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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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Definition and Examples of Narratives in Writing

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

The definition of narrative is a piece of writing that tells a story, and it is one of four classical rhetorical modes or ways that writers use to present information. The others include an exposition, which explains and analyzes an idea or set of ideas; an argument, which attempts to persuade the reader to a particular point of view; and a description, a written form of a visual experience.

Key Takeaways: Narrative Definition

  • A narrative is a form of writing that tells a story. 
  • Narratives can be essays, fairy tales, movies, and jokes. 
  • Narratives have five elements: plot, setting, character, conflict, and theme. 
  • Writers use narrator style, chronological order, a point of view, and other strategies to tell a story.

Telling stories is an ancient art that started long before humans invented writing. People tell stories when they gossip, tell jokes, or reminisce about the past. Written forms of narration include most forms of writing: personal essays, fairy tales, short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, autobiographies, histories, even news stories have a narrative. Narratives may be a sequence of events in chronological order or an imagined tale with flashbacks or multiple timelines.

Narrative Elements

Every narrative has five elements that define and shape the narrative: plot, setting, character , conflict , and theme. These elements are rarely stated in a story; they are revealed to the readers in the story in subtle or not-so-subtle ways, but the writer needs to understand the elements to assemble her story. Here's an example from "The Martian," a novel by Andy Weir that was made into a film:

  • The plot is the thread of events that occur in a story. Weir's plot is about a man who gets accidentally abandoned on the surface of Mars.
  • The setting is the location of the events in time and place. "The Martian" is set on Mars in the not-too-distant future.
  • The characters are the people in the story who drive the plot, are impacted by the plot, or may even be bystanders to the plot. The characters in "The Martian" include Mark Watney, his shipmates, the people at NASA resolving the issue, and even his parents who are only mentioned in the story but still are impacted by the situation and in turn impact Mark's decisions.
  • The conflict is the problem that is being resolved. Plots need a moment of tension, which involves some difficulty that requires resolution. The conflict in "The Martian" is that Watney needs to figure out how to survive and eventually leave the planet's surface.
  • Most important and least explicit is the theme . What is the moral of the story? What does the writer intend the reader to understand? There are arguably several themes in "The Martian": the ability of humans to overcome problems, the stodginess of bureaucrats, the willingness of scientists to overcome political differences, the dangers of space travel, and the power of flexibility as a scientific method.

Setting Tone and Mood

In addition to structural elements, narratives have several styles that help move the plot along or serve to involve the reader. Writers define space and time in a descriptive narrative, and how they choose to define those characteristics can convey a specific mood or tone.

For example, chronological choices can affect the reader's impressions. Past events always occur in strict chronological order, but writers can choose to mix that up, show events out of sequence, or the same event several times experienced by different characters or described by different narrators. In Gabriel García Márquez's novel "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," the same few hours are experienced in sequence from the viewpoint of several different characters. García Márquez uses that to illustrate the peculiar almost magical inability of the townspeople to stop a murder they know is going to happen.

The choice of a narrator is another way that writers set the tone of a piece. Is the narrator someone who experienced the events as a participant, or one who witnessed the events but wasn't an active participant? Is that narrator an omniscient undefined person who knows everything about the plot including its ending, or is he confused and uncertain about the events underway? Is the narrator a reliable witness or lying to themselves or the reader? In the novel "Gone Girl," by Gillian Flynn, the reader is forced to constantly revise her opinion as to the honesty and guilt of the husband Nick and his missing wife. In "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov, the narrator is Humbert Humbert, a pedophile who constantly justifies his actions despite the damage that Nabokov illustrates he's doing.

Point of View

Establishing a point of view for a narrator allows the writer to filter the events through a particular character. The most common point of view in fiction is the omniscient (all-knowing) narrator who has access to all the thoughts and experiences of each of her characters. Omniscient narrators are almost always written in the third person and do not usually have a role in the storyline. The Harry Potter novels, for example, are all written in third person; that narrator knows everything about everybody but is unknown to us.

The other extreme is a story with a first-person point of view in which the narrator is a character within that story, relating events as they see them and with no visibility into other character motivations. Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" is an example of this: Jane relates her experiences of the mysterious Mr. Rochester to us directly, not revealing the full explanation until "Reader, I married him."

Points of view can also be effectively shifted throughout a piece—in her novel "Keys to the Street," Ruth Rendell used limited third-person narratives from the point of view of five different characters, enabling the reader to assemble a coherent whole out of what first appears to be unrelated stories. 

Other Strategies

Writers also use the grammatical strategies of tense (past, present, future), person (first person, second person, third person), number (singular, plural) and voice (active, passive). Writing in the present tense is unsettling—the narrators have no idea what will happen next—while past tense can build in some foreshadowing. Many recent novels use the present tense, including "The Martian." A writer sometimes personalizes the narrator of a story as a specific person for a specific purpose: The narrator can only see and report on what happens to him or her. In "Moby Dick," the entire story is told by the narrator Ishmael, who relates the tragedy of the mad Captain Ahab, and is situated as the moral center.

E.B. White, writing columns in 1935's "New Yorker" magazine, often used the plural or "editorial we" to add a humorous universality and a slow pace to his writing.

"The barber was cutting our hair, and our eyes were closed—as they are so likely to be... Deep in a world of our own, we heard, from far away, a voice saying goodbye. It was a customer of the shop, leaving. 'Goodbye,' he said to the barbers. 'Goodbye,' echoed the barbers. And without ever returning to consciousness, or opening our eyes, or thinking, we joined in. 'Goodbye,' we said, before we could catch ourselves."—E.B. White "Sadness of Parting."

In contrast, sportswriter Roger Angell (White's stepson) epitomizes sports writing, with a quick, active voice, and straight chronological snap:

"In September 1986, during an unmomentous Giants-Braves game out at Candlestick Park, Bob Brenly, playing third base for San Francisco, made an error on a routine ground ball in the top of the fourth inning. Four batters later, he kicked away another chance and then, scrambling after the ball, threw wildly past home in an attempt to nail a runner there: two errors on the same play. A few moments after that, he managed another boot, thus becoming only the fourth player since the turn of the century to rack up four errors in one inning."—Roger Angell. "La Vida."
  • A Guide to All Types of Narration, With Examples
  • Point of View in Grammar and Composition
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  • Understanding Point of View in Literature
  • What Is Tone In Writing?
  • The Difference Between an Article and an Essay
  • What Is Composition? Definition, Types, and Examples
  • Writing the Parts of a Stage Play Script

Literacy Ideas

Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

Complete guide to Narrative Writing

MASTERING THE CRAFT OF NARRATIVE WRITING

Narratives build on and encourage the development of the fundamentals of writing. They also require developing an additional skill set: the ability to tell a good yarn, and storytelling is as old as humanity.

We see and hear stories everywhere and daily, from having good gossip on the doorstep with a neighbor in the morning to the dramas that fill our screens in the evening.

Good narrative writing skills are hard-won by students even though it is an area of writing that most enjoy due to the creativity and freedom it offers.

Here we will explore some of the main elements of a good story: plot, setting, characters, conflict, climax, and resolution . And we will look too at how best we can help our students understand these elements, both in isolation and how they mesh together as a whole.

Visual Writing Prompts

WHAT IS A NARRATIVE?

What is a narrative?

A narrative is a story that shares a sequence of events , characters, and themes. It expresses experiences, ideas, and perspectives that should aspire to engage and inspire an audience.

A narrative can spark emotion, encourage reflection, and convey meaning when done well.

Narratives are a popular genre for students and teachers as they allow the writer to share their imagination, creativity, skill, and understanding of nearly all elements of writing.  We occasionally refer to a narrative as ‘creative writing’ or story writing.

The purpose of a narrative is simple, to tell the audience a story.  It can be written to motivate, educate, or entertain and can be fact or fiction.

A COMPLETE UNIT ON TEACHING NARRATIVE WRITING

narrative writing | narrative writing unit 1 2 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

Teach your students to become skilled story writers with this HUGE   NARRATIVE & CREATIVE STORY WRITING UNIT . Offering a  COMPLETE SOLUTION  to teaching students how to craft  CREATIVE CHARACTERS, SUPERB SETTINGS, and PERFECT PLOTS .

Over 192 PAGES of materials, including:

TYPES OF NARRATIVE WRITING

There are many narrative writing genres and sub-genres such as these.

We have a complete guide to writing a personal narrative that differs from the traditional story-based narrative covered in this guide. It includes personal narrative writing prompts, resources, and examples and can be found here.

narrative writing | how to write quest narratives | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

As we can see, narratives are an open-ended form of writing that allows you to showcase creativity in many directions. However, all narratives share a common set of features and structure known as “Story Elements”, which are briefly covered in this guide.

Don’t overlook the importance of understanding story elements and the value this adds to you as a writer who can dissect and create grand narratives. We also have an in-depth guide to understanding story elements here .

CHARACTERISTICS OF NARRATIVE WRITING

Narrative structure.

ORIENTATION (BEGINNING) Set the scene by introducing your characters, setting and time of the story. Establish your who, when and where in this part of your narrative

COMPLICATION AND EVENTS (MIDDLE) In this section activities and events involving your main characters are expanded upon. These events are written in a cohesive and fluent sequence.

RESOLUTION (ENDING) Your complication is resolved in this section. It does not have to be a happy outcome, however.

EXTRAS: Whilst orientation, complication and resolution are the agreed norms for a narrative, there are numerous examples of popular texts that did not explicitly follow this path exactly.

NARRATIVE FEATURES

LANGUAGE: Use descriptive and figurative language to paint images inside your audience’s minds as they read.

PERSPECTIVE Narratives can be written from any perspective but are most commonly written in first or third person.

DIALOGUE Narratives frequently switch from narrator to first-person dialogue. Always use speech marks when writing dialogue.

TENSE If you change tense, make it perfectly clear to your audience what is happening. Flashbacks might work well in your mind but make sure they translate to your audience.

THE PLOT MAP

narrative writing | structuring a narrative | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

This graphic is known as a plot map, and nearly all narratives fit this structure in one way or another, whether romance novels, science fiction or otherwise.

It is a simple tool that helps you understand and organise a story’s events. Think of it as a roadmap that outlines the journey of your characters and the events that unfold. It outlines the different stops along the way, such as the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, that help you to see how the story builds and develops.

Using a plot map, you can see how each event fits into the larger picture and how the different parts of the story work together to create meaning. It’s a great way to visualize and analyze a story.

Be sure to refer to a plot map when planning a story, as it has all the essential elements of a great story.

THE 5 KEY STORY ELEMENTS OF A GREAT NARRATIVE (6-MINUTE TUTORIAL VIDEO)

This video we created provides an excellent overview of these elements and demonstrates them in action in stories we all know and love.

Story Elements for kids

HOW TO WRITE A NARRATIVE

How to write a Narrative

Now that we understand the story elements and how they come together to form stories, it’s time to start planning and writing your narrative.

In many cases, the template and guide below will provide enough details on how to craft a great story. However, if you still need assistance with the fundamentals of writing, such as sentence structure, paragraphs and using correct grammar, we have some excellent guides on those here.

USE YOUR WRITING TIME EFFECTIVELY: Maximize your narrative writing sessions by spending approximately 20 per cent of your time planning and preparing.  This ensures greater productivity during your writing time and keeps you focused and on task.

Use tools such as graphic organizers to logically sequence your narrative if you are not a confident story writer.  If you are working with reluctant writers, try using narrative writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing.

Spend most of your writing hour on the task at hand, don’t get too side-tracked editing during this time and leave some time for editing. When editing a  narrative, examine it for these three elements.

  • Spelling and grammar ( Is it readable?)
  • Story structure and continuity ( Does it make sense, and does it flow? )
  • Character and plot analysis. (Are your characters engaging? Does your problem/resolution work? )

1. SETTING THE SCENE: THE WHERE AND THE WHEN

narrative writing | aa156ee009d91a57894348652da98b58 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

The story’s setting often answers two of the central questions in the story, namely, the where and the when. The answers to these two crucial questions will often be informed by the type of story the student is writing.

The story’s setting can be chosen to quickly orient the reader to the type of story they are reading. For example, a fictional narrative writing piece such as a horror story will often begin with a description of a haunted house on a hill or an abandoned asylum in the middle of the woods. If we start our story on a rocket ship hurtling through the cosmos on its space voyage to the Alpha Centauri star system, we can be reasonably sure that the story we are embarking on is a work of science fiction.

Such conventions are well-worn clichés true, but they can be helpful starting points for our novice novelists to make a start.

Having students choose an appropriate setting for the type of story they wish to write is an excellent exercise for our younger students. It leads naturally onto the next stage of story writing, which is creating suitable characters to populate this fictional world they have created. However, older or more advanced students may wish to play with the expectations of appropriate settings for their story. They may wish to do this for comic effect or in the interest of creating a more original story. For example, opening a story with a children’s birthday party does not usually set up the expectation of a horror story. Indeed, it may even lure the reader into a happy reverie as they remember their own happy birthday parties. This leaves them more vulnerable to the surprise element of the shocking action that lies ahead.

Once the students have chosen a setting for their story, they need to start writing. Little can be more terrifying to English students than the blank page and its bare whiteness stretching before them on the table like a merciless desert they must cross. Give them the kick-start they need by offering support through word banks or writing prompts. If the class is all writing a story based on the same theme, you may wish to compile a common word bank on the whiteboard as a prewriting activity. Write the central theme or genre in the middle of the board. Have students suggest words or phrases related to the theme and list them on the board.

You may wish to provide students with a copy of various writing prompts to get them started. While this may mean that many students’ stories will have the same beginning, they will most likely arrive at dramatically different endings via dramatically different routes.

narrative writing | story elements | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

A bargain is at the centre of the relationship between the writer and the reader. That bargain is that the reader promises to suspend their disbelief as long as the writer creates a consistent and convincing fictional reality. Creating a believable world for the fictional characters to inhabit requires the student to draw on convincing details. The best way of doing this is through writing that appeals to the senses. Have your student reflect deeply on the world that they are creating. What does it look like? Sound like? What does the food taste like there? How does it feel like to walk those imaginary streets, and what aromas beguile the nose as the main character winds their way through that conjured market?

Also, Consider the when; or the time period. Is it a future world where things are cleaner and more antiseptic? Or is it an overcrowded 16th-century London with human waste stinking up the streets? If students can create a multi-sensory installation in the reader’s mind, then they have done this part of their job well.

Popular Settings from Children’s Literature and Storytelling

  • Fairytale Kingdom
  • Magical Forest
  • Village/town
  • Underwater world
  • Space/Alien planet

2. CASTING THE CHARACTERS: THE WHO

Now that your student has created a believable world, it is time to populate it with believable characters.

In short stories, these worlds mustn’t be overpopulated beyond what the student’s skill level can manage. Short stories usually only require one main character and a few secondary ones. Think of the short story more as a small-scale dramatic production in an intimate local theater than a Hollywood blockbuster on a grand scale. Too many characters will only confuse and become unwieldy with a canvas this size. Keep it simple!

Creating believable characters is often one of the most challenging aspects of narrative writing for students. Fortunately, we can do a few things to help students here. Sometimes it is helpful for students to model their characters on actual people they know. This can make things a little less daunting and taxing on the imagination. However, whether or not this is the case, writing brief background bios or descriptions of characters’ physical personality characteristics can be a beneficial prewriting activity. Students should give some in-depth consideration to the details of who their character is: How do they walk? What do they look like? Do they have any distinguishing features? A crooked nose? A limp? Bad breath? Small details such as these bring life and, therefore, believability to characters. Students can even cut pictures from magazines to put a face to their character and allow their imaginations to fill in the rest of the details.

Younger students will often dictate to the reader the nature of their characters. To improve their writing craft, students must know when to switch from story-telling mode to story-showing mode. This is particularly true when it comes to character. Encourage students to reveal their character’s personality through what they do rather than merely by lecturing the reader on the faults and virtues of the character’s personality. It might be a small relayed detail in the way they walk that reveals a core characteristic. For example, a character who walks with their head hanging low and shoulders hunched while avoiding eye contact has been revealed to be timid without the word once being mentioned. This is a much more artistic and well-crafted way of doing things and is less irritating for the reader. A character who sits down at the family dinner table immediately snatches up his fork and starts stuffing roast potatoes into his mouth before anyone else has even managed to sit down has revealed a tendency towards greed or gluttony.

Understanding Character Traits

Again, there is room here for some fun and profitable prewriting activities. Give students a list of character traits and have them describe a character doing something that reveals that trait without ever employing the word itself.

It is also essential to avoid adjective stuffing here. When looking at students’ early drafts, adjective stuffing is often apparent. To train the student out of this habit, choose an adjective and have the student rewrite the sentence to express this adjective through action rather than telling.

When writing a story, it is vital to consider the character’s traits and how they will impact the story’s events. For example, a character with a strong trait of determination may be more likely to overcome obstacles and persevere. In contrast, a character with a tendency towards laziness may struggle to achieve their goals. In short, character traits add realism, depth, and meaning to a story, making it more engaging and memorable for the reader.

Popular Character Traits in Children’s Stories

  • Determination
  • Imagination
  • Perseverance
  • Responsibility

We have an in-depth guide to creating great characters here , but most students should be fine to move on to planning their conflict and resolution.

3. NO PROBLEM? NO STORY! HOW CONFLICT DRIVES A NARRATIVE

narrative writing | 2 RoadBlock | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

This is often the area apprentice writers have the most difficulty with. Students must understand that without a problem or conflict, there is no story. The problem is the driving force of the action. Usually, in a short story, the problem will center around what the primary character wants to happen or, indeed, wants not to happen. It is the hurdle that must be overcome. It is in the struggle to overcome this hurdle that events happen.

Often when a student understands the need for a problem in a story, their completed work will still not be successful. This is because, often in life, problems remain unsolved. Hurdles are not always successfully overcome. Students pick up on this.

We often discuss problems with friends that will never be satisfactorily resolved one way or the other, and we accept this as a part of life. This is not usually the case with writing a story. Whether a character successfully overcomes his or her problem or is decidedly crushed in the process of trying is not as important as the fact that it will finally be resolved one way or the other.

A good practical exercise for students to get to grips with this is to provide copies of stories and have them identify the central problem or conflict in each through discussion. Familiar fables or fairy tales such as Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Cinderella, etc., are great for this.

While it is true that stories often have more than one problem or that the hero or heroine is unsuccessful in their first attempt to solve a central problem, for beginning students and intermediate students, it is best to focus on a single problem, especially given the scope of story writing at this level. Over time students will develop their abilities to handle more complex plots and write accordingly.

Popular Conflicts found in Children’s Storytelling.

  • Good vs evil
  • Individual vs society
  • Nature vs nurture
  • Self vs others
  • Man vs self
  • Man vs nature
  • Man vs technology
  • Individual vs fate
  • Self vs destiny

Conflict is the heart and soul of any good story. It’s what makes a story compelling and drives the plot forward. Without conflict, there is no story. Every great story has a struggle or a problem that needs to be solved, and that’s where conflict comes in. Conflict is what makes a story exciting and keeps the reader engaged. It creates tension and suspense and makes the reader care about the outcome.

Like in real life, conflict in a story is an opportunity for a character’s growth and transformation. It’s a chance for them to learn and evolve, making a story great. So next time stories are written in the classroom, remember that conflict is an essential ingredient, and without it, your story will lack the energy, excitement, and meaning that makes it truly memorable.

4. THE NARRATIVE CLIMAX: HOW THINGS COME TO A HEAD!

narrative writing | tension 1068x660 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

The climax of the story is the dramatic high point of the action. It is also when the struggles kicked off by the problem come to a head. The climax will ultimately decide whether the story will have a happy or tragic ending. In the climax, two opposing forces duke things out until the bitter (or sweet!) end. One force ultimately emerges triumphant. As the action builds throughout the story, suspense increases as the reader wonders which of these forces will win out. The climax is the release of this suspense.

Much of the success of the climax depends on how well the other elements of the story have been achieved. If the student has created a well-drawn and believable character that the reader can identify with and feel for, then the climax will be more powerful.

The nature of the problem is also essential as it determines what’s at stake in the climax. The problem must matter dearly to the main character if it matters at all to the reader.

Have students engage in discussions about their favorite movies and books. Have them think about the storyline and decide the most exciting parts. What was at stake at these moments? What happened in your body as you read or watched? Did you breathe faster? Or grip the cushion hard? Did your heart rate increase, or did you start to sweat? This is what a good climax does and what our students should strive to do in their stories.

The climax puts it all on the line and rolls the dice. Let the chips fall where the writer may…

Popular Climax themes in Children’s Stories

  • A battle between good and evil
  • The character’s bravery saves the day
  • Character faces their fears and overcomes them
  • The character solves a mystery or puzzle.
  • The character stands up for what is right.
  • Character reaches their goal or dream.
  • The character learns a valuable lesson.
  • The character makes a selfless sacrifice.
  • The character makes a difficult decision.
  • The character reunites with loved ones or finds true friendship.

5. RESOLUTION: TYING UP LOOSE ENDS

After the climactic action, a few questions will often remain unresolved for the reader, even if all the conflict has been resolved. The resolution is where those lingering questions will be answered. The resolution in a short story may only be a brief paragraph or two. But, in most cases, it will still be necessary to include an ending immediately after the climax can feel too abrupt and leave the reader feeling unfulfilled.

An easy way to explain resolution to students struggling to grasp the concept is to point to the traditional resolution of fairy tales, the “And they all lived happily ever after” ending. This weather forecast for the future allows the reader to take their leave. Have the student consider the emotions they want to leave the reader with when crafting their resolution.

While the action is usually complete by the end of the climax, it is in the resolution that if there is a twist to be found, it will appear – think of movies such as The Usual Suspects. Pulling this off convincingly usually requires considerable skill from a student writer. Still, it may well form a challenging extension exercise for those more gifted storytellers among your students.

Popular Resolutions in Children’s Stories

  • Our hero achieves their goal
  • The character learns a valuable lesson
  • A character finds happiness or inner peace.
  • The character reunites with loved ones.
  • Character restores balance to the world.
  • The character discovers their true identity.
  • Character changes for the better.
  • The character gains wisdom or understanding.
  • Character makes amends with others.
  • The character learns to appreciate what they have.

Once students have completed their story, they can edit for grammar, vocabulary choice, spelling, etc., but not before!

As mentioned, there is a craft to storytelling, as well as an art. When accurate grammar, perfect spelling, and immaculate sentence structures are pushed at the outset, they can cause storytelling paralysis. For this reason, it is essential that when we encourage the students to write a story, we give them license to make mechanical mistakes in their use of language that they can work on and fix later.

Good narrative writing is a very complex skill to develop and will take the student years to become competent. It challenges not only the student’s technical abilities with language but also her creative faculties. Writing frames, word banks, mind maps, and visual prompts can all give valuable support as students develop the wide-ranging and challenging skills required to produce a successful narrative writing piece. But, at the end of it all, as with any craft, practice and more practice is at the heart of the matter.

TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT NARRATIVE

  • Start your story with a clear purpose: If you can determine the theme or message you want to convey in your narrative before starting it will make the writing process so much simpler.
  • Choose a compelling storyline and sell it through great characters, setting and plot: Consider a unique or interesting story that captures the reader’s attention, then build the world and characters around it.
  • Develop vivid characters that are not all the same: Make your characters relatable and memorable by giving them distinct personalities and traits you can draw upon in the plot.
  • Use descriptive language to hook your audience into your story: Use sensory language to paint vivid images and sequences in the reader’s mind.
  • Show, don’t tell your audience: Use actions, thoughts, and dialogue to reveal character motivations and emotions through storytelling.
  • Create a vivid setting that is clear to your audience before getting too far into the plot: Describe the time and place of your story to immerse the reader fully.
  • Build tension: Refer to the story map earlier in this article and use conflict, obstacles, and suspense to keep the audience engaged and invested in your narrative.
  • Use figurative language such as metaphors, similes, and other literary devices to add depth and meaning to your narrative.
  • Edit, revise, and refine: Take the time to refine and polish your writing for clarity and impact.
  • Stay true to your voice: Maintain your unique perspective and style in your writing to make it your own.

NARRATIVE WRITING EXAMPLES (Student Writing Samples)

Below are a collection of student writing samples of narratives.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to read these creative stories in detail and the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the critical elements of narratives to consider before writing.

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of story writing.

We recommend reading the example either a year above or below, as well as the grade you are currently working with, to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.

narrative writing | Narrative writing example year 3 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

NARRATIVE WRITING PROMPTS (Journal Prompts)

When students have a great journal prompt, it can help them focus on the task at hand, so be sure to view our vast collection of visual writing prompts for various text types here or use some of these.

  • On a recent European trip, you find your travel group booked into the stunning and mysterious Castle Frankenfurter for a single night…  As night falls, the massive castle of over one hundred rooms seems to creak and groan as a series of unexplained events begin to make you wonder who or what else is spending the evening with you. Write a narrative that tells the story of your evening.
  • You are a famous adventurer who has discovered new lands; keep a travel log over a period of time in which you encounter new and exciting adventures and challenges to overcome.  Ensure your travel journal tells a story and has a definite introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • You create an incredible piece of technology that has the capacity to change the world.  As you sit back and marvel at your innovation and the endless possibilities ahead of you, it becomes apparent there are a few problems you didn’t really consider. You might not even be able to control them.  Write a narrative in which you ride the highs and lows of your world-changing creation with a clear introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • As the final door shuts on the Megamall, you realise you have done it…  You and your best friend have managed to sneak into the largest shopping centre in town and have the entire place to yourselves until 7 am tomorrow.  There is literally everything and anything a child would dream of entertaining themselves for the next 12 hours.  What amazing adventures await you?  What might go wrong?  And how will you get out of there scot-free?
  • A stranger walks into town…  Whilst appearing similar to almost all those around you, you get a sense that this person is from another time, space or dimension… Are they friends or foes?  What makes you sense something very strange is going on?   Suddenly they stand up and walk toward you with purpose extending their hand… It’s almost as if they were reading your mind.

NARRATIVE WRITING VIDEO TUTORIAL

narrative writing | Copy of Copy of Copy of HOW TO WRITE POEMS | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

When teaching narrative writing, it is essential that you have a range of tools, strategies and resources at your disposal to ensure you get the most out of your writing time.  You can find some examples below, which are free and paid premium resources you can use instantly without any preparation.

FREE Narrative Graphic Organizer

narrative writing | NarrativeGraphicOrganizer | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

THE STORY TELLERS BUNDLE OF TEACHING RESOURCES

narrative writing | story tellers bundle 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:

NARRATIVE WRITING CHECKLIST BUNDLE

writing checklists

OTHER GREAT ARTICLES ABOUT NARRATIVE WRITING

narrative writing | Narrative2BWriting2BStrategies2Bfor2Bjuniors2B28129 | Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies | literacyideas.com

Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies

narrative writing | narrative writing lessons | 7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love | literacyideas.com

7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love

narrative writing | Top narrative writing skills for students | Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students | literacyideas.com

Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students

narrative writing | how to write a scary horror story | How to Write a Scary Story | literacyideas.com

How to Write a Scary Story

The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.  A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here.  Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Narrative Essays

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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).

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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The system format you using on line is very concise ,I encourage to those who are talented to continue puplish their examples of essays so that we student we can crasp.

This site has one of the best narartive writing techniques anyone can need

This was really helpful and insightful

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example of narrative form writing

Narrative Definition

What is narrative? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

A narrative is an account of connected events. Two writers describing the same set of events might craft very different narratives, depending on how they use different narrative elements, such as tone or  point of view . For example, an account of the American Civil War written from the perspective of a white slaveowner would make for a very different narrative than if it were written from the perspective of a historian, or a former slave.

Some additional key details about narrative:

  • The words "narrative" and "story" are often used interchangeably, and with the casual meanings of the two terms that's fine. However, technically speaking, the two terms have related but different meanings.
  • The word "narrative" is also frequently used as an adjective to describe something that tells a story, such as narrative poetry.

How to Pronounce Narrative

Here's how to pronounce narrative: nar -uh-tiv

Narrative vs. Story vs. Plot

In everyday speech, people often use the terms "narrative," "story," and "plot" interchangeably. However, when speaking more technically about literature these terms are not in fact identical. 

  • A story refers to a sequence of events. It can be thought of as the raw material out of which a narrative is crafted.
  • A plot refers to the sequence of events, but with their causes and effects included. As the writer E.M. Forster put it, while "The King died and the Queen died" is a story (i.e., a sequence of events), "The King died, and then the Queen died of grief" is a plot.
  • A narrative , by contrast, has a more broad-reaching definition: it includes not just the sequence of events and their cause and effect relationships, but also  all of the decisions and techniques that impact how a story is told. A narrative is  how a given sequence of events is recounted.

In order to fully understand narrative, it's important to keep in mind that most sequences of events can be recounted in many different ways. Each different account is a separate narrative. When deciding how to relay a set of facts or describe a sequence of events, a writer must ask themselves, among other things:

  • Which events are most important?
  • Where should I begin and end my narrative?
  • Should I tell the events of the narrative in the order they occurred, or should I use flashbacks or other techniques to present the events in another order?
  • Should I hold certain pieces of information back from the reader?
  • What point of view  should I use to tell the narrative?

The answers to these questions determine how the narrative is constructed, so they have a huge influence on the way a reader sees or understands what they're reading about. The same series of events might be read as happy or sad, boring or exciting—all depending on how the narrative is constructed. Analyzing a narrative just means examining how it is constructed and why it is constructed that way.

Narrative Elements

Narrative elements   are the tools writers use to craft narratives. A great way to approach analyzing a narrative is to break it down into its different narrative elements, and then examine how the writer employs each one. The following is a summary of the main elements that a writer might use to build his or her narrative.

  • For example, a story about a crime told from the perspective of the victim might be very different when told from the perspective of the criminal.
  • For instance, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were friends, and they wrote during the same era, but their writing is very different from one another because they have markedly different  voices.
  • For example, Jonathan Swift's essay " A Modest Proposal " satirizes the British government's callous indifference toward the famine in Ireland by sarcastically suggesting that cannibalism could solve the problem—but the essay would have a completely different meaning if it didn't have a sarcastic tone. 
  • For example, the first half of Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield tells the story of the narrator David Copperfield's early childhood over the course of many chapters; about halfway through the novel, David quickly glosses over some embarrassing episodes from his teenage years (unfortunate fashion choices and foolish crushes); the second half of the novel tells the story of his adult life. The pacing give readers the sense that David's teen years weren't really that important. Instead, his childhood traumas, the challenges he faced as a young man, and the relationships he formed during both childhood and adulthood make up the most important elements of the novel.
  • For example, Mary Shelley's novel   Frankenstein  uses three different "frames" to tell the story of Dr. Frankenstein and the creature he creates: the novel takes the form of letters written by Walton, an arctic explorer; Walton is recounting a story that Dr. Frankenstein told him; and as part of his story, Dr. Frankenstein recounts a story told to him by the creature. 
  • Linear vs. Nonlinear Narration:  You may also hear the word narrative used to describe the order in which a sequence of events is recounted. In a linear narrative, the events of a story are described  chronologically , in the order that they occurred. In a nonlinear narrative, events are described out of order, using flashbacks or flash-forwards, and then returning to the present. In some nonlinear narratives, like Ken Kesey's  Sometimes a Great Notion , there is a clear sense of when the "present" is: the novel begins and ends with the character Viv sitting in a bar, looking at a photograph. The rest of the novel recounts (out of order) events that have happened in the distant and recent past. In other nonlinear narratives, it may be difficult to tell when the "present" is. For example, in Kurt Vonnegut's novel  Slaughterhouse-Five , the character Billy Pilgrim, seems to move forward and backward in time as a result of post-traumatic stress. Billy is not always certain if he is experiencing memories, flashbacks, hallucinations, or actual time travel, and there are inconsistencies in the dates he gives throughout the book—all of which of course has a huge impact on how  his stories are relayed to the reader.

Narrative as an Adjective

It's worth noting that the word "narrative" is also frequently used as an adjective to describe something that tells a story.

  • Narrative Poetry: While some poetry describes an image, experience, or emotion without necessarily telling a story, narrative poetry is poetry that does tell a story. Narrative poems include epic poems like The Iliad , The Epic of Gilgamesh , and Beowulf .  Other, shorter examples of narrative poetry include "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carrol, "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred Lord Tennyson, "The Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti, and "The Glass Essay," by Anne Carson.
  • Narrative Art: Similarly, the term "narrative art" refers to visual art that tells a story, either by capturing one scene in a longer story, or by presenting a series of images that tell a longer story when put together. Often, but not always, narrative art tells stories that are likely to be familiar to the viewer, such as stories from history, mythology, or religious teachings. Examples of narrative art include Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the  Pietà ; Paul Revere's engraving entitled  The Bloody Massacre ; and Artemisia Gentileschi's painting  Judith Slaying Holofernes .

Narrative Examples

Narrative in  the book thief  by markus zusak.

Zusak's novel,  The Book Thief , is narrated by the figure of Death, who tells the story of Liesel, a girl growing up in Nazi Germany who loves books and befriends a Jewish man her family is hiding in their home. In the novel's prologue, Death says of Liesel:

Yes, often, I am reminded of her, and in one of my vast array of pockets, I have kept her story to retell. It is one of the small legion I carry, each one extraordinary in its own right. Each one an attempt—an immense leap of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.

Narrators do not always announce themselves, but Death introduces himself and explains that he sees himself as a storyteller and a repository of the stories of human lives. Choosing Death (rather than Leisel) as the novel's narrator allows Zusak to use Liesel's story to reflect on the power of stories and storytelling more generally.

Narrative in  A Visit From the Goon Squad   by Jennifer Egan

In A Visit From the Good Squad ,  Egan structures the narrative of her novel in an unconventional way: each chapter stands as a self-contained story, but as a whole, the individual episodes are interconnected in such a way that all the stories form a single cohesive narrative. For example, in Chapter 2, "The Gold Cure," we meet the character Bennie, a middle-aged music producer, and his assistant Sasha:

"It's incredible," Sasha said, "how there's just nothing there." Astounded, Bennie turned to her…Sasha was looking downtown, and he followed her eyes to the empty space where the Twin Towers had been. 

Because there is an empty space where the Twin Towers had been, the reader knows that this dialogue is taking place some time after the September 11th, 2001 attack in which the World Trade Center was destroyed. Bennie appears again later in the novel, in Chapter 6, "X's and O's," which is set ten years prior to "The Gold Cure." "X's and O's" is narrated by Bennie's old friend, Scotty, who goes to visit Bennie at his office in Manhattan:

I looked down at the city. Its extravagance felt wasteful, like gushing oil or some other precious thing Bennie was hoarding for himself, using it up so no one else could get any. I thought: If I had a view like this to look down on every day, I would have the energy and inspiration to conquer the world. The trouble is, when you most need such a view, no one gives it to you.

Just as Sasha did in Chapter 2, Scotty stands with Bennie and looks out over Manhattan, and in both passages, there is a sense that Bennie fails to notice, appreciate, or find meaning in the view. But the reader wouldn't have the same experience if the story had been told in chronological order.

Narrative in Atonement by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan's novel Atonement tells the story of Briony, a writer who, as a girl, sees something she doesn't understand and, based on this faulty understanding, makes a choice that ruins the lives of Celia, her sister, and Robbie, the man her sister loves. The first part of the novel appears to be told from the perspective of a third-person omniscient narrator; but once we reach the end of the book, we realize that we've read Briony's novel, which she has written as an act of atonement for her terrible mistake. Near the end of  Atonement , Briony tells us:

I like to think that it isn’t weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers live and to unite them at the end. I gave them happiness, but I was not so self-serving as to let them forgive me. Not quite, not yet. If I had the power to conjure them at my birthday celebration…Robbie and Cecilia, still alive, sitting side by side in the library…

In Briony's novel, Celia and Robbie are eventually able to live together, and Briony visits them in an attempt to apologize; but in real life, we learn, Celia and Robbie died during World War II before they could see one another again, and before Briony could reconcile with them. By inviting the reader to imagine a happy ending, Briony effectively heightens the tragedy of the events that actually occurred. By choosing Briony as his narrator, and by framing the novel Briony wrote with her discussion of her own novel, McEwan is able to create multiple interlacing narratives, telling and retelling what happened and what might have been.

Narrative in Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran who survived the bombing of Dresden, and has since “come unstuck in time.” The novel uses flashbacks and flash-forwards, and is narrated by an unreliable narrator who implies to the reader that the narrative he is telling may not be entirely true:

All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I’ve changed all the names.

The narrator’s equivocation in this passage suggests that even though the story he is telling may not be entirely factually accurate, he has attempted to create a narrative that captures important truths about the war and the bombing of Dresden. Or, maybe he just doesn’t remember all of the details of the events he is describing. In any case, the inconsistencies in dates and details in Slaughterhouse-Five  give the reader the impression that crafting a single cohesive narrative out of the horrific experience of war may be too difficult a task—which in turn says something about the toll war takes on those who live through it.

What's the Function of Narrative in Literature?

When we use the word "narrative," we're pointing out that who tells a story and how that person tells the story influence how the reader understands the story's meaning. The question of what purpose narratives serve in literature is inseparable from the question of why people tell stories in general, and why writers use different narrative elements to shape their stories into compelling narratives. Narratives make it possible for writers to capture some of the nuances and complexities of human experience in the retelling of a sequence of events.

In literature and in life, narratives are everywhere, which is part of why they can be very challenging to discuss and analyze. Narrative reminds us that stories do not only exist; they are also made by someone, often for very specific reasons. And when you analyze narrative in literature, you take the time to ask yourself why a work of literature has been constructed in a certain way.

Other Helpful Narrative Resources

  • Etymology: Merriam-Webster describes the origins and history of usage of the term "narrative."
  • Narrative Theory: Ohio State University's "Project Narrative" offers an overview of narrative theory.
  • History and Narrative:  Read more about the similarities between historical and literary narratives in Hayden White's  Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in 19th-Century Europe.
  • Narrative Art: This article from Widewalls explores narrative art and discusses what kind of art doesn't  tell stories. 

The printed PDF version of the LitCharts literary term guide on Narrative

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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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Narrative Essay with Tips - a Detailed Guide

example of narrative form writing

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.

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10+ Interesting Narrative Essay Examples Plus Writing Tips!

Published on: Jun 23, 2018

Last updated on: Nov 29, 2023

Narrative Essay Examples

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Many students struggle with crafting engaging and impactful narrative essays. They often find it challenging to weave their personal experiences into coherent and compelling stories.

If you’re having a hard time, don't worry! 

We’ve compiled a range of narrative essay examples that will serve as helpful tools for you to get started. These examples will provide a clear path for crafting engaging and powerful narrative essays.

So, keep reading and find our expertly written examples!

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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. It's a piece of writing that delves into the depths of thoughts and feelings. 

In a narrative essay, life experiences take center stage, serving as the main substance of the story. It's a powerful tool for writers to convey a personal journey, turning experiences into a captivating tale. This form of storytelling is an artful display of emotions intended to engage readers, leaving the reader feeling like they are a part of the story.

By focusing on a specific theme, event, emotions, and reflections, a narrative essay weaves a storyline that leads the reader through the author's experiences. 

The Essentials of Narrative Essays

Let's start with the basics. The four types of essays are argumentative essays , descriptive essays , expository essays , and narrative essays.

The goal of a narrative essay is to tell a compelling tale from one person's perspective. A narrative essay uses all components you’d find in a typical story, such as a beginning, middle, and conclusion, as well as plot, characters, setting, and climax.

The narrative essay's goal is the plot, which should be detailed enough to reach a climax. Here's how it works:

  • It's usually presented in chronological order.
  • It has a function. This is typically evident in the thesis statement's opening paragraph.
  • It may include speech.
  • It's told with sensory details and vivid language, drawing the reader in. All of these elements are connected to the writer's major argument in some way.

Before writing your essay, make sure you go through a sufficient number of narrative essay examples. These examples will help you in knowing the dos and don’ts of a good narrative essay.

It is always a better option to have some sense of direction before you start anything. Below, you can find important details and a bunch of narrative essay examples. These examples will also help you build your content according to the format. 

Here is a how to start a narrative essay example:

Sample Narrative Essay

The examples inform the readers about the writing style and structure of the narration. The essay below will help you understand how to create a story and build this type of essay in no time.

Here is another narrative essay examples 500 words:

Narrative Essay Examples for Students

Narrative essays offer students a platform to express their experiences and creativity. These examples show how to effectively structure and present personal stories for education.

Here are some helpful narrative essay examples:

Narrative Essay Examples Middle School

Narrative Essay Examples for Grade 7

Narrative Essay Examples for Grade 8

Grade 11 Narrative Essay Examples

Narrative Essay Example For High School

Narrative Essay Example For College

Personal Narrative Essay Example

Descriptive Narrative Essay Example

3rd Person Narrative Essay Example

Narrative Essay Topics

Here are some narrative essay topics to help you get started with your narrative essay writing.

  • When I got my first bunny
  • When I moved to Canada
  • I haven’t experienced this freezing temperature ever before
  • The moment I won the basketball finale
  • A memorable day at the museum
  • How I talk to my parrot
  • The day I saw the death
  • When I finally rebelled against my professor

Need more topics? Check out these extensive narrative essay topics to get creative ideas!

Narrative Essay Writing Tips

Narrative essays give you the freedom to be creative, but it can be tough to make yours special. Use these tips to make your story interesting:

  • Share your story from a personal viewpoint, engaging the reader with your experiences.
  • Use vivid descriptions to paint a clear picture of the setting, characters, and emotions involved.
  • Organize events in chronological order for a smooth and understandable narrative.
  • Bring characters to life through their actions, dialogue, and personalities.
  • Employ dialogue sparingly to add realism and progression to the narrative.
  • Engage readers by evoking emotions through your storytelling.
  • End with reflection or a lesson learned from the experience, providing insight.

Now you have essay examples and tips to help you get started, you have a solid starting point for crafting compelling narrative essays.

However, if storytelling isn't your forte, you can always turn to our essay writing service for help.

Our writers are specialists that can tackle any type of essay with great skill. With their experience, you get a top-quality, 100% plagiarism free essay everytime.

So, let our narrative essay writing service make sure your narrative essay stands out. Order now!

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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  • Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Use Narrative

I. What is a Narrative?

A narrative is a story. The term can be used as a noun or an adjective. As a noun, narrative refers to the story being told. It is the account of events, experiences, and details. It also refers to the story-telling process. As an adjective, it describes the form or style of the story being told.

The adjective use of the word narrative has its roots in the Latin word, narrativus, which means “suited to narration.” The noun usage of the word appeared in the French language in the 15 th century and is defined as “a tale, story.”

Narrative is pronounced (năr′ə-tĭv), or “narr, uh, tive”.

II. Examples of Narrative

If you look at narrative when used as a noun, you will find many examples. Most things written in the first-person are narratives. A novel written from the point of view of the main character is a narrative. The essay you wrote, entitled “What I did on my summer vacation”, was a narrative. An article written by a blogger about his/her experience travelling across the United States on a bicycle would most likely be a narrative.

If you look at narrative when used as an adjective, you will find that it complements just about any form of writing or art. There are narrative poems, narrative works of visual art, narrative essays , or narrative dances. If you can make something tell a story, it is narrative.

III. Types of Narrative

Rather than there being “types” of narrative, narrative, itself, functions as an adjective, transforming other things. The narrative voice, or narrative style can be used to transform virtually anything into a story.

For example:

  • Other forms of art can also be considered narratives. You can choreograph a narrative dance or paint a narrative series of pictures. The important element is that your creation tells a story.
  • Autobiographies are, essentially, narrative. They are written in the first-person and describe the events of the story-teller’s life.
  • Theatrical monologues are narrative. In a monologue, the character tells an intimate story, often addressing the audience, asking questions and seemingly seeking answers from them. In Hamlet’s famous monologue, that begins “To be or not to be,” he is seeking answers to the great philosophical questions of life and death. He is discussing them with himself and the audience, trying to puzzle them out and inviting the audience to do the same.
  • Essays can also be narrative. An essay is a literary composition about a single subject. You have probably written many. A narrative essay is simply an essay written in a style that tells a story. They are often personal , anecdotal, and told from the writer’s point of view.

IV. The Importance of using Narrative

Everyone loves a story! Everyone has a story. Everyone wants to tell a story. Everyone can relate to a story. That is why it is important to use narratives.

Narrative is an engaging writing style. It immediately invites your audience into your world and offers them a chance to participate in the story you are telling. A reader can easily get wrapped up in a narrative. It is also a style that invites discussion and participation. By using it you tell your audience that this story is not over. They can take it home and think about it. They can retell it, add to it and change it.

Narratives are social. They are at the heart of how we communicate as social beings. If you look for definitions, descriptions, and discussions of what narratives are, you will find many references to the natural humanity of narratives. They are a part of who we are and how we share that with others.

Have you ever read an article that just bored you to tears? Maybe you thought it was “dry”. (Maybe you feel that way about this article?) There is a good chance the author did not make good use of narrative, and thus never managed to draw you in.

V. Examples of Narrative in Literature

Narratives can be found everywhere in literature. They appear in every style, form, and genre.

Fiction: Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes is the tale of a man who is determined to be a knight. You may remember references to a madman on horseback fighting windmills? This is that book. It is a standard and classic example of a book written in the narrative voice.

Beloved , by Toni Morrison is the tale of an escaped slave, who remains haunted by things in her past. It is another more modern and ground-breaking narrative work.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, that popular story about Bilbo Baggins, a fantasy creature called a hobbit who travels through Middle Earth and has unexpected adventures , is also a first-person narrative.

Nonfiction: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas is the autobiography of a man who was a slave, an abolitionist, a writer and a newspaper editor. It is one of our country’s great historical works and it is written in the narrative voice.

VI. Examples of Narrative in Pop Culture

Narratives are everywhere in popular culture. In fact, popular culture is, in itself, an overarching narrative. It is the system of stories that weave in and out of one another to make up the story of the human race. Culture is open-ended and ever evolving, and that is what makes it a narrative. We participate in our own story, along with those around us, and make it up as we go along.

If we want to look at smaller examples, journalism and the news is an excellent form of narrative. Something happens and someone reports on it. Someone else picks up the story, adds a few details and comments, and publishes that. Then, someone else comes along, follows the same pattern, and the narrative continues.

Even more specifically, headlines have become increasingly narrative with the explosive popularity of social media. Writers try and draw in readers by inviting them into the discussion of a topic. In social media, you have just a few words, and maybe a picture, to interest your audience and get them to open your link. In order to do this, there is a trend to write narrative headlines such as these:

He opened the jar of peanut butter and what he saw will blow your mind.

She gave her toddler a crayon and you will never believe what happened next.

Blogs are also excellent examples of narratives as they include first-person accounts of experiences while inviting comment and conversation from readers.

Music is also a wonderful place to find narratives. People have an innate need to turn their stories in to songs. Turn on your stereo and you will find an endless number of narrative. American Pie by Don McLean is one of the great narrative musical creations in our country’s history. It is written in the first person and tells a cryptic story of the history of our music and a fatal plane crash.

A long long time ago I can still remember how That music used to make me smile And I knew if I had my chance That I could make those people dance And maybe they’d be happy for a while…

VII. Related Terms

Narrator : a person who tells a story or gives an account of something.

Story : a synonym to the word narrative. Some suggest that stories are closed ended with a beginning, middle and end, while narratives are larger open-ended discussions, comprised of stories, with listener participation.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website

example of narrative form writing

Understanding Narrative Writing (Examples, Prompts, and More)

narrative writing

Narrative writing is a writing style that helps to tell stories with more emphasis. It contrasts with descriptive and persuasive writing styles. Learn everything you need to know about narrative writing in this comprehensive guide.

What is narrative writing?

We have all read stories- both fictional and non-fictional. Narrative writing is exactly that- it is storytelling. While most narrative-style writing has a main character or protagonist, sometimes narratives can be about humanizing inanimate objects or abstract feelings.

Whatever happens to the said character or protagonist is called the story or the plot. Like most stories, narrative writing has conflict, resolution, and observation, and is in short- a story you would want to read.

Narrative writing is just one of the writing styles among others, namely expository, descriptive and persuasive writing . While all of the listed styles are very distinct, it is easy to confuse them for another. Hence, it is important to know the difference between each.

Descriptive Writing

A descriptive style of writing focuses on rich imagery and sensory description of smells, sights, and sounds. It is usually used in screenplays, essays, and poems. It serves the purpose of immersion- where the reader can actively imagine themselves being transported to the place or situation that the author describes.

  • Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing is much like a political or philosophical text where one side attempts to establish its stance. Being persuasive in your writing style is a needed skill for reviewers and political columnists. Especially since they give essential takes on situations and decisions where the reader is persuaded by the text to agree or disagree with a certain argument. This style of writing is also applied in speeches, slogans, editorials, and opinion pieces.

How is narrative writing different from the expository style of writing?

To know that we must first know what the expository style of writing is. Expository writing is more about facts than fiction. Think textbooks, neutral news articles, etc. Anything that states facts without sensationalizing them is an exposition. This is in direct contrast with narrative writing which is more about storytelling than about facts.

What is a personal narrative?

As the name suggests, a personal narrative is about a person. Usually, this person is you. A personal narrative helps see things from your personal perspective. Personal narratives are used where intimacy is required.

Because they offer a window into the writers’ beliefs, methods, and emotions, memoirs, autobiographies, and deeply personal story pieces captivate us as readers. However, publishing your whole life story is not necessary to produce a personal narrative.

A cover letter or an admissions essay may be written by a student, or you may be attempting to describe your relevant qualifications. Your story will center on personal development, thoughts, and experiences irrespective of your goal.

Because of its digestible style and the fact that humans are empathic beings, personal tales enable us to relate to the experiences of others.

Narrative writing

Types of narrative writing

1. viewpoint narrative.

Viewpoint narrative tells the story from the eyes of the protagonist. This lends a unique lens to the story as the reader journeys through the paragraphs to see it unfold in real-time as the protagonist goes through the events.

For instance, Moby Dick by Herman Melville utilized viewpoint narrative to make Ishmael’s motives in the story hit home for the reader.

2. Descriptive Narrative

This is usually written in the third person as the descriptive narrative style entails a descriptive account of a situation, person, or place. But, many descriptive style narratives are written in the first person too. Usually, it uses vivid imagery and sensory words that help the reader immerse in the story.

3. Linear and Non-Linear Narrative

If the progression of the events in the plot happens one after the other, then it is a linear narrative style of writing. For example, in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, everything happens in a linear chronological order. Whereas in a book like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, there are multiple competing timelines that occur simultaneously. Such a style of narrative writing is non-linear.

Components/Devices needed to craft a narrative

1. Descriptive communication : Instead of explaining facts straight, this form of language elicits sentiments. Imagery, personification, similes, and metaphors are examples of descriptive linguistic devices.

2. Characters: A narrative may have a small cast of characters or a large one. The narrator is sometimes the lone character to appear in certain narratives. The tale is being recounted from the perspective of the narrator, who may or may not engage with the other characters.

  • Protagonist: Almost every story requires a protagonist among the characters. The figure whose tale is being recounted as they strive to accomplish a goal or overcome a struggle is the protagonist. He/She is sometimes referred to as the central character as well.
  • Antagonist: The adversary is a figure that appears in almost every story. The villain is just the person or thing that the protagonist must face in order to triumph over hurdles; they are not always the “bad guy.” The adversary can be a person, a natural force, the protagonist’s community, or even a characteristic of the protagonist’s nature in many stories.

3. Plot: The sequence of events that take place in your tale makes up the plot. A storyline might be straightforward with just one or two key events, or it can be intricate and have several layers.

4. Structure: Each narrative, even those that are nonlinear, is ordered in some fashion. This is how the central protagonist chases their objective or responds to a problem. No matter how you arrange your story, there are three main sections:

  • Beginning: The moment the reader encounters your words is the start of your narrative. This is important to grab the reader’s attention so that they continue to read through the rest of what you have to say.
  • Middle: The middle is the body, where the conflict occurs, and the story sets up the obstacle that needs to be overcome by our protagonist in order to attain something of importance.
  • End: The ending is the resolution where the result of our protagonist’s efforts is declared. It could either end positively, negatively or vaguely- where the ultimate fate of the characters is left up to the reader’s imagination.

5. Theme: Each narrative has a theme whether you intend it to be or not. For instance, Harry Potter is about magic, Little Women is about female adolescence, and To Kill a Mockingbird is about racism and childhood trauma.

What do you need to write a narrative?

Narrative writers have most if not all of the following skills:

Organization:

Narratives require a structure, even if it is non-linear and complex, with multiple parallel timelines. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a chronological narrative where the older protagonist narrates a story that happened during her childhood.

Having interesting beginnings:

The start captures the readers and encourages them to keep reading. Hence, it is important to craft interesting beginnings for stories.

For example, George Orwell’s iconic sci-fi novel 1984 opens with the sentence , ‘It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.’

It’s an incredible opening to set the mood for a book that is about surveillance and the dystopian future of commodifying privacy.

Description:

Description is like salt- it is necessary, but if overdone, can ruin the story. If what you are describing is not of the essence to the plot, it can get very boring for readers to go through paragraphs of descriptions of meadows(a la Tolkien).

For instance, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess does a wonderful job of letting the description and detail be an effective plot device. It isn’t overdone nor is it left fully to the readers. It is immersive enough for the reader to be engrossed but relevant enough for the reader to want to keep reading.

Suspense is a great technique to make the reader turn pages. It is a tried and true way to win a reader’s interest. There is simply no way to talk about suspense without mentioning Agatha Cristie. Her 1939 novel And Then There Were None displays the mastery of Cristie. She keeps the reader engaged till the very end to find out who is the killer on the island where a band of vacationers mysteriously die off.

Stretch the main event:

Pacing is incredibly important in storytelling. If you spend 3 chapters setting up a conflict that gets solved in one page, it is not as gratifying of an ending. Hence, it is important that the main event is identified and written about in a way that uses action, description, and ample establishment prior to its reveal.

For example, let’s look at The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle:

The wagonette swung round into a side road, and we curved upward through deep lanes worn by centuries of wheels, high banks on either side, heavy with dripping moss and fleshy hart’s-tongue ferns. Bronzing bracken and mottled bramble gleamed in the light of the sinking sun. Still steadily rising, we passed over a narrow granite bridge and skirted a noisy stream that gushed swiftly down, foaming and roaring amid the gray boulders. Both road and stream wound up through a valley dense with scrub oak and fir.

At every turn Baskerville gave an exclamation of delight, looking eagerly about him and asking countless questions. To his eyes, all seemed beautiful, but to me , a tinge of melancholy lay upon the countryside, which bore so clearly the mark of the waning year. Yellow leaves carpeted the lanes and fluttered down upon us as we passed. The rattle of our wheels died away as we drove through drifts of rotting vegetation. Sad gifts, as it seemed to me, for Nature to throw before the carriage of the returning heir of the Baskervilles.

The majority of the chapter’s first half was made up of rather fast-paced conversation. But the action slows down when the protagonists approach the moor. Doyle uses a couple of techniques to maintain this slower tempo. The wording grows increasingly detailed as the phrases lengthen and become more complicated. This is a great example of good pacing while describing the main events.

Good endings:

Good endings don’t mean that the end needs to be a happy one. It just means that it has to make sense and leave the reader with a feeling of something intense. It can be happiness, sadness, anger, or even hopefulness. What the reader shouldn’t feel are boredom and predictability. In many cases of good stories, even if the ending is predictable, it is done in a way that makes sense and leaves the reader wanting more.

Narrative writing prompts to use:

  • Finish this story: The pirates set sail on their ship in search of . . .
  • Write about a time you wished you were somewhere/someone else
  • Write a story that ends with: ‘Our paths were different, but our destination was the same.’
  • Write a story using the following words: elephant, diaper, rose, house

Inside this article

example of narrative form writing

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example of narrative form writing

About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

Core lessons

  • Abstract Noun
  • Accusative Case
  • Active Sentence
  • Alliteration
  • Adjective Clause
  • Adjective Phrase
  • Adverbial Clause
  • Appositive Phrase
  • Body Paragraph
  • Compound Adjective
  • Complex Sentence
  • Compound Words
  • Compound Predicate
  • Common Noun
  • Comparative Adjective
  • Comparative and Superlative
  • Compound Noun
  • Compound Subject
  • Compound Sentence
  • Copular Verb
  • Collective Noun
  • Colloquialism
  • Conciseness
  • Conditional
  • Concrete Noun
  • Conjunction
  • Conjugation
  • Conditional Sentence
  • Comma Splice
  • Correlative Conjunction
  • Coordinating Conjunction
  • Coordinate Adjective
  • Cumulative Adjective
  • Dative Case
  • Declarative Statement
  • Direct Object Pronoun
  • Direct Object
  • Dangling Modifier
  • Demonstrative Pronoun
  • Demonstrative Adjective
  • Direct Characterization
  • Definite Article
  • Doublespeak
  • Equivocation Fallacy
  • Future Perfect Progressive
  • Future Simple
  • Future Perfect Continuous
  • Future Perfect
  • First Conditional
  • Gerund Phrase
  • Genitive Case
  • Helping Verb
  • Irregular Adjective
  • Irregular Verb
  • Imperative Sentence
  • Indefinite Article
  • Intransitive Verb
  • Introductory Phrase
  • Indefinite Pronoun
  • Indirect Characterization
  • Interrogative Sentence
  • Intensive Pronoun
  • Inanimate Object
  • Indefinite Tense
  • Infinitive Phrase
  • Interjection
  • Intensifier
  • Indicative Mood
  • Juxtaposition
  • Linking Verb
  • Misplaced Modifier
  • Nominative Case
  • Noun Adjective
  • Object Pronoun
  • Object Complement
  • Order of Adjectives
  • Parallelism
  • Prepositional Phrase
  • Past Simple Tense
  • Past Continuous Tense
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • Past Progressive Tense
  • Present Simple Tense
  • Present Perfect Tense
  • Personal Pronoun
  • Personification
  • Parallel Structure
  • Phrasal Verb
  • Predicate Adjective
  • Predicate Nominative
  • Phonetic Language
  • Plural Noun
  • Punctuation
  • Punctuation Marks
  • Preposition
  • Preposition of Place
  • Parts of Speech
  • Possessive Adjective
  • Possessive Determiner
  • Possessive Case
  • Possessive Noun
  • Proper Adjective
  • Proper Noun
  • Present Participle
  • Quotation Marks
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Narrative Writing

Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is a captivating storytelling method that allows writers to share their personal experiences, imaginative tales, or historical events. It’s a powerful tool for engaging readers through vivid descriptions, emotional depth, and a well-structured plot. By blending creativity with narrative techniques, this form of writing transports readers into the heart of the story, making every moment feel real and impactful. It’s an art that balances entertainment, reflection, and clarity, turning simple stories into memorable journeys.

At an early age, we have been exposed to the different writing styles and types. We were taught of such writing styles, and we learned to distinguish the differences each writing style has with each other. Over time, we might have even tried writing various writing styles.

In short, use of writing has always been part of our lives, and it will remain that way. Here, we will recall one of the writing styles we have learned as a child, one we’re very familiar with—narrative writing.

What is Narrative Writing? Narrative writing is a style of writing where the author tells a story. This story can be real or fictional, and it usually follows a specific structure with a beginning, middle, and end. The key elements of narrative writing include characters, a plot, a setting, a climax, and a conclusion. It differs from other types of writing by its focus on storytelling, often using detailed descriptions and emotional language to engage the reader’s imagination and feelings.

Structure/Format of Narrative Writing

Narrative writing has a distinct structure that helps in organizing the story and making it engaging and coherent. This structure typically includes the following elements:

Introduction

Hook: Begins with a sentence that captures the reader’s attention. Setting: Establishes the time and place where the story occurs. Characters: Introduces the main characters involved in the story. Purpose: If relevant, states the reason or theme of the narrative.
Events: Describes the sequence of events in a clear, chronological order. However, flashbacks or non-linear storytelling can be used effectively. Conflict: Introduces a problem or challenge faced by the characters. Development: Shows how characters react to events and evolve. Sensory Details: Uses descriptive language to engage the reader’s senses and emotions.
Turning Point: The most intense or crucial moment of the story, where the main conflict reaches its peak. Emotional Engagement: This part should be the most engaging and is often the result of the buildup of events in the body.
Resolution: Provides closure to the story, resolving any conflicts or issues. Reflection: Offers insight or lessons learned from the events of the story. Final Thoughts: Leaves the reader with something to think about, often tying back to the introduction or the theme of the narrative.

What does narrative writing include?

Narrative writing includes several key elements that work together to create an engaging and coherent story. These elements are:

  • Plot: The sequence of events that make up the story. It includes the setup, conflict, climax, and resolution.
  • Characters: The individuals involved in the story. Main characters are usually more fully developed and central to the plot.
  • Setting: The time and place where the story occurs. This can include not just physical locations, but also the social, economic, or cultural environments.
  • Point of View: The perspective from which the story is told. Common points of view include first-person (using “I” or “we”) and third-person (using “he,” “she,” or “they”).
  • Conflict: The challenge or problem around which the plot revolves. Conflict can be internal (within a character) or external (between characters or between a character and their environment).
  • Theme: The underlying message or meaning of the story. Themes can be explicit or implied through the events and outcomes of the narrative.
  • Dialogue: The conversations between characters, which can reveal their personalities, relationships, and contribute to plot development.
  • Descriptive Language: Vivid descriptions that engage the reader’s senses and emotions, bringing the story to life.

Types of Narrative Writing

Fictional narrative.

  • Characteristics: Involves created storylines, characters, and settings. These narratives can range from realistic to fantastical.
  • Purpose: Primarily for entertainment, but they can also explore themes, moral dilemmas, or human experiences.
  • Examples: Novels, short stories, fairy tales.

Non-Fictional Narrative

  • Characteristics: Based on real events and people. While factual, they are presented in a narrative style, making them more engaging.
  • Purpose: To inform or educate about real-life events or experiences, often with an emphasis on historical, biographical, or autobiographical elements.
  • Examples: Memoirs, historical accounts, travelogues.

Autobiographical Narrative

  • Characteristics: The writer narrates their own life experiences. It can include personal stories, reflections, and significant life events.
  • Purpose: To share personal insights and experiences, often highlighting a particular theme or period in the writer’s life.
  • Examples: Autobiographies, personal essays.

Biographical Narrative

  • Characteristics: Biographical Narrative Focuses on the life story of another person. These narratives delve into the experiences, achievements, and impact of the subject.
  • Purpose: To explore and share the life of the subject, providing insights into their personality and contributions.
  • Examples: Biographies, historical profiles.

Historical Narrative

  • Characteristics: Historical Narrative stories are set in a historical context. They can be a factual recounting of historical events or a fictional story set in a historical period.
  • Purpose: To educate about and bring to life historical events or eras, often connecting the past to present-day themes.
  • Examples: Historical novels, documentaries.

Adventure Narrative

  • Characteristics: Centers on stories of adventure, exploration, or extraordinary experiences. Often includes elements of risk and excitement.
  • Purpose: To entertain and engage the reader with tales of adventure, often highlighting themes of bravery, exploration, or survival.
  • Examples: Adventure novels, travel narratives.

Mystery Narrative

  • Characteristics: These stories involve a mystery, puzzle, or unexplained event, with a focus on the process of solving the mystery.
  • Purpose: To intrigue and captivate the reader, often involving suspense, clues, and detective work.
  • Examples: Detective stories, suspense novels.

Narrative Writing Samples

Personal narrative writing.

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Medical Narrative Sample

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Purpose of Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is primarily intended to tell a story to its readers. It is typically presented in a way that engages the writers to imagine themselves as the main character of the story. In narrative writing, the sequence of events is presented such that the reader may be able to follow the flow of events.

The writer incorporates feelings into the composition which lets the reader “feel” what they are reading. Aside from that, the writer also vividly describes the elements of the composition in detail, allowing the reader to paint a picture of it in mind. To sum it up, the business writing writers compose a narrative with the intention of entertaining the readers.

Interactive Narrative Sample

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Reflective Writing

reflective writing

Teaching Narrative Example

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Free Narrative Writing

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How to Compose a Narrative Essay

In narrative essay writing , the writer needs to be imaginative, and at the same time creative in order to create a story which not only catches the readers’ attention but also retains it, things about writing papers . If you’re struggling in doing so, here are some points to remember for you to improve your composition.

  • Choose a topic. Pick one which can easily be narrated. Your topic should not only interest you, but also your readers. An interesting topic will be the foundation of an interesting story.
  • Create an outline of the plot. This will help you in organizing the sequence of events in your story.
  • Be consistent. Decide whether to use the third person or first person point of view in your composition. Also be mindful of the tense you use.
  • Carefully describe the elements of the story. Describe the characters, setting, events, and other elements of the story in full detail.
  • Avoid over-describing details. This goes especially to movements. Carefully narrate the elements of your story, but do not overdo it.
  • Mind your word choice. Strong words create strong sentences, which usually interests readers. Still, keep your language simple and clear.
  • Proofread your composition. Or let a friend do it. But make sure you polish your composition before publishing (if you plan to).

Characteristics of Narrative Writing

Narrative writing has distinct characteristics that set it apart from other types of writing. Understanding these features is essential to crafting a compelling narrative:

  • Story Structure: It follows a traditional structure of beginning, middle, and end.
  • Characters: Involves well-developed characters who drive the story.
  • Setting: Features a specific time and place where the story unfolds.
  • Plot and Conflict: Centers around a central conflict or challenge, with a climax and resolution.
  • Point of View: Typically narrated from a first-person or third-person perspective.
  • Descriptive Language: Uses vivid descriptions to create a sensory experience for the reader.
  • Dialogue: Includes conversations between characters to advance the plot and develop characters.

Tips for Narrative Writing

1. Choose a Compelling Topic: Select a story that is meaningful and interesting to you. Personal experiences often make for engaging narratives.

2. Plan Your Narrative: Outline the structure of your story, including key events, character development, and the resolution.

3. Create Vivid Characters: Develop well-rounded characters with distinct personalities, backgrounds, and motivations.

4. Set the Scene: Use descriptive language to build your setting, making it as detailed and vivid as possible.

5. Build the Plot Around a Conflict: Introduce a central conflict or challenge that drives the story and holds the reader’s interest.

6. Use Dialogue Effectively: Incorporate dialogue to reveal character traits and advance the plot. Ensure it sounds natural and consistent with the characters.

7. Show, Don’t Just Tell: Rather than simply stating facts, show the action through descriptive details, characters’ actions, and dialogue.

8. Maintain a Consistent Point of View: Stick to one narrative perspective to avoid confusing the reader.

How Should I Start a Narrative Writing?

Begin with a hook that grabs attention, set the scene, introduce key characters, and hint at the central conflict or theme.

What is an Example of a Narrative Writing?

A narrative writing example could be a personal story about overcoming a challenge, with descriptive details, character growth, and emotional depth.

What is a Nonlinear Narrative?

A nonlinear narrative breaks from chronological order, using flashbacks or jumps in time to enhance storytelling and intrigue.

Mastering narrative writing involves understanding its key elements and applying them effectively. By choosing a compelling topic, developing rich characters, setting a vivid scene, and weaving a plot around a central conflict, your narrative will captivate readers. Remember, the power of a well-told story lies in its ability to connect emotionally with the audience.

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Narrative Writing – Topics & Examples Of Narrative Style Writing

Who doesn’t like a good story, especially when someone narrates it for you? One of the earliest methods of communication,…

Narrative Writing – Topics & Examples Of Narrative Style Writing

Who doesn’t like a good story, especially when someone narrates it for you?

One of the earliest methods of communication, storytelling has been instrumental in sharing information. Over time, it became one of the foundational skills necessary in business communication. Employers value professionals who exhibit strong interpersonal and communication skills. Storytelling is one of the best ways to connect with others and get your message across. It can even help boost business in several ways—creating strong strategies, improving customer loyalty and bringing in more profits.

While we think of storytelling as a strictly verbal tradition, narrative writing uses storytelling techniques to get your message across. Wondering what it is? Let’s dig in!

Writing Your Story: What Is Narrative Writing? 

The importance of narrative style of writing, why bother about strategic narratives, writing your story: what is narrative writing.

One of the most effective ways of storytelling in written communication is through narrative writing. To simplify the term, the narrative is a classical rhetorical method of presenting the information. Writers use a narrator style to present their point of view in a chronological manner. There are flashbacks and multiple timelines. Some of the popular examples of narrative writing include essays, fairy tales, autobiographies and news stories.

There are five core elements of narrative writing that define the narrative. Narrators have the power to reveal the elements in subtle or direct ways. Let’s look at them in greater detail.

It’s a thread of events that lead you to the main point of the story

It adds volume to your story and talks about the events in the context of a particular place and time

Characters: 

They’re the characters or bystanders in your story who drive the plot and character development is one of the best aspects of the narrative style of writing

This is what brings in the tension in your story; conflict of any form talks about the problem that you’re trying to solve

Every narrative writing piece has a central theme that talks about the purpose of your story

The bottom line is that these five elements help writers assemble their stories in a comprehensive manner.

Studies show that organizations that know how to clearly communicate their business strategies are likely to outperform their competitors. Similarly, business leaders who prioritize communication are successful in driving business strategies. Narrative writing helps develop key business communication skills and is necessary across several domains of professional life. Here are a few examples of narrative writing that are crucial for career development:

Powerful resumes and cover letters make a significant difference in a candidate’s application. Narrative writing helps you present past experiences and qualifications in a captivating way.

Storytelling is an effective tool to develop a strong connection with customers and clients. Marketing and advertising channels often rely on narrative pieces to develop brand loyalty.

Sales representatives need to have strong communication skills to make a successful sales pitch . While verbal communication is common, a powerful sales message is crucial to sales success as well.

A strategic narrative is a form of a written or spoken story of an imagined future. A powerful strategic narrative helps paint a picture of the past, present and future of an organization and how these elements fit together. It helps business leaders articulate their vision and identify ways to shape the future of an organization. It also helps engage stakeholders who’ll play an active role in driving the overall mission. Here’s a step-by-step process that’ll help you craft an effective strategic narrative:

Invite Stakeholders’ Perspectives

Inside knowledge can help you make your strategy more relatable and refined. Get your team together and invite multiple perspectives that’ll help you gauge what others feel about the organization.

Create The First Draft

Collaborate with your team to outline the first draft of your strategy. It accounts for everyone’s needs and expectations as you seek input from everyone. The draft should make sense of the current state and future possibilities.

Refine The Message

Once you’ve crafted the initial message, take time to analyze your audience, their mindset and readiness. It’ll not only help you tailor your draft but also identify the most appropriate way of delivering your message.

Measure Your Success

To track the effectiveness of a strategy, always have checks and balances in place. Measure and monitor progress after delivering your narrative.

Harappa Education’s Writing Proficiently course will make your business communication so effective that everyone sits up and takes notice. With tried-and-tested methods and framework, you’ll discover how to tell a story with every communication you draft. The GRT (Goal-Recipient-Tone) framework will help you structure messages effectively. Write your story confidently and get your message across smartly!

Explore topics such as the Significance of Writing Skills , Different Types of Writing Styles , Descriptive Writing , Persuasive Writing & Expository Writing from Harappa Diaries and polish your writing skills.

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The Narrative Form — Explained With Examples!

Table of Contents

In its most basic form, narrative writing is storytelling. A narrative can be either fiction or nonfiction or fall somewhere in the middle.

Historical fiction is an example of this, dramatized retellings of real-world events or semi-autobiographical stories. We consider a piece narrative writing as long as it tells a story using a narrative structure. Since the narrative form is vital in writing fiction and nonfiction, we decided to dedicate today’s post to the narrative form.

In this article, you will learn what is the narrative form and how you can use it the most effectively. If this sounds good to you, keep reading until the end!

What is the Narrative Form?

Your Story

The expository ( descriptive ) writing style known as the narrative form discloses specifics of an act, an event, or a phenomenon. It tells a tale intended to guide the reader toward a crucial finding, an insightful realization, or a valuable life lesson.

The narration typically expresses first- or third-person perspective, reveals a particular point of view, and includes vivid details that support the plot.

When using the narrative form, the writer must identify a situation that is worthwhile to share because of a critical point or new insight. Since we base the narrative personal experience, a story is frequently how it is expressed.

We bring the reader to the main point by the thoroughness of the relevant details, which helps the reader visualize the event. Use narrative in a paragraph, as a section of an essay, or throughout the essay.

We describe an incident that is relevant to the entire report or essay in a narrative paragraph. Use a transitional section to set up the narrative paragraph that will follow.

Recount the events in the order they happened, or chronologically, to make the reader more interested in the outcome. You should use the conclusion related to the point to wrap up the narrative paragraph.

The purpose of a narrative essay is to make the reader feel as though they have personally experienced the theme or conclusion being discussed. The reader is drawn into the message by vivid verbs and finely detailed information.

Writer typically introduces the topic in his opening paragraph. With the help of a plot (the events), setting, characters, climax (peak experience), and resolution. The following paragraphs relate the events, feelings, emotions, dialogues, and actions in story layout.

Types of Narrative Essays & Stories

There are many ways for writing a narrative. Your goals for the essay or story will determine the appropriate type of narrative to use.

The events of a story are revealed chronologically in a linear narrative. Most narratives in books, movies, TV shows and other forms of media are linear.

Each scene in a linear story is followed by the one that makes the most sense. The third chapter of a book picks up two years after the events of the second chapter.

The quest narrative is one particular kind of linear narrative that you might be familiar with. The character’ quest to accomplish a goal is the subject of this kind of narrative.

This quest frequently entails going to a remote location and facing challenges to succeed. 

You may have also come across historical narratives, a particular linear narrative. A historical narrative uses a linear timeline to tell the tale of an actual event or series of events.

A nonlinear narrative presents the events of its story in a different order than a linear narrative does. 

You can highlight your characters’ feelings and viewpoints on the events in the story by using a nonlinear narrative in your writing. Additionally, you can draw attention to significant occurrences and include scenes that offer crucial details that otherwise wouldn’t fit into your story’s timeline.

In a viewpoint narrative, the emphasis is on the narrator’s interpretation of the events. These stories typically focus more on the characters than the plot.

Using a narrative viewpoint, you can explore different facets of your protagonist’s personality and let your readers in on their thoughts. This type of narrative works well for personal essays and stories with themes of perspective and personal development.

 Final Thoughts

While narratives are often lumped into the same category as character-driven essays, it is in fact much more formal.

An important principle of narrative storytelling is not to tell a story, but to explore one theme or topic in-depth. It usually does not have a clear beginning and end, but there may not be a definitive outline.

Therefore, it can be more flexible and open-ended than other essay forms.

We hope we were able to answer the question what is the narrative form to help you out. If you have any more questions, let us know!

The Narrative Form — Explained With Examples!

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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  • Narrative Writing

Narrative Writing - Definition, Types, Tips and Techniques

Narrative writing is a style of writing that uses the technique of narration to present a series of events that leads to an expected or unexpected end. In other words, it is a writing style that is used to tell a story. Read through the article to learn more about narrative writing, the types of narrative writing, and the tips and techniques you can use to write a narrative piece.

Table of Contents

What is narrative writing – meaning and definition, characteristics of a narrative – the 7 key elements, types of narrative writing, linear narrative, nonlinear narrative, descriptive narrative, viewpoint narrative, list of narrative forms, how to write a narrative piece – tips and techniques, examples of narrative writing, frequently asked questions on narrative writing.

A narrative gives an account of events that happen at a particular time and place; it can be fictional or non-fictional. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines a narrative in three different ways – “a description of events”, “the part of a novel that tells the story, rather than the dialogue”, and “a way of explaining events to illustrate a set of aims or values”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms explains ‘narration’ as “the process of relating a sequence of events”, and a ‘narrative’ as “a telling of some true or fictitious event or connected sequence of events, recounted by a narrator to a narratee (although there may be more than one of each)”.

A narrative includes the smallest of details to the most important information. It is a mixture of these that make the narrative interesting, informative and appealing. A narrative, especially when written in the form of a story, must have the following elements.

  • Point of view

Characters refer to the animate and inanimate objects that are involved in the story. They drive the story from the beginning till the end. A narrative story can have just one character or a number of characters, all of them contributing to the process in the most minute or most noticeable way.

Setting refers to the surroundings where the story or the events being narrated happen. It can be any place – a house, a forest, a car, a classroom, a playground, a bus, the middle of the road, etc. The setting of the narrative plays an important role in setting the mood of the entire piece.

Plot refers to all the events that contribute to the story. It has a starting point – the exposition – where the story begins, and the characters and the setting are introduced to the audience. This is followed by the rising action – the point where the main character(s) faces an impediment that disturbs the course of the narrative. Climax comes next and is the turning point in the story, which then leads to the falling action. It is here that the problem starts resolving. This finally leads the story to a conclusion. In simple words, it can be said that the plot is the order in which the events take place.

Conflict is the point of tension in the narrative where a problem arises. This point changes the course of the narrative and leads it to the expected or unexpected end.

Theme refers to the central idea the narrative is based on. The whole piece revolves around it. Popular themes include good and evil, justice, love, friendship, brotherhood, change, music, etc.

Style is characterised by the kind of language used by the writer to narrate, and this differs from genre to genre.

Point of view refers to who tells the story. It can be a first, second or third-person narrative. First-person narration is when a character who is part of what is happening tells the story from their perspective. It is characterised by the usage of pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’, ‘mine’, ‘myself’, ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’, ‘ourselves’, ‘ours’, etc. Second-person narration is characterised by the usage of pronouns such as ‘you’, ‘your’, ‘yourself’, and ‘yourselves’. Third-person narration is when there is a narrator (a character who is not part of the story) or a character in the story who narrates what is going on in the story. It is done with the usage of pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘they’, ‘his’, ‘hers’, ‘him’, ‘hers’, ‘their’, ‘theirs’, ‘himself’, ‘herself’, ‘themselves’, etc.

Narratives can include historical pieces, novels, short stories, epics, ballads, etc. Poetry can be narrative too. An example of a narrative poem would be ‘Snake’ by D.H. Lawrence. However, narrative writing can be divided into four main types, namely,

  • Descriptive

In this type of narrative, the writer follows a chronological order of narration. The fictional or non-fictional narrative is presented from the beginning till the end. Bildungsroman (also known as coming-of-age novels) follow the linear narrative style. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain, ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, etc., are some famous examples of linear narratives. Historical pieces, biographies and autobiographies are also forms of writing that follow a narrative style.

The movie ‘Moana’ is a perfect example of a linear narrative. It starts with Moana as a little girl who is taught all about her culture and her duties towards her tribe. This style perfectly supports the theme and the plot. You see that Moana is always drawn to the ocean, identifies the purpose of her life and travels across the ocean to save her people from complete doom.

A nonlinear narrative is one in which the happenings are not narrated chronologically. This is the kind of narrative that includes flashbacks. It starts at a point and goes back and forth. Most suspense thriller novels and movies follow this style of narration. There are also lighter themes that are presented in this fashion. ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte, ‘The Sound and the Fury’ by William Faulkner and ‘Catch-22’ by Joseph Heller are some examples of novels that follow the nonlinear narrative style.

Stream of consciousness is a nonlinear narrative technique that presents all the thoughts and feelings that go on in the mind of the narrator as things happen. Through this technique, one can also portray the character’s flow of thoughts in a realistic manner. James Joyce’s novel ‘Ulysses’ is a well-known example that uses this technique.

The series ‘This Is Us’ is a great example of the nonlinear narrative style. You will see the story of the Pearson family always oscillating between the past and present. Every episode is a series of events that happened on the same day during the different stages of their lives or the same emotion experienced by the different characters. This is an effective way of telling a story as it keeps the viewers always wanting to know more.

This is a narrative style in which the audience is made to see and feel the characters’ world. In a descriptive narrative, the writer uses descriptive words and phrases that create vivid images in the minds of the readers. ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky, ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller, and ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy are some examples of descriptive narrative.

Most of you may have watched both ‘Avatar’ and ‘Avatar: Way of the Water’. The descriptive technique is used in both movies. The way of the Avatar realm is portrayed in a manner that makes the audience feel one with the characters and the setting.

A viewpoint narrative is a style of writing in which there is the presence of a first, second or third-person narrator. The usage of pronouns changes based on who narrates the happenings in the story. The most common viewpoint narratives seen are the first-person narrative and the third-person narrative. Autobiographies are written in the first-person point of view, and biographies in the third-person point of view.

‘The Fault in our Stars’ by John Green and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee are examples of a first-person narrative. ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott and ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison are two among the many examples of third-person narratives. There are not as many books in the second-person narrative as in the first and third-person narratives. However, there are some that are wonderfully presented. ‘Ghost Light’ by Joseph O’ Connor and ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler’ by Italo Calvino are novels written in the second-person narrative. Try reading these novels and analyse the kind of effect the different viewpoints have on the readers.

Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi), the protagonist, narrates throughout the movie, ‘The Life of Pi’, thereby rendering it an example of a first-person narrative. Bagheera, the panther in ‘The Jungle Book’, narrates how Mowgli came to live with the wolves and all that has happened and is happening in the present. This, therefore, can be considered to follow a third-person narrative structure.

The narrative style of writing is commonly employed in the following forms.

  • Short stories
  • Biographies
  • Autobiographies
  • Travelogues

Here are some tips and techniques you can follow to write a good narrative piece.

  • Before you start writing your first draft, brainstorm your ideas.
  • You will not know what will inspire you. So, when you talk to people, pay attention to how they are narrating; read the works of different authors in the genre that you are planning to write; explore the different voices and employ them creatively to suit your characters and narrative on the whole.
  • Jot down who your characters are and how you expect them to be; visualise the setting and lay out the details; think about the point at which you want your narrative to start and end.
  • The point of view you are using to narrate plays a major role. If you want your readers to be a part of what is happening, use the first-person point of view. This will help your readers see and feel it just like you do. If you want your readers to be a spectator and analyse everything, you can use the third-person point of view. Contrary to both, if you want your readers to be a part of everything and have their own experiences, use the second-person narrative.
  • Remember that you can have more than one narrator. Using multiple narrators will help you build different perspectives of a given situation.
  • Use descriptions to give your readers a magnified and clearer view of the setting and characters.
  • Have a strong theme and see to it that it reaches your audience.
  • Bear in mind that every word matters. The diction you choose and the manner in which you employ them to form sentences is what builds the desired effect.
  • Also, remember that you need not stick to one narrative style. For instance, you can write a linear or nonlinear descriptive first-person narrative. Do not limit yourself too much with the style. Choose what suits your narrative best and use them in the best possible way.
  • When you write, you have your freedom. Make up your own techniques, style, and use literary devices to support your writing. Nothing works better than authenticity.
  • Allow your creative mind to work at its own pace. Do not interrupt or force the flow of thoughts.
  • Proofread before you finalise the final draft.

Here is an example of a narrative verse – the first few lines of the poem ‘Snake’ by D.H. Lawrence. See how the poet uses words to narrate the incident of the snake appearing at his water trough and everything that happens further.

“A snake came to my water-trough

On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,

To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree

I came down the steps with my pitcher

And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom

And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over

the edge of the stone trough

And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,

And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,

He sipped with his straight mouth,

Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

This short paragraph given below is an excerpt from the novel, ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler’ by Italo Calvino. See how second-person narrative works. The narrative style makes the reader feel included and one with the characters in the story. In the following example, the writer instructs the reader to get comfortable and do everything that is necessary so as to not be disturbed in between the reading.

“Adjust the light so you won’t strain your eyes. Do it now, because once you’re absorbed in reading there will be no budging you. Make sure the page isn’t in shadow, a clotting of black letters on a gray background, uniform as a pack of mice; but be careful that the light cast on it isn’t too strong, doesn’t glare on the cruel white of the paper, gnawing at the shadows of the letters as in a southern noonday. Try to foresee now everything that might make you interrupt your reading.”

What is narrative writing?

Narrative writing is a style of writing that uses the technique of narration to present a series of events that leads to an expected or unexpected end. It can be fictional or non-fictional.

What is the definition of a narrative?

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines a narrative in three different ways – “a description of events”, “the part of a novel that tells the story, rather than the dialogue”, and “a way of explaining events to illustrate a set of aims or values”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms explains ‘narration’ as “the process of relating a sequence of events” and a ‘narrative’ as “a telling of some true or fictitious event or connected sequence of events, recounted by a narrator to a narratee (although there may be more than one of each)”.

What are the elements of a narrative?

A narrative, especially when written in the form of a story, must have the following elements.

What are the types of narrative writing?

Narrative writing can be characterised into four categories, namely,

  • Linear narrative
  • Nonlinear narrative
  • Descriptive narrative
  • Viewpoint narrative

List some narrative forms.

Some examples of narrative forms are epics, ballads, short stories, novels, biographies, autobiographies, and travelogues.

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Home » Writers-House Blog » How to Write in Narrative Form

How to Write in Narrative Form

The narrative approach is used in various kinds of papers and is aimed to describe a certain event, act, or phenomenon. Writers from  writers-house.com use the narrative approach when they want to tell a meaningful story and to push their readers to certain conclusions. The narration must include vivid details that help in understanding the author’s viewpoint.

Narrative Form

Narrative form involves certain requirements regarding your writing approach. Your story should be worth sharing it with others. It should illustrate a solid point or provide insight. Your personal experience plays the most important role. Therefore, you must provide enough details to let your readers feel your experience.

Narrative Paragraph

You may use narrative as a part of your essay, including a narrative paragraph. This paragraph may help you illustrate the topic of your essay or your point, serving as an example. If you want to include such a paragraph, you can introduce it using a transitional paragraph. After that, describe events chronologically, leading your readers to a conclusion. At the end of the narrative paragraph, explain how your story relates to your thesis.

Narrative Essay

Narrative essays focus on a story, describing some events in order to draw a conclusion. Your goal is to help your readers feel the same experience as you did. Thus, we suggest that you provide details and play with different verbs to draw a vivid picture. Introduce your subject in the first paragraph. After this, describe the events, actions, emotions, and feelings in a storytelling manner. These paragraphs should include the description of the setting, climax, and resolution of the story, leading your readers to your thesis. Listing events in chronological order is most common, however, you may also experiment with parallel events, flashbacks, etc.

Perspectives

The use of the first person is common and is considered appropriate when writing narrative essays. You may also occasionally use the third person or the plural first person, depending on the desired effect and your story. The main thing is to be consistent: if you started your story in the first person (“I,” “me”), keep using it and don’t switch to another perspective.

Irony takes place when the audience suspects that the narrator is not trustworthy. For example, both readers and the author may know more than the narrator. The use of irony is an effective way to lead your readers to a certain conclusion, explaining something about the character.

Principles of Narratives

There are two most important principles. First, your narrative essay should be based on a certain idea, theme, or point, explaining and supporting it with the narrative. Your essay should also appeal to your readers’ imagination, addressing not only the events but also the overall emotional atmosphere, and using emotions to support the author’s point.

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What Is Narrative Writing (Definition, How To Write + Examples)

Narrative writing is a writing technique that narrates a story.

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Tomas Laurinavicius

Co-Founder & Chief Editor, Best Writing

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To understand narrative writing one must know what narration is. Narration is the crux of any piece of writing. It is a way any story unfolds. To tell a story is to narrate it, and every story has a narrative.

Oxford  defines the word narrative as, "The way in which a story is told; the strategies used to tell a story. In relation to narrative film, Bordwell stresses the spectator's role, narration consists of ‘the organization of a set of cues for the construction of a story’."

It is a writing process and the vital points of the story structure depend on the narration itself. Great literary works use different narrative techniques to experiment with telling stories.

Types of Narrative Writing

Let’s quickly discuss “point of view” to have a better understanding of “narrative.” When a story is written from a personal point of view, “I,” it has a first-person narrative.

The narrator makes themselves the key viewer of the events unfolding around them. They tell the story from their personal experience and perspective and are often the main characters of the story. The narrator may or may not be synonymous with the author.

When the narrator is omniscient and tells the story of others, it has a third-person narrative. Often these stories or essays are written from an objective point of view. A good narrative should be unbiased and the writer should not try to control the characters or show specific events with their judgement.

Narrative style has evolved through the ages. To understand which technique should be used first one has to determine the goal of the story. Every narrative revolves around a purpose and it is the backbone of storytelling.

Linear Narrative Writing

The linear narrative follows a chronological order. It narrates events one by one, as they have taken place. Linear narrative writing lets the character's life unfold in front of the reader - a better way to put it would be, that the readers start where the narrative starts. The reader takes the journey with the characters.

Most plays have a linear narrative.  Macbeth  by William Shakespeare has a chronological narrative. Daniel Defoe's  Robinson Crusoe  and Michael Crichton's  Jurrasic Park  also have linear plots and also personal narrative.

Linear narratives are simple, easy to follow, and have regular rising and falling action. In the case of a novel, every chapter has either a cliffhanger or a climax. In the case of a short story, the scope of developing a narrative is less, yet writers through the ages have experimented with this form.

Non-Linear Narrative Writing

Non linear narrative writes about connected events but not in chronological order. The timeline is jumbled up, and plots and subplots are irregularly revealed. The narrative point of view can be anything linear as well as a non-linear narrative. This kind of narrative takes the help of literary techniques such as flashbacks, fragmentation, monologues and so on.

The Priory of The Orange Tree  by Samantha Shannon has a non-linear narrative.  The Sound and The Fury  by William Faulkner, and  One Hundred Years of Solitude  by Gabriel Garcia Marquez have a non-linear narrative structure, to name a few.

Non-linear narratives are experimental in nature. They have a complex plot structure, uses many literary devices and goes back-and-forth in time. Going through such narratives requires the reader's attention to detail.

Descriptive Narrative Writing

This narrative technique employs a description of the plot, characters, emotional mindset, and other aspects of a story. Descriptive narrative writing immerses the reader into the finer aspects of the writing such as feelings, small details, and time, to give the reader a realistic experience.

In the case of descriptive fiction, the plot, and suspense takes the story forward. In a descriptive essay, the unfolding of an event, or an incident, that is, the five Ws are taken into consideration - what, where, who, when, and why.

Descriptions create a narrative story that catches the reader's attention with rising action, falling action, suspense, and resolution.

Quest Narrative

This is a kind of narrative story where the main character(s) go through a puzzle, a quest, to reach a resolution of the puzzle or the question they were trying to answer. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is a quest narrative story of a person named  Siddhartha  (modelled on Gautama Buddha) and his spiritual journey through trials and tribuations.

Historical Narrative

Historical narratives pick major historical events as plot, and important personalities as characters.  Hilary Mantel ,  Madeline Miller,   Chitra Banerjee  write historical narratives.

Viewpoint Narrative Writing

Viewpoint narrative deals with the perspective of an individual. This individual can be the personal narrative of the main character, the personal experience of the narrator, or the author's own life.

This narrative takes into account private thoughts, and personal experiences to tell a story from their viewpoint. The reader watches the narrator's mind open up to the different points of the plot and their reaction to it.

Viewpoint narrative writing does not indicate point of view, that is, whether it is first person or third person narration.

What are narrative writing examples?

Narrative writing techniques can be used in different literary fields - novels, short stories, prose, and even elementary school essays use narrative writing.

Novels are longer narratives with chapters, each chapter unfolding a small subplot.

Short story

Short stories are slices of stories with lesser narrative scope, but nonetheless are good examples of narrative.

Narrative poetry

Narrative poems are long verses telling a larger-than-life story. These are also called epic poetry.  John Milton ,  Homer ,  Alexander Pope  write narrative poetry.

Comic and Graphic Novels

Comics and graphic novels employ pictorial narrative to tell a story. It is a way to visually appeal to the reader, which ranges from children's comics to grim, realistic setting.

How to use narrative writing in your essay?

Teaching narrative writing is a complex process. The simplest way to put it would be to chronologically arrange your points and frame them with appropriate words. Start writing with different prompts and churn a narrative story out of them.

In the case of essays, jot down the ideas and arrange them in a meaningful way. Even non-fiction writing can tell a story. It should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That is the basic crux of any written piece. A good example of a narrative essay is one which has a clear point of view (or purpose), crisp language, good intent and a description of the main events.

To sum up, we understood what is narrative writing - it is a way of narrating an event, a story, or an idea. There can be a first-person narrative when the narrator speaks from their personal experience. The third-person narrative takes an objective stance on the story - the narrator is not present in the narrative.

Apart from the narrative point of view, there are different types of narrative: linear, non-linear, descriptive, viewpoint, and quest narrative. Narratives help create characters and events that are realistic, and immersive for the reader. Plot, characters, events, thoughts and feelings of characters are aspects of a narrative that takes the action forward towards the resolution.

Narration has been a primary method of writing for thousands of years. Any piece of writing, whether carved on stone walls or written on pamphlets can narrate a story.

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  1. Narrative Writing

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  1. 5 Narrative Writing Examples

    5 Narrative Writing Examples Learn exactly what narrative writing is, as well as examples of different types of narrative writing. Let's talk about how to take your next writing project from good to great—whether you're working on a personal narrative essay, a poem, or something entirely different. What Is a Narrative?

  2. How to Write a Narrative Essay

    Grammar Style consistency See an example Choosing a topic 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.

  3. What Is Narrative Writing? A Guide

    A well-known example of a nonlinear narrative is House of Leaves, a novel told through first-person narration, recovered documents, and footnotes throughout the book. By choosing a nonlinear narrative for your writing, you can emphasize your characters' emotions and perspectives on the events in the story.

  4. Definition and Examples of Narratives in Writing

    Here's an example from "The Martian," a novel by Andy Weir that was made into a film: The plot is the thread of events that occur in a story. Weir's plot is about a man who gets accidentally abandoned on the surface of Mars. The setting is the location of the events in time and place. "The Martian" is set on Mars in the not-too-distant future.

  5. Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

    Narrative Examples Narrative Writing Prompts Narrative Teaching Tools Narrative Writing Links MASTERING THE CRAFT OF NARRATIVE WRITING Narratives build on and encourage the development of the fundamentals of writing. They also require developing an additional skill set: the ability to tell a good yarn, and storytelling is as old as humanity.

  6. Narrative Essays

    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.

  7. 4 Types of Narrative Writing

    Written by MasterClass Last updated: Sep 8, 2021 • 3 min read There are infinite stories to tell, and there are infinite ways to tell them. Whether you're writing a descriptive essay, a short story, or a novel, understanding the different types of narratives can help you tell your story in the most effective way possible.

  8. 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.

  9. Narrative

    Examples Function Resources Narrative Definition What is narrative? Here's a quick and simple definition: A narrative is an account of connected events. Two writers describing the same set of events might craft very different narratives, depending on how they use different narrative elements, such as tone or point of view.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. Narrative Essay Examples and Key Elements

    Kit Kittelstad, M.A. Education , Staff Writer Updated December 5, 2022 Image Credits In a narrative essay, you tell a story, often about a personal experience, but you also make a point. So, the purpose is not only to tell an entertaining tale, but also to expound on the importance of the experience.

  15. Narrative: Definition and Examples

    A narrative is a story. The term can be used as a noun or an adjective. As a noun, narrative refers to the story being told. It is the account of events, experiences, and details. It also refers to the story-telling process. As an adjective, it describes the form or style of the story being told. The adjective use of the word narrative has its ...

  16. Understanding Narrative Writing (Examples, Prompts, and More)

    1. Descriptive communication: Instead of explaining facts straight, this form of language elicits sentiments. Imagery, personification, similes, and metaphors are examples of descriptive linguistic devices. 2. Characters: A narrative may have a small cast of characters or a large one.

  17. Narrative Writing

    Education Narrative Writing Narrative writing is a captivating storytelling method that allows writers to share their personal experiences, imaginative tales, or historical events. It's a powerful tool for engaging readers through vivid descriptions, emotional depth, and a well-structured plot.

  18. Topics & Examples Of Narrative Style Writing

    There are flashbacks and multiple timelines. Some of the popular examples of narrative writing include essays, fairy tales, autobiographies and news stories. There are five core elements of narrative writing that define the narrative. Narrators have the power to reveal the elements in subtle or direct ways. Let's look at them in greater detail.

  19. The Narrative Form

    Final Thoughts In its most basic form, narrative writing is storytelling. A narrative can be either fiction or nonfiction or fall somewhere in the middle. Historical fiction is an example of this, dramatized retellings of real-world events or semi-autobiographical stories.

  20. Narrative Writing

    Narrative writing is a writing style that uses the technique of narration to explain a set of events. Explore the article to learn more about the characteristics, types, forms and examples of narrative writing.

  21. How to Write in Narrative Form

    There are two most important principles. First, your narrative essay should be based on a certain idea, theme, or point, explaining and supporting it with the narrative. Your essay should also appeal to your readers' imagination, addressing not only the events but also the overall emotional atmosphere, and using emotions to support the author ...

  22. What Is Narrative Writing (Definition, How To Write + Examples)

    Linear Narrative Writing. The linear narrative follows a chronological order. It narrates events one by one, as they have taken place. Linear narrative writing lets the character's life unfold in front of the reader - a better way to put it would be, that the readers start where the narrative starts. The reader takes the journey with the ...