Everybody has a story to tell. Every single day, you may be conversing with family, friends, classmates, co-workers, or strangers, relaying stories and experiences. Given that kind of interaction, a narrative essay for college should be a breeze for you.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a good essay writer, getting into the theme and groove of the story will help you keep the words flowing – you might even have the problem of not wanting to edit anything out! Still need some tips to be able to craft the perfect narrative essay? Our guide will show you how!
What Is a Narrative Essay?
Think of a narrative essay, as if you are telling a non-fictional hero story with a central character being you. These types of writing tend to include elements of a story while maintaining the structure of an essay. The primary purpose of the narrative essay is to inform the reader about a certain experience. Although it is possible there may be a lesson to learn from the experience, your objective as the author is to tell a story and not draw any conclusions as a narrator.
Types of Narrative Writing
People have been telling stories since ancient times. All types of stories share one thing in common; they are all part of narrative writing. Here are the four common types of narrative:
This type of narrative essay presents the events of the story in chronological order. There are various ways to accomplish this through any narrative perspective. The text can be written in first, second, and third-person. The linear narrative is meant to create an effect of immersion for the reader. During the read-through of such a narrative, the reader becomes immersed in the protagonist’s daily life by watching the events of the character’s life unfold in chronological order. A linear narrative essay has a clear beginning, middle, and end, making it relatively easy to keep up with the events of the story. Various examples of linear narratives can be found in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The novel shows different narrative perspectives. However, the events of the plot unfold in chronological order.
As you may guess from the name, a non-linear narrative essay tells the story out of order, often employing flashbacks and other literary devices to shift the reader back and forth through the timeline of the story. This is done to put emotional emphasis on some parts of the narrative and make thematic connections between events. A great example of a non-linear narrative is demonstrated in one of the most ancient classics, Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. Presentation of events out of chronological order has the effect of building suspense throughout the long narrative poem, as the reader is left to wonder how Odysseus’ ordeals began. Given the length of the poem, it is also used to keep the reader interested.
In a quest narrative essay, the protagonist is constantly moving towards a certain goal. Typically, reaching that goal involves a long journey, as the object of their pursuit is located far from their current whereabouts. Among the best examples of the quest narrative is J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In the novels, the protagonists embark on a long journey, which takes them through many dangers, and challenges along the way.
A viewpoint narrative essay is designed to show a particular point of view or personal experience of one or more characters of the story. In a viewpoint narrative essay, the narrator’s mood and feelings are expressed from their point of view. It shares similarities with an explanatory essay, as you can tell a story from another person’s point of view. This narrative style often employs first-person narration. Sometimes, we may see third-person narration in which the omniscient narrator can switch between points of view of different characters. This type of narrative allows for the possibility of an unreliable narrator. It may be used to build suspense in a unique way by getting the reader to question the narrator.
A great example of a viewpoint narrative is Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov. In this piece of narrative writing, the first-person narrative comes from Humbert Humbert, a man who has been a patient in a psychiatric clinic multiple times and tells the entire story in his own subjective way, which may not necessarily present the truth to the reader.
Elements of Narrative Writing
Being a piece of narrative writing, a narrative essay should include its elements: plot, setting, theme, characters, conflict, and a point of view. Let us examine each of the elements in greater detail below.
This one should come as no surprise, as every story has a plot. Think of it as the backbone of your narrative paper. It is the sequence of events in your narrative, which includes background information, conflict, the climax of the story, and the conclusion.
It is also an essential element of any story and should be included in your paper, so it follows a proper narrative essay format. The setting describes the world in which the story takes place, a world around the narrator and the characters. Providing a vivid description of the setting can be the difference between an average and a great essay.
Every narrative piece of writing has characters, and yours should be no different in this regard as characters are an integral part of any story. Do your best to describe the characters so that the reader has a clear image of them in their mind.
Point of View
The point of view should be consistent throughout your narrative essay. Remember that you are telling your story and keep the narration in the first person.
The message of your essay should be clear. It is a fundamental literary element, as everything in the essay revolves around its theme.
The driving force behind the characters’ actions in your narrative paper is conflict. It has a direct effect on the plot, as well as the theme of a narrative. Think of a defining conflict of your story when you plan your narrative essay.
Narrative Essay Format
Careful formatting of the essay can be just as important as the quality of its contents. Here are some things to pay attention to when formatting your narrative essay.
Choose the narrative essay format style depending on the assignment requirements. Most educational facilities use APA, MLA, Harvard. It is best to double-check the guidelines with your educator to make sure you know exactly what format to use. In some cases, choosing the wrong narrative format for the paper may even result in its rejection.
Give the needed attention to the title page. It is going to be the first thing that the teacher will see. Therefore, it is in your best interest to make sure that grammar and spelling are flawless, especially on the title page.
Pay careful attention to how you format your references. There are different peculiarities of how it should look depending on the format. Make sure to create the reference page in the same format as your narrative essay.
There are general rules for writing a narrative essay. These rules can vary depending on the place where you study, as well as your educator. However, there is one universal principle you must follow in order to create an A+ level paper. Follow your instructions, use the right essay structure, avoid plagiarism, and be as descriptive as possible.
Different educational facilities may define a narrative essay differently. However, generally, it is a paper that is similar to a hero story. The topics can vary from the description of holiday vacation to telling a short story about your life’s greatest adventure.
Narrative Essay Structure
As mentioned before, a narrative essay is similar to a hero story. It also shares a similar structure of a hero story, which is shown in the picture.
Let us take a closer look at what the elements of the narrative essay are:
As the name suggests, this is where the characters of the story, the setting, and the central conflict are introduced. Make sure to provide detailed descriptions of the characters, as it will help the reader to create a clear picture of them in their mind. Sometimes, the conflict is introduced in the next part of the narrative, which leads us to the “Rising action.”
This is the part of the story where the characters start to take action in regard to the conflict of the story. In a hero story, this is where the hero’s journey begins. The beginning of this section is a great place to introduce conflict as it is what motivates the characters to take steps toward resolving it. It is also where the central character starts to undergo a transformation as the challenges he or she faces transforms them into someone greater as the narrative approaches its peak. The main purpose of this part of the story is to create tension and keep the reader interested in what is going to happen next.
Up to this point, the tension in the story has been building as the reader was wondering what was going to happen next. It is a turning point in the story when the conflict is getting resolved through the central hero’s actions. In classic hero stories, the hero defeats the villain, marking the end of the conflict. As the conflict gets resolved, the tension in the story is released, and things start to settle down.
Falling Action & Resolution
Any good story needs a good ending, and this is where it happens. The conclusion of the narrative essay belongs in this part. In longer pieces of narrative writing, such as novels, this section may take several chapters, and sometimes falling action and resolution are separated. The resolution has some similarities with the introduction; however, now you are “introducing” how the story ends by describing characters and setting at the end of the story.
For a shorter piece of writing, such as a narrative essay, falling action and resolution can be combined because these two parts flow well together. They have a lot in common, and both occur after the conflict of the story has been resolved.
How to Write a Narrative Essay Step-by-Step Guide
How to Start a Narrative Essay
It may sound surprising, but writing an introduction can be the hardest part of writing the essay. Before deciding on your narrative essay topic, make sure to read and understand your assignment properly. After this, take the time to brainstorm different topics for your future essay to help you decide on the one you like the most. Creating an outline for an essay is also a great idea, as it will help you structure your assignment correctly. Remember to follow the structure of the narrative essay as you start to write your introduction.
When describing your characters and setting, be as detailed as possible in your description to give your reader the best possible understanding of what you have in mind.
The body of your essay should include the rising action and the main point of the story (climax). As in the introduction, you should be as descriptive as possible; however, in this section, give extra attention to your characters’ actions and describe them as best as possible. Details matter and can be the difference between a B+ and an A level paper.
How to End a Narrative Paper
The conclusion of your narrative essay should have similarities with your introduction. Think of it as introducing events that happened after the turning point. Provide detailed descriptions of the setting, as well as the characters’ moods and feelings. In novels like Harry Potter, the conclusion of one novel can set the stage for the next volume and almost serve as the introduction to the next one if they are read back to back.
Narrative Essay Topics
For some students, choosing the topic of a narrative essay is rather difficult. And it is understandable, as there are so many potential topics that the sheer volume of ideas can be overwhelming. Some students, on the other hand, have trouble finding where to start.
Whatever the case may be, here is a list of topics that can be used to write your narrative essay. Keep in mind that a topic from this list does not have to be the title of your essay. This list is meant to give you an idea of what you can write about.
List of topics:
- Your most exciting day of school.
- A field trip that your class took.
- Your favorite summer vacation.
- A trip that included something unexpected or surprising.
- A time that you learned something new that changed you in some way.
- The day that you got your first pet.
- A move from one place to another.
- Something funny that happened to you.
- Something funny that happened to one of your family members or friends.
- Something embarrassing that happened to you.
- Your favorite birthday party.
- A time that the power went out.
- A summer day when the temperature got much higher than expected.
- A time when you went to an amusement park.
- A time when you got lost somewhere.
- A memorable experience with a family member.
- A random act of kindness.
- Your most exciting moment performing in a play, singing, playing music, or dancing.
- A random act of kindness.
To Sum Up
Writing a narrative essay can be a challenging task. However, where there is a challenge, there is a lot of potential for expression. In essence, a narrative paper is a hero story and follows the same structure. Choose your topic and remember to provide detailed descriptions and give the reader a vivid picture of the characters and setting. When formatting your paper, make sure the grammar and spelling are perfect, and it is plagiarism-free.
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