How to write a narrative essay

How do I write a good narrative essay?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A well-developed narrative essay tells an interesting story that generates emotive power. This type of essay is composed in much the same way as any other essay. In other words, the writer follows a conventional structure such as the five-paragraph essay.

The five-paragraph essay provides a practical format: The first paragraph is the introduction, which begins with a "hook" or motivating sentence that attracts the reader's interest; this is then followed by the thesis and its "blueprint" of two-three major points as the last sentence of this first paragraph. Then, the body of the essay develops the thesis or main idea of the essay. That is, the three body paragraphs provide sufficient material to develop those major points of the essay with supporting details and experiences. It is here in the body of the essay that the story is told with vivid details, dialogue, and description of conflict and resolution. Finally, the conclusion restates the thesis and ends with a "clincher," which is a reminder of the introduction's motivator. By composing five paragraphs, the student creates an essay that is long enough to develop ideas, but short enough to be manageable.

Many students like writing narrative essays because they have an opportunity to share a personal experience that entertains or enlightens the reader (i.e. an experience to which the audience can relate.) However, in choosing a topic from their personal experience, students should be careful to limit themselves to only one experience. The outcome of this experience can be a better appreciation of something (nature, someone's talent, how hard life can be, how rewarding something is, how meaningful personal relationships are, etc.). Also, the outcome can be a lesson that is learned. The use of the elements of a short story is helpful to the writer of a narrative essay, as well. These are the following: the author's tone, characterization; setting (time and place), conflict(s), the elements of plot (exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution). []

The following is what one company describes as also essential to the composition of the narrative essay:

  • is told from a particular point of view
  • makes and supports a point
  • is filled with precise detail [concrete language, not figurative]
  • uses vivid verbs and modifiers
  • uses conflict and sequence as does any story
  • may use dialogue