Caleb S.
Caleb S.

Narrative Essay - A Complete Writing Guide with Examples

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Published on: Jun 11, 2018

Last updated on: May 26, 2023

Narrative essay

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All students are asked to submit a narrative essay during their studies. But not everyone knows how to do it. Are you one of them? 

A narrative essay is a common form of academic writing that students write in schools, colleges, and universities. Narrative essays are also required by many college applications.

So knowing how to handle this type of essay effectively can help you succeed in your studies. That’s why our experts have prepared this comprehensive guide for you.

Let’s dive into the blog to know everything about narrative essay writing.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

A narrative essay gives writers a chance to write about their personal experiences. 

When you write a narrative essay, you tell a story to your reader. The story could be real, or it could be fictional, but it is defined from a particular perspective. It is usually written in the first-person perspective.

A narrative essay is quite similar to a descriptive essay but, in that, it makes the reader feel and experience. However, it carries its unique aspects.

Here is a narrative essay definition:

“It is a type of essay in which the writer tells a story from his point of view or personal experience. It provides sensory details to grab readers’ attention and makes them understand the story.”

It should incorporate the following points:

  • Develop a particular viewpoint
  • Make and support your claim
  • Include precise information
  • Use vivid verbs and modifiers
  • Add conflict and sequences
  • Use dialogue

You can also watch the video below to understand it better:

The purpose of a narrative essay is to tell a real-life or fictional story to the reader. It usually relies on personal experience and is often written in the form of a story. For writing a perfect narration, the writer must include the conventions of storytelling, climax, setting, plot, and ending.

Purpose of a Narrative Essay

The purpose of a narrative essay is to tell a real-life or fictional story to the reader. They are often part of college admissions processes, where you write narrative essays based on specific prompts.

A narrative essay usually relies on personal experience and is often written in the form of a story. 

For writing a perfect narration, the writer must include the conventions of storytelling, climax, setting, plot, and ending. 

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Types of Narrative Essay 

The four types of narrative essays are:

Descriptive Narrative Essay

A descriptive narrative essay is used to describe an experience, situation, or memory in vivid detail. The main goal is to show the reader what is happening, not tell. 

A good descriptive essay is usually easy to follow. It takes a complicated story and makes it simpler for the reader. 

You should avoid over-exaggerating and only put in what is important. There are always limits to the amount of information you can give your readers. Keep this in mind when deciding what to include in your work.

Expository Narrative Essay 

An expository narrative essay combines elements of both expository writing and narrative writing. 

It is a type of essay that explains or describes a particular topic or concept while also telling a story or sharing personal experiences. 

The purpose of an expository essay is to educate or inform the reader about a particular subject matter while also engaging them through storytelling.

Biographical Narrative Essay 

This type asks you to share a story from your life. It should focus on one specific event. 

Moreover, an autobiographical narrative essay should not just be descriptive. It should be an exploration of the meaning behind your experiences. 

Your story should be written from your perspective, with an emotional connection to it. Don’t forget to explain the impact of this experience on you and how it has shaped you into who you are now.

Personal Narrative Essay

A personal narrative essay is a form of writing that tells a story from the author's own life experiences. It is a type of essay that allows the writer to reflect on their past and share moments that impacted them in a significant way. 

Personal narrative essays often explore the writer's emotions, thoughts, and feelings during a particular event or period in their life. 

See the personal narrative essay example pdf below. It will give you a better understanding of a personal narrative.

Features of a Narrative Essay  

Below are the main characteristics of a narrative essay.

  • Present information in chronological order.
  • There is a basic structure to writing stories. The story includes elements such as a plot, setting, and characters. It is important to follow the basic structure to ensure the story flows correctly.
  • Details are used to describe an event, person, or scene in depth.
  • Seeks to inform readers about something. It does not argue or teach.

Narrative Essay Format and Structure

A typical 5 paragraph narrative essay structure has one introduction, three paragraphs in the main body, and one conclusion paragraph. If needed, you can change the number of body paragraphs according to the topic.

It usually has these five elements: plot, characters, setting, conflict, and theme.

  • Plot

    The plot is the incident you intend to share in the story. It is about the sequence of events that occurred in your story. 

  • Setting

    The setting is the location where the event occurred. It can be your house, your school, or any other place where you were at the time of the event.

  • Characters

    Characters are the people involved in the incident. You have to mention everyone involved, whether the main or a side character.

  • Conflict

    Conflict is the problem faced by the characters during the incident. A moment of tension in the plot is considered a conflict that needs to be resolved. 

  • Theme

    The essay’s theme elaborates on the story’s overall purpose and the writer’s reasons for choosing the topic.

Here is a narrative essay sample that will give you a deep understanding of the above-mentioned elements.  

How to Start a Narrative Essay? 

Starting the essay writing process can be overwhelming, but you will find it much easier with these steps.

1. Choose a Topic

The type of writing assignment you get will depend largely on the direction your teacher gives for the topic. You may be given specific guidelines or suggestions about what topics might work well.

However, if your teacher doesn’t assign a topic or guidelines, then you pick something you are interested in. Always choose the one that you can easily cover in your essay. 

You need a topic that interests you and is also appealing enough to your audience. The best way to find an interesting idea is to do some brainstorming! 

2. Do Some Research

After choosing the topic, start the research phase. In this step, you must think about the events you want to add to your essay. 

There are no strict rules for writing a narrative essay, so you can choose what information to include and how it should be presented. You may want your readership to know more about the person who is writing them or their experiences in life. This would mean giving background on topics such as family history before moving forward with any story ideas.

3. Create an Outline

Always create an outline before writing the essay. With the help of an essay outline, you will easily organize your thoughts and ideas. 

The narrative essay outline consists of three parts;

  • Introduction
  • Main body
  • Conclusion

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How to Write a Narrative Essay?

There are numerous types of essays you get to write in high school and college. However, a narrative essay demands a little more creativity. 

Here is a step-by-step process for writing an impressive essay.

1. Write an Introduction

The introduction to a story is important because it sets the scene. An interesting introduction will make readers want to know more about the story.

There are a few different ways to start a narrative essay introduction. The best way is often to start in the middle of the action so that the reader is immediately drawn into the story. 

Another way to start a narrative is to provide some background information first so that readers understand why the story matters.

The following are different ways to start the essay:

  • Start with a mystery.
  • Use a quote from someone famous to catch your reader’s attention.
  • Add a funny or moving anecdote.
  • Ask questions; this way, your writing will feel more direct and personal. 
  • Start with a shocking statement or statistics that makes readers curious.

The thesis statement is the most important part of your paper. It should be in the first paragraph, and it should tell the readers what your paper is about. The thesis statement also says what you think about the problem or conflict you are writing about.

A good thesis statement should introduce the topic, explain it briefly, and hint at the outcome. It should not be a fact or general truth, and it also shouldn't be a suggestion, recommendation, or question.

2. Main Body Paragraphs

The main part of your essay is very important. This is where you share the story, facts, and details. You will also guide the readers through the plot. The body of a narrative essay can have three or more paragraphs, depending on your chosen topic.

Below are some main things you should include in your narrative essay body paragraphs.

  • Include relevant and vivid details
  • Write in the first person and add all the events chronologically.
  • Add interesting dialogues that grab the reader's attention. 

How to End a Narrative Essay

Here are some tips on how to effectively end a narrative essay:

1. Write the Conclusion

In your conclusion, you should restate some of the key details and ideas from the body of your paper. It is the part where you wrap up your essay and re-establish the central point.

You should also talk about what you learned from the situation and leave readers with something to think about.

2. Proofreading and Editing

Proofreading and editing is the process of checking a text for mistakes and making appropriate changes. This can include grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors. 

It is important to proofread your essay carefully to ensure that they are error-free.

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Narrative Essay Writing Tips

Here are some tips for writing a narrative essay:

Choose a topic that is meaningful to you: Select a topic that is personal and meaningful to you. This will make it easier for you to convey your emotions and experiences in a genuine and authentic way.

Create an outline: Before you start writing, create an outline of the key events and details you want to include in your narrative essay. This will help you stay organized and focused as you write.

Use vivid and descriptive language: Use descriptive language to help your readers visualize the events and emotions being described. Use sensory details to create a more immersive experience for your readers.

Show, don't tell: Instead of simply telling your readers what happened, show them through your descriptions and dialogue. This will help them better understand and connect with your story.

Use a consistent point of view: Choose a consistent point of view, such as first-person or third-person, and stick with it throughout your narrative essay. This will help your readers better understand your perspective and connect with your story.

Do’s and Don’ts of Narrative Writing

The below table will help you understand the do and don’ts of narrative writing.



Keep your sentences easy to understand 

Avoid writing fake and irrelevant information

The story is told in the first person 

Don’t write everything 

Take ideas from narrative poems 

Don’t create fictional stories

Follow the proper narrative essay format

Never tell a story, show it

Start an essay with an interesting hook statement 

Never submit the essay without proofreading 

Narrative Essay Examples

Reading example essays is a good way to start learning about narrative writing. Here are some example essays that will help you craft a perfect essay in no time. 

Check out more narrative essay examples to improve your understanding.

Narrative Essay Topics

Here are a few best narrative essay topics and ideas for your successful narrative writing.

  • The most embarrassing event of my life.
  • The most valuable childhood possession.
  • An unpleasant personal experience.
  • An unpleasant experience that helped me grow.
  • Your first experience with love and its impact on you.
  • The most difficult decision I had to make.
  • A rebellious act from your life.
  • A time when you got lost somewhere.
  • A random act of kindness.
  • A conflict with another person.

Check out other narrative essay topics to get more ideas!

In conclusion, narrative essays are an important tool for communication and storytelling. They can help readers understand a topic in a more vivid and engaging way. While writing, it is important to structure your essay correctly so it becomes more engaging. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a narrative essay?

A narrative essay usually ranges from 300 to 1000 words. Ultimately, the word length depends on: 

  • The type of story or event you are narrating 
  • The Purpose of your essay (whether it is for assignment, college admission application, or other purpose)

What makes a good narrative essay?

Here are some key elements that contribute to a good narrative essay:

  • A clear and concise introduction.
  • A well-developed plot.
  • Vivid and descriptive language.
  • Strong character development.
  • A clear message or theme.
  • Use of sensory details.
  • A well-crafted conclusion.

What are 3 things that a narrative must have?

A narrative must have three essential elements: characters, conflict, and resolution. These elements are crucial in telling a story and engaging the reader.

Characters: Characters are the people or entities that are central to the narrative.
Conflict: Conflict is the central problem or challenge that the characters face in the narrative. 
Resolution: Resolution is the outcome of the conflict. It's how the characters resolve the problem or challenge they faced in the narrative. 

Caleb S.


Caleb S. (Literature, Marketing)

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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