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How to Write a Narrative Essay – It’s All About the Story

October 05, 2015 - Posted to How to: Essay writing tips

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How to Write a Narrative Essay

Every short story or novel you have ever read is a narrative; every play, movie or TV sit-com you have ever watched is a narrative. They have plots, characters, and a setting. Most of the time they also have one or more themes or points to make. So, if you are tasked with writing a narrative essay, the tale you tell will depend upon the purpose for your essay. And here is a short guide for how to write a narrative essay, no matter what the purpose.

The Narrative Essay as a Course Assignment

Narrative essays are assigned in several courses – English comp, creative writing, writing for publication, and journalism. You will either be presenting a slice of your life or creating a fictional story, with a plot and characters you create. If you can muster up some creative ideas surrounding a humorous, frightening or poignant event or circumstance, you narrative can almost write itself. Your task will be to make it engaging enough that the reader will want to know how it all ends.

If your narrative has only one character – you – then you will not have to worry about developing other characters. If, on the other hand, it involves more than one character, you will need to develop those characters by actions and conversation. The key to a narrative that involves more than one person is to “show” not “tell.”

The Storyboard – A Great Pre-Writing Tool

Organizing your narrative is usually not best done by an outline. Try using a storyboard format instead. Whether you are relating a personal experience or a fictional tale, the events take place in chronological order, and if you set those up with a storyboard, the narrative will flow well.

Sometimes, you will be given prompts for a narrative essay that involves a personal experience. Typically, these ask you to recall events or situations in your life – your first day at college; your most embarrassing moment; the worst trip you ever took; the funniest experience you have ever had; a time when you were as angry, disappointed, or sad as you have ever been. While you may think that you can just “rattle” it off with little forethought, think again. The story board will ensure that you leave nothing out – make one before you ever start!

Introducing Your Narrative

No one wants to read a narrative unless they think, from the very beginning, that it is going to be an interesting “read.” Pull out some of the fictional stories that you really like. How does the author begin? S/he piques your interest by a “promise” of things to come. Write you narrative first as you think about your opening, and don’t settle for a dull boring one.

How to Write a Narrative Essay for Admissions or Scholarships

If you are an applicant for college or grad school admissions, you will be writing at least one personal narrative essay based upon a prompt that you are given. Do not get nervous over these. Just remember that they are just like the narratives you have written before. Your prompts may include something that resembles the following

  • Recount a time in your life when you failed at something. How did you respond to that failure? What did you learn?
  • Describe a time when you had to make a difficult choice. What process did you use to make that decision?
  • Who is a personal hero of yours? What qualities does that individual possess that make him/her your hero?
  • Describe an experience or an event that was instrumental in shaping who you are today.

Admissions and scholarship essays take careful thought and a good dose of creativity. The best advice is to start on these early (you will always be able to get these prompts at least a year in advance – they are published online). The longer you have, the more good ideas may formulate about how creatively you can tell your story.

If you are worried that you may not really know how to write a narrative essay for admissions that will totally “rock” the reader, then get some professional help from an essay writing service. Many students do this – it’s really too important an essay to be mediocre.

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