might be fun if you approach this task appropriately. Proceed with reading this article to learn a few useful pointers on how to pick a topic that will fly, prepare a rough draft of your paper, and revise it to get a well-organized essay.
How to start a narrative essay?
I. Kick off with a choice of a topic
1. Opt for a story that illustrates an underlying idea or a universal truth. A narrative essay always hints at a certain theme, problem, or concept using a story that would help a reader arrive at that underlying idea. Typically, narrative pieces of writing include two main elements, namely a story and a part where you analyze the story.
Narrative essays do not presuppose carrying out any outside research or citing references. You will instead need your personal experience to tell a story that would serve as the supporting evidence of some idea behind the story.
Narrative essay assignments are common in school as they aim to check whether you have a flair for story-telling, creative skills, as well as your ability to integrate some parts of your personal life into a formal essay with a set of requirements.
2. Oftentimes, students receive a prompt from a teacher who assigns this type of writing. Thus, make sure your story relates to the prompt. Even if you are excited to share a gripping story about the time you and your friends went on a stellar rock festival, have a closer look at the prompt first, and then ensure that your story is relevant.
Popular topics for your narrative essay might be connected but are not necessarily limited to a description of a time when:
- you encountered some hardships and had to surmount them;
- you failed and had to handle the consequences of that moment of weakness;
- some events/people/things somehow altered your personality or your worldview.
3. Tell a story that has a manageable storyline. A good narrative essay deals with a specific story that includes intriguing parts and colorful details. Bear in mind that you are assigned to write an essay not a novel, so it has to be succinct with only a couple of detailed descriptions. Try shortening the plot, the number of characters, and the setting as much as possible so as not to digress from the main point and keep readers thrilled. A summer getaway with the nearest and dearest? A disastrous birthday party? Or an eventful date ever? This could be a perfect fit for your essay!
Narrative essays doomed to failure have a broad topic that you cannot cover in a thousand-/ two thousand-word essay. This may include “How I spent my summer holidays,” “My childhood,” or “School memories.” These topics are far from being specific, so you will definitely lull your readers into sleep because of a bunch of unnecessary details. Instead, choose the most memorable recollection of your summer holidays, childhood, or school years that does not require plenty of pages to unfold.
Also, it is recommended to reduce the number of characters and introduce only those that are essential and somehow influence the way the plot develops. Do not enlist all your classmates if you are narrating your school milestones; those names are simply redundant and only overwhelm the story.
4. Make the story meaty by incorporating many vibrant details. The safest bet to get an excellent grade is by writing a narrative essay that will be brimming with vivid details, interesting illustrations, and colorful language that would add some allure to your story. You can apply pathos when talking about sights and smells in a detailed manner. If you are looking for effective strategies for writing a good essay, you might want to think of as many details complementing your story as you can.
When having flashbacks to a particular moment in the past, you might go blank as you cannot retain every single detail in your memory. In that case, let your imagination do the trick and fill in the gaps. Specifically, when you are talking about your grandma’s and grandpa’s celebrating their 50th anniversary, you do not have to remember all guests or the exact sequence of events on that day unless this or that element plays a key role in the story. What did you feel seeing the couple that spent 50 years together? What was the most memorable moment? What lesson did you draw from this experience? These are the details you have to focus on and elaborate on.
Note that narrative essays are not supposed to be fictional, so you cannot simply concoct a story. It needs to be a real-life experience that you have undergone yourself.
II. The second important step is writing a draft
1. Draw up an outline of your plot to have a clear picture of the structure of your essay. You have to know where your story begins and when it is time to round it off. Thus, it would be handy to have a list of the important points of the plot so that you have a smooth flow of thoughts and include all of its highlights.
Keep it short. While it appears that your essay has to be full of seemingly crucial details from your first grown-up trip without parents, you can omit the information about the price of your accommodation, how you reached the destination, or what you ate this whole time. What was the main reason for embarking on a trip? Do not mention the fact that you have always been dreaming of a vacation with your pals. Come up with a more imaginative starting place.
If you are willing to unfold the story of your trip, does it begin when you decide to have a welcome break from your studying? Maybe. Does it start when you miss your bus/plane? Although that may fit the climax part of your story, it may be an even better starting point.
It is not compulsory to write the entire outline minding all the requirements unless you are assigned to do so. It is enough for it to be sketchy with all the major scenes included for you to be able to organize your ideas and thoughts.
2. Be consistent throughout your essay. As a rule, you should write your narrative essay in first person, which presupposes the use of I pronoun. Although it is quite unconventional as opposed to other types of essays, it is fine to introduce dialogues to some scenes or reminisce about some past events in first person. Do not complicate your story by switching to another perspective. It is usually a difficult technique to master, so stick to “I” as you present your story.
Generally, a short narrative essay has to be written in past tense, which is logical because you are recollecting an experience or event that took place in the past.
3. Include a description of significant characters. Apart from yourself, who else is a prominent figure in the story? Who had an impact on the development or the upshot of the plot? What particular details relating to those people can you think of? Concentrate on this part to make your characters attractive.
Some details may seem to be helpful in reflecting the personality of a character when in reality they are useless. You may write that your friend has ginger hair and a fair complexion, but these things tell nothing about the character. How about the fact that she is good at painting breathtaking landscapes? That might spice up the description!
Devote some time to writing a sketch of each of the main characters, along with the particular details describing them that you can remember. Include only those that you consider pivotal.
4. Do not forget about an antagonist. Good narrative stories usually have a protagonist and an antagonist. The former is the main character in most cases who has to overcome something. It might be an issue, a situation, an illness, etc.; the bottom line is that the target audience sympathizes with the protagonist. Conversely, the antagonist gets in the way of the protagonist’s struggle and stir things up. Who or what do you think is an antagonist in the plot? To find an answer to this question, you should figure out what the protagonist aims to achieve and who makes it difficult to pull off.
In fact, the antagonist is not always a villain, and not all stories have an explicit antagonist. Additionally, in some personal narratives, a narrator might play the role of the antagonist.
5. Include the features of the setting. The setting is one of the pillars of a brilliant narrative essay. Where do the events take place? By a river? In another city? Outside of the country? Incorporate dazzling descriptions of the key locations to make your essay stand out.
At this point, utilize a free writing technique as it might evoke some memories of the setting itself. What can you say about the place? What can you retrieve from your memory? If you have troubles remembering those things, do little research to find out some fascinating facts about the place that happens to be the background of your story.
6. Focus on vibrant details. When it comes to an exemplary narrative essay, details are paramount. Even a sterile classroom or an industrial town can be presented in a new light with the right choice of details. They should be unique in a way that makes the place unmistakable and easy to remember. Let these original details wrap up your story in a nice package.
You have to “show” the story with verbal means not tell it. Thus, you should give plenty of details with a pinch of imagination rather than present hard facts. You may write something like, “My mum was despondent all the time,” but the following extract would sound better, “Mum always greeted dad with the animosity that was written all over her face. She was boiling with anger because she blamed her husband for putting the family on the edge of collapse. They hardly spoke to each other. And this tension was amplified by her sullen face expression that never seemed to wear off.”
III. Revise your essay
1. Ensure that readers can clearly define an underlying theme or idea after reading your story. After finishing your rough draft, read it meticulously and scan it once again for the connection to your theme. In general, the purpose of your writing has to be explicitly implied. You do not want readers saying, “The story is fine, but I didn’t manage to catch the drift. What was that all about?”
Put the theme at the very beginning of your narrative essay. Similar to more formal types of essay that require a thesis statement somewhere in the introductory paragraph, a narrative essay should also contain a thesis statement that would convey the main idea of the story.
2. Incorporate summaries and specific scenes. Narrative writing is made up of two elements: summaries and scenes. The latter is used to recount a key moment of the story paying close attention to particular details. Basically, scenes are small yet significant moments that should be read with extra attention. A summary, in its turn, is used to narrate the rest of the story that comes between scenes. Summaries are longer but take less time to read.
Scene: “On our way to the store, Jared and I stopped at the corner to talk. Sadly, I was in no mood to shoot the breeze. “Honey, you seem upset. Is everything ok?” he asked with an unsettling look on his face. I didn’t know how to break it to him. I didn’t have guts to tell him that his wife, the love of his life, had taken her own life.”
Summary: “I went to the store to replenish the supplies in the fridge. While driving the car, I was preoccupied with the news that mum had told me; I was thinking of ways of how to tell my brother that his wife was dead. Strangely enough, I ran into Jared that day and thought that it would be extremely painful for me to tell him what I knew, but I couldn’t keep him in the dark either.”
3. Use and format dialogues properly. You should be aware of the formatting requirements for dialogues in a narrative essay. Thus, while proofreading your essay, check whether your paper is written correctly in terms of formatting.
Mind that direct speech should be presented in quotation marks and ascribed to a character uttering it. For instance, “I yearn for an extended family,” said Luisa.
Whenever a new character speaks, you need to mark it as a new paragraph by indenting it.
4. Whenever you are done with your rough draft, let yourself sleep on it. Then, think of ways of refining it.
Make sure your essay is free of ambiguity. Are the points that you are making clear? If not, try using plain language when clarifying them; this way you will be able to drive the points home.
Although punctuation and spelling are merely a formality, you should not forget about this part either if you want your essay to look flawless.