Definition Of Narrative Essays

In a narrative essay you tell a story, often about a personal experience, but you also make a point. So, the purpose is not only to tell an entertaining tale but also show the reason for the story and the importance of the experience.    

Narrative Essays: To Tell a Story

There are four types of essays:

  • Exposition - gives factual information about various topics to the reader. 
  • Description - describes in colorful detail the characteristics and traits of a person, place, or thing. 
  • Argument - convinces the reader by demonstrating the truth or falsity of a topic. 
  • Narrative - tells a vivid story, usually from one person’s viewpoint.

A narrative essay uses all the story elements - a beginning, middle and ending, plot, characters, setting and climax - all coming together to complete the story.

Essential Elements of Narrative Essays

The focus of a narrative essay is the plot, which is told using enough details to build to a climax. Here's how:

  • It is usually told chronologically.
  • It has a purpose, which is usually stated in the opening sentence.
  • It may use dialogue.
  • It is written with sensory details and bright descriptions to involve the reader. All these details relate in some way to the main point the writer is making.

All of these elements need to seamlessly combine. A few examples of narrative essays follow. Narrative essays can be quite long, so here only the beginnings of essays are included:

Learning Can Be Scary

This excerpt about learning new things and new situations is an example of a personal narrative essay that describes learning to swim.

“Learning something new can be a scary experience. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was learn how to swim. I was always afraid of the water, but I decided that swimming was an important skill that I should learn. I also thought it would be good exercise and help me to become physically stronger. What I didn't realize was that learning to swim would also make me a more confident person.
New situations always make me a bit nervous, and my first swimming lesson was no exception. After I changed into my bathing suit in the locker room, I stood timidly by the side of the pool waiting for the teacher and other students to show up. After a couple of minutes the teacher came over. She smiled and introduced herself, and two more students joined us. Although they were both older than me, they didn't seem to be embarrassed about not knowing how to swim. I began to feel more at ease.”

The Manager. The Leader.

The following excerpt is a narrative essay about a manager who was a great leader. Notice the intriguing first sentence that captures your attention right away.

“Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, 'If I were any better, I would be twins!' He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.”

The Climb

This excerpt from The Climb also captures your attention right away by creating a sense of mystery. The reader announces that he or she has "this fear" and you want to read on to see what that fear is.

“I have this fear. It causes my legs to shake. I break out in a cold sweat. I start jabbering to anyone who is nearby. As thoughts of certain death run through my mind, the world appears a precious, treasured place. I imagine my own funeral, then shrink back at the implications of where my thoughts are taking me. My stomach feels strange. My palms are clammy. I am terrified of heights. Of course, it’s not really a fear of being in a high place. Rather, it is the view of a long way to fall, of rocks far below me and no firm wall between me and the edge. My sense of security is screamingly absent. There are no guardrails, flimsy though I picture them, or other safety devices. I can rely only on my own surefootedness—or lack thereof.”

Disneyland

The following narrative essay involves a parent reflecting on taking his kids to Disneyland for the first time.

“It was a hot, sunny day, when I finally took my kids to the Disneyland. My son Matthew and my daughter Audra endlessly asked me to show them the dreamland of many children, with Mickey Mouse and Snow White walking by and arousing a huge portion of emotions. Somehow these fairy-tale creatures can make children happy without such 'small' presents as $100 Lego or a Barbie house with six rooms and garden furniture. Therefore, I thought that Disneyland was a good invention for loving parents.”

The Sacred Grove of Oshogbo by Jeffrey Tayler

The following essay contains descriptive language that helps to paint a vivid picture for the reader of an interesting encounter.

“As I passed through the gates I heard a squeaky voice. A diminutive middle-aged man came out from behind the trees — the caretaker. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae'd stubs of teeth. He was barefoot; he wore a blue batik shirt known as a buba, baggy purple trousers, and an embroidered skullcap. I asked him if he would show me around the shrine. Motioning me to follow, he spat out the results of his stick work and set off down the trail.”

Playground Memory

This excerpt from “Playground Memory” has very good sensory details.

“Looking back on a childhood filled with events and memories, I find it rather difficult to pick on that leaves me with the fabled “warm and fuzzy feelings.” As the daughter of an Air Force Major, I had the pleasure of traveling across America in many moving trips. I have visited the monstrous trees of the Sequoia National Forest, stood on the edge of the Grande Canyon and have jumped on the beds at Caesar’s Palace in Lake Tahoe. However, I have discovered that when reflecting on my childhood, it is not the trips that come to mind, instead there are details from everyday doings; a deck of cards, a silver bank or an ice cream flavor. One memory that comes to mind belongs to a day of no particular importance. It was late in the fall in Merced, California on the playground of my old elementary school; an overcast day with the wind blowing strong. I stood on the blacktop, pulling my hoodie over my ears. The wind was causing miniature tornados; we called them “dirt devils”, to swarm around me.”

Christmas Cookies

This excerpt from “Christmas Cookies” makes good use of descriptive language.

“Although I have grown up to be entirely inept at the art of cooking, as to make even the most wretched chef ridicule my sad baking attempts, my childhood would have indicated otherwise; I was always on the countertop next to my mother’s cooking bowl, adding and mixing ingredients that would doubtlessly create a delicious food. When I was younger, cooking came intrinsically with the holiday season, which made that time of year the prime occasion for me to unite with ounces and ounces of satin dark chocolate, various other messy and gooey ingredients, numerous cooking utensils, and the assistance of my mother to cook what would soon be an edible masterpiece. The most memorable of the holiday works of art were our Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, which my mother and I first made when I was about six and are now made annually.”  

Tips on Writing a Narrative Essay

When writing a narrative essay, remember that you are sharing sensory and emotional details with the reader.

  • Your words need to be vivid and colorful to help the reader feel the same feelings that you felt.
  • Elements of the story need to support the point you are making and you need to remember to make reference to that point in the first sentence.
  • You should make use of conflict and sequence like in any story.
  • You may use flashbacks and flash forwards to help the story build to a climax.
  • It is usually written in the first person, but third person may also be used.

Remember, a well-written narrative essay tells a story and also makes a point.

Do you have a good example to share? Add your example here.

comments powered by

Narrative Essay Examples

By YourDictionary

In a narrative essay you tell a story, often about a personal experience, but you also make a point. So, the purpose is not only to tell an entertaining tale but also show the reason for the story and the importance of the experience.    

Narrative essays are a popular type of academic writing. Both high school and college students write loads of them. These essays show your creativity, character, and ability to tell a compelling story. Telling a great story could be a challenging task. That’s why EssayPro's qualified team have compiled a list of things you need to know before writing a personal narrative essay.


Table Of Contents



Fear not, for we are all authors! Every person's life is a story. Who else could be the author besides the person experiencing it? Writing a short story is different than writing an essay about your entire life. They key here is to cut out a memory or experience that stands out for you and turn it into a great story.

What Is A Narrative Essay?

A simple narrative essay definition is a piece of academic writing that tells a story. As the author, your purpose is to create a lifelike experience for the reader. You must place them in the middle of the action and keep them engaged. You would normally tell this story from your point of view.

You need to use vivid and evocative detail to create an atmosphere for the reader. Moreover, you need to be very specific with the information you use. Use the type of vocabulary that sounds most realistic to your scenario. This will support the atmosphere you want to create.

There are several types of narrative essays:

Autobiographical Narrative Essay

This assignment prompts you to describe a memorable event that happened in your life. It's not an autobiography, contrary to what the title suggests. You must think of a specific event that matters to you and explore it. Focus on the story and its purpose, instead of details.

Descriptive Narrative Essay

The autobiographical essay would have you focus on the story without exaggerating details. In a descriptive narrative essay, you have more creative freedom. You must describe a situation, memory, or experience in vivid detail. Your goal is to paint a picture for the reader and tell a beautiful story.

A well-written descriptive narrative paper is usually straightforward. It takes a complicated story and narrows it down, allowing the reader to infer the rest. Great writers avoid over-exaggeration and stick to their purpose. There are always some limits to the amount of content you can provide to your readers. Keep this in mind when choosing what to describe in your work.

The tricky thing about the narrative essay is that there are always some limits to the amount of content you can provide your readers with. Ideally, a well-written narrative paper is one that takes a complex story and crunches it down into a limited number of words while always remaining relevant to the purpose. At the same time, keeping the attention of the audience is crucially important.

Good Narrative Essay Topics

When it comes to topics, there are several things you need to take into account.

Start by carefully reading the directions of your assignment. Teachers will often tell you what they are looking for in your narrative piece. Most narrative essays share a few common characteristics:

  • A Conflict/Challenge: An inciting incident that creates the tone and sets the story in motion.

  • A Protagonist: A relatable character that faces the conflict or challenge to overwhelming odds.

  • A Change or Growth: Overcoming the conflict or challenge sparks some change in the protagonist. A realization may have sparked this change. It could also be an after-effect of the characters development throughout the story.

These variables are the essentials of storytelling. You need to spend time brainstorming to connect all the dots and create great story ideas. Search your memories and experiences, and you’ll find something worth writing about!

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
  • Relationship Experience
  • A Discovery That Changed Your Life
  • A Rebellious Act

These are a few common examples that students tend to explore. Consider making a story based on your personal life experiences. The most vivid memories are usually the ones that tell a great story!

Narrative Essay Outline

Narratives have a standard format. This includes the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion. Some follow the 5 paragraph narrative essay outline. Composed of 3 body paragraphs, each contains a new idea.

  • The Introduction must lay out the setting and ignite the movement of the story.
  • The Body Paragraphs travel through the story. Describing it in vivid detail, they slowly untangle the puzzle that is the purpose.
  • The conclusion unravels the purpose for the reader. You must ensure that the reader understands the essence of your story.

Now let’s break down some critical parts of each section of the paper!

The Introduction must accomplish 3 main goals:

  • Each Narrative Essay should start out with a strong hook. It carries the reader through the introduction and gets them engaged in the story. To create a strong hook you can:
  • Bring up a future scenario as an initial starting point.
  • Offering a quote that will be relevant later in the essay.
  • Place your reader in the middle of the action.
  • Set the scene for the reader:
  • As authors, we want to throw the reader’s boat into a chaotic storm and get them engaged.
  • However, it doesn't hurt to give them a life jacket, in case they start sinking in confusion.
  • Allow the reader to get an idea of what's going on. Don’t give it all away, and keep them thinking!
  • Defining the purpose:
  • Without giving away too much information, give insight into what the essay is all about.
  • Don’t give away the lesson you’ve learned just yet. Give your reader merely a sneak peek of what’s about to come.

The Body Paragraphs Must Accomplish 4 Main Goals:

The body paragraphs will vary depending on the length of the essay. The range of the story should match its impact. If it’s a quick life lesson that many others have experienced, don’t stretch out the plot. Perhaps you need to put the reader in your shoes for the story to work. In this case, you have a fair reason to make it more prolonged and intense.

Vivid and relevant detail: The narrative essay is all about creating a scene as well as a mood to follow. Even best essay writers spend hours and are meticulous when it comes to details. Don’t spam your sentences with literary symbols. As long as each sentence serves a purpose, then you are good to go.

  • Dialogue: Throwing the reader into a spoken scene is an effective way to refresh their attention. Dialogue is a great way to give a story life and support the atmosphere. Still, you must use it constructively. For example, if you have two New Yorkers talking to each other, using London slang won’t be a great choice.

  • Write chronologically: It’s hard for the reader to understand the timeline unless the author is blunt. Keeping things sequential is the best way to keep your paper organized.

  • Avoid narration deviation: If you are talking about personal experience, the first-person voice would work best. If this a story you heard from a friend - using the third person would make more sense.

  • Your conclusion has the task of stating your purpose and offering a final comment. As the story wraps up, the reader must have lived through your experience. In the end, it would be good to leave them with something to think about.

Narrative Essay Example

The content of narratives essays can vary when it comes to different institutions. We have decided to provide you with examples in case you face a problem.

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. Your work must show these qualities. Regardless of whether your narrative is a college application essay or an assignment.

You want to demonstrate your character and creativity. Describe a situation where you have encountered a problem. Tell the story of how you came up with a unique approach to solving it. Connect it to your field of interest. The narrative can be exciting and informative if you present it in such fashion.

Example for High School

High school is all about showing that you can make mature choices. You accept the consequences of your actions, and retrieve valuable life lessons. Think of an event where you believe you have acted exemplary and made an adult choice. A personal narrative essay example as such will showcase the best of your abilities.

Finally, use outside sources to help you get the best result possible. Try searching for a sample narrative essay to see how others approached it.

General Advice

Writing a narrative essay should be a positive experience. It doesn't restrict you to a linear format that doesn’t allow for variation. This is one of the most free-spirited and creative essays to write. That doesn’t mean that rebelling against all rules and writing something absurd is fair play.

If you are still struggling in deciding what to write about - think of your story as a coming of age tale. An event that transformed you into the person you are today.

Your primary goal is to take the reader on a journey. Have them share your experience and take something away from it. The best stories are always the ones that teleport the reader out of their comfort zone.

Essay Writing Tip From Our Professional Team

Prof. Marjorie Eckhart, from EssayPro

The practice of writing a narrative essay is your first step to creative writing. Something my English teacher always told me in high school and something that I want to pass on to you is: the more personal, the more universal. When we write stories about ourselves we are ultimately writing about everyone else in the world; humanity generally shares the same problems. There are two things that appear in all good narratives: it involves the readers and it presents importance. When a story is important and showcases change, then the reader will pay attention to it. If a story relates to the reader, they feel for it and develop a deeper emotional connection to it. As the article articulates quite well, the story also makes a point. Perhaps your custom essay does not have a flat out moral, but it has a beginning, a middle, and an end that has an impact. Make sure to select an event that feels important to you and write about it; make it real for the readers.

Looking to write a narrative essay?

Sometimes life catches us all off guard and we find ourselves in need of some academic assistance. Contact our custom essay writing service and find the perfect writer to help with your task.

One thought on “Definition Of Narrative Essays

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *