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A narrative essay is one of the most intimidating assignments you can be handed at any level of your education. Where you've previously written argumentative essays that make a point or analytic essays that dissect meaning, a narrative essay asks you to write what is effectively a story .

But unlike a simple work of creative fiction, your narrative essay must have a clear and concrete motif —a recurring theme or idea that you’ll explore throughout. Narrative essays are less rigid, more creative in expression, and therefore pretty different from most other essays you’ll be writing.

But not to fear—in this article, we’ll be covering what a narrative essay is, how to write a good one, and also analyzing some personal narrative essay examples to show you what a great one looks like.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

At first glance, a narrative essay might sound like you’re just writing a story. Like the stories you're used to reading, a narrative essay is generally (but not always) chronological, following a clear throughline from beginning to end. Even if the story jumps around in time, all the details will come back to one specific theme, demonstrated through your choice in motifs.

Unlike many creative stories, however, your narrative essay should be based in fact. That doesn’t mean that every detail needs to be pure and untainted by imagination, but rather that you shouldn’t wholly invent the events of your narrative essay. There’s nothing wrong with inventing a person’s words if you can’t remember them exactly, but you shouldn’t say they said something they weren’t even close to saying.

Another big difference between narrative essays and creative fiction—as well as other kinds of essays—is that narrative essays are based on motifs. A motif is a dominant idea or theme, one that you establish before writing the essay. As you’re crafting the narrative, it’ll feed back into your motif to create a comprehensive picture of whatever that motif is.

For example, say you want to write a narrative essay about how your first day in high school helped you establish your identity. You might discuss events like trying to figure out where to sit in the cafeteria, having to describe yourself in five words as an icebreaker in your math class, or being unsure what to do during your lunch break because it’s no longer acceptable to go outside and play during lunch. All of those ideas feed back into the central motif of establishing your identity.

The important thing to remember is that while a narrative essay is typically told chronologically and intended to read like a story, it is not purely for entertainment value. A narrative essay delivers its theme by deliberately weaving the motifs through the events, scenes, and details. While a narrative essay may be entertaining, its primary purpose is to tell a complete story based on a central meaning.

Unlike other essay forms, it is totally okay—even expected—to use first-person narration in narrative essays. If you’re writing a story about yourself, it’s natural to refer to yourself within the essay. It’s also okay to use other perspectives, such as third- or even second-person, but that should only be done if it better serves your motif. Generally speaking, your narrative essay should be in first-person perspective.

Though your motif choices may feel at times like you’re making a point the way you would in an argumentative essay, a narrative essay’s goal is to tell a story, not convince the reader of anything. Your reader should be able to tell what your motif is from reading, but you don’t have to change their mind about anything. If they don’t understand the point you are making, you should consider strengthening the delivery of the events and descriptions that support your motif.

Narrative essays also share some features with analytical essays, in which you derive meaning from a book, film, or other media. But narrative essays work differently—you’re not trying to draw meaning from an existing text, but rather using an event you’ve experienced to convey meaning. In an analytical essay, you examine narrative, whereas in a narrative essay you create narrative.

The structure of a narrative essay is also a bit different than other essays. You’ll generally be getting your point across chronologically as opposed to grouping together specific arguments in paragraphs or sections. To return to the example of an essay discussing your first day of high school and how it impacted the shaping of your identity, it would be weird to put the events out of order, even if not knowing what to do after lunch feels like a stronger idea than choosing where to sit. Instead of organizing to deliver your information based on maximum impact, you’ll be telling your story as it happened, using concrete details to reinforce your theme.

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3 Great Narrative Essay Examples

One of the best ways to learn how to write a narrative essay is to look at a great narrative essay sample. Let’s take a look at some truly stellar narrative essay examples and dive into what exactly makes them work so well.

A Ticket to the Fair by David Foster Wallace

Today is Press Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, and I’m supposed to be at the fairgrounds by 9:00 A.M. to get my credentials. I imagine credentials to be a small white card in the band of a fedora. I’ve never been considered press before. My real interest in credentials is getting into rides and shows for free. I’m fresh in from the East Coast, for an East Coast magazine. Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish. I think they asked me to do this because I grew up here, just a couple hours’ drive from downstate Springfield. I never did go to the state fair, though—I pretty much topped out at the county fair level. Actually, I haven’t been back to Illinois for a long time, and I can’t say I’ve missed it.

Throughout this essay, David Foster Wallace recounts his experience as press at the Illinois State Fair. But it’s clear from this opening that he’s not just reporting on the events exactly as they happened—though that’s also true— but rather making a point about how the East Coast, where he lives and works, thinks about the Midwest.

In his opening paragraph, Wallace states that outright: “Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish.”

Not every motif needs to be stated this clearly , but in an essay as long as Wallace’s, particularly since the audience for such a piece may feel similarly and forget that such a large portion of the country exists, it’s important to make that point clear.

But Wallace doesn’t just rest on introducing his motif and telling the events exactly as they occurred from there. It’s clear that he selects events that remind us of that idea of East Coast cynicism , such as when he realizes that the Help Me Grow tent is standing on top of fake grass that is killing the real grass beneath, when he realizes the hypocrisy of craving a corn dog when faced with a real, suffering pig, when he’s upset for his friend even though he’s not the one being sexually harassed, and when he witnesses another East Coast person doing something he wouldn’t dare to do.

Wallace is literally telling the audience exactly what happened, complete with dates and timestamps for when each event occurred. But he’s also choosing those events with a purpose—he doesn’t focus on details that don’t serve his motif. That’s why he discusses the experiences of people, how the smells are unappealing to him, and how all the people he meets, in cowboy hats, overalls, or “black spandex that looks like cheesecake leotards,” feel almost alien to him.

All of these details feed back into the throughline of East Coast thinking that Wallace introduces in the first paragraph. He also refers back to it in the essay’s final paragraph, stating:

At last, an overarching theory blooms inside my head: megalopolitan East Coasters’ summer treats and breaks and literally ‘getaways,’ flights-from—from crowds, noise, heat, dirt, the stress of too many sensory choices….The East Coast existential treat is escape from confines and stimuli—quiet, rustic vistas that hold still, turn inward, turn away. Not so in the rural Midwest. Here you’re pretty much away all the time….Something in a Midwesterner sort of actuates , deep down, at a public event….The real spectacle that draws us here is us.

Throughout this journey, Wallace has tried to demonstrate how the East Coast thinks about the Midwest, ultimately concluding that they are captivated by the Midwest’s less stimuli-filled life, but that the real reason they are interested in events like the Illinois State Fair is that they are, in some ways, a means of looking at the East Coast in a new, estranging way.

The reason this works so well is that Wallace has carefully chosen his examples, outlined his motif and themes in the first paragraph, and eventually circled back to the original motif with a clearer understanding of his original point.

When outlining your own narrative essay, try to do the same. Start with a theme, build upon it with examples, and return to it in the end with an even deeper understanding of the original issue. You don’t need this much space to explore a theme, either—as we’ll see in the next example, a strong narrative essay can also be very short.

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Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf

After a time, tired by his dancing apparently, he settled on the window ledge in the sun, and, the queer spectacle being at an end, I forgot about him. Then, looking up, my eye was caught by him. He was trying to resume his dancing, but seemed either so stiff or so awkward that he could only flutter to the bottom of the window-pane; and when he tried to fly across it he failed. Being intent on other matters I watched these futile attempts for a time without thinking, unconsciously waiting for him to resume his flight, as one waits for a machine, that has stopped momentarily, to start again without considering the reason of its failure. After perhaps a seventh attempt he slipped from the wooden ledge and fell, fluttering his wings, on to his back on the window sill. The helplessness of his attitude roused me. It flashed upon me that he was in difficulties; he could no longer raise himself; his legs struggled vainly. But, as I stretched out a pencil, meaning to help him to right himself, it came over me that the failure and awkwardness were the approach of death. I laid the pencil down again.

In this essay, Virginia Woolf explains her encounter with a dying moth. On surface level, this essay is just a recounting of an afternoon in which she watched a moth die—it’s even established in the title. But there’s more to it than that. Though Woolf does not begin her essay with as clear a motif as Wallace, it’s not hard to pick out the evidence she uses to support her point, which is that the experience of this moth is also the human experience.

In the title, Woolf tells us this essay is about death. But in the first paragraph, she seems to mostly be discussing life—the moth is “content with life,” people are working in the fields, and birds are flying. However, she mentions that it is mid-September and that the fields were being plowed. It’s autumn and it’s time for the harvest; the time of year in which many things die.

In this short essay, she chronicles the experience of watching a moth seemingly embody life, then die. Though this essay is literally about a moth, it’s also about a whole lot more than that. After all, moths aren’t the only things that die—Woolf is also reflecting on her own mortality, as well as the mortality of everything around her.

At its core, the essay discusses the push and pull of life and death, not in a way that’s necessarily sad, but in a way that is accepting of both. Woolf begins by setting up the transitional fall season, often associated with things coming to an end, and raises the ideas of pleasure, vitality, and pity.

At one point, Woolf tries to help the dying moth, but reconsiders, as it would interfere with the natural order of the world. The moth’s death is part of the natural order of the world, just like fall, just like her own eventual death.

All these themes are set up in the beginning and explored throughout the essay’s narrative. Though Woolf doesn’t directly state her theme, she reinforces it by choosing a small, isolated event—watching a moth die—and illustrating her point through details.

With this essay, we can see that you don’t need a big, weird, exciting event to discuss an important meaning. Woolf is able to explore complicated ideas in a short essay by being deliberate about what details she includes, just as you can be in your own essays.

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Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

On the twenty-ninth of July, in 1943, my father died. On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born. Over a month before this, while all our energies were concentrated in waiting for these events, there had been, in Detroit, one of the bloodiest race riots of the century. A few hours after my father’s funeral, while he lay in state in the undertaker’s chapel, a race riot broke out in Harlem. On the morning of the third of August, we drove my father to the graveyard through a wilderness of smashed plate glass.

Like Woolf, Baldwin does not lay out his themes in concrete terms—unlike Wallace, there’s no clear sentence that explains what he’ll be talking about. However, you can see the motifs quite clearly: death, fatherhood, struggle, and race.

Throughout the narrative essay, Baldwin discusses the circumstances of his father’s death, including his complicated relationship with his father. By introducing those motifs in the first paragraph, the reader understands that everything discussed in the essay will come back to those core ideas. When Baldwin talks about his experience with a white teacher taking an interest in him and his father’s resistance to that, he is also talking about race and his father’s death. When he talks about his father’s death, he is also talking about his views on race. When he talks about his encounters with segregation and racism, he is talking, in part, about his father.

Because his father was a hard, uncompromising man, Baldwin struggles to reconcile the knowledge that his father was right about many things with his desire to not let that hardness consume him, as well.

Baldwin doesn’t explicitly state any of this, but his writing so often touches on the same motifs that it becomes clear he wants us to think about all these ideas in conversation with one another.

At the end of the essay, Baldwin makes it more clear:

This fight begins, however, in the heart and it had now been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. This intimation made my heart heavy and, now that my father was irrecoverable, I wished that he had been beside me so that I could have searched his face for the answers which only the future would give me now.

Here, Baldwin ties together the themes and motifs into one clear statement: that he must continue to fight and recognize injustice, especially racial injustice, just as his father did. But unlike his father, he must do it beginning with himself—he must not let himself be closed off to the world as his father was. And yet, he still wishes he had his father for guidance, even as he establishes that he hopes to be a different man than his father.

In this essay, Baldwin loads the front of the essay with his motifs, and, through his narrative, weaves them together into a theme. In the end, he comes to a conclusion that connects all of those things together and leaves the reader with a lasting impression of completion—though the elements may have been initially disparate, in the end everything makes sense.

You can replicate this tactic of introducing seemingly unattached ideas and weaving them together in your own essays. By introducing those motifs, developing them throughout, and bringing them together in the end, you can demonstrate to your reader how all of them are related. However, it’s especially important to be sure that your motifs and clear and consistent throughout your essay so that the conclusion feels earned and consistent—if not, readers may feel mislead.

5 Key Tips for Writing Narrative Essays

Narrative essays can be a lot of fun to write since they’re so heavily based on creativity. But that can also feel intimidating—sometimes it’s easier to have strict guidelines than to have to make it all up yourself. Here are a few tips to keep your narrative essay feeling strong and fresh.

Develop Strong Motifs

Motifs are the foundation of a narrative essay . What are you trying to say? How can you say that using specific symbols or events? Those are your motifs.

In the same way that an argumentative essay’s body should support its thesis, the body of your narrative essay should include motifs that support your theme.

Try to avoid cliches, as these will feel tired to your readers. Instead of roses to symbolize love, try succulents. Instead of the ocean representing some vast, unknowable truth, try the depths of your brother’s bedroom. Keep your language and motifs fresh and your essay will be even stronger!

Use First-Person Perspective

In many essays, you’re expected to remove yourself so that your points stand on their own. Not so in a narrative essay—in this case, you want to make use of your own perspective.

Sometimes a different perspective can make your point even stronger. If you want someone to identify with your point of view, it may be tempting to choose a second-person perspective. However, be sure you really understand the function of second-person; it’s very easy to put a reader off if the narration isn’t expertly deployed.

If you want a little bit of distance, third-person perspective may be okay. But be careful—too much distance and your reader may feel like the narrative lacks truth.

That’s why first-person perspective is the standard. It keeps you, the writer, close to the narrative, reminding the reader that it really happened. And because you really know what happened and how, you’re free to inject your own opinion into the story without it detracting from your point, as it would in a different type of essay.

Stick to the Truth

Your essay should be true. However, this is a creative essay, and it’s okay to embellish a little. Rarely in life do we experience anything with a clear, concrete meaning the way somebody in a book might. If you flub the details a little, it’s okay—just don’t make them up entirely.

Also, nobody expects you to perfectly recall details that may have happened years ago. You may have to reconstruct dialog from your memory and your imagination. That’s okay, again, as long as you aren’t making it up entirely and assigning made-up statements to somebody.

Dialog is a powerful tool. A good conversation can add flavor and interest to a story, as we saw demonstrated in David Foster Wallace’s essay. As previously mentioned, it’s okay to flub it a little, especially because you’re likely writing about an experience you had without knowing that you’d be writing about it later.

However, don’t rely too much on it. Your narrative essay shouldn’t be told through people explaining things to one another; the motif comes through in the details. Dialog can be one of those details, but it shouldn’t be the only one.

Use Sensory Descriptions

Because a narrative essay is a story, you can use sensory details to make your writing more interesting. If you’re describing a particular experience, you can go into detail about things like taste, smell, and hearing in a way that you probably wouldn’t do in any other essay style.

These details can tie into your overall motifs and further your point. Woolf describes in great detail what she sees while watching the moth, giving us the sense that we, too, are watching the moth. In Wallace’s essay, he discusses the sights, sounds, and smells of the Illinois State Fair to help emphasize his point about its strangeness. And in Baldwin’s essay, he describes shattered glass as a “wilderness,” and uses the feelings of his body to describe his mental state.

All these descriptions anchor us not only in the story, but in the motifs and themes as well. One of the tools of a writer is making the reader feel as you felt, and sensory details help you achieve that.

What’s Next?

Looking to brush up on your essay-writing capabilities before the ACT? This guide to ACT English will walk you through some of the best strategies and practice questions to get you prepared!

Part of practicing for the ACT is ensuring your word choice and diction are on point. Check out this guide to some of the most common errors on the ACT English section to be sure that you're not making these common mistakes!

A solid understanding of English principles will help you make an effective point in a narrative essay, and you can get that understanding through taking a rigorous assortment of high school English classes !

Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!

Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.

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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.

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  • How to write a narrative essay | Example & tips

How to Write a Narrative Essay | Example & Tips

Published on July 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A narrative essay tells a story. In most cases, this is a story about a personal experience you had. This type of essay , along with the descriptive essay , allows you to get personal and creative, unlike most academic writing .

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Table of contents

What is a narrative essay for, choosing a topic, interactive example of a narrative essay, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about narrative essays.

When assigned a narrative essay, you might find yourself wondering: Why does my teacher want to hear this story? Topics for narrative essays can range from the important to the trivial. Usually the point is not so much the story itself, but the way you tell it.

A narrative essay is a way of testing your ability to tell a story in a clear and interesting way. You’re expected to think about where your story begins and ends, and how to convey it with eye-catching language and a satisfying pace.

These skills are quite different from those needed for formal academic writing. For instance, in a narrative essay the use of the first person (“I”) is encouraged, as is the use of figurative language, dialogue, and suspense.

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Narrative essay assignments vary widely in the amount of direction you’re given about your topic. You may be assigned quite a specific topic or choice of topics to work with.

  • Write a story about your first day of school.
  • Write a story about your favorite holiday destination.

You may also be given prompts that leave you a much wider choice of topic.

  • Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself.
  • Write about an achievement you are proud of. What did you accomplish, and how?

In these cases, you might have to think harder to decide what story you want to tell. The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to talk about a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.

For example, a trip where everything went according to plan makes for a less interesting story than one where something unexpected happened that you then had to respond to. Choose an experience that might surprise the reader or teach them something.

Narrative essays in college applications

When applying for college , you might be asked to write a narrative essay that expresses something about your personal qualities.

For example, this application prompt from Common App requires you to respond with a narrative essay.

In this context, choose a story that is not only interesting but also expresses the qualities the prompt is looking for—here, resilience and the ability to learn from failure—and frame the story in a way that emphasizes these qualities.

An example of a short narrative essay, responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” is shown below.

Hover over different parts of the text to see how the structure works.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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If you’re not given much guidance on what your narrative essay should be about, consider the context and scope of the assignment. What kind of story is relevant, interesting, and possible to tell within the word count?

The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to reflect on a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.

Don’t worry too much if your topic seems unoriginal. The point of a narrative essay is how you tell the story and the point you make with it, not the subject of the story itself.

Narrative essays are usually assigned as writing exercises at high school or in university composition classes. They may also form part of a university application.

When you are prompted to tell a story about your own life or experiences, a narrative essay is usually the right response.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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What is a Narrative Essay? How to Write It (with Examples)

What is a Narrative Essay? How to Write It (with Examples)

Narrative essays are a type of storytelling in which writers weave a personal experience into words to create a fascinating and engaging narrative for readers. A narrative essay explains a story from the author’s point of view to share a lesson or memory with the reader. Narrative essays, like descriptive essays , employ figurative language to depict the subject in a vivid and creative manner to leave a lasting impact on the readers’ minds. In this article, we explore the definition of narrative essays, list the key elements to be included, and provide tips on how to craft a narrative that captivates your audience.

Table of Contents

What is a narrative essay, choosing narrative essay topics, key elements in a narrative essay, creating a narrative essay outline, types of narrative essays, the pre-writing stage, the writing stage, the editing stage, narrative essay example, frequently asked questions.

Narrative essays are often based on one’s personal experience which allows the author to express himself/herself in compelling ways for the reader. They employ storytelling elements to convey the plot and captivate the reader while disclosing the story’s theme or purpose. The author must always have a purpose or theme in mind when writing a narrative essay. These essays may be assigned to high school students to assess their ability to create captivating stories based on personal experiences, or they may be required as part of a college application to assess the applicant’s personal traits. Narrative essays might be based on true events with minor tweaks for dramatic purposes, or they can be adapted from a fictional scenario. Whatever the case maybe, the goal is to tell a story, a good story!

In narrative essays, the emphasis is not so much on the narrative itself as it is on how you explain it. Narrative essay topics cover a range of experiences, from noteworthy to mundane, but when storytelling elements are used well, even a simple account can have weight. Notably, the skills required for narrative writing differ significantly from those needed for formal academic essays, and we will delve deeper into this in the next section.

You can talk about any narrative, but consider whether it is fascinating enough, has enough twists and turns, or teaches a lesson (It’s a plus if the story contains an unexpected twist at the end). The potential topics for a narrative essay are limitless—a triumphant story, a brief moment of introspection, or a voyage of self-discovery. These essays provide writers with the opportunity to share a fragment of their lives with the audience, enriching both the writer’s and the reader’s experiences. Narrative essay examples could be a write-up on “What has been your biggest achievement in life so far and what did it teach you?” or “Describe your toughest experience and how you dealt with it?”.

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While narrative essays allow you to be creative with your ideas, language, and format, they must include some key components to convey the story clearly, create engaging content and build reader interest. Follow these guidelines when drafting your essay:   

  • Tell your story using the first person to engage users.
  • Use sufficient sensory information and figurative language.
  • Follow an organized framework so the story flows chronologically.
  • Include interesting plot components that add to the narrative.
  • Ensure clear language without grammar, spelling, or word choice errors.

Narrative essay outlines serve as the foundational structure for essay composition, acting as a framework to organize thoughts and ideas prior to the writing process. These outlines provide writers with a means to summarize the story, and help in formulating the introduction and conclusion sections and defining the narrative’s trajectory.

Unlike conventional essays that strictly adhere to the five-paragraph structure, narrative essays allow for more flexibility as the organization is dictated by the flow of the story. The outline typically encompasses general details about the events, granting writers the option to prioritize writing the body sections first while deferring the introduction until later stages of the writing process. This approach allows for a more organic and fluid writing process. If you’re wondering how to start writing a narrative essay outline, here is a sample designed to ensure a compelling and coherent narrative:

Introduction

  • Hook/Opening line: The introduction should have an opening/hook sentence that is a captivating quote, question, or anecdote that grabs the reader’s attention.
  • Background: Briefly introduce the setting, time, tone, and main characters.
  • Thesis statement: State clearly the main theme or lesson acquired from the experience.
  • Event 1 (according to occurrence): Describe the first major event in detail. Introduce the primary characters and set the story context; include sensory elements to enrich the narrative and give the characters depth and enthusiasm.
  • Event 2: Ensure a smooth transition from one event to the next. Continue with the second event in the narrative. For more oomph, use suspense or excitement, or leave the plot with cliffhanger endings. Concentrate on developing your characters and their relationships, using dialog to bring the story to life.
  • Event 3: If there was a twist and suspense, this episode should introduce the climax or resolve the story. Keep the narrative flowing by connecting events logically and conveying the feelings and reactions of the characters.
  • Summarize the plot: Provide a concise recap of the main events within the narrative essay. Highlight the key moments that contribute to the development of the storyline. Offer personal reflections on the significance of the experiences shared, emphasizing the lasting impact they had on the narrator. End the story with a clincher; a powerful and thought-provoking sentence that encapsulates the essence of the narrative. As a bonus, aim to leave the reader with a memorable statement or quote that enhances the overall impact of the narrative. This should linger in the reader’s mind, providing a satisfying and resonant conclusion to the essay.

There are several types of narrative essays, each with their own unique traits. Some narrative essay examples are presented in the table below.

How to write a narrative essay: Step-by-step guide

A narrative essay might be inspired by personal experiences, stories, or even imaginary scenarios that resonate with readers, immersing them in the imaginative world you have created with your words. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide on how to write a narrative essay.

  • Select the topic of your narrative

If no prompt is provided, the first step is to choose a topic to write about. Think about personal experiences that could be given an interesting twist. Readers are more likely to like a tale if it contains aspects of humor, surprising twists, and an out-of-the-box climax. Try to plan out such subjects and consider whether you have enough information on the topic and whether it meets the criteria of being funny/inspiring, with nice characters/plot lines, and an exciting climax. Also consider the tone as well as any stylistic features (such as metaphors or foreshadowing) to be used. While these stylistic choices can be changed later, sketching these ideas early on helps you give your essay a direction to start.

  • Create a framework for your essay

Once you have decided on your topic, create an outline for your narrative essay. An outline is a framework that guides your ideas while you write your narrative essay to keep you on track. It can help with smooth transitions between sections when you are stuck and don’t know how to continue the story. It provides you with an anchor to attach and return to, reminding you of why you started in the first place and why the story matters.

narrative essay examples reddit

  • Compile your first draft

A perfect story and outline do not work until you start writing the draft and breathe life into it with your words. Use your newly constructed outline to sketch out distinct sections of your narrative essay while applying numerous linguistic methods at your disposal. Unlike academic essays, narrative essays allow artistic freedom and leeway for originality so don’t stop yourself from expressing your thoughts. However, take care not to overuse linguistic devices, it’s best to maintain a healthy balance to ensure readability and flow.

  • Use a first-person point of view

One of the most appealing aspects of narrative essays is that traditional academic writing rules do not apply, and the narration is usually done in the first person. You can use first person pronouns such as I and me while narrating different scenarios. Be wary of overly using these as they can suggest lack of proper diction.

  • Use storytelling or creative language

You can employ storytelling tactics and linguistic tools used in fiction or creative writing, such as metaphors, similes, and foreshadowing, to communicate various themes. The use of figurative language, dialogue, and suspense is encouraged in narrative essays.

  • Follow a format to stay organized

There’s no fixed format for narrative essays, but following a loose format when writing helps in organizing one’s thoughts. For example, in the introduction part, underline the importance of creating a narrative essay, and then reaffirm it in the concluding paragraph. Organize your story chronologically so that the reader can follow along and make sense of the story.

  • Reread, revise, and edit

Proofreading and editing are critical components of creating a narrative essay, but it can be easy to become weighed down by the details at this stage. Taking a break from your manuscript before diving into the editing process is a wise practice. Stepping away for a day or two, or even just a few hours, provides valuable time to enhance the plot and address any grammatical issues that may need correction. This period of distance allows for a fresh perspective, enabling you to approach the editing phase with renewed clarity and a more discerning eye.

One suggestion is to reconsider the goals you set out to cover when you started the topic. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a distinct beginning and end to your story?
  • Does your essay have a topic, a memory, or a lesson to teach?
  • Does the tone of the essay match the intended mood?

Now, while keeping these things in mind, modify and proofread your essay. You can use online grammar checkers and paraphrase tools such as Paperpal to smooth out any rough spots before submitting it for publication or submission.

It is recommended to edit your essay in the order it was written; here are some useful tips:

  • Revise the introduction

After crafting your narrative essay, review the introduction to ensure it harmonizes with the developed narrative. Confirm that it adeptly introduces the story and aligns seamlessly with the conclusion.

  • Revise the conclusion and polish the essay

The conclusion should be the final element edited to ensure coherence and harmony in the entire narrative. It must reinforce the central theme or lesson outlined initially.

  • Revise and refine the entire article

The last step involves refining the article for consistent tone, style, and tense as well as correct language, grammar, punctuation, and clarity. Seeking feedback from a mentor or colleague can offer an invaluable external perspective at this stage.

Narrative essays are true accounts of the writer’s personal experiences, conveyed in figurative language for sensory appeal. Some narrative essay topic examples include writing about an unforgettable experience, reflecting on mistakes, or achieving a goal. An example of a personal narrative essay is as follows:

Title: A Feline Odyssey: An Experience of Fostering Stray Kittens

Introduction:

It was a fine summer evening in the year 2022 when a soft meowing disrupted the tranquility of my terrace. Little did I know that this innocent symphony would lead to a heartwarming journey of compassion and companionship. Soon, there was a mama cat at my doorstep with four little kittens tucked behind her. They were the most unexpected visitors I had ever had.

The kittens, just fluffs of fur with barely open eyes, were a monument to life’s fragility. Their mother, a street-smart feline, had entrusted me with the care of her precious offspring. The responsibility was sudden and unexpected, yet there was an undeniable sense of purpose in the air , filling me with delight and enthusiasm.

As the days unfolded, my terrace transformed into a haven for the feline family. Cardboard boxes became makeshift cat shelters and my once solitary retreat was filled with purrs and soothing meows. The mother cat, Lily, who initially observ ed me from a safe distance, gradually began to trust my presence as I offered food and gentle strokes.

Fostering the kittens was a life-changing , enriching experience that taught me the true joy of giving as I cared for the felines. My problems slowly faded into the background as evenings were spent playing with the kittens. Sleepless nights turned into a symphony of contented purring, a lullaby filled with the warmth of trust and security . Although the kittens were identical, they grew up to have very distinct personalities, with Kuttu being the most curious and Bobo being the most coy . Every dawn ushered in a soothing ritual of nourishing these feline companions, while nights welcomed their playful antics — a daily nocturnal delight.

Conclusion:

As the kittens grew, so did the realization that our paths were destined to part. Finally, the day arrived when the feline family, now confident and self-reliant, bid farewell to my terrace. It was a bittersweet moment, filled with a sense of love and accomplishment and a tinge of sadness.

Fostering Kuttu, Coco, Lulu, and Bobo became one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Their arrival had brought unexpected joy, teaching me about compassion and our species’ ability to make a difference in the world through love and understanding. The terrace, once a quiet retreat, now bore the echoes of a feline symphony that had touched my heart in ways I could have never imagined.

narrative essay examples reddit

The length of a narrative essay may vary, but it is typically a brief to moderate length piece. Generally, the essay contains an introductory paragraph, two to three body paragraphs (this number can vary), and a conclusion. The entire narrative essay could be as short as five paragraphs or much longer, depending on the assignment’s requirements or the writer’s preference.

You can write a narrative essay when you have a personal experience to share, or a story, or a series of events that you can tell in a creative and engaging way. Narrative essays are often assigned in academic settings as a form of writing that allows students to express themselves and showcase their storytelling skills. However, you can also write a narrative essay for personal reflection, entertainment, or to communicate a message.

A narrative essay usually follows a three-part structure: – Introduction (To set the stage for the story) – Body paragraphs (To describe sequence of events with details, descriptions, and dialogue) – Conclusion (To summarize the story and reflect on the significance)

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What is a Narrative Essay Examples Format and Techniques Featured

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What is a Narrative Essay — Examples, Format & Techniques

I was in the Amazon jungle the first time I wrote a narrative essay, enlightened and enraptured by the influence of ayahuasca. That’s not true. I’ve never been to South America nor have I ever taken ayahuasca. The purpose of that opening is to show how to craft a narrative essay intro — hook, line, and sinker. Narrative essays rely on hooking the reader, and enticing them to read on. But what is a narrative essay? We’re going to break down everything you need to know about these essays — definition, examples, tips and tricks included. By the end, you’ll be ready to craft your own narrative essay for school or for publication.

What’s a Narrative Essay?

First, let’s define narrative essay.

Narrative essays share a lot of similarities with personal essays, but whereas the former can be fictional or non-fictional, the latter are strictly non-fictional. The goal of the narrative essay is to use established storytelling techniques, like theme , conflict , and irony , in a uniquely personal way.

The responsibility of the narrative essayist is to make the reader feel connected to their story, regardless of the topic. This next video explores how writers can use structural elements and techniques to better engage their readers. 

Personal Narrative Essay Examples With Essay Pro

Narrative essays rely on tried and true structure components, including:

  • First-person POV
  • Personal inspiration
  • Focus on a central theme

By keeping these major tenets in mind, you’ll be better prepared to recognize weaknesses and strengths in your own works.

NARRATIVE ESSAY DEFINITION

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 these essays should take place in an established timeline, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. 

Famous Narrative Essay Examples

  • Ticker to the Fair by David Foster Wallace
  • After Life by Joan Didion
  • Here is a Lesson in Creative Writing by Kurt Vonnegut

Narrative Writing Explained

How to start a narrative essay.

When you go to sleep at night, what do you think of? Flying squirrels? Lost loved ones? That time you called your teacher ‘mom’? Whatever it is, that’s what you need to write about. There’s a reason those ideas and moments have stuck with you over time. Your job is to figure out why.

Once you realize what makes a moment important to you, it’s your job to make it important to the reader too. In this next video, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker J. Christian Jensen explains the power of the personal narrative. 

Narrative Writing and the Personal Narrative Essay  •  Video by TEDx Talks

Anything and everything can be the topic of your essay. It could be as benign as a walk to school or as grandiose as a trip to the moon — so long as that narrative exists within reality. Give your thoughts and opinions on the matter too — don’t be afraid to say “this is what I think” so long as it’s supported by storytelling techniques. Remember, never limit yourself as a writer, just keep in mind that certain topics will be harder to make engaging than others.

Narrative Essay Outline

How to write a narrative essay.

First step, game plan. You’re going to want to map out the story from beginning to end, then mark major story beats in your document.

Like all stories, your narrative essay needs a clear beginning, middle, and end. Each section should generally conform to a specifically outlined structure. For reference, check out the outline below.

Structure of A Narrative Essay

Narrative Essay Format  •  How to Write a Narrative Essay Step by Step

Make sure to reference back to this outline throughout the writing process to make sure you have all your major beats covered.

Purpose of narrative essay writing

Narrative essays give writers the ability to freely express themselves within the structure of a traditional story. Nearly all universities ask applicants to submit a narrative essay with their formal application. This is done for two reasons: they allow institutions to judge the linguistic and grammar capabilities of its applicants, as well as their raw creative side.

If you’re considering studying creative writing in an undergraduate or graduate program, then you’re going to write A LOT of narrative style essays. This process may seem indomitable; How am I supposed to write hundreds of pages about… me? But by the end, you’ll be a better writer and you’ll have a better understanding of yourself.

One thing that all successful essayists have in common is that they make radical, often defiant statements on the world at large. Think Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, and Langston Hughes for example.

Being a professional essayist isn’t easy, and it’s near-impossible to be one who makes a lot of money. Many essayists work as professors, editors, and curriculum designers as well. 

This next video features the late, award-winning essayist Brian Doyle. He explains all the things you need to hear when thinking about writing a story.

Narrative Essay Examples “Lecture” via Boston University

We can learn a lot from the way Doyle “opens” his stories. My favorite is how he begins with the statement, “I met the Dalai Lama once.” How can we not be interested in learning more? 

This brings us all the way back to the beginning. Start with a hook, rattle off the line, then reel in the sinker. If you entice the reader, develop a personal plot, and finish with a resolute ending, you’ll have a lot of success in essay writing. 

 Up Next

Narrative essay topics.

We've curated a collection of narrative essay topics that will spark your creativity and bring your experiences to life. Dive into the rich tapestry of your memories, explore the unique threads of your life, and let your narrative unfold.

Up Next: Narrative Essay Topics →

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narrative essay examples reddit

Narrative Essay with Tips - a Detailed Guide

narrative essay examples reddit

Defining What Is a Narrative Essay

We can explain a narrative essay definition as a piece of writing that tells a story. It's like a window into someone's life or a page torn from a diary. Similarly to a descriptive essay, a narrative essay tells a story, rather than make a claim and use evidence. It can be about anything – a personal experience, a childhood memory, a moment of triumph or defeat – as long as it's told in a way that captures the reader's imagination.

You might ask - 'which sentence most likely comes from a narrative essay?'. Let's take this for example: 'I could hear the waves crashing against the shore, their rhythm a soothing lullaby that carried me off to sleep.' You could even use such an opening for your essay when wondering how to start a narrative essay.

To further define a narrative essay, consider it storytelling with a purpose. The purpose of a narrative essay is not just to entertain but also to convey a message or lesson in first person. It's a way to share your experiences and insights with others and connect with your audience. Whether you're writing about your first love, a harrowing adventure, or a life-changing moment, your goal is to take the reader on a journey that will leave them feeling moved, inspired, or enlightened.

So if you're looking for a way to express yourself creatively and connect with others through your writing, try your hand at a narrative essay. Who knows – you might just discover a hidden talent for storytelling that you never knew you had!

Meanwhile, let's delve into the article to better understand this type of paper through our narrative essay examples, topic ideas, and tips on constructing a perfect essay.

Types of Narrative Essays

If you were wondering, 'what is a personal narrative essay?', know that narrative essays come in different forms, each with a unique structure and purpose. Regardless of the type of narrative essay, each aims to transport the reader to a different time and place and to create an emotional connection between the reader and the author's experiences. So, let's discuss each type in more detail:

  • A personal narrative essay is based on one's unique experience or event. Personal narrative essay examples include a story about overcoming a fear or obstacle or reflecting on a particularly meaningful moment in one's life.
  • A fictional narrative is a made-up story that still follows the basic elements of storytelling. Fictional narratives can take many forms, from science fiction to romance to historical fiction.
  • A memoir is similar to personal narratives but focuses on a specific period or theme in a person's life. Memoirs might be centered around a particular relationship, a struggle with addiction, or a cultural identity. If you wish to describe your life in greater depth, you might look at how to write an autobiography .
  • A literacy narrative essay explores the writer's experiences with literacy and how it has influenced their life. The essay typically tells a personal story about a significant moment or series of moments that impacted the writer's relationship with reading, writing, or communication.

You might also be interested in discovering 'HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY'

Pros and Cons of Narrative Writing

Writing a narrative essay can be a powerful tool for self-expression and creative storytelling, but like any form of writing, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Let's explore the pros and cons of narrative writing in more detail, helping you to decide whether it's the right writing style for your needs.

  • It can be a powerful way to convey personal experiences and emotions.
  • Allows for creative expression and unique voice
  • Engages the reader through storytelling and vivid details
  • It can be used to teach a lesson or convey a message.
  • Offers an opportunity for self-reflection and growth
  • It can be challenging to balance personal storytelling with the needs of the reader
  • It may not be as effective for conveying factual information or arguments
  • It may require vulnerability and sharing personal details that some writers may find uncomfortable
  • It can be subjective, as the reader's interpretation of the narrative may vary

If sharing your personal stories is not your cup of tea, you can buy essays online from our expert writers, who will customize the paper to your particular writing style and tone.

20 Excellent Narrative Essay Topics and How to Choose One

Choosing a good topic among many narrative essay ideas can be challenging, but some tips can help you make the right choice. Here are some original and helpful tips on how to choose a good narrative essay topic:

  • Consider your own experiences: One of the best sources of inspiration for a narrative essay is your own life experiences. Consider moments that have had a significant impact on you, whether they are positive or negative. For example, you could write about a memorable trip or a challenging experience you overcame.
  • Choose a topic relevant to your audience: Consider your audience and their interests when choosing a narrative essay topic. If you're writing for a class, consider what topics might be relevant to the course material. If you're writing for a broader audience, consider what topics might be interesting or informative to them.
  • Find inspiration in literature: Literature can be a great source of inspiration for a narrative essay. Consider the books or stories that have had an impact on you, and think about how you can incorporate elements of them into your own narrative. For example, you could start by using a title for narrative essay inspired by the themes of a favorite novel or short story.
  • Focus on a specific moment or event: Most narrative essays tell a story, so it's important to focus on a specific moment or event. For example, you could write a short narrative essay about a conversation you had with a friend or a moment of realization while traveling.
  • Experiment with different perspectives: Consider writing from different perspectives to add depth and complexity to your narrative. For example, you could write about the same event from multiple perspectives or explore the thoughts and feelings of a secondary character.
  • Use writing prompts: Writing prompts can be a great source of inspiration if you struggle to develop a topic. Consider using a prompt related to a specific theme, such as love, loss, or growth.
  • Choose a topic with rich sensory details: A good narrative essay should engage the senses and create a vivid picture in the reader's mind. Choose a topic with rich sensory details that you can use to create a vivid description. For example, you could write about a bustling city's sights, sounds, and smells.
  • Choose a topic meaningful to you: Ultimately, the best narrative essays are meaningful to the writer. Choose a topic that resonates with you and that you feel passionate about. For example, you could write about a personal goal you achieved or a struggle you overcame.

Here are some good narrative essay topics for inspiration from our experts:

  • A life-changing event that altered your perspective on the world
  • The story of a personal accomplishment or achievement
  • An experience that tested your resilience and strength
  • A time when you faced a difficult decision and how you handled it
  • A childhood memory that still holds meaning for you
  • The impact of a significant person in your life
  • A travel experience that taught you something new
  • A story about a mistake or failure that ultimately led to growth and learning
  • The first day of a new job or school
  • The story of a family tradition or ritual that is meaningful to you
  • A time when you had to confront a fear or phobia
  • A memorable concert or music festival experience
  • An experience that taught you the importance of communication or listening
  • A story about a time when you had to stand up for what you believed in
  • A time when you had to persevere through a challenging task or project
  • A story about a significant cultural or societal event that impacted your life
  • The impact of a book, movie, or other work of art on your life
  • A time when you had to let go of something or someone important to you
  • A memorable encounter with a stranger that left an impression on you
  • The story of a personal hobby or interest that has enriched your life

Narrative Format and Structure

The narrative essay format and structure are essential elements of any good story. A well-structured narrative can engage readers, evoke emotions, and create lasting memories. Whether you're writing a personal essay or a work of fiction, the following guidelines on how to write a narrative essay can help you create a compelling paper:

narrative essay

  • Introduction : The introduction sets the scene for your story and introduces your main characters and setting. It should also provide a hook to capture your reader's attention and make them want to keep reading. When unsure how to begin a narrative essay, describe the setting vividly or an intriguing question that draws the reader in.
  • Plot : The plot is the sequence of events that make up your story. It should have a clear beginning, middle, and end, with each part building on the previous one. The plot should also have a clear conflict or problem the protagonist must overcome.
  • Characters : Characters are the people who drive the story. They should be well-developed and have distinct personalities and motivations. The protagonist should have a clear goal or desire, and the antagonist should provide a challenge or obstacle to overcome.
  • Setting : The setting is the time and place the story takes place. It should be well-described and help to create a mood or atmosphere that supports the story's themes.
  • Dialogue : Dialogue is the conversation between characters. It should be realistic and help to reveal the characters' personalities and motivations. It can also help to move the plot forward.
  • Climax : The climax is the highest tension or conflict point in the story. It should be the turning point that leads to resolving the conflict.
  • Resolution : The resolution is the end of the story. It should provide a satisfying conclusion to the conflict and tie up any loose ends.

Following these guidelines, you can create a narrative essay structure that engages readers and leaves a lasting impression. Remember, a well-structured story can take readers on a journey and make them feel part of the action.

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Narrative Essay Outline

Here is a detailed narrative essay outline from our custom term paper writing :

Introduction

A. Hook: Start with an attention-grabbing statement, question, or anecdote that introduces the topic and draws the reader in. Example: 'The sun beat down on my skin as I stepped onto the stage, my heart pounding with nervous excitement.'

B. Background information: Provide context for the story, such as the setting or the characters involved. Example: 'I had been preparing for this moment for weeks, rehearsing my lines and perfecting my performance for the school play.'

C. Thesis statement: State the essay's main point and preview the events to come. Example: 'This experience taught me that taking risks and stepping outside my comfort zone can lead to unexpected rewards and personal growth.'

Body Paragraphs

A. First event: Describe the first event in the story, including details about the setting, characters, and actions. Example: 'As I delivered my first lines on stage, I felt a rush of adrenaline and a sense of pride in my hard work paying off.'

B. Second event: Describe the second event in the story, including how it builds on the first event and moves the story forward. Example: 'As the play progressed, I became more comfortable in my role and connecting with the other actors on stage.'

C. Turning point: Describe the turning point in the story, when something unexpected or significant changes the course of events. Example: 'In the final act, my character faced a difficult decision that required me to improvise and trust my instincts.'

D. Climax: Describe the story's climax, the highest tension or conflict point. Example: 'As the play reached its climax, I delivered my final lines with confidence and emotion, feeling a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.'

A. Restate thesis: Summarize the essay's main point and how the events in the story support it. Example: 'Through this experience, I learned that taking risks and pushing past my comfort zone can lead to personal growth and unexpected rewards.'

B. Reflection: Reflect on the significance of the experience and what you learned from it. Example: 'Looking back, I realize that this experience not only taught me about acting and performance but also about the power of perseverance and self-belief.'

C. Call to action: if you're still wondering how to write an essay conclusion , consider ending it with a call to action or final thought that leaves the reader with something to consider or act on. Example: 'I encourage everyone to take risks and embrace new challenges because you never know what kind of amazing experiences and growth they may lead to.

You might also be interested in getting detailed info on 'HOW TO WRITE AN ESSAY CONCLUSION'

Narrative Essay Examples

Are you looking for inspiration for your next narrative essay? Look no further than our narrative essay example. Through vivid storytelling and personal reflections, this essay takes the reader on a journey of discovery and leaves them with a powerful lesson about the importance of compassion and empathy. Use this sample from our expert essay writer as a guide for crafting your own narrative essay, and let your unique voice and experiences shine through.

Narrative Essay 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 demonstrate these qualities, regardless of whether your narrative paper is a college application essay or a class assignment. Additionally, 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, and connect it to your field of interest. The narrative can be exciting and informative if you present it in such fashion.

Narrative Essay 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 in which you believe your actions were exemplary and made an adult choice. A personal narrative essay example will showcase the best of your abilities. Finally, use other sources to help you get the best results possible. Try searching for a sample narrative essay to see how others have approached it.

Final Words

So now that you know what is a narrative essay you might want to produce high-quality paper. For that let our team of experienced writers help. Our research paper writing service offers a range of professional writing services that cater to your unique needs and requirements, from narrative essays to medical personal statement , also offering dissertation help and more.

With our flexible pricing options and fast turnaround times, you can trust that you'll receive great value for your investment. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you succeed in your academic writing journey. 

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The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the widespread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.

What is a narrative essay?

When writing a narrative essay, one might think of it as telling a story. These essays are often anecdotal, experiential, and personal—allowing students to express themselves in a creative and, quite often, moving ways.

Here are some guidelines for writing a narrative essay.

  • If written as a story, the essay should include all the parts of a story.

This means that you must include an introduction, plot, characters, setting, climax, and conclusion.

  • When would a narrative essay not be written as a story?

A good example of this is when an instructor asks a student to write a book report. Obviously, this would not necessarily follow the pattern of a story and would focus on providing an informative narrative for the reader.

  • The essay should have a purpose.

Make a point! Think of this as the thesis of your story. If there is no point to what you are narrating, why narrate it at all?

  • The essay should be written from a clear point of view.

It is quite common for narrative essays to be written from the standpoint of the author; however, this is not the sole perspective to be considered. Creativity in narrative essays oftentimes manifests itself in the form of authorial perspective.

  • Use clear and concise language throughout the essay.

Much like the descriptive essay, narrative essays are effective when the language is carefully, particularly, and artfully chosen. Use specific language to evoke specific emotions and senses in the reader.

  • The use of the first person pronoun ‘I’ is welcomed.

Do not abuse this guideline! Though it is welcomed it is not necessary—nor should it be overused for lack of clearer diction.

  • As always, be organized!

Have a clear introduction that sets the tone for the remainder of the essay. Do not leave the reader guessing about the purpose of your narrative. Remember, you are in control of the essay, so guide it where you desire (just make sure your audience can follow your lead).

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37 Student Narrative Essay Examples

The pot calling the kettle black….

“You aren’t acting normal,” my dad said with a dopy, concerned look on his face. He was a hard-working, soft and loving man. He was smaller than my mother, physically and figuratively. She sat beside him. She had a towering stature, with strong, swimmers’ shoulders, but she was hunched often. She didn’t really have eyebrows, but she didn’t need them. She had no problem conveying emotion on her face, especially negative ones.

“What’s wrong?” my mother asked. She took my hand frantically. Not the way one might take someone’s hand to connect with or comfort them. She needed reassurance more than I did.

My parents were sitting across from me on cushioned, bland-colored chairs in my dad’s office, while I sat on a rickety, torturous wooden chair. My dad’s office generally utilized natural light due to the expansive glass windows that allowed the light to drown the room, enclosing us in the chamber. I felt like an inmate being prepped for lethal injection. The weather was particularly gray and dismal. Perhaps it was the ambiguous, gray, confusing feelings I was breathing through. My parents had somewhat regular “interventions” to address my somewhat regular (sometimes public) emotional breakdowns, my self-medicating habits, and my general shitty attitude.

This week in particular, I had purposely destroyed two of my mother’s collectible horses. She had a maniacal obsession for them. She also maniacally collected sunflower artwork, which was the one obsession, of many, I found endearing. My old babysitter noted at one point there were 74 collectible horses in the house. After my outburst, there were 72.

I could see behind my parents, through the glass-paned door, my two younger sisters were secretly observing the altercation from the dining room, hiding under the table. They were illuminated by the ominous weather, which was also watching in on the dismal conversation through the windows. I was envious, jealous even, of my spectating sisters. My sisters didn’t have overflowing, excessive emotions. They didn’t have emotions that were considered “excessive.” I felt like an offender being put at the stocks: my parents were the executioners, and my sisters were the jesters.

“I’m angry.”

“What about?” my dad asked, puzzled. “Did someone do something to you?”

“Honey, were you—” my mother looked to my dad, then concealed her mouth slightly with the other hand, “ raped ?”

I couldn’t help but raise my voice. “No, Mom, I wasn’t raped, Jesus.” I took a moment to grind on my teeth and imagine the bit I was chomping at. Calm, careful, composed, I responded. “I’m just angry. I don’t feel—”

“What don’t you feel?” She practically jumped on me, while yanking my imprisoned hand toward her. She yanked at my reins.

“I don’t feel understood!” My mind was bucking. I didn’t know why I needed to react by raising my voice. It felt instinctive, defensive. Shouting forcefully, I jerked my hand away from her, but it remained in her clutches. I didn’t feel satisfied saying it, though what I said was the truth.

“What are you talking about?” my dad asked mournfully. I knew he felt betrayed. But he didn’t understand. He didn’t know what it’s like for things to be too much. Or to be too much. My dad looked at me longingly, hoping I would correct what I had said. He looked lost, incapable of understanding why I was doing what I was doing. My mother interjected, cutting off my dad’s hypnotic, silent cry for connection.

“You’re crazy!” she said, maintaining eye contact. My mother then let go of my hand, flipped it back to me. She reclined in her chair, retracting from me and the discussion entirely. She crossed her legs, then her arms. She turned her head away, toward the glass windows, and (mentally) left.

I was and am not “too much.”

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18 years old.

I had just stepped off a squealing MAX line onto a broken sidewalk slab, gnarled from tree roots, when I felt my phone buzz rhythmically.

“I need you to come to the hospital. Mom had a little accident.” My dad’s voice was distant and cracking, like a wavering radio signal, calling for help.

“What’s going on? Is she okay?” I asked while making my way to campus.

“Where are you?” He wasn’t going to tell me anything over the phone. Adrenaline set in. I let him know I was downtown and headed to campus, but that I would catch a Lyft to wherever they were. “We’re at Milwaukie Providence. How soon can you get here?

“I’ll let you know soon.” My assumption was that my parents had been in an argument, my mother left the house in a rage, and crashed her car. She’d been an erratic driver for as long as I could remember, and my parents had been arguing more than usual recently, as many new “empty-nesters” do. The lack of information provided by my dad, however, was unsettling. I don’t really recall the ride to the hospital. I do remember looking over the river while riding from the west to east side of town. I remember the menacing, dark clouds rolling in faster than the driver could transport me. I remember it was quick, but it was too much time spent without answers.

When I arrived at Providence, I jumped out of the sedan and galloped into the lobby of the emergency room like a race horse on its final lap. My younger sister and Dad were seated on cushioned, bland-colored chairs in the waiting room. There were expansive glass windows that allowed the light to drown the room. The weather was particularly gray and dismal. Perhaps it was the ambiguous, gray, confusing feelings I was breathing through. I sat down beside my dad, in a firmer-than-anticipated waiting room chair beside him. He took my hand frantically. He took it in the way one might take someone’s hand to connect with or comfort them. He needed reassurance more than I did.

“Where did she get in the accident?” I asked.

My sister, sitting across from me with her head in her knees, looked up at me with aquamarine, tear-filled eyes. She was staring through me, an unclouded window. “Mom tried to kill herself.”

“What?” My voice crescendoed from a normal volume to a shriek in the span of a single word. My mind felt like it was bucking. I grabbed at my hair, pulling it back tight with my spare hand. The tears and cries reared, no matter how hard I yanked my mane.

“We got in another argument this morning, and she sent me a message saying she didn’t want to be in pain anymore. She told me to tell you girls she’s sorry. I’m so sorry.” I’d never seen my dad cry before; I didn’t know he could. I didn’t know his tears would stream like gushing water from a broken dam. He looked lost, incapable of understanding why she was doing what she was doing. I looked from my dad to my sister to my hands. One hand remained enveloped by my dad’s gentle palm. At this point in life, I had not yet learned to be gentle with myself, or others. I cut off my dad’s hypnotic, silent cry for connection.

“She’s crazy!” I let go of my dad’s hand, flipped it back to him. I reclined in the

chair, retracting from the situation entirely. I crossed my legs, then my arms. I turned my head away, toward the glass windows, and (mentally) left.

“Crazy” is a term devised to dismiss people.

My mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 50 years old.

Teacher Takeaways

“This essay makes excellent use of repetition as a narrative strategy. Throughout the essay, terms and phrases are repeated, generally with slight alterations, drawing the reader’s attention to the moment in question and recontextualizing the information being conveyed. This strategy is especially powerful when used to disclose the separate diagnoses of bipolar disorder, which is central to the narrative. I also appreciate the use of dialogue, though it mostly serves an expository function here. In itself that’s effective, but this narrative would be strengthened if that dialogue could serve to make some of the characters, especially the mother, more rounded.”

– Professor Dunham

My College Education

The following essay, “My College Education” is from Chapter 15.2 – Narrative Essay , Writing for Success , University of Minnesota Libraries.

The first class I went to in college was philosophy, and it changed my life forever. Our first assignment was to write a short response paper to the Albert Camus essay “The Myth of Sisyphus.” I was extremely nervous about the assignment as well as college. However, through all the confusion in philosophy class, many of my questions about life were answered.

I entered college intending to earn a degree in engineering. I always liked the way mathematics had right and wrong answers. I understood the logic and was very good at it. So when I received my first philosophy assignment that asked me to write my interpretation of the Camus essay, I was instantly confused. What is the right way to do this assignment, I wondered? I was nervous about writing an incorrect interpretation and did not want to get my first assignment wrong. Even more troubling was that the professor refused to give us any guidelines on what he was looking for; he gave us total freedom. He simply said, “I want to see what you come up with.”

Full of anxiety, I first set out to read Camus’s essay several times to make sure I really knew what was it was about. I did my best to take careful notes. Yet even after I took all these notes and knew the essay inside and out, I still did not know the right answer. What was my interpretation? I could think of a million different ways to interpret the essay, but which one was my professor looking for? In math class, I was used to examples and explanations of solutions. This assignment gave me nothing; I was completely on my own to come up with my individual interpretation.

Next, when I sat down to write, the words just did not come to me. My notes and ideas were all present, but the words were lost. I decided to try every prewriting strategy I could find. I brainstormed, made idea maps, and even wrote an outline. Eventually, after a lot of stress, my ideas became more organized and the words fell on the page. I had my interpretation of “The Myth of Sisyphus,” and I had my main reasons for interpreting the essay. I remember being unsure of myself, wondering if what I was saying made sense, or if I was even on the right track. Through all the uncertainty, I continued writing the best I could. I finished the conclusion paragraph, had my spouse proofread it for errors, and turned it in the next day simply hoping for the best.

Then, a week or two later, came judgment day. The professor gave our papers back to us with grades and comments. I remember feeling simultaneously afraid and eager to get the paper back in my hands. It turned out, however, that I had nothing to worry about. The professor gave me an A on the paper, and his notes suggested that I wrote an effective essay overall. He wrote that my reading of the essay was very original and that my thoughts were well organized. My relief and newfound confidence upon reading his comments could not be overstated.

What I learned through this process extended well beyond how to write a college paper. I learned to be open to new challenges. I never expected to enjoy a philosophy class and always expected to be a math and science person. This class and assignment, however, gave me the self-confidence, critical-thinking skills, and courage to try a new career path. I left engineering and went on to study law and eventually became a lawyer. More important, that class and paper helped me understand education differently. Instead of seeing college as a direct stepping stone to a career, I learned to see college as a place to first learn and then seek a career or enhance an existing career. By giving me the space to express my own interpretation and to argue for my own values, my philosophy class taught me the importance of education for education’s sake. That realization continues to pay dividends every day.

Model Student Essay

Innocence again.

Imagine the sensation of the one split second that you are floating through the air as you were thrown up in the air as a child, that feeling of freedom and carefree spirit as happiness abounds. Looking at the world through innocent eyes, all thoughts and feelings of amazement. Being free, happy, innocent, amazed, wowed. Imagine the first time seeing the colors when your eyes and brain start to recognize them but never being able to name the shade or hue. Looking at the sky as it changes from the blackness with twinkling stars to the lightest shade of blue that is almost white, then the deep red of the sunset and bright orange of the sun. All shades of the spectrum of the rainbow, colors as beautiful as the mind can see or imagine.

I have always loved the sea since I was young; the smell of saltiness in the air invigorates me and reminds me of the times spent with my family enjoying Sundays at the beach. In Singapore, the sea was always murky and green but I continued to enjoy all activities in it. When I went to Malaysia to work, I discovered that the sea was clear and blue and without hesitation, I signed up for a basic diving course and I was hooked. In my first year of diving, I explored all the dive destinations along the east coast of Malaysia and also took an advanced diving course which allowed me to dive up to a depth of thirty meters. Traveling to a dive site took no more than four hours by car and weekends were spent just enjoying the sea again.

Gearing up is no fun. Depending on the temperature of the water, I might put on a shortie, wetsuit or drysuit. Then on come the booties, fins and mask which can be considered the easiest part unless the suit is tight—then it is a hop and pull struggle, which reminds me of how life can be at times. Carrying the steel tank, regulator, buoyancy control device (BCD) and weights is a torture. The heaviest weights that I ever had to use were 110 pounds, equivalent to my body weight; but as I jump in and start sinking into the sea, the contrast to weightlessness hits me. The moment that I start floating in the water, a sense of immense freedom and joy overtakes me.

Growing up, we have to learn the basics: time spent in classes to learn, constantly practicing to improve our skills while safety is ingrained by our parents. In dive classes, I was taught to never panic or do stupid stuff: the same with the lessons that I have learned in life. Panic and over-inflated egos can lead to death, and I have heard it happens all the time. I had the opportunity to go to Antarctica for a diving expedition, but what led to me getting that slot was the death of a very experienced diver who used a drysuit in a tropic climate against all advice. He just overheated and died. Lessons learned in the sea can be very profound, but they contrast the life I live: risk-taker versus risk-avoider. However, when I have perfected it and it is time to be unleashed, it is time to enjoy. I jump in as I would jump into any opportunity, but this time it is into the deep blue sea of wonders.

A sea of wonders waits to be explored. Every journey is different: it can be fast or slow, like how life takes me. The sea decides how it wants to carry me; drifting fast with the currents so that at times, I hang on to the reef and corals like my life depends on it, even though I am taught never to touch anything underwater. The fear I feel when I am speeding along with the current is that I will be swept away into the big ocean, never to be found. Sometimes, I feel like I am not moving at all, kicking away madly until I hyperventilate because the sea is against me with its strong current holding me against my will.

The sea decides what it wants me to see: turtles popping out of the seabed, manta rays gracefully floating alongside, being in the middle of the eye of a barracuda hurricane, a coral shelf as big as a car, a desert of bleached corals, the emptiness of the seabed with not a fish in sight, the memorials of death caused by the December 26 tsunami—a barren sea floor with not a soul or life in sight.

The sea decides what treasures I can discover: a black-tipped shark sleeping in an underwater cavern, a pike hiding from predators in the reef, an octopus under a dead tree trunk that escapes into my buddy’s BCD, colorful mandarin fish mating at sunset, a deadly box jellyfish held in my gloved hands, pygmy seahorses in a fern—so tiny that to discover them is a journey itself.

Looking back, diving has taught me more about life, the ups and downs, the good and bad, and to accept and deal with life’s challenges. Everything I learn and discover underwater applies to the many different aspects of my life. It has also taught me that life is very short: I have to live in the moment or I will miss the opportunities that come my way. I allow myself to forget all my sorrow, despair and disappointments when I dive into the deep blue sea and savor the feelings of peacefulness and calmness. There is nothing around me but fish and corals, big and small. Floating along in silence with only the sound of my breath— inhale and exhale . An array of colors explodes in front of my eyes, colors that I never imagine I will discover again, an underwater rainbow as beautiful as the rainbow in the sky after a storm. As far as my eyes can see, I look into the depth of the ocean with nothing to anchor me. The deeper I get, the darker it turns. From the light blue sky to the deep navy blue, even blackness into the void. As the horizon darkens, the feeding frenzy of the underwater world starts and the watery landscape comes alive. Total darkness surrounds me but the sounds that I can hear are the little clicks in addition to my breathing. My senses overload as I cannot see what is around me, but the sea tells me it is alive and it anchors me to the depth of my soul.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.” … In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man in spite of real sorrows….” The sea and diving have given me a new outlook on life, a different planet where I can float into and enjoy as an adult, a new, different perspective on how it is to be that child again. Time and time again as I enter into the sea, I feel innocent all over again.

Write What Matters Copyright © 2020 by Liza Long; Amy Minervini; and Joel Gladd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Narrative Essay

Caleb S.

Narrative Essay - A Complete Writing Guide with Examples

16 min read

Published on: Jun 11, 2018

Last updated on: Nov 14, 2023

Narrative essay

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Want to share a personal experience and captivate your readers with a compelling story? A narrative essay is your ticket to achieving just that.

It's your chance to share personal experiences, thoughts, and emotions, all while honing your storytelling skills. 

However, writing a narrative essay is not easy. It doesn’t follow a strict essay format, nor does it allow creative space like a fictional short story.

So how can you write an engaging and effective narrative essay?

In this guide, we'll walk you through the complete step-by-step process of crafting a captivating narrative essay. Plus, you will get examples and tips to help you learn efficiently.   Let’s dive in!

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What Is a Narrative Essay?

A narrative essay is a written account of an experience or event that impacted you in some way. It's just like storytelling, but it’s written in an essay format rather than a traditional short story.  

It is very different from other kinds of academic essays, such as the analytical and argumentative essays. For instance, unlike other types of essays , it allows you more creativity of style and language, could be written in the first-person point of view, and has to be more personal and engaging. 

In terms of structure, these essays often have a clear beginning, middle, and end, just like a good story. Their purpose could be to evoke emotions, provoke thought, or share lessons learned from an experience. 

Purpose of a Narrative Essay 

The purpose of a narrative essay extends beyond simply recounting a story. It serves various objectives, such as:

  • To Entertain and Engage

These essays are inherently engaging because they read like a well-told story. They can captivate and entertain your audience while conveying a message or theme.

  • To Convey a Message or Theme  

A narrative essay is not just about storytelling; it's also a means to communicate a message or a theme. You can convey life lessons, moral dilemmas, or insights drawn from your experiences.

  • To Motivate or Inspire

Narrative essays have the power to persuade or inspire readers. Through your narrative, you can make a persuasive argument or motivate your audience to take action or see a situation from a different perspective.

  • To Reflect on Growth  

Narrative essays often focus on personal growth and self-discovery. They allow you to reflect on your own experiences, decisions, and how they have shaped you as an individual.

  • To Preserve Memories 

Writing about significant life events helps preserve memories. It captures moments in time, creating a record that can be revisited by both you and your readers.

  • To Educate and Inform

Narrative essays can educate readers about different cultures, historical events, or personal challenges. They provide a window into worlds and experiences they might not otherwise encounter.

Types of Narrative Essays

There are several types of narrative essays, each with its unique focus and purpose. Here are the most common ones:

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. 

In this essay, the emphasis is on creating a vivid picture for the reader. You describe a scene, a place, or an event in intricate detail, making the reader feel like they are right there with you. Sensory details play a crucial role in making your narrative come alive.

Descriptive writing is all about engaging the senses. Learn more about writing a descriptive essay in our guide.

Personal Narrative Essay 

A personal narrative essay is a form of writing that tells a story from the author's own life experiences. 

This type is all about sharing a personal experience. It can be a life-changing moment, a significant event, or even an everyday occurrence that left a lasting impression. The primary goal is to offer readers insight into your perspective and emotions. 

Autobiographical Narrative Essay 

These essays delve into your life story. They are broader in scope and often cover a series of events or experiences throughout your life. It's like writing your autobiography in a condensed form. 

An autobiographical narrative essay aims to outline your own life in light of a message you want to convey.

The Features of a Narrative Essay

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

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

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

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.

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

Narrative Essay Structure 

A well-structured essay is essential for conveying your story effectively. The narrative essay format consists of the following elements:

Here’s how the structure of a narrative essay can be conceptualized:

Narrative Essay Structure

Now that you’ve learned about the features and structure of a narrative essay, let’s move on to the step-by-step writing process. 

How to Write a Narrative Essay?

Starting the essay writing process can be overwhelming, but you will find it much easier with these steps. Here is how to start a narrative essay and finish it effectively:

Step 1: Choose a Topic

Sometimes, you will be assigned a topic or prompt for your essay by your instructor. But other times, you need to choose a topic yourself. 

Select a personal experience or event that is meaningful to you and has a clear message or theme. It could be a moment of triumph, a challenge you overcame, a lesson learned, or a journey you embarked on.

Ensure it's a story you can vividly recall to make the writing process more natural. You need a topic that interests you and is also appealing enough to your audience. 

Step 2: Plan Your Story

Once you've chosen your topic, it's crucial to plan your narrative. 

Make a narrative essay outline , mentioning the key events in a logical structure. Think about the characters, plot points, climax, and resolution of your story. 

Here’s how an outline may look like:

Creating a rough timeline of events will help you maintain a coherent narrative flow. This planning phase ensures that you have a clear vision of the story's direction before you start writing.

Step 3: Craft an Introduction

The introduction of your narrative essay serves as a gateway to your story. Once you have an outline, you can begin writing the first draft. 

  • Begin with a captivating hook that grabs your readers' attention. Here are some ways to make your start engaging:
  • 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.
  • Introduce the setting and characters, giving readers a glimpse of the central theme or message. Your introduction should provide a clear preview of what the narrative will entail.
  • End your introduction with the theme and the thesis statement of your essay. The thesis statement should capture the central message you intend to convey.

Step 4: Write Your Main Body Paragraphs

The main body of your narrative essay will contain the sequence of events that make up your story. Here’s what to do while writing your paragraphs:

  • Build a Vivid Setting: Create a sense of time and place by using descriptive details. Engage the reader's senses to transport them into the world of your narrative.
  • Narrate the Sequence of Events: Tell your story in chronological order, ensuring a clear timeline that your readers can follow. Use transition words and phrases to guide your readers through the narrative, keeping the flow smooth.
  • Include Dialogue: Use dialogue to reveal character traits, emotions, and interactions. Describe the characters' actions and interactions as the story progresses, maintaining a balance between showing and telling.
  • Introduce Conflict: Every narrative needs some form of conflict to drive the story forward. Explain the conflict clearly and highlight its significance.
  • Build Toward a Climax: As you narrate the events, build tension and suspense leading to the climax—the high point of your story where the conflict is resolved or faced head-on.

Step 5: Craft a Conclusion

A well-crafted conclusion is vital to wrap up your narrative effectively. Here’s what to include in your conclusion: 

  • Your conclusion should offer closure, reflecting on how the events have affected the characters and the broader context of your story.
  • Summarize the key points of your essay, reiterating the central message or theme. 
  • Leave your readers with a lasting impression or something to ponder. 

Step 6: Revise Your First Draft

After completing your first draft, take a step back and review your work. Here’s how to improve upon your first draft:

  • Revise for clarity, coherence, and narrative flow. Ensure that each paragraph logically follows the previous one, creating a seamless story. 
  • Ensure that you’ve included the points you mentioned in your outline.
  • Look for any inconsistencies in your timeline or character development and address them. This is the stage where you fine-tune your narrative's structure.

Step 7: Proofread and Edit

The final step in the process is proofreading and editing . This ensures that your final draft is the best version of your essay. Here are the final steps you need to follow:

  • Carefully review your essay for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. 
  • Make sure your writing is clear and concise. Edit for consistency in style and tone throughout the essay. 
  • Seek feedback from others to gain a fresh perspective on your narrative. Their insights can help you make improvements and refine your storytelling.

Tips To Make Your Narrative Essays More Engaging

Follow these narrative essay writing tips to write effectively.

  • Select a Meaningful Topic: Choose a topic that has personal significance, whether it's a life-changing event, a lesson learned, or an experience that left a lasting impression. Your enthusiasm for the topic will shine through in your writing.
  • Create a Clear Message: Define the central message or theme of your narrative essay. What do you want readers to take away from your story? Having a clear message ensures your essay has a purpose.
  • Use Descriptive Details: Paint a vivid picture for your readers by including sensory details. Engage the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell – to make your narrative come alive.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Instead of simply telling your readers what happened, show them through your descriptions and dialogue. Let your readers experience the story as if they were there.
  • 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.

The Don’ts of Narrative Writing 

Following the tips above may not be enough for writing a great essay, especially if you are making. Here are some things to avoid in a narrative essay:

  • Don't Overwhelm with Detail: While details are essential, avoid overloading your narrative with excessive descriptions, which can bog down the story.
  • Don't Rush the Climax: Build up to the climactic moment of your story rather than rushing through it. Give it the attention and anticipation it deserves.
  • Avoid Being Predictable: While narratives often have conventional structures, try to avoid overly predictable storylines. Surprise your readers and keep them engaged.
  • Don't Forget the Central Message: Ensure that your narrative conveys a clear message or theme. It should have a purpose beyond storytelling.
  • Don't Neglect Editing: Skipping the editing process can lead to grammar, spelling, or structural issues. Take the time to revise and improve your work.
  • Don't Overcomplicate the Plot: A narrative should have a clear and understandable plot. Avoid introducing too many elements or convoluted storylines that may confuse readers.
  • Avoid Clichés: Strive to create a unique and original narrative. Avoid clichés or overused storytelling devices.

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. 

Literacy Narrative Essay Example

Narrative Essay Example About Life

Personal Narrative Essay Example

Want to read more examples? Check out our narrative essay examples blog to read expertly written narrative essays.

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.

Need more topic ideas for your narrative essay. Head to this narrative essay topics list to get engaging and interesting ideas!

In conclusion, mastering the art of narrative essay writing opens the door to sharing your experiences, emotions, and insights with the world. Remember to choose your words carefully and develop your story's conflict to captivate your readers.

Do you need more help writing your narrative essay? Contact MyPerfectWords.com to hire a highly qualified and expert writer to help you out. Our narrative essay writing service ensures high quality essays with timely livery.

So order your custom essay today from our fast essay writing service . 

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.

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The Winners of Our Personal Narrative Essay Contest

We asked students to write about a meaningful life experience. Here are the eight winning essays, as well as runners-up and honorable mentions.

narrative essay examples reddit

By The Learning Network

Update: Join our live webinar on Oct. 8 about teaching with our Narrative Writing Contest.

In September, we challenged teenagers to write short, powerful stories about meaningful life experiences for our first-ever personal narrative essay contest .

This contest, like every new contest we start, was admittedly a bit of an experiment. Beyond a caution to write no more than 600 words, our rules were fairly open-ended, and we weren’t sure what we would get.

Well, we received over 8,000 entries from teenagers from around the world. We got stories about scoring the winning goal, losing a grandparent, learning to love one’s skin and dealing with mental illness. We got pieces that were moving, funny, introspective and honest. We got a snapshot of teenage life.

Judging a contest like this is, of course, subjective, especially with the range of content and styles of writing students submitted. But we based our criteria on the types of personal narrative essays The New York Times publishes in columns like Lives , Modern Love and Rites of Passage . We read many, many essays that were primarily reflective but, while these pieces might be well-suited for a college application, they weren’t exactly the short, powerful stories we were looking for in this contest.

The winning essays we selected were, though, and they all had a few things in common that set them apart:

They had a clear narrative arc with a conflict and a main character who changed in some way. They artfully balanced the action of the story with reflection on what it meant to the writer. They took risks, like including dialogue or playing with punctuation, sentence structure and word choice to develop a strong voice. And, perhaps most important, they focused on a specific moment or theme — a conversation, a trip to the mall, a speech tournament, a hospital visit — instead of trying to sum up the writer’s life in 600 words.

Below, you’ll find these eight winning essays, published in full. Scroll to the bottom to see the names of all 35 finalists we’re honoring — eight winners, eight runners-up and 19 honorable mentions. Congratulations, and thank you to everyone who participated!

The Winning Essays

Nothing extraordinary, pants on fire, eggs and sausage, first impressions, cracks in the pavement, sorry, wrong number, the man box.

By Jeniffer Kim

It was a Saturday. Whether it was sunny or cloudy, hot or cold, I cannot remember, but I do remember it was a Saturday because the mall was packed with people.

I was with my mom.

Mom is short. Skinny. It is easy to overlook her in a crowd simply because she is nothing extraordinary to see.

On that day we strolled down the slippery-slick tiles with soft, inconspicuous steps, peeking at window boutiques in fleeting glances because we both knew we wouldn’t be buying much, like always.

I remember I was looking up at the people we passed as we walked — at first apathetically, but then more attentively.

Ladies wore five-inch heels that clicked importantly on the floor and bright, elaborate clothing. Men strode by smelling of sharp cologne, faces clear of wrinkles — wiped away with expensive creams.

An uneasy feeling started to settle in my chest. I tried to push it out, but once it took root it refused to be yanked up and tossed away. It got more unbearable with every second until I could deny it no longer; I was ashamed of my mother.

We were in a high-class neighborhood, I knew that. We lived in a small, overpriced apartment building that hung on to the edge of our county that Mom chose to move to because she knew the schools were good.

We were in a high-class neighborhood, but as I scrutinized the passers-by and then turned accusing eyes on Mom, I realized for the first time that we didn’t belong there.

I could see the heavy lines around Mom’s eyes and mouth, etched deep into her skin without luxurious lotions to ease them away. She wore cheap, ragged clothes with the seams torn, shoes with the soles worn down. Her eyes were tired from working long hours to make ends meet and her hair too gray for her age.

I looked at her, and I was ashamed.

My mom is nothing extraordinary, yet at that moment she stood out because she was just so plain.

Mumbling I’d meet her at the clothes outlet around the corner, I hurried away to the bathroom. I didn’t want to be seen with her, although there was no one important around to see me anyway.

When I finally made my way to the outlet with grudging steps, I found that Mom wasn’t there.

With no other options, I had to scour the other stores in the area for her. I was dreading returning to her side, already feeling the secondhand embarrassment that I’d recently discovered came with being with her.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mom was standing in the middle of a high-end store, holding a sweater that looked much too expensive.

She said, “This will look good on you. Do you want it?”

It was much too expensive. And I almost agreed, carelessly, thoughtlessly.

Then I took a closer look at the small, weary woman with a big smile stretching across her narrow face and a sweater in her hands, happy to be giving me something so nice, and my words died in my throat.

I felt like I’d been dropped into a cold lake.

Her clothes were tattered and old because she spent her money buying me new ones. She looked so tired and ragged all the time because she was busy working to provide for me. She didn’t wear jewelry or scented perfumes because she was just content with me.

Suddenly, Mother was beautiful and extraordinarily wonderful in my eyes.

I was no longer ashamed of her, but of myself.

“Do you want it?” My mom repeated.

“No thanks.”

By Varya Kluev

I never kissed the boy I liked behind the schoolyard fence that one March morning. I never had dinner with Katy Perry or lived in Kiev for two months either, but I still told my entire fourth-grade class I did.

The words slipped through my teeth effortlessly. With one flick of my tongue, I was, for all anybody knew, twenty-third in line for the throne of Monaco. “Actually?” the girls on the swings beside me would ask, wide eyes blinking with a childlike naivety. I nodded as they whispered under their breath how incredible my fable was. So incredible they bought into it without a second thought.

I lied purely for the ecstasy of it. It was narcotic. With my fabrications, I became the captain of the ship, not just a wistful passer-by, breath fogging the pane of glass that stood between me and the girls I venerated. No longer could I only see, not touch; a lie was a bullet, and the barrier shattered. My mere presence demanded attention — after all, I was the one who got a valentine from Jason, not them.

This way I became more than just the tomboyish band geek who finished her multiplication tables embarrassingly fast. My name tumbled out of their mouths and I manifested in the center of their linoleum lunch table. I became, at least temporarily, the fulcrum their world revolved around.

Not only did I lie religiously and unabashedly — I was good at it. The tedium of my everyday life vanished; I instead marched through the gates of my alcazar, strode up the steps of my concepts, and resided in my throne of deceit. I believed if I took off my fraudulent robe, I would become plebeian. The same aristocracy that finally held me in high regard would boot me out of my palace. To strip naked and exclaim, “Here’s the real me, take a look!” would lead my new circle to redraw their lines — they would take back their compliments, sit at the table with six seats instead of eight, giggle in the back of the class when I asked a question. I therefore adjusted my counterfeit diadem and continued to praise a Broadway show I had never seen.

Yet finally lounging in a lavender bedroom one long-sought-after day, after absently digesting chatter about shows I didn’t watch and boys I didn’t know, I started processing the floating conversations. One girl, who I had idolized for always having her heavy hair perfectly curled, casually shared how her parents couldn’t afford to go on their yearly trip the coming summer. I drew in an expectant breath, but nobody scoffed. Nobody exchanged a secret criticizing glance. Instead, another girl took her spoon of vanilla frosting out of her cheek and with the same air of indifference revealed how her family wasn’t traveling either. Promptly, my spun stories about swimming in crystal pools under Moroccan sun seemed to be in vain.

The following Monday, the girls on the bus to school still shared handfuls of chocolate-coated sunflower seeds with her. At lunch, she wasn’t shunned, wasn’t compelled to sit at a forgotten corner table. For that hour, instead of weaving incessant fantasies, I listened. I listened to the girls nonchalantly talk about yesterday’s soccer game where they couldn’t score a single goal. Listened about their parent’s layoff they couldn’t yet understand the significance of. I listened and I watched them listen, accepting and uncritical of one another no matter how relatively vapid their story. I then too began to talk, beginning by admitting that I wasn’t actually related to Britney Spears.

By Ryan Young Kim

When first I sat down in the small, pathetic excuse of a cafeteria the hospital had, I took a moment to reflect. I had been admitted the night before, rolled in on a stretcher like I had some sort of ailment that prevented me from walking.

But the nurses in the ward were nice to me, especially when they saw that I wasn’t going to be one of the violent ones. They started telling me something, but I paid no attention; I was trying to take in my surroundings. The tables were rounded, chairs were essentially plastic boxes with weight inside, and there was no real glass to be seen.

After they filled out the paperwork, the nurses escorted me to my room. There was someone already in there, but he was dead asleep. The two beds were plain and simple, with a cheap mattress on top of an equally cheap wooden frame. One nurse stuck around to hand me my bedsheets and a gown that I had to wear until my parents dropped off clothes.

The day had been exhausting, waiting for the psychiatric ward to tell us that there was a bed open for me and the doctors to fill out the mountains of paperwork that come with a suicide attempt.

Actually, there had been one good thing about that day. My parents had brought me Korean food for lunch — sullungtang , a fatty stew made from ox-bone broth. God, even when I was falling asleep I could still taste some of the rice kernels that had been mixed into the soup lingering around in my mouth.

For the first time, I felt genuine hunger. My mind had always been racked with a different kind of hunger — a pining for attention or just an escape from the toil of waking up and not feeling anything. But I always had everything I needed — that is, I always had food on my plate, maybe even a little too much. Now, after I had tried so hard to wrench myself away from this world, my basic human instinct was guiding me toward something that would keep me alive.

The irony was lost on me then. All I knew was that if I slept earlier, that meant less time awake being hungry. So I did exactly that. Waking up the next day, I was dismayed to see that the pangs of hunger still rumbled through my stomach. I slid off my covers and shuffled out of my room. The cafeteria door was already open, and I looked inside. There was a cart of Styrofoam containers in the middle of the room, and a couple people were eating quietly. I made my way in and stared.

I scanned the tops of the containers — they were all marked with names: Jonathan, Nathan, Kristen — and as soon as I spotted my name, my mouth began to water.

My dad would sometimes tell me about his childhood in a rural Korean village. The hardships he faced, the hunger that would come if the village harvest floundered, and how he worked so hard to get out — I never listened. But in that moment, between when I saw my container and I sat down at a seat to open it, I understood.

The eggs inside were watery, and their heat had condensated water all over, dripping onto everything and making the sausages soggy. The amount of ketchup was pitiful.

But if I hadn’t been given plastic utensils, I think I would have just shoved it all into my mouth, handful by handful.

By Isabel Hui

When I woke up on August 4, 2016, there was only one thing on my mind: what to wear. A billion thoughts raced through my brain as wooden hangers shuffled back and forth in the cramped hotel closet. I didn’t want to come off as a try-hard, but I also didn’t want to be seen as a slob. Not only was it my first day of high school, but it was my first day of school in a new state; first impressions are everything, and it was imperative for me to impress the people who I would spend the next four years with. For the first time in my life, I thought about how convenient it would be to wear the horrendous matching plaid skirts that private schools enforce.

It wasn’t insecurity driving me to madness; I was actually quite confident for a teenage girl. It was the fact that this was my third time being the new kid. Moving so many times does something to a child’s development … I struggled finding friends that I could trust would be there for me if I picked up and left again. But this time was different because my dad’s company ensured that I would start and finish high school in the same place. This meant no instant do-overs when I pick up and leave again. This time mattered, and that made me nervous.

After meticulously raiding my closet, I emerged proudly in a patterned dress from Target. The soft cotton was comfortable, and the ruffle shoulders added a hint of fun. Yes, this outfit was the one. An hour later, I felt just as powerful as I stepped off the bus and headed toward room 1136. But as I turned the corner into my first class, my jaw dropped to the floor.

Sitting at her desk was Mrs. Hutfilz, my English teacher, sporting the exact same dress as I. I kept my head down and tiptoed to my seat, but the first day meant introductions in front of the whole class, and soon enough it was my turn. I made it through my minute speech unscathed, until Mrs. Hutfilz stood up, jokingly adding that she liked my style. Although this was the moment I had been dreading from the moment I walked in, all the anxiety that had accumulated throughout the morning surprisingly melted away; the students who had previously been staring at their phones raised their heads to pay attention as I shared my story. My smile grew as I giggled with my peers, ending my speech with “and I am very stylish, much like my first period teacher.” After class, I stayed behind and talked to Mrs. Hutfilz, sharing my previous apprehension about coming into a new school and state. I was relieved to make a humorous and genuine connection with my first teacher, one that would continue for the remainder of the year.

This incident reminded me that it’s only high school; these are the times to have fun, work hard, and make memories, not stress about the trivial details. Looking back four years later, the ten minutes I spent dreading my speech were really not worth it. While my first period of high school may not have gone exactly the way I thought it would, it certainly made the day unforgettable in the best way, and taught me that Mrs. Hutfilz has an awesome sense of style!

By Adam Bernard Sanders

It was my third time sitting there on the middle school auditorium stage. The upper chain of braces was caught in my lip again, and my palms were sweating, and my glasses were sliding down my nose. The pencil quivered in my hands. All I had to do was answer whatever question Mrs. Crisafulli, the history teacher, was going to say into that microphone. I had answered 26 before that, and 25 of those correctly. And I was sitting in my chair, and I was tapping my foot, and the old polo shirt I was wearing was starting to constrict and choke me. I pulled pointlessly at the collar, but the air was still on the outside, only looking at the inside of my throat. I was going to die.

I could taste my tongue in my mouth shriveling up. I could feel each hard-pumping heartbeat of blood travel out of my chest, up through my neck and down my arms and legs, warming my already-perspiring forehead but leaving my ghost-white fingers cold and blue. My breathing was quick. My eyes were glassy. I hadn’t even heard the question yet.

Late-night readings of my parents’ anatomy textbooks had told me that a sense of impending doom was the hallmark of pulmonary embolism, a fact that often bubbled to the surface of my mind in times like these. Almost by instinct, I bent my ring and little fingers down, holding them with my thumb as the two remaining digits whipped to my right wrist and tried to take my pulse. Mr. Mendoza had taught us this last year in gym class. But I wasn’t in gym class that third period. I was just sitting on the metal folding chair, waiting for Mrs. Crisafulli to flip to the right page in her packet for the question.

Arabella had quizzed me in second-period French on the lakes of Latin America. Nicaragua. Atitlán. Yojoa. Lake Titicaca, that had made Raj, who sat in front of me, start giggling, and Shannon, who sat three desks up and one to the left, whip her head around and raise one fist to her lips, jab up her index finger, and silence us. Lakes were fed by rivers, the same rivers that lined the globe on my desk like the cracks in the pavement I liked to trace with my shoe on the walk home. Lake Nicaragua drains into the San Juan River, which snakes its way around the port of Granada to empty into the Caribbean Sea. I knew that.

At that moment I was only sure of those two things: the location of Lake Nicaragua and my own impending doom. And I was so busy counting my pulse and envisioning my demise that I missed Mrs. Crisafulli’s utterance of the awaited question into her microphone, as I had each year in the past as one of the two people left onstage.

“ … Coldest … on earth,” was all I heard. My pencil etched shaggy marks as my shaking hands attempted to write something in the 20 seconds remaining.

“Asia,” I scrawled.

So, for the third time in three years, I got it wrong, and for the third time, I didn’t die. I walked home that day, tracing the faults in the pavement and wondering what inside me was so cracked and broken. Something had to be fissured inside, like the ridges and rivers on my desk globe that I would throw out later that evening, but fish from the trash can when the sun rose the next day.

By Michelle Ahn

My phone buzzes. An unfamiliar number with a 512 area code — I later find out it’s from Texas. It’s a selfie of a 30-something man, smiling with his family, a strange picture to receive as I live halfway across the country.

For the past three years, I — a 14-year-old girl living in Virginia — have been getting texts meant for this man, Jared. Over the years, I’ve pieced together parts of who he is; middle-aged, Caucasian, and very popular according to the numerous messages I’ve received for him.

Throughout this time, I’ve also been discovering who I am. When I received the first text, I was a playful sixth grader, always finding sly ways to be subversive in school and with friends. With this new method of mischief in my hands, naturally, I engaged:

“My sweet momma just told me that BYU Texas Club is holding a Texas Roundup free BBQ dinner on October 10th! Thought y’all would enjoy,” came one of the texts.

After staring at the message for a while, I responded.

As time went on, the story of the mystery man deepened. I was halfway through sixth grade, for example, when I learned he was part of the “Elder’s Quorum,” a rather ominous-sounding group. Looking it up, I learned that it was not a cult, as I’d initially thought, but rather an elite inner circle within the Mormon Church.

This was around the same time my family had stopped going to church. I’d started to spend more time taking art classes and trying out various sports — tennis, basketball, even archery — and soon church fell to the side. Instead, I meddled in the Quorum’s group texts; when a message came about a member moving away, I excitedly responded, “Let me help y’all out, brother!”

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but after a while I started to feel guilty about this deception. I wondered if I’d somehow ruined Jared’s reputation, if his friends were turned off by my childish responses. I was also dealing with changes within my friend group at the time; the biggest change being letting go of a close but toxic friend; I realized that I needed friendships that were more mutually supportive.

Shortly after, I got a phone call from a strange woman. She started talking about the struggles in her life; her children, her job, even about how she wanted to leave Texas forever. In comparison, my own problems — the B minus I’d gotten, the stress of an upcoming archery tournament, the argument I had with my sister — all seemed superficial. I timidly informed her I wasn’t Jared, and her flustered response told me that I should have told her at the start of the call.

A while later, I got another text: “Congratulations on getting married!” It had never occurred to me how much Jared’s life had changed since I had received his number. But of course it did; over time, I’d outgrown my prankster middle school self, gained the confidence to build a solid friend group, and devoted myself to my primary loves of art and archery. Why wouldn’t Jared also be settling into his own life too?

Though I’ve since taken every opportunity to correct those who text Jared, it still happens every once in a while. Just last month, I got another random text; all it said was: “Endoscopy!” When I got it, I laughed, and then I wrote back.

“Hey, sorry, you have the wrong number. But I hope Jared’s doing well.”

By Maria Fernanda Benavides

“Mayfier? Marfir?” the tournament judge called squinting her eyes, trying to find the spelling error, although there was no error.

“It’s Mafer. It’s a nickname for my full name, Maria Fernanda.”

She stared at me blankly.

“My parents are creative,” I lied, and she laughed.

“O.K., Mahfeer, you’re up!”

I walk to the center and scanned the room before starting as instructed. I took a deep breath.

I reminded myself, “Use your voice.”

I spoke loudly at first, trying to hide the fact that I was overthinking every single word that came out of my mouth. As my performance continued, the artificial confidence became natural, and I started speaking from my heart as I told the story of my experience as an immigrant woman, and I described how much I missed my father who had to travel back and forth every weekend to see my mom and me, and how disconnected I felt from my family, and how I longed to have a place I could call home.

My performance came to an end, and I made my way back to my seat with newly found optimism as I reflected on how performing had consumed me.

I used my voice. Finally. I had found my home in the speech program.

Waiting for the speech tournament to post the names of the finalists was excruciating. I jumped off my seat every time a staff member passed by. I didn’t care about accumulating state points or individual recognition. I wanted the chance to speak again.

Finally, a girl walked up to the oratory postings with a paper on her hand, and the entire cafeteria surrounded her, impatiently waiting to see who the finalists were. Then, I saw it.

My name. Written in dense, black letters.

I smiled to myself.

This time, as I walked to the oratory final, I did so by myself, as I had finally acquired self-assurance needed to navigate the quiet hallways of the high school. I could only hear the heels of the two girls behind me.

“I heard that Saint Mary’s Hall freshman made it to oratory finals,” one of them said, obviously speaking about me. “She broke over me. I didn’t see her performance. Did you? Did you see her performance? What is her speech about?” she questioned the other one.

“It’s about being a Mexican immigrant.”

“Oh, so that’s why she broke.”

“It’s the same pity narrative, there’s nothing different about it.”

Suddenly, the confidence that I had acquired from the previous rounds vanished, and I found myself wishing that I had my older, more experienced teammates by my side to help me block the girls’ words. But no one was there.

I thought my narrative was what made my words matter, what made me matter.

But they didn’t matter. Not anymore. From that moment on, I knew I would be recognized around the circuit as the Mexican girl whose name no one knows how to pronounce. I didn’t even need to speak about my identity to be identified. Everyone would recognize me not for my achievement or my being, but by the peculiar way I pronounce words. I could speak about different topics, but it felt like it wouldn’t make a difference. It felt like my voice didn’t make a difference.

“Mafer, how did it feel?” my coach asked me after the round. “It felt amazing!” I lied.

I didn’t feel anything. Not anymore. Speech gave me a voice, but it also took it away.

By Gordon Lewis

We’re all average boys: hard working in school, spending every minute together in the summer, and doing our best to pretend we don’t have a worry in the world. The facts are no different as the sun is beginning to set on a warm July evening. Sam and I say goodbye to Ben, stepping out of our best friend’s house.

“My sister is going to pick me up while we’re walking, is that O.K.?” I ask.

“Actually, she can probably drive you home, too.”

“Sounds good,” says Sam, but lacking his usual upbeat, comedic energy. Neither of us says anything else, but I’m O.K. with it, we just keep walking. I look around, admiring the still, peaceful park as the warm summer breeze brushes across my face. The crickets are chirping and an owl sings along between the soft hum of cars rolling along nearby. It’s nature’s tune of serenity.

I almost forgot Sam was with me until he asked, “Can I ask you kind of a weird question?”

“Sure,” I say, expecting a joke in poor taste as per usual.

“You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” he says before asking.

More hesitantly, I say, “O.K.”

“Do you have someone that you talk to about like deeper stuff … Like more emotional stuff?” Silence hits us like a brick wall: The crickets stop chirping, the owl stops hooting, even the cars stop driving by. It’s deafening. I’m only shocked at the question because it’s Sam, one of the happiest and funniest people I know.

I’m wondering. My disappointment takes over just as quickly as my hope fades as I fail to come up with a name. In the end, the closest thing I can think of is the book I occasionally write in when I’m feeling sad or stressed.

“Huh,” I say quietly, “I’ve never really thought about that, but I guess not.”

“Yeah, I didn’t either, but at camp we did activities and had talks that led to more emotional conversations.” I’m silently both jealous and proud of him, but it’s mostly jealousy.

“It’s funny,” I say, “in English we always joked about that TED Talk guy talking about the man box, but it’s actually so true. We shouldn’t feel like we can’t talk about deeper stuff like that.”

“Yeah,” laughed Sam. Silence drapes over us again, but this time it’s more comfortable. I’m lost in my thoughts trying to think of what to say next, but there’s too much. I’ve never had an opportunity like this before. However it’s not shocking or overwhelming, even though it’s with Sam of all people — instead it’s therapeutic.

The silence is broken once again by Sam:

“Like I never told you guys that my parents got divorced.”

“I’m-I’m sorry,” I say, “That really sucks.” I’m disappointed in myself for not saying more.

“It’s O.K.,” Sam says, but I know he’s lying. I can feel his sadness.

Drowning in my thoughts, I try to pick out something to say. But there’s too much to say. There are too many options after being silent for 16 years.

Headlights appear in front of us, and for a split second I’m relieved, but it rapidly turns into regret.

Knowing it’s Rose, I quickly tell sam, “If you ever want to talk again just let me know.”

I say hi to Rose, masking my solemn, thoughtful mood as tiredness. The warm breeze gives my cheek one final kiss; nature resumes her number, and the cars roll by again as Sam and I reluctantly step into the car.

In alphabetical order by the writer’s last name

“Sorry, Wrong Number” by Michelle Ahn

“Speechless” by Maria Fernanda Benavides

“First Impressions” by Isabel Hui

“Nothing Extraordinary” by Jeniffer Kim

“Eggs and Sausage" by Ryan Young Kim

“Pants on Fire” by Varya Kluev

“The Man Box” by Gordon Lewis

“Cracks in the Pavement” by Adam Bernard Sanders

“The First (and Last) Time Speedy Wasn’t Speedy Enough” by Maya Berg

“Searching for Air” by Sydney Do

“Fear on My Mind” by Daytona Gerhardy

“Under the Starry Sky” by Letian Li

“Chinatown Diptych” by Jeffrey Liao

“They” by Haven Low

“The Vigil” by Beda Lundstedt

“How My Brother Taught Me to Drive” by Sarah Shapiro

Honorable Mentions

“The Six in Mid-August” by Liah Argiropoulos

“‘Those Aren’t Scratches Are They?’” by Casey Barwick

“Brown Is Beautiful” by Tiffany Borja

“I Am Ordinary, After All” by Rebecca Braxley

“Torn” by Melanie D.

“The Stupid Seven” by Madeline G.

“Speak No Evil” by Amita Goyal

“Building My Crown” by Ambar Guzman

“Me, Myself, and a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich” by Zachary Hommel

“The Tomato” by Raymond Huang

“Out” by Michael H.

“Cold Noodles With a Side of Birdballs” by Audrey Koh

“Banya in Siberia” by Arshiya Sanghi

“Traffic” by Kecia Seo

“The Power of Ambiguity” by Marcus Shallow

“Land Mine” by Geneve Thomas-Palmer

“How to Fall Asleep With the Lights On” by Caroline Wei

“The Taste of Tofu” by Amy Zhou

“The Newcomer’s Journey” by Maria Z.

Thank you to all our contest judges!

Edward Bohan, Amanda Christy Brown, Elda Cantú, Julia Carmel, Elaine Chen, Nancy Coleman, Nicole Daniels, John Dorman, Shannon Doyne, Jeremy Engle, Tracy Evans, Ross Flatt, Vivian Giang, Caroline Crosson Gilpin, Michael Gonchar, Lovia Gyarkye, Annissa Hambouz, Karen Hanley, Christine Hauser, Susan Josephs, Shira Katz, Dahlia Kozlowsky, Megan Leder, Miya Lee, Debbie Leiderman, Shauntel Lowe, Keith Meatto, Sue Mermelstein, Amelia Nierenberg, Anna Nordeen, John Otis, Ken Paul, Pia Peterson, Natalie Proulx, Nancy Redd, Kenneth Rosen, Rebecca Rufo-Tepper, Kristina Samulewski, Meghan Stoddard, Brett Vogelsinger, Bonnie Wertheim, Jack Wheeler, Lena Wilson, Sanam Yar

Narrative Essay Writing

Narrative Essay Examples

Cathy A.

20+ Top Narrative Essay Examples by Experts

12 min read

Published on: Apr 12, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 31, 2024

narrative essay examples

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Narrative essays are a common assignment in school, but many students struggle to write them. 

The problem with narrative essays is that they can be difficult to write. They require students to think about their own experiences and to put those experiences into words. This can be a challenge, especially for students who are not used to writing about themselves.

The solution to the problem of writing narrative essays is to provide students with examples. By reading examples of narrative essays, students can see how other students have successfully written about their own experiences. 

In this blog post, we will provide you with examples of narrative essays.By the end of this blog post, you will have a better understanding of how to write a narrative essay.

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Before writing, go through narrative essay examples to ensure that outlining and formatting are done correctly. Moreover, looking at examples will allow the writer to understand sensory details and vocabulary to describe events, settings, characters, and emotions.

Here are some famous narrative essays that you can consider adding to your reading wishlist:

“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift

“Once More to the Lake” by EB White

“The Fourth of July” by Audre Lorde

“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

“The Crisis” by Thomas Paine

But it doesn't end here! To help our students, CollegeEssay.org has gathered many other narrative essay sample. These examples will help you learn the correct formation of a narrative essay.

Read on to discover!

Personal Narrative Essay Example

Are you looking for a sample to draft a personal narrative essay ? Go through the example provided below to understand how the first-person and third-person perspectives are used in a narrative essay.

Sample Personal Narrative Essay

Narrative Essay Example for Middle School

A narrative essay is frequently assigned to middle school students to assess their writing and creative skills. If you are a student looking for a sample narrative essay for your middle school assignment, go through the example provided below.

Narrative Essay Example: 7th Grade

Narrative Essay Example for Grade 8

Grade 9 Narrative Essay Example

Sample Narrative Essay Grade 12

Narrative Essay Example for High School

When drafting assignments for high school, professional writing is essential. Your essays and papers should be well structured and written in order to achieve better grades. If you are assigned a narrative essay, go through the sample provided to see how an effective essay is written.

Sample Narrative Essay For High School

Good Narrative Essay Examples for College

College essays are more complex in nature than other academic levels. They require a better understanding of the concept, following a proper writing procedure, and an outline.

Although you are to draft a narrative essay for your college assignment, make sure it is professionally written. Read the sample narrative essay provided below.

Descriptive Narrative Essay Example

If you are to draft a document on the recreation of an event, a descriptive narrative essay is written. It presents an incident that happened to the writer and the backed-up information that supports the story.

The following is a perfect example of a descriptive narrative essay.

Sample Descriptive Narrative Essay

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Literacy Narrative Essay Example

Academic assignments often require students to draft essays on education. Education is the most significant topic of discussion, and for this purpose, almost every essay type and research paper studies it.

If you are drafting a narrative essay on literacy, go through the sample provided.

Fictional Narrative Essay Example

Drafting a fictional piece of document requires a more vivid description and detail. If you are assigned a narrative essay to draft on a fictional theme, read the example provided below.

Sample Fictional Narrative Essay

The Essentials of Narrative Essays

In a narrative essay, the goal is to write a story from one person's perspective. To do this well requires incorporating all of these aspects: 

Below are some golden points that you should keep in mind when writing a narrative essay.

  • Chronological order is the most common way to present information.
  • A thesis statement has a function in an essay. This is typically evident in the opening paragraph.
  • The writer's argument is clearly communicated through the use of sensory details and vivid language.
  • This draws the reader in and makes them interested in what the writer has to say. Everything in the passage is somehow related to the main point.

How to Start a Narrative Essay?

When you start writing the narrative essay, you should follow some steps and make your writing process easy.

For your help, we gathered some steps that you should follow when starting writing the essay.

  • Choose a narrative essay topic that is engaging and interesting.
  • Do some research and then start writing the essay.
  • Create an outline.
  • Start writing the essay. The way you describe things should be creative and colorful. Thus, the reader can feel as if they are right there with what's happening.
  • Proofread the essay before submitting it.

Watch the video below for tips on how to write a narrative essay:

Narrative Essay Writing Tips 

Professional essay writers of CollegeEssay.org have gathered some tips and tricks for you to follow to make your narrative essay remarkable. Even if you are aware of the writing procedure, it is advised to use expert tips to make your documents flawless. 

Follow the tips provided below to draft an exceptional narrative essay.

  • Clear Content: The narrative essay content should be clear. All the details and descriptions provided should be readable and understandable by the audience. Avoid using complex words and distribute content into paragraphs.
  • Keep it concise: Avoid describing every minor detail or movement. Provide only explanations that are important for the readers to imagine. 
  • Use first-person perspective: To make something believable and interesting for the readers, state it from the first-person perspective. Share your personal experiences, stories, and opinions to make the content impactful. 
  • Use limited referencing: When drafting an essay, according to the instructed format, avoid using frequent in-text citations. 
  • Use Clear Stance: Write your point of view clearly, so the readers feel that it is a genuine piece of writing. 

Keep in mind that a narrative essay is different from an expository essay but the same as a descriptive essay .  

In conclusion,

Using the tips provided by the professionals and going through the narrative essay examples will let you draft an effective paper. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a narrative paragraph.

Paragraphs vary in length depending on the content, but a standard 5-sentence paragraph usually isn't enough to tell an interesting story. 

How do I write a narrative essay?

Here are some steps that will help you to write a great narrative essay. 

  • Consider the topic 
  • Start writing the draft 
  • Provide supporting facts 
  • Revise your essay 

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Student accuses peer of plagiarism, seeks ways to prove originality of their own essay, innovative college essay formats: a reddit-inspired exploration.

Lesley J. Vos

The college essay is a critical component of the application process, and choosing the right format can make all the difference. In this article, we delve into a popular Reddit thread on college essay formats to uncover unique and engaging ideas from users who have been through the process themselves. Discover how these Redditors have approached their essays and the creative formats they’ve used to make their stories stand out.

Innovative College Essay Formats: A Reddit-Inspired Exploration

The List College Essay Format

One Reddit user shared their experience using a list format for their college essay. By presenting their thoughts as a numbered list, they were able to create a unique and memorable essay that showcased their creativity and writing skills. This format can be an effective way to break down complex ideas and present them in an easy-to-understand manner.

The Letter College Essay  Format

Another Redditor suggested writing the college essay in the form of a letter to someone significant in their life. This approach allows the writer to share their personal experiences and emotions in a conversational tone, making the essay more relatable and engaging for the reader.

The Dialogue College Essay Format

A Reddit user proposed using a dialogue format for their college essay, which involves presenting the essay as a conversation between the writer and someone else. This approach can bring a fresh and dynamic perspective to the essay, making it more interesting and thought-provoking for the reader.

The Anecdote College Essay Format

One popular suggestion from the Reddit thread is using an anecdote format for the college essay. By sharing a personal story or experience, the writer can provide a compelling narrative that captures the reader’s attention and showcases their personality, character, and values.

The Chronological College Essay Format

Another Reddit user suggested using a chronological format for their essay. By presenting events in the order they occurred, this approach can provide a clear and organized narrative that demonstrates the writer’s growth and development over time.

We asked Sybil Low to rank traditional pieces of advice about college essay format guidlines: 

As demonstrated by the ideas shared in the Reddit thread, there are numerous creative college essay formats to choose from. When crafting your own essay, consider using one of these unique formats to make your story stand out from the competition. Ultimately, the most important aspect of your essay is to showcase your authentic self and communicate your experiences and values in a way that resonates with admissions officers.

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  1. Analytical Essay: Narrative example essay

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  4. Step-by-Step Guide How to Write Narrative Essay (2023 Update)

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  5. Literacy Narrative Essay Free Essay Example

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COMMENTS

  1. I need help starting a personal narrative essay. : r/Essays

    r/Essays • 2 yr. ago SnooRobots5759 I need help starting a personal narrative essay. So I have to write a personal narrative essay. My chosen topic is about 'a time that stands out to me'. So I thought about writing about the first time I got hired at my first job. However, I can't think of a way/words to start the essay off.

  2. My World-Ending Guide to the College Essay : r/ApplyingToCollege

    Part One: The Very Basics - What is a College Essay? For the uninitiated, the college essay is an essential component of most (but not all) college applications. Generally, college essays fall into one of three categories - (1) the common application general essay, (2) the supplemental essay, and (3) various scholarship essays.

  3. How To Write A Narrative Essay? : r/Students_AcademicHelp

    For example, my grandmother was sharpening her blade pen with a razor blade, emptying the water paint and paint brush from their travel box. She wore a loose green jacket with floral skirts. Her white hair was carefully combed and tied into a bun." 1.Find the story opponent It's very important to find an opponent of story and conflict.

  4. Personal Narrative essay examples? : r/foreignservice

    Personal Narrative essay examples? I was wondering how far back you can got into your life regarding examples for the personal narrative questions? I had a lot of good experience through Boy Scouts, and speech and debate in High school.

  5. 200 Best Narrative Essay Topics and Ideas : r/students_essay_help

    1. Keep in mind that narratives tell stories The theme you choose should make it possible for the audience to connect to your personal experience, skills, and the valuable life lessons. 2. Pick useful ideas to discuss If you have a passion for something, select issues that you have struggled with.

  6. How To Write A Narrative Essay? : r/Students_AcademicHelp

    When writing a narrative essay, a writer wants not just to tell a good story, but to also communicate what that story meant. In a narrative essay, you are just walking readers through a story; you are not making an argument, offering criticism, or trying to convince them. A narrative essay makes its points while gently leading readers, not ...

  7. NARRATIVE ESSAY SAMPLES FOR YOU : r/CollegeEssays

    r/CollegeEssays • 4 hr. ago No_Share_2831 NARRATIVE ESSAY SAMPLES FOR YOU Topic Help Are you looking for examples of narrative essay to ehance your writing ? Let's explore these articles, they are really helpful for you: FICTIONAL NARRATIVE ESSAY SAMPLES: https://toplist.info/top-list/best-fictional-narrative-essay-15527.htm

  8. 3 Great Narrative Essay Examples + Tips for Writing

    For example, say you want to write a narrative essay about how your first day in high school helped you establish your identity.

  9. How to Write a Narrative Essay

    Choosing a topic Interactive example of a narrative essay Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about narrative essays What is a narrative essay for? When assigned a narrative essay, you might find yourself wondering: Why does my teacher want to hear this story?

  10. What Is a Narrative Essay? Learn How to Write A Narrative Essay With

    Writing What Is a Narrative Essay? Learn How to Write A Narrative Essay With Tips and Examples Written by MasterClass Last updated: Sep 22, 2021 • 5 min read Not every form of essay writing involves meticulous research. One form in particular—the narrative essay—combines personal storytelling with academic argument.

  11. How to Write 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.

  12. What is a Narrative Essay? How to Write It (with Examples)

    Narrative essay examples could be a write-up on "What has been your biggest achievement in life so far and what did it teach you?" or "Describe your toughest experience and how you dealt with it?". Key elements in a narrative essay

  13. 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 these essays should take place in an established timeline, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

  14. Free Narrative Essay Examples

    1. Narrative Essay Definition 2. Narrative Essay Examples 3. Narrative Essay Examples for Students 4. Narrative Essay Topics 5. Narrative Essay Writing Tips Narrative Essay Definition Writing a narrative essay is a unique form of storytelling that revolves around personal experiences, aiming to immerse the reader in the author's world.

  15. How to Write a Narrative Essay in 5 Steps

    Write with Grammarly What is a narrative essay? A narrative essay typically tells a true story that may have a few elements changed for clarity or dramatic purposes. However, this isn't a requirement. You can format a fictional story as a narrative essay.

  16. How to Write a Narrative Essay: Tips, Outline, Examples

    A personal narrative essay is based on one's unique experience or event. Personal narrative essay examples include a story about overcoming a fear or obstacle or reflecting on a particularly meaningful moment in one's life. A fictional narrative is a made-up story that still follows the basic elements of storytelling. Fictional narratives can ...

  17. Narrative Essays

    General Writing Academic Writing Essay Writing Narrative Essays Narrative Essays What is a narrative essay? When writing a narrative essay, one might think of it as telling a story. These essays are often anecdotal, experiential, and personal—allowing students to express themselves in a creative and, quite often, moving ways.

  18. Narrative Essay Examples and Key Elements

    Before you write your narrative essay, you can get a better idea of what to do with a narrative essay example. See real samples along with essential tips.

  19. Student Narrative Essay Examples

    The following essay, "My College Education" is from Chapter 15.2 - Narrative Essay, Writing for Success, University of Minnesota Libraries. The first class I went to in college was philosophy, and it changed my life forever. Our first assignment was to write a short response paper to the Albert Camus essay "The Myth of Sisyphus.".

  20. How to Write a Narrative Essay

    Step 1: Choose a Topic. Sometimes, you will be assigned a topic or prompt for your essay by your instructor. But other times, you need to choose a topic yourself. Select a personal experience or event that is meaningful to you and has a clear message or theme.

  21. The Winners of Our Personal Narrative Essay Contest

    The Winners of Our Personal Narrative Essay Contest We asked students to write about a meaningful life experience. Here are the eight winning essays, as well as runners-up and honorable...

  22. 20+ Easy Narrative Essay Examples and Writing Tips

    1. Narrative Essay Examples 2. The Essentials of Narrative Essays 3. Narrative Essay Writing Tips Narrative Essay Examples Before writing, go through narrative essay examples to ensure that outlining and formatting are done correctly.

  23. Innovative College Essay Formats: A Reddit-Inspired Exploration

    By sharing a personal story or experience, the writer can provide a compelling narrative that captures the reader's attention and showcases their personality, character, and values. The Chronological College Essay Format Another Reddit user suggested using a chronological format for their essay.