Narrative essays are important papers most students have to write. But how does one write a narrative essay? Fear not, we’re going to show you how to write a narrative essay by breaking down a variety of narrative writing strategies. By the end, you’ll know why narrative essays are so important – and how to write your own.

How to Write a Narrative Essay Step by Step

Background on narrative essays

Narrative essays are important assignments in many writing classes – but what is a narrative essay? A narrative essay is a prose-written story that’s focused on the commentary of a central theme.

Narrative essays are generally written in the first-person POV, and are usually about a topic that’s personal to the writer.

Everything in a narrative essay should take place in an established timeline, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. 

In simplest terms, a narrative essay is a personal story. A narrative essay can be written in response to a prompt or as an independent exercise.

We’re going to get to tips and tricks on how to write a narrative essay in a bit, but first let’s check out a video on “story.” 

How to Start a Narrative Essay  •  What is a Story? by Mr. Kresphus

In some regards, any story can be regarded as a personal story, but for the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on prose-written stories told in the first-person POV.

How to Start a Narrative Essay

Responding to prompts

Many people wonder about how to start a narrative essay. Well, if you’re writing a narrative essay in response to a prompt, then chances are the person issuing the prompt is looking for a specific answer.

For example: if the prompt states “recount a time you encountered a challenge,” then chances are the person issuing the prompt wants to hear about how you overcame a challenge or learned from it.

That isn’t to say you have to respond to the prompt in one way; “overcoming” or “learning” from a challenge can be constituted in a variety of ways.

For example, you could structure your essay around overcoming a physical challenge, like an injury or disability. Or you could structure your essay around learning from failure, such as losing at a sport or performing poorly on an important exam.

Whatever it is, you must show that the challenge forced you to grow. 

Maturation is an important process – and an essential aspect of narrative essays... of course, there are exceptions to the rule; lack of maturation is a prescient theme in narrative essays too; although that’s mostly reserved for experienced essay writers.

So, let’s take a look at how you might respond to a series of narrative essay prompts:

How successful are you?

This prompt begs the writer to impart humility without throwing a pity party. I would respond to this prompt by demonstrating pride in what I do while offering modesty. For example: “I have achieved success in what I set out to do – but I still have a long way to go to achieve my long-term goals.”

Who is your role model?

“My role model is [Blank] because” is how you should start this narrative essay. The “because” is the crux of your essay. For example, I’d say “Bill Russell is my role model because he demonstrated graceful resolve in the face of bigotry and discrimination. 

Do you consider yourself spiritual?

For this prompt, you should explain how you came to the conclusion of whether or not you consider yourself a spiritual person. Of course, prompt-givers will differ on how much they want you to freely express. For example: if the prompt-giver is an employee at an evangelizing organization, then they probably want to see that you’re willing to propagate the church’s agenda. Alternatively, if the prompt-giver is non-denominational, they probably want to see that you’re accepting of people from various spiritual backgrounds.

How to Write Narrative Essay

What makes a good narrative essay

You don’t have to respond to a prompt to write a narrative essay. So, how do you write a narrative essay without a prompt? Well, that’s the thing… you can write a narrative essay about anything!

That’s a bit of a blessing and a curse though – on one hand it’s liberating to choose any topic you want; on the other, it’s difficult to narrow down a good story from an infinite breadth of possibilities.

In this next video, the team at Essay Pro explores why passion is the number one motivator for effective narrative essays.

How to Write a Narrative Essay Step by Step  •  Real Essay Examples by Essay Pro

So, before you write anything, ask yourself: “what am I passionate about?” Movies? Sports? Books? Games? Baking? Volunteering? Whatever it is, make sure that it’s something that demonstrates your individual growth. It doesn’t have to be anything major; take a video game for example: you could write a narrative essay about searching for a rare weapon with friends.

Success or failure, you’ll be able to demonstrate growth.

Here’s something to consider: writing a narrative essay around intertextuality. What is intertextuality? Intertextuality is the relationship between texts, i.e., books, movies, plays, songs, games, etc. In other words, it’s anytime one text is referenced in another text.

For example, you could write a narrative essay about your favorite movie! Just make sure that it ultimately reflects back on yourself. 

Narrative Writing Format

Structure of a narrative essay

Narrative essays differ in length and structure – but there are some universal basics. The first paragraph of a narrative essay should always introduce the central theme. For example, if the narrative essay is about “a fond childhood memory,” then the first paragraph should briefly comment on the nature of the fond childhood memory.

In general, a narrative essay should have an introductory paragraph with a topic sentence (reiterating the prompt or basic idea), a brief commentary on the central theme, and a set-up for the body paragraphs.

The body paragraphs should make up the vast majority of the narrative essay. In the body paragraphs, the writer should essentially “build the story’s case.” What do I mean by “build the story’s case?”

Well, I mean that the writer should display the story’s merit; what it means, why it matters, and how it proves (or refutes) personal growth.

The narrative essay should always conclude with a dedicated paragraph. In the “conclusion paragraph,” the writer should reflect on the story.

Pro tip: conclusion paragraphs usually work best when the writer stays within the diegesis. 

Up Next

What is a Video Essay?

A video essay is a natural extension of a narrative essay; differentiated only by purpose and medium. In our next article, we’ll explain what a video essay is, and why it’s so important to media criticism. By the end, you’ll know where to look for video essay inspiration.

Up Next: The Art of Video Analysis →
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  • Chris Heckmann graduated from Emmanuel College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing, Editing, and Publishing. He now lives in Los Angeles where he writes about sports, film, and television.

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