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How to Write a Narrative

Last Updated: February 11, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 99,676 times.

A narrative recounts a sequence of events, offers readers clear details and, typically, delivers a compelling message. If you have a story to write, getting your ideas on paper can be fun and rewarding! To brainstorm ideas, do free-writing exercises, outline your narrative’s structure, and practice writing vividly detailed descriptions. Schedule time every day to write in a distraction-free spot, and carry a notebook on you in case inspiration strikes. Editing is a major part of the process, so be sure to seek feedback and make revisions after you’ve finished your draft.

Writing Help

how to write a good narrative story

Brainstorming Ideas for Your Narrative

Step 1 Make a list of meaningful topics.

  • The seed of your narrative doesn’t necessarily have to be a major life event. Even simple, often overlooked experiences, such as cooking a meal for a loved one or a chance encounter, can be packed with meaning.
  • If you can’t think of a specific event to write about, try to find a small moment, memory, or image that stands out to you.

Curiosity is key: Great questions yield compelling stories, so ask questions instead of taking your experiences at face value. For instance, find out why the elderly man who walks by your house in the morning carries a stick. His story could inspire you to write an entire narrative. [2] X Research source

Step 2 Write freely for at least 15 minutes a day.

  • Don’t worry if you can't use a lot of the material. Free-writing is an exercise, and you’re probably not going to produce an incredible story right off the bat. When you free-write, you may come up with 1 or 2 fledgling ideas that are worth exploring, so don’t get discouraged.
  • Some people also find it helpful to chat with a friend about a topic or an idea. If you have a thought you want to develop, try bouncing ideas off of a trusted, creative friend. [4] X Research source

Step 3 Practice writing descriptions with as much detail as possible.

  • A vivid description could be, “Hand-painted, cheerfully swirling floral patterns on the grandfather clock's face had long ago begun to fade. Nicks and scratches in its tawny wooden body further evidenced its age. Wear and tear aside, one could only marvel at its precisely dovetailed joints and exquisitely sculpted split pediment top.”
  • Carry a notebook (or use a memo app on your phone) and practice writing vivid descriptions throughout the day. To broaden your vocabulary, plug words into a thesaurus. Look up the definitions of the synonyms it generates, and use them when you practice writing descriptions in the future.
  • Vivid details are essential to crafting a narrative, so practicing descriptive writing is time well spent. You may also be able to work a description of a coffee cup, chirping bird, or passerby into your narrative.

Step 4 Choose a theme or message for your narrative.

  • If you’re writing about your own experiences, try to let yourself be vulnerable. It’s scary to write about emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, or to write with sincerity about a significant experience. Let that vulnerability fuel your narrative.
  • For example, suppose you're writing about a breakup. Writing about how your actions contributed to the breakup isn't easy, even if you're recounting events with fictional characters. However, digging deep and being honest about what you did wrong will make your story more authentic.

Drafting Your Narrative

Step 1 Set aside time to write every day.

  • Choose a distraction-free time and place and work on your story for at least 30 minutes a day. It’s okay if your words seem forced at first. As you write more, you’ll build the connection between your mind and hands, and engaging the keyboard or pen and paper will start to feel automatic. [6] X Research source
  • Note that doing free-writing exercises is different from writing your story. You can still write freely on any topic for 15 minutes a day, but set aside at least 30 minutes to write your story with focus.

Tip: Try to get to know your work habits. Figure out when you’re most productive or creative. Some people thrive when they stick to a strict writing routine, while others are at their best when they wake up to write in the middle of the night.

Step 2 Narrate your story with a consistent voice.

  • Keep in mind your narrator doesn’t need to be correct, truthful, or moral. An unreliable or immoral narrator can be an effective way to engage the reader.
  • For instance, the narrator could have committed heinous crimes in the story, but wins the reader with their charm. The reader identifies with the narrator, and when they learn the extent of the narrator’s deeds, they examine their own morality.

Step 3 Show the reader concrete details instead of summarizing events.

  • Be descriptive, but try not to overwhelm the reader with details. Spelling out every breath a character takes or describing every speck of a room makes for tedious reading. Zero in on key details and, whenever possible, make them relevant to the story.
  • For instance, suppose a character in your narrative is indecisive, and their inability to make decisions ultimately leads to your story’s climax. When you introduce the character, you could describe them struggling to make up their mind while ordering lunch, and that detail will foreshadow later events in the story.

Step 4 Structure your narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.

  • Organization is key whether you’re writing a journalistic narrative or a work of fiction. If you’re writing a personal narrative for an application or other professional purpose, it’s especially important that your organization is crystal clear.
  • If you’re writing a creative piece, you have more room to experiment with structure. For instance, the plot may center on a character who’s struggling to reconstruct forgotten past events.
  • Even if you play with the timeline, your story itself still needs a coherent plot that builds toward a big moment, revelation, or climax.

Step 5 Build the story toward a climax or pivotal moment.

  • Be aware of your pacing. If your writing doesn’t hold your interest, it won’t keep the reader’s attention. Take time to provide key details and allow the plot to unfold, but get to the point instead of unnecessarily dragging out the story.

Revising Your Work

Step 1 Refine your language so it’s as clear and concise as possible.

  • For instance, “His sleeplessness became part of his normal routine and, like an animal active at night, he found that the dark of night heightened his senses,” is wordy. “His insomnia became habitual; like a nocturnal animal, his senses grew sharper with light’s absence” is crisper.

Take a break: After drafting your narrative, put it aside for a day or so. Revise it after taking a break from it so you can approach it with fresh eyes. [10] X Research source

Step 2 Look for spelling and grammatical errors.

  • For instance, if you’ve written your narrative in the past tense, watch out for places where your narrator may have slipped into the present.
  • Keep in mind characters can think or speak using a different tense than the narrator. For example, it’s grammatically correct to write, “Noelle skipped and spun blithely as she chanted, ‘Tom loves Sophie! He’s gonna marry her! Tom and Sophie sitting in a tree!’”

Step 3 Make sure your sentences and paragraphs flow.

  • For instance, you might lose the reader if you start to detail one setting, digress for 3 paragraphs to discuss events in another location, bring up something completely unrelated, then finally finish describing the original setting.

Step 4 Get feedback from your peers and mentors.

  • If you’re writing about a personal experience, have someone who wasn’t present for the event read your narrative. They can give you an unbiased opinion about how well you make the experience real for them.
  • If someone gives you tough notes on your narrative, try not to take it personally. Use their feedback to make your story stronger.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Unless your instructor has set a page or word count, a narrative can be any length. Use as much space as you need to tell your story and make your point. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Reading is one of the best ways to refine your writing. To get a feel for a variety of narrative styles, read publications ranging from newspapers to novels. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write a good narrative story

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  • ↑ https://davehood59.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/writing-creative-nonfiction-finding-the-big-ideas-to-write-about/
  • ↑ https://www.theopennotebook.com/2011/12/13/finding-ideas/
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/undergraduate/priorlearning/drafting
  • ↑ https://www.uvm.edu/wid/writingcenter/tutortips/writinggeneral.html
  • ↑ https://www.unr.edu/writing-speaking-center/student-resources/writing-speaking-resources/descriptive-writing
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/narrative_essays.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/flow/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a narrative, start by deciding who the narrator of your story will be so you can tell the story from their point of view. Then, use interesting details to draw the reader in, such as descriptions of the narrator’s neighborhood or the way the school bell sounded when it rang. As you describe the main events, build up to a pivotal moment, like an important basketball game or a knight fighting the dragon. Finally, end with a resolution to the main conflict, such as winning the basketball game or the knight slaying the dragon. For tips on how to incorporate flashbacks into your narrative, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Literacy Ideas

Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

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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?

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.


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:


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 .


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.


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.


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.


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

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? )


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


  • 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.


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


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 | 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


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:


writing checklists


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

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  • How to write a narrative essay | Example & tips

How to Write a Narrative Essay | Example & Tips

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

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

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Table of contents

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

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

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

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

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how to write a good narrative story

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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How to Write a Perfect Narrative Essay (Step-by-Step)

By Status.net Editorial Team on October 17, 2023 — 10 minutes to read

  • Understanding a Narrative Essay Part 1
  • Typical Narrative Essay Structure Part 2
  • Narrative Essay Template Part 3
  • Step 1. How to Choose Your Narrative Essay Topic Part 4
  • Step 2. Planning the Structure Part 5
  • Step 3. Crafting an Intriguing Introduction Part 6
  • Step 4. Weaving the Narrative Body Part 7
  • Step 5. Creating a Conclusion Part 8
  • Step 6. Polishing the Essay Part 9
  • Step 7. Feedback and Revision Part 10

Part 1 Understanding a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is a form of writing where you share a personal experience or tell a story to make a point or convey a lesson. Unlike other types of essays, a narrative essay aims to engage your audience by sharing your perspective and taking them on an emotional journey.

  • To begin, choose a meaningful topic . Pick a story or experience that had a significant impact on your life, taught you something valuable, or made you see the world differently. You want your readers to learn from your experiences, so choose something that will resonate with others.
  • Next, create an outline . Although narrative essays allow for creative storytelling, it’s still helpful to have a roadmap to guide your writing. List the main events, the characters involved, and the settings where the events took place. This will help you ensure that your essay is well-structured and easy to follow.
  • When writing your narrative essay, focus on showing, not telling . This means that you should use descriptive language and vivid details to paint a picture in your reader’s mind. For example, instead of stating that it was a rainy day, describe the sound of rain hitting your window, the feeling of cold wetness around you, and the sight of puddles forming around your feet. These sensory details will make your essay more engaging and immersive.
  • Another key aspect is developing your characters . Give your readers an insight into the thoughts and emotions of the people in your story. This helps them connect with the story, empathize with the characters, and understand their actions. For instance, if your essay is about a challenging hike you took with a friend, spend some time describing your friend’s personality and how the experience impacted their attitude or feelings.
  • Keep the pace interesting . Vary your sentence lengths and structures, and don’t be afraid to use some stylistic devices like dialogue, flashbacks, and metaphors. This adds more depth and dimension to your story, keeping your readers engaged from beginning to end.

Part 2 Typical Narrative Essay Structure

A narrative essay typically follows a three-part structure: introduction, body, and conclusion.

  • Introduction: Start with a hook to grab attention and introduce your story. Provide some background to set the stage for the main events.
  • Body: Develop your story in detail. Describe scenes, characters, and emotions. Use dialogue when necessary to provide conversational elements.
  • Conclusion: Sum up your story, revealing the lesson learned or the moral of the story. Leave your audience with a lasting impression.

Part 3 Narrative Essay Template

  • 1. Introduction : Set the scene and introduce the main characters and setting of your story. Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture for your reader and capture their attention.
  • Body 2. Rising Action : Develop the plot by introducing a conflict or challenge that the main character must face. This could be a personal struggle, a difficult decision, or an external obstacle. 3. Climax : This is the turning point of the story, where the conflict reaches its peak and the main character must make a critical decision or take action. 4. Falling Action : Show the consequences of the main character’s decision or action, and how it affects the rest of the story. 5. Resolution : Bring the story to a satisfying conclusion by resolving the conflict and showing how the main character has grown or changed as a result of their experiences.
  • 6. Reflection/Conclusion : Reflect on the events of the story and what they mean to you as the writer. This could be a lesson learned, a personal realization, or a message you want to convey to your reader.

Part 4 Step 1. How to Choose Your Narrative Essay Topic

Brainstorming ideas.

Start by jotting down any ideas that pop into your mind. Think about experiences you’ve had, stories you’ve heard, or even books and movies that have resonated with you. Write these ideas down and don’t worry too much about organization yet. It’s all about getting your thoughts on paper.

Once you have a list, review your ideas and identify common themes or connections between them. This process should help you discover potential topics for your narrative essay.

Narrowing Down the Choices

After brainstorming, you’ll likely end up with a few strong contenders for your essay topic. To decide which topic is best, consider the following:

  • Relevance : Is the topic meaningful for your audience? Will they be able to connect with it on a personal level? Consider the purpose of your assignment and your audience when choosing your topic.
  • Detail : Do you have enough specific details to craft a vivid story? The more detail you can recall about the event, the easier it’ll be to write a compelling narrative.
  • Emotional impact : A strong narrative essay should evoke emotions in your readers. Choose a topic that has the potential to elicit some emotional response from your target audience.

After evaluating your potential topics based on these criteria, you can select the one that best fits the purpose of your narrative essay.

Part 5 Step 2. Planning the Structure

Creating an outline.

Before you start writing your narrative essay, it’s a great idea to plan out your story. Grab a piece of paper and sketch out a rough outline of the key points you want to cover. Begin with the introduction, where you’ll set the scene and introduce your characters. Then, list the major events of your story in chronological order, followed by the climax and resolution. Organizing your ideas in an outline will ensure your essay flows smoothly and makes sense to your readers.

Detailing Characters, Settings, and Events

Taking time to flesh out the characters, settings, and events in your story will make it more engaging and relatable. Think about your main character’s background, traits, and motivations. Describe their appearance, emotions, and behavior in detail. This personal touch will help your readers connect with them on a deeper level.

Also, give some thought to the setting – where does the story take place? Be sure to include sensory details that paint a vivid picture of the environment. Finally, focus on the series of events that make up your narrative. Are there any twists and turns, or surprising moments? Address these in your essay, using vivid language and engaging storytelling techniques to captivate your readers.

Writing the Narrative Essay

Part 6 step 3. crafting an intriguing introduction.

To start your narrative essay, you’ll want to hook your reader with an interesting and engaging opening. Begin with a captivating sentence or question that piques curiosity and captures attention. For example, “Did you ever think a simple bus ride could change your life forever?” This kind of opening sets the stage for a compelling, relatable story. Next, introduce your main characters and provide a bit of context to help your readers understand the setting and background of the story.

Part 7 Step 4. Weaving the Narrative Body

The body of your essay is where your story unfolds. Here’s where you’ll present a series of events, using descriptive language and vivid details.

Remember to maintain a strong focus on the central theme or main point of your narrative.

Organize your essay chronologically, guiding your reader through the timeline of events.

As you recount your experience, use a variety of sensory details, such as sounds, smells, and tastes, to immerse your reader in the moment. For instance, “The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the room as my friends and I excitedly chattered about our upcoming adventure.”

Take advantage of dialogue to bring your characters to life and to reveal aspects of their personalities. Incorporate both internal and external conflicts, as conflict plays a crucial role in engaging your reader and enhancing the narrative’s momentum. Show the evolution of your characters and how they grow throughout the story.

Part 8 Step 5. Creating a Conclusion

Finally, to write a satisfying conclusion, reflect on the narrative’s impact and how the experience has affected you or your characters. Tie the narrative’s events together and highlight the lessons learned, providing closure for the reader.

Avoid abruptly ending your story, because that can leave the reader feeling unsatisfied. Instead, strive to create a sense of resolution and demonstrate how the events have changed the characters’ perspectives or how the story’s theme has developed.

For example, “Looking back, I realize that the bus ride not only changed my perspective on friendship, but also taught me valuable life lessons that I carry with me to this day.”

Part 9 Step 6. Polishing the Essay

Fine-tuning your language.

When writing a narrative essay, it’s key to choose words that convey the emotions and experiences you’re describing. Opt for specific, vivid language that creates a clear mental image for your reader. For instance, instead of saying “The weather was hot,” try “The sun scorched the pavement, causing the air to shimmer like a mirage.” This gives your essay a more engaging and immersive feeling.

Editing for Clarity and Concision

As you revise your essay, keep an eye out for redundancies and unnecessary words that might dilute the impact of your story. Getting to the point and using straightforward language can help your essay flow better. For example, instead of using “She was walking in a very slow manner,” you can say, “She strolled leisurely.” Eliminate filler words and phrases, keeping only the most pertinent information that moves your story forward.

Proofreading for Typos

Finally, proofread your essay carefully to catch any typos, grammatical errors, or punctuation mistakes. It’s always a good idea to have someone else read it as well, as they might catch errors you didn’t notice. Mistakes can be distracting and may undermine the credibility of your writing, so be thorough with your editing process.

Part 10 Step 7. Feedback and Revision

Gathering feedback.

After you’ve written the first draft of your narrative essay, it’s time to gather feedback from friends, family, or colleagues. Share your essay with a few trusted people who can provide insights and suggestions for improvement. Listen to their thoughts and be open to constructive criticism. You might be surprised by the different perspectives they offer, which can strengthen your essay.

Iterating on the Draft

Once you have collected feedback, it’s time to revise and refine your essay. Address any issues or concerns raised by your readers and incorporate their suggestions. Consider reorganizing your story’s structure, clarifying your descriptions, or adding more details based on the feedback you received.

As you make changes, continue to fine-tune your essay to ensure a smooth flow and a strong narrative. Don’t be afraid to cut out unnecessary elements or rework parts of your story until it’s polished and compelling.

Revision is a crucial part of the writing process, and taking the time to reflect on feedback and make improvements will help you create a more engaging and impactful narrative essay.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can i create an engaging introduction.

Craft an attention-grabbing hook with a thought-provoking question, an interesting fact, or a vivid description. Set the stage for your story by introducing the time, place, and context for the events. Creating tension or raising curiosity will make your readers eager to learn more.

What strategies help develop strong characters?

To develop strong characters, consider the following:

  • Give your characters distinct traits, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Provide a backstory to explain their actions and motivations.
  • Use dialogue to present their personality, emotions, and relationships.
  • Show how they change or evolve throughout your story.

How can I make my story flow smoothly with transitions?

Smooth transitions between scenes or events can create a more coherent and easy-to-follow story. Consider the following tips to improve your transitions:

  • Use words and phrases like “meanwhile,” “later that day,” or “afterward” to signify changes in time.
  • Link scenes with a common theme or element.
  • Revisit the main characters or setting to maintain continuity.
  • Introduce a twist or an unexpected event that leads to the next scene.

What are some tips for choosing a great narrative essay topic?

To choose an engaging narrative essay topic, follow these tips:

  • Pick a personal experience or story that holds significance for you.
  • Consider a challenge or a turning point you’ve faced in your life.
  • Opt for a topic that will allow you to share emotions and lessons learned.
  • Think about what your audience would find relatable, intriguing, or inspiring.

How do I wrap up my narrative essay with a strong conclusion?

A compelling conclusion restates the main events and highlights any lessons learned or growth in your character. Try to end on a thought-provoking note or leave readers with some food for thought. Finally, make sure your conclusion wraps up your story neatly and reinforces its overall message.

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Telling the Story of Yourself: 6 Steps to Writing Personal Narratives

Jennifer Xue

Jennifer Xue

writing personal narratives

Table of Contents

Why do we write personal narratives, 6 guidelines for writing personal narrative essays, inspiring personal narratives, examples of personal narrative essays, tell your story.

First off, you might be wondering: what is a personal narrative? In short, personal narratives are stories we tell about ourselves that focus on our growth, lessons learned, and reflections on our experiences.

From stories about inspirational figures we heard as children to any essay, article, or exercise where we're asked to express opinions on a situation, thing, or individual—personal narratives are everywhere.

According to Psychology Today, personal narratives allow authors to feel and release pains, while savouring moments of strength and resilience. Such emotions provide an avenue for both authors and readers to connect while supporting healing in the process.

That all sounds great. But when it comes to putting the words down on paper, we often end up with a list of experiences and no real structure to tie them together.

In this article, we'll discuss what a personal narrative essay is further, learn the 6 steps to writing one, and look at some examples of great personal narratives.

As readers, we're fascinated by memoirs, autobiographies, and long-form personal narrative articles, as they provide a glimpse into the authors' thought processes, ideas, and feelings. But you don't have to be writing your whole life story to create a personal narrative.

You might be a student writing an admissions essay , or be trying to tell your professional story in a cover letter. Regardless of your purpose, your narrative will focus on personal growth, reflections, and lessons.

Personal narratives help us connect with other people's stories due to their easy-to-digest format and because humans are empathising creatures.

We can better understand how others feel and think when we were told stories that allow us to see the world from their perspectives. The author's "I think" and "I feel" instantaneously become ours, as the brain doesn't know whether what we read is real or imaginary.

In her best-selling book Wired for Story, Lisa Cron explains that the human brain craves tales as it's hard-wired through evolution to learn what happens next. Since the brain doesn't know whether what you are reading is actual or not, we can register the moral of the story cognitively and affectively.

In academia, a narrative essay tells a story which is experiential, anecdotal, or personal. It allows the author to creatively express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and opinions. Its length can be anywhere from a few paragraphs to hundreds of pages.

Outside of academia, personal narratives are known as a form of journalism or non-fiction works called "narrative journalism." Even highly prestigious publications like the New York Times and Time magazine have sections dedicated to personal narratives. The New Yorke is a magazine dedicated solely to this genre.

The New York Times holds personal narrative essay contests. The winners are selected because they:

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

In a nutshell, a personal narrative can cover any reflective and contemplative subject with a strong voice and a unique perspective, including uncommon private values. It's written in first person and the story encompasses a specific moment in time worthy of a discussion.

Writing a personal narrative essay involves both objectivity and subjectivity. You'll need to be objective enough to recognise the importance of an event or a situation to explore and write about. On the other hand, you must be subjective enough to inject private thoughts and feelings to make your point.

With personal narratives, you are both the muse and the creator – you have control over how your story is told. However, like any other type of writing, it comes with guidelines.

1. Write Your Personal Narrative as a Story

As a story, it must include an introduction, characters, plot, setting, climax, anti-climax (if any), and conclusion. Another way to approach it is by structuring it with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should set the tone, while the body should focus on the key point(s) you want to get across. The conclusion can tell the reader what lessons you have learned from the story you've just told.

2. Give Your Personal Narrative a Clear Purpose

Your narrative essay should reflect your unique perspective on life. This is a lot harder than it sounds. You need to establish your perspective, the key things you want your reader to take away, and your tone of voice. It's a good idea to have a set purpose in mind for the narrative before you start writing.

Let's say you want to write about how you manage depression without taking any medicine. This could go in any number of ways, but isolating a purpose will help you focus your writing and choose which stories to tell. Are you advocating for a holistic approach, or do you want to describe your emotional experience for people thinking of trying it?

Having this focus will allow you to put your own unique take on what you did (and didn't do, if applicable), what changed you, and the lessons learned along the way.

3. Show, Don't Tell

It's a narration, so the narrative should show readers what happened, instead of telling them. As well as being a storyteller, the author should take part as one of the characters. Keep this in mind when writing, as the way you shape your perspective can have a big impact on how your reader sees your overarching plot. Don't slip into just explaining everything that happened because it happened to you. Show your reader with action.

dialogue tags

You can check for instances of telling rather than showing with ProWritingAid. For example, instead of:

"You never let me do anything!" I cried disdainfully.
"You never let me do anything!" To this day, my mother swears that the glare I levelled at her as I spat those words out could have soured milk.

Using ProWritingAid will help you find these instances in your manuscript and edit them without spending hours trawling through your work yourself.

4. Use "I," But Don't Overuse It

You, the author, take ownership of the story, so the first person pronoun "I" is used throughout. However, you shouldn't overuse it, as it'd make it sound too self-centred and redundant.

ProWritingAid can also help you here – the Style Report will tell you if you've started too many sentences with "I", and show you how to introduce more variation in your writing.

5. Pay Attention to Tenses

Tense is key to understanding. Personal narratives mostly tell the story of events that happened in the past, so many authors choose to use the past tense. This helps separate out your current, narrating voice and your past self who you are narrating. If you're writing in the present tense, make sure that you keep it consistent throughout.

tenses in narratives

6. Make Your Conclusion Satisfying

Satisfy your readers by giving them an unforgettable closing scene. The body of the narration should build up the plot to climax. This doesn't have to be something incredible or shocking, just something that helps give an interesting take on your story.

The takeaways or the lessons learned should be written without lecturing. Whenever possible, continue to show rather than tell. Don't say what you learned, narrate what you do differently now. This will help the moral of your story shine through without being too preachy.

GoodReads is a great starting point for selecting read-worthy personal narrative books. Here are five of my favourites.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen, the author of 386 books, wrote this poetic story about a daughter and her father who went owling. Instead of learning about owls, Yolen invites readers to contemplate the meaning of gentleness and hope.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. This Holocaust memoir has a strong message that such horrific events should never be repeated.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This classic is a must-read by young and old alike. It's a remarkable diary by a 13-year-old Jewish girl who hid inside a secret annexe of an old building during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1942.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This is a personal narrative written by a brave author renowned for her clarity, passion, and honesty. Didion shares how in December 2003, she lost her husband of 40 years to a massive heart attack and dealt with the acute illness of her only daughter. She speaks about grief, memories, illness, and hope.

Educated by Tara Westover

Author Tara Westover was raised by survivalist parents. She didn't go to school until 17 years of age, which later took her to Harvard and Cambridge. It's a story about the struggle for quest for knowledge and self-reinvention.

Narrative and personal narrative journalism are gaining more popularity these days. You can find distinguished personal narratives all over the web.

Curating the best of the best of personal narratives and narrative essays from all over the web. Some are award-winning articles.


Long-form writing to celebrate humanity through storytelling. It publishes personal narrative essays written to provoke, inspire, and reflect, touching lesser-known and overlooked subjects.

Narrative Magazine

It publishes non,fiction narratives, poetry, and fiction. Among its contributors is Frank Conroy, the author of Stop-Time , a memoir that has never been out of print since 1967.

Thought Catalog

Aimed at Generation Z, it publishes personal narrative essays on self-improvement, family, friendship, romance, and others.

Personal narratives will continue to be popular as our brains are wired for stories. We love reading about others and telling stories of ourselves, as they bring satisfaction and a better understanding of the world around us.

Personal narratives make us better humans. Enjoy telling yours!

how to write a good narrative story

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Jennifer Xue is an award-winning e-book author with 2,500+ articles and 100+ e-books/reports published under her belt. She also taught 50+ college-level essay and paper writing classes. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, Fortune, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Business.com, Business2Community, Addicted2Success, Good Men Project, and others. Her blog is JenniferXue.com. Follow her on Twitter @jenxuewrites].

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Ready to express your experiences through words? Dive into our article on how to write a narrative and master engaging storytelling techniques, making your narratives impactful and memorable.

Storytelling is something people have been doing forever. It’s like sharing stories that bring us closer. From tales told by grandparents to today’s digital stories, it’s how we teach, have fun, and relate. Stories help us make sense of things, remember our past, pass on values, and share our dreams.

Not everyone is a seasoned wordsmith, and that’s perfectly fine. Whether you are a student writing an assignment, an aspiring author, or someone who wants to share their experiences effectively, this article is to help you develop the art of storytelling. In this article, we will guide you on how to write a narrative in a compelling way.

You will learn the nuances of narrative writing, the fundamental elements, and practical insights. You’ll have the tools and knowledge to craft narratives that resonate with readers, evoke emotions, and leave a lasting impact.

So, let’s embark on this literary voyage together as we explore the rich landscape of narrative writing step by step.

Table of Contents

What is a narrative?

At its core, a narrative is a method of storytelling, a way to convey events or experiences. Think of it as a structured account that unfolds in a chronological sequence. Narratives can take many forms, including books, movies, or even the tales shared by grandparents. They provide a framework for organizing a story so that it makes sense to the audience.

When you write a narrative, you’re taking your readers on a journey. It’s a guide to take them through a series of connected events, often with characters and a specific setting. It also includes a plot that unveils a problem or situation, a conflict that creates tension, and, ultimately, a resolution that ties up loose ends.

B. Key elements of a narrative

1. characters.

Characters are the heart and soul of any narrative. They are the individuals who portray your story. They guide readers through their experiences, emotions, and transformations. These characters can be real people, imaginary beings, or even symbolic representations. Their personalities, motives, and interactions add depth and humanity to your narrative.

The setting is where your story happens. It tells when and where things are going on. It helps readers see the world of your story. It can be a city, a small town, another planet, or a time in history. The setting sets the mood and affects the story.

The plot is what the story is all about. It’s the events that move the story forward. Think of it as a road map for you and your readers. A good plot keeps readers interested and eager to see what comes next.

4. Conflict

Conflict is what drives your story. It’s the problems or challenges your characters face. It’s what keeps readers interested, wondering how the characters will deal with these issues. Conflict can be things outside or inside a character.

5. Resolution

The resolution is the point where your narrative ties up loose ends and provides closure. It answers the questions posed by the conflict and often offers a sense of catharsis or fulfillment. It’s the moment when readers find out what happens to the characters they’ve come to know and care about.

Understanding these key elements and how they work together is the foundation of crafting a compelling narrative.

How to write a narrative: Choosing your narrative subject

Selecting the right subject for your narrative is crucial in crafting a compelling and engaging story. It’s the foundation upon which your entire narrative will be built, influencing the characters, plot, and overall impact of your storytelling.

  • The significance of selecting the right subject
  • Personal experiences:
  • Fictional stories:


Conversations:, historical events:, dreams and imagination:, a. the significance of selecting the right subject.

Selecting the right subject for your narrative is a critical step in the writing process. The subject serves as the foundation upon which your entire narrative is built. It shapes the story’s theme, tone, and the message you wish to convey.

Think of the subject as the lens through which your readers will view your narrative. It’s the aspect of your story that will resonate with them, evoke emotions, and ultimately leave a lasting impression. The significance of choosing the right subject cannot be overstated.  It determines the overall impact and effectiveness of your narrative.

To select the right subject, consider your audience, your own interests, and the message you want to communicate. Whether it’s a personal experience, a work of fiction, or a historical event, ensure that the subject aligns with your purpose. It should also resonate with your intended readers.

B. Personal experiences vs. fictional stories

When embarking on your narrative journey, you face a fundamental choice: do you draw from personal experiences or create fictional stories? Each approach has its merits, and the decision largely depends on your goals and the story you wish to tell.

   – Personal experiences:

Drawing from your own life experiences can infuse authenticity into your narrative. It allows you to tap into your emotions and memories, providing a rich source of material. However, it may require introspection and the willingness to delve into personal vulnerabilities.

   – Fictional stories:

Creating fictional stories offers creative freedom. You can craft unique worlds, characters, and scenarios, giving you full control over the narrative. This approach often requires imaginative thinking and world-building skills.

   Ultimately, the choice between personal experiences and fictional stories depends on your comfort level, the intended message, and the emotional impact you wish to achieve. Some writers blend elements of both to create narratives that resonate deeply with readers.

C. Finding inspiration for your narrative

 Inspiration is the spark that ignites your narrative. It can be found in many places; often, the most compelling narratives emerge from unexpected sources. Here are some ways to uncover inspiration:

Pay close attention to the world around you. People-watching, nature, and everyday events can provide inspiration for characters, settings, and plots.

Explore a variety of books, genres, and styles. Reading can expose you to different storytelling techniques and trigger your own creativity.

Engage in conversations with people from diverse backgrounds. Listening to their experiences and perspectives can generate ideas for your narrative.

Historical events, whether well-known or obscure, can serve as a rich source of inspiration. They offer a glimpse into different time periods and the human experience.

Don’t underestimate the power of your own imagination. Dreams, daydreams, and fantasies can be fertile ground for narrative ideas.

In the quest for inspiration, keep a journal or digital note-taking tool handy to capture fleeting ideas. The more you cultivate your ability to find inspiration, the more vibrant and engaging your narratives will become.

Crafting compelling and relatable characters in a narrative

Characters are the heart of your story, the individuals your readers or audience will connect with and care about. In this section, we’ll dive into the art of creating compelling and relatable characters.

Physical attributes:

Personality:, goals and aspirations:, character traits:, motivations:, emotional depth:, realistic reactions:, universal themes:, character growth:, a. developing well-rounded characters.

Crafting characters that resonate with your readers is a cornerstone of effective storytelling. Well-rounded characters are more than mere names on a page; they come to life, eliciting emotions and driving the narrative forward. To develop such characters, consider the following aspects:

Describe their appearance in detail, but don’t stop there. Think about how their physical traits influence their actions and interactions.

Give your characters distinct personalities. Are they introverted or extroverted? Optimistic or pessimistic? Understanding their traits helps readers relate to them.

What experiences have shaped your characters? Their past can reveal their motivations and explain their behavior.

What do your characters want to achieve? Their goals drive the plot and reveal their desires.

B. Character traits, motivations, and flaws

Characters should be multifaceted, possessing both strengths and weaknesses. This complexity makes them relatable and engaging.

Identify key personality traits for each character. Are they courageous, compassionate, or cunning? These traits inform their choices and actions.

Delve into what drives your characters. Their motivations provide insight into their decisions and add depth to their development.

Imperfections make characters believable. Consider their shortcomings, whether it’s a short temper, insecurity, or a tendency to be overly trusting.

Combining positive traits, motivations, and flaws creates characters that readers can connect with on an emotional level. It allows them to see themselves in the characters’ struggles and triumphs.

C. The importance of relatable characters

Relatable characters are the bridge between the narrative and the reader. When readers can see elements of themselves in a character, they become emotionally invested in the story. To make characters relatable:

Characters should experience a range of emotions, mirroring the human experience. Show their fears, hopes, and vulnerabilities.

Characters should react to situations in a way that feels genuine. How would a real person respond to the challenges they face?

Explore themes that resonate with a broad audience, such as love, loss, ambition, or self-discovery. These themes evoke empathy.

Allow characters to evolve and learn from their experiences. Growth demonstrates their relatability and adds depth to the narrative.

In short, crafting well-rounded characters with distinct traits, motivations, and flaws is vital for a compelling narrative. Readers connect with characters who feel real and who mirror the complexities of human nature. When characters are relatable, they become the emotional anchors that keep readers engaged in your story.

Building an evocative setting for the narrative

The setting is the backdrop against which your story unfolds, and it plays a significant role in shaping the mood, atmosphere, and even the characters’ experiences. In this section, we’ll explore the art of crafting a vivid and memorable setting.

  • Setting as a backdrop for the story

Visual imagery:

Auditory details:, tactile sensations, scents and smells, a. setting as a backdrop for the story.

The setting of your narrative is like the canvas upon which the story unfolds. It provides the stage, the atmosphere, and the context in which your characters and plot come to life. Just as a painter selects the perfect background to enhance their subject, choosing the right setting can significantly impact your narrative.

The setting is not merely a backdrop; it is an active participant in your story, influencing character actions, emotions, and the overall mood. It’s the difference between a story set in a bustling metropolis and one in a serene countryside. Your choice of setting sets the stage for the reader, helping them visualize and immerse themselves in the world you’ve created.

B. Creating a sense of place through description

Effective storytelling relies on the art of vivid description. When it comes to the setting, your goal is to transport the reader into the world you’ve envisioned. This involves painting a sensory-rich picture through words. Here’s how to do it:

Describe the physical elements of the setting. What does it look like? What colors dominate? Is it urban or natural, modern or historical?

Bring the setting to life with sounds. Is there the hum of traffic, the chirping of birds, or the distant roar of the ocean? These auditory cues help readers “hear” the setting.

Engage the reader’s sense of touch. Is the air humid or crisp? Is the ground soft with grass or hard with concrete? Make them feel the environment.

Don’t forget the sense of smell. Is there the aroma of freshly baked bread, the scent of blooming flowers, or the acrid smell of industry? Smells can evoke powerful memories and emotions.

   – Taste: If relevant, describe the taste of the setting. It could be the saltiness of sea air or the sweetness of ripe fruit. Taste can evoke nostalgia and intimacy.

Effective description immerses the reader in your setting, making it feel tangible and real. It allows them to experience the world you’ve created with all their senses.

C. Using the setting to enhance the narrative’s mood and tone

The setting is a potent tool for shaping the mood and tone of your narrative. It can convey a sense of foreboding on a dark, stormy night or evoke tranquility in a peaceful meadow. Here’s how to harness the setting’s power:

Consider the emotional atmosphere you want to convey. Does your narrative call for suspense, romance, nostalgia, or adventure? The setting can be manipulated to evoke the desired mood.

Think about the overall feeling you want to convey. Is your story meant to be lighthearted, solemn, or thought-provoking? The setting can set the tone by reflecting the characters’ emotions and the story’s themes.

Use the setting symbolically to enhance the narrative’s depth. For example, a decaying, abandoned building can symbolize the passage of time or a character’s inner turmoil.

Explore contrasts within the setting to create tension or highlight themes. A peaceful countryside interrupted by a stark industrial complex can symbolize the clash of nature and technology.

By strategically using the setting to amplify mood and tone, you can enrich your narrative, making it resonate more deeply with readers. The setting becomes a dynamic element that enhances the emotional impact of your story, enveloping readers in an immersive world of words.

Crafting a captivating plot for your narrative

Crafting a captivating plot is the backbone of any compelling narrative. It’s the sequence of events, conflicts, and resolutions that drive your story forward, keeping your audience engaged and eager to know what happens next.

  • Act 1: Setup
  • Act 2: Conflict
  • Act 3: Resolution
  • Cliffhangers:

A. Introduction to the narrative structure

The narrative structure is the blueprint that guides your story’s development. It’s the invisible framework that ensures your narrative flows logically and captivates your audience. Think of it as the skeleton that holds the body of your story together. This structure typically consists of a beginning, middle, and end, each serving a distinct purpose:

This is where you introduce your characters, setting, and the initial situation. You set the stage, hooking your readers and giving them a reason to continue.

The middle is the heart of your story, where conflicts and obstacles arise. Tensions build, characters evolve, and the plot thickens. This is often the longest part of the narrative.

The end brings resolution. It ties up loose ends, answers questions, and provides closure. It’s the final destination your readers have been journeying toward.

B. The three-act structure: Setup, conflict, resolution

The three-act structure is a widely used framework for crafting compelling narratives. It divides your story into three distinct acts, each with its role:

– Act 1: Setup

In this initial act, you introduce your characters, setting, and the central conflict or problem. Your readers become acquainted with the world you’ve created and the characters who inhabit it. This act sets the stage, creating the foundation upon which the story will unfold.

– Act 2: Conflict

Act 2 is the meat of your narrative, where the main conflict and rising action take center stage. This is where challenges, obstacles, and complications arise, keeping readers engaged and invested in the story. Tensions escalate, character arcs develop, and the plot thickens, building towards the story’s climax.

– Act 3: Resolution

The final act provides resolution and closure. Loose ends are tied up, questions are answered, and characters’ fates are revealed. The resolution should provide a satisfying conclusion to the story, leaving your readers with a sense of fulfillment.

The three-act structure serves as a roadmap for your narrative, ensuring a balanced and engaging progression. It helps maintain the reader’s interest by providing a logical and satisfying sequence of events.

C. Incorporating tension and pacing

Tension and pacing are the engines that drive your narrative. They keep readers eagerly turning the pages, eager to discover what happens next. Here’s how to incorporate them effectively:

– Tension:

Tension arises from conflicts and challenges that hinder your characters from achieving their goals. It keeps readers engaged and invested in the story’s outcome. To create tension, introduce obstacles, uncertainties, and dilemmas that the characters must confront and overcome.

– Pacing:

Pacing refers to the rhythm and speed at which your narrative unfolds. It’s essential to balance moments of tension and action with moments of reflection and character development. Varying the pacing can create a dynamic reading experience, allowing readers to catch their breath before plunging back into the action.

– Cliffhangers:

Ending chapters or sections with suspenseful questions or unresolved conflicts can be an effective way to maintain tension and keep readers hooked.

Crafting a captivating plot requires a delicate balance of structure, tension, and pacing. When executed skillfully, your plot will propel your narrative forward, keeping readers eagerly immersed in the story’s twists and turns.

Establishing conflict for your narrative

Conflict is what propels your narrative forward, creating a sense of urgency and making the story more relatable and engaging. Here are the insights and techniques to develop compelling challenges that drive your narrative’s progression.

  • Creating tension:
  • Character development:
  • Engaging the audience:
  • Driving the plot:
  • Internal conflict:
  • External conflict:
  • Rising action:
  • Reader engagement:
  • Resolution:

A. The role of conflict in storytelling

Conflict is the beating heart of storytelling. It’s the engine that propels narratives forward, captivating readers and holding their attention. In essence, conflict is the central problem or tension that characters face, and it serves several vital roles in storytelling:

– Creating tension:

Conflict introduces uncertainty and tension into the narrative. It leaves readers wondering how characters will overcome obstacles or resolve their issues.

– Character development:

Conflict forces characters to confront challenges, revealing their strengths, weaknesses, and growth throughout the story.

– Engaging the audience:

Conflict resonates with readers because it mirrors real-life struggles. It draws them into the narrative by tapping into their own experiences and emotions.

– Driving the plot:

Conflict provides the narrative with direction. It offers a clear goal or problem that characters must address, guiding the story’s progression.

B. Types of conflict: Internal and external

Conflict can manifest in various forms, but two primary categories are internal and external conflict:

– Internal conflict:

This is the battle that takes place within a character’s mind or heart. It often involves conflicting emotions, beliefs, or desires. Internal conflict adds depth to characters as they grapple with their inner demons or moral dilemmas. For example, a character torn between loyalty to family and personal ambition experiences internal conflict.

– External conflict:

External conflict arises from outside sources and can take many shapes, such as:

      – Man vs. man: Character vs. character conflict, often involving opposing goals or values.

      – Man vs. nature: Characters pitted against natural forces, like a survival story in the wilderness.

      – Man vs. society: Characters challenge societal norms, laws, or expectations.

      – Man vs. technology: Conflict stemming from technological advancements or limitations.

      – Man vs. supernatural: Characters facing supernatural or paranormal elements.

Effective storytelling often combines both internal and external conflicts to create well-rounded characters and engaging narratives.

C. How conflict drives the narrative forward

Conflict is the driving force behind your narrative’s momentum. It compels readers to keep turning the pages to see how characters confront and resolve their challenges. Here’s how conflict fuels the narrative:

– Rising action:

As conflict intensifies, it leads to rising action, where tensions build, and the plot thickens. Readers become increasingly invested in the story.

Conflict pushes characters out of their comfort zones, forcing them to adapt and evolve. This evolution creates engaging character arcs that mirror real human growth.

– Reader engagement:

Conflict keeps readers engaged by creating anticipation. They want to see how characters will overcome obstacles or resolve their problems.

– Resolution:

Ultimately, conflict culminates in the story’s resolution. Whether it’s a happy ending or a tragic one, resolving the conflict provides closure and satisfaction for the reader.

Conflict is not merely an element of storytelling; it’s the lifeblood of narratives. It generates tension, shapes characters, and drives the plot forward, ensuring that your story remains compelling and memorable.

Resolving the narrative

Resolving the narrative is the critical conclusion that brings closure to your story. This part answers lingering questions and provides a sense of fulfillment for your readers or viewers. It’s the moment where loose ends are tied up, conflicts find their resolution, and the story’s overall message is conveyed.

  • Emotional catharsis:
  • Reflecting themes:
  • Reader satisfaction:
  • Plot points:
  • Character arcs:
  • Unanswered questions:
  • Main storyline:

A. The importance of a satisfying resolution

A satisfying resolution is the culmination of your narrative, the moment when all the pieces of the storytelling puzzle fall into place. It’s the payoff that readers have been eagerly anticipating throughout the story. The resolution serves several vital functions:

– Closure:

It provides closure to the narrative, offering a sense of finality that leaves readers with a feeling of fulfillment.

– Emotional catharsis:

A well-executed resolution can elicit strong emotions from your readers, whether it’s tears of joy, sadness, or a profound sense of contentment.

– Reflecting themes:

The resolution often reflects the themes and messages you’ve woven into your narrative, offering insight or a moral lesson.

– Reader satisfaction:

A satisfying resolution is a reward for your readers’ investment in the story. It ensures they walk away with a sense of gratification.

B. Avoiding loose ends and unanswered questions

Loose ends and unanswered questions can leave readers feeling unsatisfied and frustrated. To create a strong resolution, ensure that all significant plot points, character arcs, and lingering questions are addressed:

– Plot points:

Tie up any plot threads and unresolved conflicts. Readers should have a clear understanding of how the central problem was resolved.

– Character arcs:

Ensure that each character’s journey reaches a meaningful conclusion. Characters should experience growth, change, or transformation over the course of the narrative.

– Unanswered questions:

Address any lingering questions or mysteries that were introduced earlier in the story. Leaving readers with some ambiguity can be effective, but it should feel intentional and thought-provoking, not haphazard.

C. Wrapping up character arcs and storylines

One of the most satisfying aspects of a resolution is seeing how characters’ story arcs and various storylines are wrapped up:

Characters should experience resolution to their personal conflicts and growth. This resolution should align with the changes they’ve undergone throughout the narrative.

– Main storyline:

The central storyline of your narrative should reach a satisfying conclusion, whether it’s a happy ending, a bittersweet one, or a tragic outcome. It should reflect the story’s themes and messages.

– Subplots:

If you’ve introduced subplots, ensure they are also addressed in the resolution. These can add depth and complexity to your narrative, and readers will expect to see how they play out.

Crafting a resolution that ties up all loose ends and provides emotional closure is a skill that sets exceptional storytelling apart. When readers close the book or finish the last page, they should do so with a sense of satisfaction, knowing they’ve completed a meaningful narrative journey.

Techniques for effective narrative writing

Techniques for effective narrative writing are the tools that transform your ideas and creativity into a captivating story. These techniques encompass the use of literary devices, style, and storytelling strategies that make your narrative engaging and memorable.

  • Use descriptive language
  • Show emotions through actions
  • Dialogue and inner thoughts
  • Distinctive voices
  • Reveal character traits
  • Advance the plot
  • Show, Don’t Tell (Again)
  • Action-driven exposition
  • Flashbacks and backstory

A. Show, don’t tell

“Show, don’t tell” is a fundamental principle of effective storytelling. It’s the art of conveying information, emotions, and experiences through vivid and sensory-rich descriptions, allowing readers to engage with the narrative on a deeper level. Here’s how to master this technique:

– Use descriptive language:

Paint pictures with words by using descriptive language that appeals to the reader’s senses. Instead of saying, “She was sad,” you might describe her as “her eyes welled up with tears, and her voice quivered.”

– Show emotions through actions:

Instead of explicitly stating a character’s emotions, reveal them through their actions, gestures, and body language. For example, “He clenched his fists and turned away” conveys anger more effectively than simply saying, “He was angry.”

– Dialogue and inner thoughts:

Leverage dialogue and a character’s inner thoughts to reveal their feelings, motivations, and conflicts. These provide a window into the character’s mindset and add depth to their portrayal.

By showing rather than telling, you immerse readers in the narrative, allowing them to experience the story as if they were living it themselves.

B. Dialogue as a tool for character development

Dialogue is a potent tool for character development and storytelling. It’s through dialogue that characters come to life, their personalities are revealed, and their relationships are explored. To use dialogue effectively:

– Distinctive voices:

Ensure each character has a unique voice, reflecting their personality, background, and motivations. This helps readers distinguish between characters.

– Reveal character traits:

Use dialogue to unveil character traits, such as their sense of humor, beliefs, or fears. Show how they interact with others and express themselves.

– Advance the plot:

Dialogue should serve a purpose beyond just conversation. It can reveal information, drive the plot forward, or create conflict and tension.

– Subtext:

Often, what characters don’t say can be as significant as what they do say. Subtext in dialogue adds depth and intrigue, allowing readers to infer underlying emotions and conflicts.

Effective dialogue not only advances the plot but also brings characters to life, making them relatable and engaging.

C. Balancing exposition and action

Finding the right balance between exposition (the presentation of information) and action (the unfolding events) is crucial for maintaining reader engagement. Here’s how to strike that balance:

– Show, Don’t Tell (Again):

Instead of delivering information through lengthy exposition, weave it into the narrative naturally. Show details through character actions, thoughts, and dialogue.

– Timing:

Introduce exposition when it’s relevant and necessary for understanding the story. Avoid overwhelming readers with information early on; let it unfold organically.

– Action-driven exposition:

Whenever possible, incorporate exposition into scenes with action or conflict. This keeps the narrative dynamic and prevents information from feeling static.

– Flashbacks and backstory:

If backstory is essential, consider using techniques like flashbacks or character recollections to reveal it in a more engaging manner.

Striking the right balance ensures that your narrative flows smoothly and keeps readers immersed in the story without unnecessary interruptions.

These techniques are the tools of a skilled narrative writer. Mastering the art of “show, don’t tell,” using dialogue effectively, and balancing exposition and action can elevate your storytelling, making it engaging, immersive, and emotionally resonant for your readers.

Editing and revising your narrative

Editing and revising your narrative is a crucial step from a draft to a polished and compelling story. It’s where you refine your language, structure, and overall presentation to ensure your narrative is as impactful as possible.

  • Clarity and coherence:
  • Plot refinement:
  • Language and style:
  • Eliminating errors:
  • Choose trusted readers:
  • Specific questions:
  • Open-mindedness:
  • Balance of perspectives:
  • Sentence structure:
  • Transitions:
  • Consistency:
  • Word choice:
  • Final proofreading:

A. The value of multiple drafts

The process of crafting a compelling narrative doesn’t end with the final sentence of your first draft. In fact, it’s only the beginning. Multiple drafts are the secret ingredient to refining your narrative and transforming it into a polished work of art. Here’s why they are invaluable:

– Clarity and coherence:

Multiple drafts allow you to revisit and refine your narrative for clarity and coherence. You can identify areas where the story might be confusing or where transitions between scenes need improvement.

With each draft, you can deepen character arcs and motivations. You can fine-tune character voices, making them more distinct and engaging.

– Plot refinement:

Subplots, pacing, and plot holes can be addressed and resolved through successive drafts. This ensures a more satisfying and well-structured narrative.

– Language and style:

You can experiment with language, style, and sentence structure to find the most effective ways to convey your story. This fine-tuning elevates the overall quality of your writing.

– Eliminating errors:

Drafts help you catch and rectify grammar, spelling, and typographical errors. These can distract readers from the story and diminish its impact.

B. Seeking feedback from others

Writing is a solitary endeavor, but feedback from others is a crucial part of the editing process. Other perspectives can uncover blind spots and provide valuable insights. Here’s how to approach seeking feedback:

– Choose trusted readers:

Select individuals whose opinions you value and who can provide constructive criticism. They may be fellow writers, friends, or editors.

– Specific questions:

Ask your readers specific questions about your narrative, such as their thoughts on character development, pacing, or the overall impact of the story.

– Open-mindedness:

Be open to feedback, even if it challenges your original vision. Constructive criticism can lead to significant improvements.

– Balance of perspectives:

Consider feedback from multiple sources to gain a well-rounded view of your narrative’s strengths and weaknesses.

C. Polishing the narrative for clarity and coherence

The final stages of editing involve polishing your narrative for maximum clarity and coherence. This is where you focus on the finer details to ensure your story flows seamlessly:

– Sentence structure:

Review sentence structure for variety and readability. Avoid overly complex sentences that may confuse readers.

– Transitions:

Smooth transitions between scenes, paragraphs, and chapters. Ensure that the narrative flows logically, guiding readers effortlessly through the story.

– Consistency:

Check for consistency in character traits, settings, and plot details. Eliminate any contradictions or discrepancies.

– Word choice:

Pay attention to word choice and diction. Select words that convey your intended meaning precisely and effectively.

– Final proofreading:

Conduct a final proofread to catch any remaining grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. This step is essential for a polished, professional finish.

Editing and revising is where your narrative truly takes shape and shines. It’s a process that demands time, patience, and a critical eye, but the result is a narrative that is well-crafted, compelling, and ready to captivate your readers.

Now that you know how to write a narrative, it’s time to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Writing is a craft that improves with practice. Start with short stories or journal entries and gradually work up to longer narratives. Remember that every writer begins as a beginner and improves with time. Don’t be discouraged by initial challenges; embrace them as growth opportunities.

As a storyteller, you can touch hearts, spark imagination, and create lasting impressions. So, take your newfound knowledge, embrace the art of narrative writing, and embark on a journey of storytelling that will captivate and resonate with your readers and audiences.

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How to Write a Narrative Essay A Step by Step Guide Featured

  • Scriptwriting

How to Write a Narrative Essay — A Step-by-Step Guide

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

How to Write a Narrative Essay Step by Step

Background on narrative essays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Start a Narrative Essay

Responding to prompts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How successful are you?

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

Who is your role model?

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

Do you consider yourself spiritual?

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

How to Write Narrative Essay

What makes a good narrative essay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narrative Writing Format

Structure of a narrative essay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Video Essay?

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

Up Next: The Art of Video Analysis →

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How to write a narrative essay [Updated 2023]

How to write a narrative essay

A narrative essay is an opportunity to flex your creative muscles and craft a compelling story. In this blog post, we define what a narrative essay is and provide strategies and examples for writing one.

What is a narrative essay?

Similarly to a descriptive essay or a reflective essay, a narrative essay asks you to tell a story, rather than make an argument and present evidence. Most narrative essays describe a real, personal experience from your own life (for example, the story of your first big success).

Alternately, your narrative essay might focus on an imagined experience (for example, how your life would be if you had been born into different circumstances). While you don’t need to present a thesis statement or scholarly evidence, a narrative essay still needs to be well-structured and clearly organized so that the reader can follow your story.

When you might be asked to write a narrative essay

Although less popular than argumentative essays or expository essays, narrative essays are relatively common in high school and college writing classes.

The same techniques that you would use to write a college essay as part of a college or scholarship application are applicable to narrative essays, as well. In fact, the Common App that many students use to apply to multiple colleges asks you to submit a narrative essay.

How to choose a topic for a narrative essay

When you are asked to write a narrative essay, a topic may be assigned to you or you may be able to choose your own. With an assigned topic, the prompt will likely fall into one of two categories: specific or open-ended.

Examples of specific prompts:

  • Write about the last vacation you took.
  • Write about your final year of middle school.

Examples of open-ended prompts:

  • Write about a time when you felt all hope was lost.
  • Write about a brief, seemingly insignificant event that ended up having a big impact on your life.

A narrative essay tells a story and all good stories are centered on a conflict of some sort. Experiences with unexpected obstacles, twists, or turns make for much more compelling essays and reveal more about your character and views on life.

If you’re writing a narrative essay as part of an admissions application, remember that the people reviewing your essay will be looking at it to gain a sense of not just your writing ability, but who you are as a person.

In these cases, it’s wise to choose a topic and experience from your life that demonstrates the qualities that the prompt is looking for, such as resilience, perseverance, the ability to stay calm under pressure, etc.

It’s also important to remember that your choice of topic is just a starting point. Many students find that they arrive at new ideas and insights as they write their first draft, so the final form of your essay may have a different focus than the one you started with.

How to outline and format a narrative essay

Even though you’re not advancing an argument or proving a point of view, a narrative essay still needs to have a coherent structure. Your reader has to be able to follow you as you tell the story and to figure out the larger point that you’re making.

You’ll be evaluated on is your handling of the topic and how you structure your essay. Even though a narrative essay doesn’t use the same structure as other essay types, you should still sketch out a loose outline so you can tell your story in a clear and compelling way.

To outline a narrative essay, you’ll want to determine:

  • how your story will start
  • what points or specifics that you want to cover
  • how your story will end
  • what pace and tone you will use

In the vast majority of cases, a narrative essay should be written in the first-person, using “I.” Also, most narrative essays will follow typical formatting guidelines, so you should choose a readable font like Times New Roman in size 11 or 12. Double-space your paragraphs and use 1” margins.

To get your creative wheels turning, consider how your story compares to archetypes and famous historical and literary figures both past and present. Weave these comparisons into your essay to improve the quality of your writing and connect your personal experience to a larger context.

How to write a narrative essay

Writing a narrative essay can sometimes be a challenge for students who typically write argumentative essays or research papers in a formal, objective style. To give you a better sense of how you can write a narrative essay, here is a short example of an essay in response to the prompt, “Write about an experience that challenged your view of yourself.”

Narrative essay example

Even as a child, I always had what people might call a reserved personality. It was sometimes framed as a positive (“Sarah is a good listener”) and at other times it was put in less-than-admiring terms (“Sarah is withdrawn and not very talkative”). It was the latter kind of comments that caused me to see my introverted nature as a drawback and as something I should work to eliminate. That is, until I joined my high school’s student council.

The first paragraph, or introduction, sets up the context, establishing the situation and introducing the meaningful event upon which the essay will focus.

The other four students making up the council were very outspoken and enthusiastic. I enjoyed being around them, and I often agreed with their ideas. However, when it came to overhauling our school’s recycling plan, we butted heads. When I spoke up and offered a different point of view, one of my fellow student council members launched into a speech, advocating for her point of view. As her voice filled the room, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I wondered if I should try to match her tone, volume, and assertiveness as a way to be heard. But I just couldn’t do it—it’s not my way, and it never has been. For a fleeting moment, I felt defeated. But then, something in me shifted.

In this paragraph, the writer goes into greater depth about how her existing thinking brought her to this point.

I reminded myself that my view was valid and deserved to be heard. So I waited. I let my fellow council member speak her piece and when she was finished, I deliberately waited a few moments before calmly stating my case. I chose my words well, and I spoke them succinctly. Just because I’m not a big talker doesn’t mean I’m not a big thinker. I thought of the quotation “still waters run deep” and I tried to embody that. The effect on the room was palpable. People listened. And I hadn’t had to shout my point to be heard.

This paragraph demonstrates the turn in the story, the moment when everything changed. The use of the quotation “still waters run deep” imbues the story with a dash of poetry and emotion.

We eventually reached a compromise on the matter and concluded the student council meeting. Our council supervisor came to me afterward and said: “You handled that so well, with such grace and poise. I was very impressed.” Her words in that moment changed me. I realized that a bombastic nature isn't necessarily a powerful one. There is power in quiet, too. This experience taught me to view my reserved personality not as a character flaw, but as a strength.

The final paragraph, or conclusion, closes with a statement about the significance of this event and how it ended up changing the writer in a meaningful way.

Narrative essay writing tips

1. pick a meaningful story that has a conflict and a clear “moral.”.

If you’re able to choose your own topic, pick a story that has meaning and that reveals how you became the person your are today. In other words, write a narrative with a clear “moral” that you can connect with your main points.

2. Use an outline to arrange the structure of your story and organize your main points.

Although a narrative essay is different from argumentative essays, it’s still beneficial to construct an outline so that your story is well-structured and organized. Note how you want to start and end your story, and what points you want to make to tie everything together.

3. Be clear, concise, concrete, and correct in your writing.

You should use descriptive writing in your narrative essay, but don’t overdo it. Use clear, concise, and correct language and grammar throughout. Additionally, make concrete points that reinforce the main idea of your narrative.

4. Ask a friend or family member to proofread your essay.

No matter what kind of writing you’re doing, you should always plan to proofread and revise. To ensure that your narrative essay is coherent and interesting, ask a friend or family member to read over your paper. This is especially important if your essay is responding to a prompt. It helps to have another person check to make sure that you’ve fully responded to the prompt or question.

Frequently Asked Questions about narrative essays

A narrative essay, like any essay, has three main parts: an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Structuring and outlining your essay before you start writing will help you write a clear story that your readers can follow.

The first paragraph of your essay, or introduction, sets up the context, establishing the situation and introducing the meaningful event upon which the essay will focus.

In the vast majority of cases, a narrative essay should be written in the first-person, using “I.”

The 4 main types of essays are the argumentative essay, narrative essay, exploratory essay, and expository essay. You may be asked to write different types of essays at different points in your education.

Most narrative essays will be around five paragraphs, or more, depending on the topic and requirements. Make sure to check in with your instructor about the guidelines for your essay. If you’re writing a narrative essay for a college application, pay close attention to word or page count requirements.

How to write a college essay

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How to Write a Good Story (11 Tips from an Actual Writer)

  • Write Interesting, Believable Characters
  • Include Various Types of Conflict
  • Keep a Consistent Throughline
  • Use a Script Writing Software
  • Raise the Stakes for Your Characters
  • Include a Memorable Ending
  • Use Dialogue Effectively
  • Use Strong Descriptions (“Show, Don’t Tell”)
  • A Good Story Needs Tension and Suspense
  • A Good Story Needs Well-Timed Pacing
  • Edit, Edit, Edit!

Everyone has a story to tell. Whether it’s a funny anecdote from your life or an epic tale of heroism and adventure, storytelling is a fundamental human activity. It’s how we share information and experiences with each other, and it’s one of the best ways to entertain and engage an audience.

how to write a good narrative story

This article teaches you how to write a good story, no matter your skill level.

Whether you want to write a novel, a screenplay , or just a good old-fashioned short story , there are some universal elements that all good stories need.

Let’s get started with 11 tips to help you write a good story:

1. Write Interesting, Believable Characters

Good stories require relatable characters that readers will remember long after they finish the book. There are a few key things to keep in mind when creating characters that will make your story stand out.

  • First, give your main character a memorable introduction, and in doing so you’ll ensure a good beginning for your story as well. Remember that one’s actions say more about them than their words, so always try to show, rather than tell. An active character who shows their qualities – good or bad – from the outset is far more memorable and dynamic than one who just stands there and talks.
  • Second, give your main characters unique qualities and flaws that will make them complex and interesting characters. No one wants to read about a perfect person – we all have our quirks and vulnerabilities, and your characters should too.
  • Third, ensure your character(s) undergo some kind of development or change throughout the story. We grow and learn from our experiences, and your characters should also.
  • Fourth, be consistent with your characterizations – if you establish early on that your protagonist is shy and introverted, don’t have them boldly approaching strangers in later scenes.

These tips will ensure that you create memorable characters with flaws and dimensions, not just one-dimensional caricatures. Your readers should be able to relate to your character’s life and feel invested in their journey.

Before you start writing your screenplay or novel, make sure to use screenwriting software or novel-writing software programs to ensure that your work adheres to industry standards in terms of format and appearance.

how to write a good narrative story

2. Include Various Types of Conflict

All interesting stories need conflict. Without it, there is no drama, tension, or sense of forward momentum. Conflict drives change, and change drives story.

The conflict can be internal, such as a character struggling with a difficult decision, or external, such as a character facing an obstacle. Remember, external conflicts are easier to tackle than inner struggles, as they typically don’t require any inner change on the part of the character.

True change comes from within.

What is important is that the conflict feels real and believable, and that it has a meaningful impact on both the character and the story. So make sure that you create obstacles for your characters to overcome so that they have to struggle and grow in order to succeed.

3. Keep a Consistent Throughline

One of the most important aspects of writing a good story is making sure that there is a throughline – the central question or problem that your story is trying to answer. From the opening lines in the beginning to the closing image at the end, you must keep it in mind.

Without a throughline, your story will likely wander and lose focus, leaving readers confused and uninterested.

There are a few ways to ensure your throughline is clear and compelling.

  • First, ensure the throughline is introduced early in the story. This will help to ensure that readers are aware of the central conflict from the beginning and will be more invested in seeing how it plays out.
  • Additionally, be sure to maintain focus on the throughline throughout the course of the story. Every scene and every event should relate back to the throughline in some way, helping to move the story forward and keep readers engaged.

When thinking about the central problem in your story, consider:

  • Who is the main character of your story?
  • What does this character want?
  • What are they trying to achieve?
  • What obstacles will they have to overcome?
  • What inner flaws hold them back?

Your story should be focused on your character’s journey to reach their goal. 

4. Use a Script Writing Software

Using a scriptwriting software like Celtx can be a helpful way for screenwriters to improve their screenwriting skills. Scriptwriting software provides a standardized format for writing scripts which makes it easier for industry professionals to read and understand a writer’s work.

Additionally, most scriptwriting software has built-in script breakdown features, which can help writers analyze and understand the structure of their script. These types of features can help writers identify areas where their script may be weak and make necessary changes to improve it.

Scriptwriting software like Celtx also allows users to export their scripts in various industry-standard formats, such as PDFs, making it easier for writers to share their work with others.

A script writing software like Celtx can be an excellent tool for beginners to improve their screenwriting skills and create professional-looking scripts. It can save time, improve organization and increase the chances of getting your work read by industry professionals. Try Celtx Now For Free.

5. Raise the Stakes for Your Characters

When you write stories, one of the key elements is to keep upping the stakes for your characters.

This means that as the story progresses during the rising action , the challenges and obstacles your characters face should become more and more difficult. This will hook readers, as they’ll want to see how your characters will manage to overcome these increasingly complex challenges.

There are a few ways you can do this.

  • One is to have the stakes increase in terms of the personal costs for your characters – for instance, if they’re originally trying to achieve something that would benefit themselves, you could raise the stakes so that failing to achieve their goal would also have negative consequences for other characters.
  • Another way to up the stakes is to increase the physical dangers or threats your characters face. This could be anything from adding more dangerous opponents to raising the stakes so that failure would mean death or severe injury.

And remember that the point of highest stakes and excitement needs to be at the climax of the story when the central conflict is settled once and for all. Everything the character has gone through and all the lessons learned since the inciting incident must apply in this final moment. A truly effective climax is one where the character and audience both genuinely don’t know if the protagonist will succeed. That can only be achieved with rising stakes and difficulty.

As you raise the stakes for your main character, think about:

  • What happens if your character fails?
  • What is at stake if they succeed?
  • What is the character willing to trade or give up to reach their goal?
  • The higher the stakes, the more suspenseful and exciting your story will be! 

Whatever approach you take, remember that giving your main characters many obstacles during the rising action is essential for writing a good story.

6. Include a Memorable Ending

Creating a memorable ending is one of the most important aspects of the story-writing process. A good beginning is important, but the ending should also be definitive and satisfying, providing a sense of closure for the reader.

To achieve this, the ending must be well-planned and executed with precision.

First, identify the story’s climax – this is the point at which the conflict is resolved, and the tension is released. The central throughline is addressed here, and good or bad, the central conflict comes to an end.

how to write a good narrative story

Then, start winding down the story, tying up loose ends and wrapping up plot threads. The pacing should slow down at this point as the story builds toward its resolution. This is commonly referred to as the falling action section of your story.

Falling action ties up all loose ends and plot holes and shows us how the hero’s world has changed, for better or worse, as a result of their undertaking the challenge in the first place.

This allows you to write an ending that feels earned and satisfying. The ending should be emotive and resonate with your audience. Whether it is happy or sad, it should evoke a strong reaction in the reader.

This is what people will remember long after they’ve finished reading or watching your story, so make it count! Don’t cop out with a cheap or predictable ending; make it earned and satisfying. If done well, a good ending will leave the reader with a lasting impression of your story.

7. Use Dialogue Effectively

Good dialogue is an essential element of any story. It can convey a character’s personality, advance the plot, and provide information to the reader. Here are some tips to help you write dialogue that will keep your readers engaged:

  • Make sure your dialogue sounds natural. Avoid stilted or overly formal speech. Your characters should sound like real people talking to each other.
  • Use dialect and colloquialisms sparingly. While they can add color to your dialogue, too much can be difficult for readers to follow.
  • Keep your dialogue brief. Long blocks of uninterrupted speech can be tedious to read. Instead, break up your dialogue with action or description, and save the speeches for when they matter the most.
  • Be aware of pacing. The rhythm of your dialogue should match the pace of your story. If your story is fast-paced, your dialogue should be as well.
  • Avoid exposition dumps and on-the-nose speeches; let your dialogue move the plot forward while also revealing character personality traits. The best dialogue is loaded with subtext.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your dialogue will be a powerful tool that will help you tell a great story.

8. Use Strong Descriptions (“Show, Don’t Tell”)

Anyone who has taken a creative writing class has likely heard the advice, “show, don’t tell.” This means that good description is key to writing a good story.

A good writer makes the readers care about their characters through their actions, which are as important, if not more so, than a character’s thoughts and words. Readers want to be able to visualize the characters and setting, and this can only be done with well-written descriptions.

This does not mean that every detail needs to be spelled out; in fact, too much description can be just as bad as too little. The goal is to provide just enough information to allow the reader to create a mental image without overwhelming them with unnecessary details.

The description sets the scene and allows the reader to visualize what’s happening in their minds. Be specific and evocative with your language so that the reader feels like they’re right there in the thick of things alongside your characters. 

Rather than just telling the reader what’s happening, show them through action and dialogue. This will help them feel like they’re experiencing the story firsthand rather than just being told about it secondhand. 

The best way to achieve this balance is to focus on the senses. What does the character see, smell, hear, taste, and feel? Done well, readers feel and experience the world along with the characters.

By painting a vivid picture using all five senses – in addition to what characters think, remember, fear, and dream of – writers can create unforgettable stories that will stay with readers long after they’ve finished the last page.

9. A Good Story Needs Tension and Suspense

A good story needs tension and suspense in order to keep the reader engaged.

One way to create tension is by introducing conflict early on in the story. This can be done by having the protagonist face off against an antagonist or by having them come up against a challenging situation. It is also effective for character development, as early conflict gives us insight into the character’s flaws and how they need to change for the better in order to succeed later.

Another way to create tension is by building up to the climax, which should be a pivotal moment in the story that changes the course of events. This can be done by withholding information, gradually revealing information about the characters or the plot, or by raising the stakes throughout the course of the story.

Remember, tension and suspense are not about revealing information but withholding it until the last possible moment.

” There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it. “ Alfred Hitchcock

By creating tension and suspense, writers can keep their readers hooked from beginning to end.

10. A Good Story Needs Well-Timed Pacing

Pacing is how fast or slow your action unfolds.

A well-paced story will have moments of high action balanced with slower moments of reflection or character development. If everything happens too quickly, readers may get overwhelmed or lose interest; if things are happening too slowly, they may get bored. Finding the right balance of action and reflection will keep readers invested in both the memorable characters and plot. 

As noted in this article from the Nevada Film Office, there are a few key elements that can help to ensure great pacing in a story.

  • The plot should be carefully structured so that each scene leads logically to the next, even when taking into account surprises and unexpected developments.
  • The pacing should be varied throughout the story, with some faster-paced sections to break up the monotony and some slower-paced sections to allow for moments of reflection.
  • The dialogue should be sharp and snappy, without any unnecessary pauses or meandering conversations.
  • Your story should always be moving forward; there should never be a scene or chapter that feels like it could be cut without affecting the rest of the story. Every element of your story should serve a purpose and advance the plot in some way. 

11. Edit, Edit, Edit!

Once you’ve finished writing, put your work away for at least 24 hours; as this will give you some much-needed distance from your work so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Then, go through your work with a fine-tooth comb and get rid of anything that isn’t absolutely essential. A good story is one that has been thoroughly edited; don’t try to publish something before it’s ready. 

After you’ve done your best to edit your work, the best way to further improve your story is to get someone else to read it and give you their constructive feedback. Doesn’t matter if they’re a family member, friend, or professional editor – just so long as they’re willing to be critical and you are open to addressing shortcomings. You need to know what’s wrong with your story so you can fix it.

Remember, the editing process needs to address technical aspects, such as formatting, spelling, grammar, and so on, as well as aspects of the story itself, such as plot, characters, dialogue, pacing, and theme. Using film production software programs (such as Celtx) can help you keep track of these aspects of filmmaking.

Once you’ve made the necessary changes, it’s time to get feedback again. Repeat this process until you’re sure your story is the best it can be. Only then should you think about submitting it to producers, executive producers , agents , screenplay competitions, or posting it to script-sharing sites. Remember, the competition is fierce, so make sure your story is the best it can be before you send it out into the world.

Common Questions About Writing a Great Story

What are the steps to write a good story.

There is no single formula for writing a good story, but there are a few important elements that should always be considered. First, it is important to choose an engaging subject matter that will captivate the reader’s attention. Next, the story should have a strong narrative arc that builds tension and keeps the reader interested. Finally, the story should be populated with well-developed characters who feel real and relatable.

What are the 7 Elements of a Story?

A story has seven elements: characters, plot, setting, conflict, resolution, theme, and point of view. Characters refer to the people (or animals) who populate the story, and their character development. Plot is the sequence of events that take place. Setting is the time and place of the story. Conflict is the problem that needs to be resolved. Resolution is the solution to the conflict. Theme is the underlying message of the story. Point of view is the perspective from which the story is told. All seven elements are essential to a successful story.

What are the 5 Characteristics of a Good Story?

A good story should have the following five characteristics: plot, conflict, character, setting, and theme. Plot is the sequence of events that make up the story. Conflict is the struggle that the protagonist must overcome. Characters are the people who populate the story. Setting is the time and place in which the story takes place. Theme is the central idea or message of the story. A well-crafted story will have all of these elements working together from the opening line, in order to create a cohesive and engaging tale.

Writing a good story takes time, effort, and revision; there’s no such thing as a perfect first draft (no matter what anyone tells you).

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to writing a great story that will engage and entertain readers from beginning to end!

how to write a good narrative story

Neil Chase is a story and writing coach, award-winning screenwriter, actor, and author of the horror-western novel, Iron Dogs.  Neil has won over 100 international awards for his writing and filmmaking, including the prestigious FilmMaker’s International Screenwriting Grand Prize Award & the ScreamFest Best Screenplay Award. His directorial-debut feature film, Spin The Wheel, is currently in post-production. Neil believes that all writers have the potential to create great work. His passion is helping writers find their voice and develop their skills so that they can create stories that are both entertaining and meaningful. If you’re ready to take your writing to the next level, check out his website for tips and inspiration!

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How To Write A Narrative

Writing a narrative can be a challenging task, but with the right approach and techniques, anyone can create a compelling and engaging story. Whether you’re writing a personal narrative, a fictional story, or a historical account, there are certain elements and strategies that can help you craft a well-written and impactful narrative.

The first step in writing a narrative is to choose a topic or theme that you want to explore. This could be a personal experience, an idea or concept that interests you, or an event from history. Once you have your topic in mind, it’s important to consider the purpose of your narrative. Are you trying to entertain, inform, persuade, or reflect on an experience? Understanding your purpose will help guide the direction of your story.

Next, it’s essential to create well-developed characters and settings. Whether your narrative is based on real people and places or entirely fictional, it’s important to provide enough detail and description to bring them to life for your readers. Consider the motivations and personalities of your characters, as well as the time and place in which your story takes place.

As you begin writing your narrative, pay attention to the structure and pacing of your story. A strong narrative typically includes an introduction that sets the stage for the story, a series of events that build tension and conflict, and a resolution that provides closure for the reader. Consider using techniques such as foreshadowing, flashbacks, and dialogue to keep your readers engaged and interested in the outcome of your story.

Finally, don’t forget about the importance of revision and editing. Once you’ve completed a draft of your narrative, take the time to review and revise it for clarity, coherence, and impact. Consider seeking feedback from others to gain different perspectives on your story and make any necessary changes before sharing it with a wider audience.

In conclusion, writing a narrative requires careful planning, attention to detail, and effective storytelling techniques. By choosing an engaging topic, developing strong characters and settings, structuring your story effectively, and revising carefully, anyone can create a compelling narrative that resonates with readers. With practice and dedication, you can hone your skills as a storyteller and continue to produce meaningful narratives for years to come.

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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.


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.


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.


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 !

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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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The short story is a fiction writer’s laboratory: here is where you can experiment with characters, plots, and ideas without the heavy lifting of writing a novel. Learning how to write a short story is essential to mastering the art of storytelling . With far fewer words to worry about, storytellers can make many more mistakes—and strokes of genius!—through experimentation and the fun of fiction writing.

Nonetheless, the art of writing short stories is not easy to master. How do you tell a complete story in so few words? What does a story need to have in order to be successful? Whether you’re struggling with how to write a short story outline, or how to fully develop a character in so few words, this guide is your starting point.

Famous authors like Virginia Woolf, Haruki Murakami, and Agatha Christie have used the short story form to play with ideas before turning those stories into novels. Whether you want to master the elements of fiction, experiment with novel ideas, or simply have fun with storytelling, here’s everything you need on how to write a short story step by step.

The Core Elements of a Short Story

There’s no secret formula to writing a short story. However, a good short story will have most or all of the following elements:

  • A protagonist with a certain desire or need. It is essential for the protagonist to want something they don’t have, otherwise they will not drive the story forward.
  • A clear dilemma. We don’t need much backstory to see how the dilemma started; we’re primarily concerned with how the protagonist resolves it.
  • A decision. What does the protagonist do to resolve their dilemma?
  • A climax. In Freytag’s Pyramid , the climax of a story is when the tension reaches its peak, and the reader discovers the outcome of the protagonist’s decision(s).
  • An outcome. How does the climax change the protagonist? Are they a different person? Do they have a different philosophy or outlook on life?

Of course, short stories also utilize the elements of fiction , such as a setting , plot , and point of view . It helps to study these elements and to understand their intricacies. But, when it comes to laying down the skeleton of a short story, the above elements are what you need to get started.

Note: a short story rarely, if ever, has subplots. The focus should be entirely on a single, central storyline. Subplots will either pull focus away from the main story, or else push the story into the territory of novellas and novels.

The shorter the story is, the fewer of these elements are essentials. If you’re interested in writing short-short stories, check out our guide on how to write flash fiction .

How to Write a Short Story Outline

Some writers are “pantsers”—they “write by the seat of their pants,” making things up on the go with little more than an idea for a story. Other writers are “plotters,” meaning they decide the story’s structure in advance of writing it.

You don’t need a short story outline to write a good short story. But, if you’d like to give yourself some scaffolding before putting words on the page, this article answers the question of how to write a short story outline:


How to Write a Short Story Step by Step

There are many ways to approach the short story craft, but this method is tried-and-tested for writers of all levels. Here’s how to write a short story step by step.

1. Start With an Idea

Often, generating an idea is the hardest part. You want to write, but what will you write about?

What’s more, it’s easy to start coming up with ideas and then dismissing them. You want to tell an authentic, original story, but everything you come up with has already been written, it seems.

Here are a few tips:

  • Originality presents itself in your storytelling, not in your ideas. For example, the premise of both Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ostrovsky’s The Snow Maiden are very similar: two men and two women, in intertwining love triangles, sort out their feelings for each other amidst mischievous forest spirits, love potions, and friendship drama. The way each story is written makes them very distinct from one another, to the point where, unless it’s pointed out to you, you might not even notice the similarities.
  • An idea is not a final draft. You will find that exploring the possibilities of your story will generate something far different than the idea you started out with. This is a good thing—it means you made the story your own!
  • Experiment with genres and tropes. Even if you want to write literary fiction , pay attention to the narrative structures that drive genre stories, and practice your storytelling using those structures. Again, you will naturally make the story your own simply by playing with ideas.

If you’re struggling simply to find ideas, try out this prompt generator , or pull prompts from this Twitter .

2. Outline, OR Conceive Your Characters

If you plan to outline, do so once you’ve generated an idea. You can learn about how to write a short story outline earlier in this article.

If you don’t plan to outline, you should at least start with a character or characters. Certainly, you need a protagonist, but you should also think about any characters that aid or inhibit your protagonist’s journey.

When thinking about character development, ask the following questions:

  • What is my character’s background? Where do they come from, how did they get here, where do they want to be?
  • What does your character desire the most? This can be both material or conceptual, like “fitting in” or “being loved.”
  • What is your character’s fatal flaw? In other words, what limitation prevents the protagonist from achieving their desire? Often, this flaw is a blind spot that directly counters their desire. For example, self hatred stands in the way of a protagonist searching for love.
  • How does your character think and speak? Think of examples, both fictional and in the real world, who might resemble your character.

In short stories, there are rarely more characters than a protagonist, an antagonist (if relevant), and a small group of supporting characters. The more characters you include, the longer your story will be. Focus on making only one or two characters complex: it is absolutely okay to have the rest of the cast be flat characters that move the story along.

Learn more about character development here:


3. Write Scenes Around Conflict

Once you have an outline or some characters, start building scenes around conflict. Every part of your story, including the opening sentence, should in some way relate to the protagonist’s conflict.

Conflict is the lifeblood of storytelling: without it, the reader doesn’t have a clear reason to keep reading. Loveable characters are not enough, as the story has to give the reader something to root for.

Take, for example, Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Cask of Amontillado . We start at the conflict: the narrator has been slighted by Fortunato, and plans to exact revenge. Every scene in the story builds tension and follows the protagonist as he exacts this revenge.

In your story, start writing scenes around conflict, and make sure each paragraph and piece of dialogue relates, in some way, to your protagonist’s unmet desires.

4. Write Your First Draft

The scenes you build around conflict will eventually be stitched into a complete story. Make sure as the story progresses that each scene heightens the story’s tension, and that this tension remains unbroken until the climax resolves whether or not your protagonist meets their desires.

Don’t stress too hard on writing a perfect story. Rather, take Anne Lamott’s advice, and “write a shitty first draft.” The goal is not to pen a complete story at first draft; rather, it’s to set ideas down on paper. You are simply, as Shannon Hale suggests, “shoveling sand into a box so that later [you] can build castles.”

5. Step Away, Breathe, Revise

Whenever Stephen King finishes a novel, he puts it in a drawer and doesn’t think about it for 6 weeks. With short stories, you probably don’t need to take as long of a break. But, the idea itself is true: when you’ve finished your first draft, set it aside for a while. Let yourself come back to the story with fresh eyes, so that you can confidently revise, revise, revise .

In revision, you want to make sure each word has an essential place in the story, that each scene ramps up tension, and that each character is clearly defined. The culmination of these elements allows a story to explore complex themes and ideas, giving the reader something to think about after the story has ended.

6. Compare Against Our Short Story Checklist

Does your story have everything it needs to succeed? Compare it against this short story checklist, as written by our instructor Rosemary Tantra Bensko.

Below is a collection of practical short story writing tips by Writers.com instructor Rosemary Tantra Bensko . Each paragraph is its own checklist item: a core element of short story writing advice to follow unless you have clear reasons to the contrary. We hope it’s a helpful resource in your own writing.

Update 9/1/2020: We’ve now made a summary of Rosemary’s short story checklist available as a PDF download . Enjoy!

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Click to download

How to Write a Short Story: Length and Setting

Your short story is 1000 to 7500 words in length.

The story takes place in one time period, not spread out or with gaps other than to drive someplace, sleep, etc. If there are those gaps, there is a space between the paragraphs, the new paragraph beginning flush left, to indicate a new scene.

Each scene takes place in one location, or in continual transit, such as driving a truck or flying in a plane.

How to Write a Short Story: Point of View

Unless it’s a very lengthy Romance story, in which there may be two Point of View (POV) characters, there is one POV character. If we are told what any character secretly thinks, it will only be the POV character. The degree to which we are privy to the unexpressed thoughts, memories and hopes of the POV character remains consistent throughout the story.

You avoid head-hopping by only having one POV character per scene, even in a Romance. You avoid straying into even brief moments of telling us what other characters think other than the POV character. You use words like “apparently,” “obviously,” or “supposedly” to suggest how non-POV-characters think rather than stating it.

How to Write a Short Story: Protagonist, Antagonist, Motivation

Your short story has one clear protagonist who is usually the character changing most.

Your story has a clear antagonist, who generally makes the protagonist change by thwarting his goals.

(Possible exception to the two short story writing tips above: In some types of Mystery and Action stories, particularly in a series, etc., the protagonist doesn’t necessarily grow personally, but instead his change relates to understanding the antagonist enough to arrest or kill him.)

The protagonist changes with an Arc arising out of how he is stuck in his Flaw at the beginning of the story, which makes the reader bond with him as a human, and feel the pain of his problems he causes himself. (Or if it’s the non-personal growth type plot: he’s presented at the beginning of the story with a high-stakes problem that requires him to prevent or punish a crime.)

The protagonist usually is shown to Want something, because that’s what people normally do, defining their personalities and behavior patterns, pushing them onward from day to day. This may be obvious from the beginning of the story, though it may not become heightened until the Inciting Incident , which happens near the beginning of Act 1. The Want is usually something the reader sort of wants the character to succeed in, while at the same time, knows the Want is not in his authentic best interests. This mixed feeling in the reader creates tension.

The protagonist is usually shown to Need something valid and beneficial, but at first, he doesn’t recognize it, admit it, honor it, integrate it with his Want, or let the Want go so he can achieve the Need instead. Ideally, the Want and Need can be combined in a satisfying way toward the end for the sake of continuity of forward momentum of victoriously achieving the goals set out from the beginning. It’s the encounters with the antagonist that forcibly teach the protagonist to prioritize his Needs correctly and overcome his Flaw so he can defeat the obstacles put in his path.

The protagonist in a personal growth plot needs to change his Flaw/Want but like most people, doesn’t automatically do that when faced with the problem. He tries the easy way, which doesn’t work. Only when the Crisis takes him to a low point does he boldly change enough to become victorious over himself and the external situation. What he learns becomes the Theme.

Each scene shows its main character’s goal at its beginning, which aligns in a significant way with the protagonist’s overall goal for the story. The scene has a “charge,” showing either progress toward the goal or regression away from the goal by the ending. Most scenes end with a negative charge, because a story is about not obtaining one’s goals easily, until the end, in which the scene/s end with a positive charge.

The protagonist’s goal of the story becomes triggered until the Inciting Incident near the beginning, when something happens to shake up his life. This is the only major thing in the story that is allowed to be a random event that occurs to him.

How to Write a Short Story: Characters

Your characters speak differently from one another, and their dialogue suggests subtext, what they are really thinking but not saying: subtle passive-aggressive jibes, their underlying emotions, etc.

Your characters are not illustrative of ideas and beliefs you are pushing for, but come across as real people.

How to Write a Short Story: Prose

Your language is succinct, fresh and exciting, specific, colorful, avoiding clichés and platitudes. Sentence structures vary. In Genre stories, the language is simple, the symbolism is direct, and words are well-known, and sentences are relatively short. In Literary stories, you are freer to use more sophisticated ideas, words, sentence structures and underlying metaphors and implied motifs.

How to Write a Short Story: Story Structure

Your plot elements occur in the proper places according to classical Act Structure so the reader feels he has vicariously gone through a harrowing trial with the protagonist and won, raising his sense of hope and possibility. Literary short stories may be more subtle, with lower stakes, experimenting beyond classical structures like the Hero’s Journey. They can be more like vignettes sometimes, or even slice-of-life, though these types are hard to place in publications.

In Genre stories, all the questions are answered, threads are tied up, problems are solved, though the results of carnage may be spread over the landscape. In Literary short stories, you are free to explore uncertainty, ambiguity, and inchoate, realistic endings that suggest multiple interpretations, and unresolved issues.

Some Literary stories may be nonrealistic, such as with Surrealism, Absurdism, New Wave Fabulism, Weird and Magical Realism . If this is what you write, they still need their own internal logic and they should not be bewildering as to the what the reader is meant to experience, whether it’s a nuanced, unnameable mood or a trip into the subconscious.

Literary stories may also go beyond any label other than Experimental. For example, a story could be a list of To Do items on a paper held by a magnet to a refrigerator for the housemate to read. The person writing the list may grow more passive-aggressive and manipulative as the list grows, and we learn about the relationship between the housemates through the implied threats and cajoling.

How to Write a Short Story: Capturing Reader Interest

Your short story is suspenseful, meaning readers hope the protagonist will achieve his best goal, his Need, by the Climax battle against the antagonist.

Your story entertains. This is especially necessary for Genre short stories.

The story captivates readers at the very beginning with a Hook, which can be a puzzling mystery to solve, an amazing character’s or narrator’s Voice, an astounding location, humor, a startling image, or a world the reader wants to become immersed in.

Expository prose (telling, like an essay) takes up very, very little space in your short story, and it does not appear near the beginning. The story is in Narrative format instead, in which one action follows the next. You’ve removed every unnecessary instance of Expository prose and replaced it with showing Narrative. Distancing words like “used to,” “he would often,” “over the years, he,” “each morning, he” indicate that you are reporting on a lengthy time period, summing it up, rather than sticking to Narrative format, in which immediacy makes the story engaging.

You’ve earned the right to include Expository Backstory by making the reader yearn for knowing what happened in the past to solve a mystery. This can’t possibly happen at the beginning, obviously. Expository Backstory does not take place in the first pages of your story.

Your reader cares what happens and there are high stakes (especially important in Genre stories). Your reader worries until the end, when the protagonist survives, succeeds in his quest to help the community, gets the girl, solves or prevents the crime, achieves new scientific developments, takes over rule of his realm, etc.

Every sentence is compelling enough to urge the reader to read the next one—because he really, really wants to—instead of doing something else he could be doing. Your story is not going to be assigned to people to analyze in school like the ones you studied, so you have found a way from the beginning to intrigue strangers to want to spend their time with your words.

Where to Read and Submit Short Stories

Whether you’re looking for inspiration or want to publish your own stories, you’ll find great literary journals for writers of all backgrounds at this article:


Learn How to Write a Short Story at Writers.com

The short story takes an hour to learn and a lifetime to master. Learn how to write a short story with Writers.com. Our upcoming fiction courses will give you the ropes to tell authentic, original short stories that captivate and entrance your readers.

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Rosemary – Is there any chance you could add a little something to your checklist? I’d love to know the best places to submit our short stories for publication. Thanks so much.

' src=

Hi, Kim Hanson,

Some good places to find publications specific to your story are NewPages, Poets and Writers, Duotrope, and The Submission Grinder.

' src=

“ In Genre stories, all the questions are answered, threads are tied up, problems are solved, though the results of carnage may be spread over the landscape.”

Not just no but NO.

See for example the work of MacArthur Fellow Kelly Link.

[…] How to Write a Short Story: The Short Story Checklist […]

' src=

Thank you for these directions and tips. It’s very encouraging to someone like me, just NOW taking up writing.

[…] Writers.com. A great intro to writing. https://writers.com/how-to-write-a-short-story […]

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How to tell a captivating story — from a wedding toast to a job interview

Headshot of Elise Hu

Audrey Nguyen

Illustration of a person manifesting a glowing universe in their hands as they tell a story, creating a world with their words. They are surrounded by four people looking on at their universe in awe.

Our lives are filled with storytelling, from the stories we tell our friends over dinner, to the ones we tell at eulogies, during toasts, at job interviews and on dates.

This acronym will help you give the perfect toast

7 tips on giving a memorable toast for any occasion

"[Stories] make us laugh and they make us feel hope, and they make us feel like it's going to be OK, [like] we're less alone," says Sarah Austin Jenness, the executive producer of The Moth , an organization and podcast dedicated to teaching and promoting the craft of storytelling. Jenness is one of the co-authors of How to Tell a Story: the Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from The Moth .

Book cover of "How To Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from The Moth."

Stories help us relate to each other and build community, say Jenness and her co-author and fellow storytelling coach, Meg Bowles. Leveling up our storytelling game can lead to more meaningful connections.

Here's their step-by-step guide on how to tell a story, from an idea to delivery:

1. Understand that a story is more than a scene or an anecdote.

Does the story you want to tell have a beginning, a middle and an end? Does it have tension? Does it show some sort of transformation? These are the basic elements that make an anecdote blossom into a full-bodied story.

When you're telling a story, you aren't just describing what happened when you walked into the coffee shop and saw your ex on a date. You're telling us how that moment felt emotionally, how you were affected, how you reacted and how you're a different person after having endured that moment.

2. Select a meaningful story.

Each of us has hundreds of stories we could tell. How do we know which one to pursue? "I always say to think back to moments in your life that really shifted you in some way," Bowles says. "Dig in to that."

When you think of a moment, ask yourself, "Why did that moment stick with me? What about that moment was important to me?"

"You start to see patterns of your story arise," says Bowles.

Big decisions are a good place to find stories; so are embarrassing moments and mistakes. Think of a time you did something but it didn't go as planned. Within these kinds of prompts you can begin to explore moments of vulnerability.

If you're not sure how or where to start mining for your own stories, here are some helpful prompts:

  • If your life were a movie, what's one scene you'll never forget? 
  • What's something someone said to you that you'll never forget? 
  • Tell us about a breakthrough moment. 
  • Tell us about a time you had to follow your heart. 
  • Tell us about a moment you were reunited with something you treasure.

3. Develop your story.

Once you find the story you want to tell, put it under a magnifying glass to blow it up big. Where were you (physically, mentally, emotionally) in that moment? How did it impact your life? What were the results?

Boil your story down to one sentence that helps focus what it's really about. For example, "It took a disaster for me to understand the important role my father played in our community." This will help you decide which details support your main point.

Every family has stories to tell. Here's how to document yours

Every family has stories to tell. Here's how to document yours

Remember that in any great story you're not just sharing events that happened, you're also sharing the thoughts and feelings running through you during those events.

4. Figure out the structure.

A good rule of thumb is to start in the action of the story – this will draw people in. From there, ask yourself if you'll tell your story in chronological order, or if you'll start at the end and find your way back to the beginning, or if you want tell it in a series of flashbacks instead of a linear structure.

Don't worry about getting too fancy with the structure – often, telling a story chronologically is the best way to go. "You want to take people through the journey so they can experience what you experienced, " Bowles says.

5. Understand how you've changed by the end.

By this point, you know the moment your story is centered on, what the stakes or tensions are and how you want to tell the story. Writing the ending can be the hardest part.

"Stories in real life usually aren't tied up with a bow," Jenness says. "You just have to end the story in a different place than [where] you began."

The key to a good ending is showing the audience your transformation over the course of the story, even if it's a slight transformation. "There's the 'you' we met in the beginning and the 'you' at the end," she explains.

6. Ask yourself if you're ready to share the story.

If you're considering telling a story rooted in vulnerability or trauma, it's important to consider whether you're emotionally ready to share that story.

Here are some signs you might not be ready to tell a story publicly:

  • if you get stuck on one scene and aren't able to come out of it because you're reliving it – this can happen with traumatic events and could be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder. 
  • if it's tough to find an ending to a story, it may mean that you're still living it. You might need to "press pause" and return to the story when you've had more time to process.

7. Before you deliver the story, practice, practice and practice again – but don't memorize it.

It's natural to feel nerves before sharing a story aloud. Become very familiar with your story. Practice enough to be comfortable telling it from memory, but the Moth team recommends that you don't memorize it word for word. If you memorize it verbatim, your delivery can sound stiff and you might go blank.

"Stories are alive and they're meant to sound alive," Bowles says.

A good strategy is to really learn the words you want to use for the beginning and end of your story, but keep your notes in between as bullet points. That way you can naturally fill the gaps, but you have your most important elements well-rehearsed.

"If you go blank on stage, just think, 'What happened next?'" Jenness says. "If you realize you didn't set it up right, you can always say 'Now, what I forgot to tell you about my mom is...' or 'What you really need to know...'"

8. Remember that storytelling is not about the storyteller – it's about connection.

Want to listen better? Turn down your thoughts and tune in to others

Want To Listen Better? Turn Down Your Thoughts And Tune In To Others

Keep it short and tight. If you're telling a story in a more interactive environment, like over dinner, remember that the purpose of storytelling is to engage with others. It's not about taking the spotlight for the entire time you're with someone. You want to offer a jumping-off point for someone else to share their own story, too.

Want to practice listening and find inspiration? Check out stories heard on The Moth .

Elise Hu is also the host of the TED Talks Daily podcast.

The podcast portion of this story was produced by Audrey Nguyen and Meghan Keane.

We'd love to hear from you. If you have a good life hack, leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823 or email us at [email protected] . Your tip could appear in an upcoming episode.

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></center></p><ul><li>Flag of Germany</li><li>Flag of France, by Adam Stanislav</li></ul><p>bibisco Novel Writing Software</p><p><center><img style=

How to Write a Novel: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • by Andrea Feccomandi
  • March 24, 2024

Starting to write a novel is like beginning a big adventure.

It takes bravery , strength , and a bit of audacity . It’s not just about writing words down but creating a story that touches people’s hearts and minds .

Think of this guide as your map, helping you through the complex journey of writing a novel.

How can someone with no experience write a book?

Imagine a world birthed from the recesses of your imagination, characters who feel like old friends, and a story that echoes the very essence of human experience. This is the power of a novel. But how does one begin this creative endeavor?

You should start by understanding that novel writing is an intricate art form , a balance between disciplined structure and unbridled creativity. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and like any long journey, it starts with a single step.

You need not be intimidated by the scope of the task ahead. Instead, embrace it with a spirit of exploration and the willingness to learn as you go .

Remember, every novelist was once a beginner . The literary giants whose works we revere once stood exactly where you stand now – at the beginning of an untold story.

Take comfort in the knowledge that the path you’re about to tread has been walked by many before you, and each of them started with a blank page .

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page. Jodi Picoult

How to write a novel for beginners: tips for writers with no prior experience

So, you’re at the threshold, ready to write your first novel. Here are some tips that can help you in this incredible journey.

  • Immerse yourself in the genre you wish to write . Read widely and critically, absorbing the nuances of pacing, character development , and plot construction. This will fuel your imagination and give you a firm grasp of what makes a novel successful within your chosen genre.
  • Brainstorm . Let your ideas flow without censorship. Craft the seed of your story – a premise that excites you and holds the promise of a flourishing narrative. This seed will grow into the heart of your novel, the central theme that will guide your writing journey.
  • Embrace your unique voice . You have a story within you that no one else can tell. Trust in your perspective and allow it to inform your writing. Your inexperience can be a strength , lending a distinctive flavor to your narrative that seasoned writers might struggle to capture.
  • Educate yourself on the craft . There are countless resources available – from books on writing to online courses and writing groups – that can provide guidance and support. Learning the basics of narrative structure , character development, and dialogue can significantly elevate the quality of your manuscript.
  • Set realistic goals and a consistent writing schedule . Writing a novel requires discipline. Determine an achievable daily word count, and commit to writing regularly. This routine will help transform writing from a mere aspiration into a vital part of your daily life.
  • Be patient with yourself . Writing a novel is a process of growth and discovery. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Each word you write is a step forward in your journey as an author, and with perseverance, you will reach your destination.
  • Celebrate each milestone . Take a moment to acknowledge the progress you’ve made from the first word you wrote to the final edit. You’ve transformed a flicker of thought into a world others can explore and enjoy. That, in itself, is an extraordinary feat.
  • Take care of yourself . Writing a novel can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Ensure you’re getting enough rest, eating well, and engaging in activities that rejuvenate your spirit. A healthy writer is a productive writer.
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. William Faulkner

How to write a novel step-by-step

Diving into the detailed process of novel writing can seem overwhelming, but breaking it down into manageable steps can demystify the process and provide a clear roadmap to follow.

#1 Ideation and conceptualization

Your novel starts with an idea, a spark of inspiration. This can come from anywhere – a dream, an overheard conversation, a personal experience. Nurture this idea, expand upon it, and consider the different ways it could unfold into a story.

How to write a novel: mind map tools in bibisco.

#2 Research and development

Once your idea has taken root, it’s time to research. Whether it’s historical accuracy, scientific plausibility, or cultural richness, your novel will benefit from depth and authenticity. During this phase, you’ll also develop your characters, setting , and plot , fleshing out the world you’re about to create.

#3 Outlining

With research and development complete, construct your outline. Detail the major plot points and consider the journey each character will undergo. This outline will act as your navigational chart through the turbulent seas of novel writing.

#4 First draft

Now, begin your first draft. Write with abandon, allowing your story to flow. Don’t worry about perfection; focus on getting your story down on paper. This draft is for your eyes only, a place where you can tell your story honestly and without fear.

#5 Revision and editing

After completing your first draft, step away from your manuscript for a while. Returning with fresh eyes, you’ll be better equipped to revise and edit. This is a painstaking but crucial step where you refine your narrative , enhance your prose, and tighten your plot.

#6 Feedback

Once you’ve polished your novel, seek feedback from trusted beta readers or a professional editor. Their insights will be invaluable in identifying areas for improvement and ensuring your story resonates with readers.

#7 Final edits

Incorporate the feedback you’ve received and make the final edits to your manuscript. This is the stage where your novel truly starts to shine, as you fine-tune language, dialogue, and pacing.

#8 Preparation for publication

With your manuscript complete, research your publishing options. Whether you choose traditional publishing or the indie route, prepare your submission materials or take the steps necessary for self-publishing.

#9 Marketing and promotion

As publication approaches, begin to market your novel. Create an author platform, connect with readers, and build anticipation for your book’s release. Your novel’s journey doesn’t end with publication; it’s just the beginning of sharing your story with the world.

How to write a novel: common errors to avoid

Overcomplicating the plot.

One of the pitfalls many new writers encounter is creating a too convoluted plot. While complexity can add depth to a story, too many twists and subplots can confuse readers and detract from the main narrative.

Ensure your plot is engaging but not so intricate that it becomes difficult to follow. Each plot point should propel your characters toward their goals and contribute to the overall story arc.

Neglecting Character Development

Characters are the heart of your novel. Avoid the mistake of underdeveloping your protagonists or making them one-dimensional.

Your characters should grow and change throughout the story , facing challenges that test their beliefs and push them to evolve. Readers connect with characters that are flawed, relatable, and dynamic, so invest time in crafting their journeys.

How to write a novel: character development tools in bibisco

Ignoring the Revision Process

The revision process is where your novel truly comes into its own, yet it’s often underestimated by beginners. Don’t rush to publish your first draft . Take the time to rework your manuscript, focusing on strengthening your prose, deepening your characters, and tightening your plot.

Seek feedback from beta readers or writing groups, and be open to constructive criticism. Revising is a crucial step in polishing your novel to its full potential.

How to write a novel: bibisco writing software can help aspiring writers

Novel writing software can be an invaluable tool in organizing and crafting your narrative. Many options are available to suit your needs, from word-processing programs to specialized writing applications.

bibisco writer software is particularly suitable for aspiring writers among the various writing programs. Here’s how bibisco’s features designed for writers can help you.


bibisco helps writers organize their thoughts, characters, and plotlines. It provides templates and tools for structuring the novel, including sections for characters, scenes, locations, and chapters.

How to writea novel: chapters management in bibisco

Character Development

bibisco assists in developing well-rounded characters by prompting you to define their characters’ traits, motivations, and relationships. This helps ensure consistency and depth in character portrayal throughout the novel.

Plot Planning

bibisco offers features to help writers outline their plot, including tools for creating timelines, mind maps, and plot arcs. This can be especially helpful for first-time novelists struggling with structuring their narrative.

bibisco's timeline tool

Writing Process Support

bibisco provides a distraction-free writing environment that allows you to focus solely on your work. It also tracks progress and word count, providing motivation and accountability throughout the writing process.

Exporting and Publishing

Once the novel is complete, bibisco allows writers to export their work into various formats, including PDF, eBook, or Word documents, making it easy to share with others or submit to publishers.

Overall, bibisco can be a valuable tool for aspiring writers embarking on their first novel-writing journey by providing organization, structure, and support throughout the entire writing process.

Conclusion: how to write a novel

The journey of writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a voyage that tests your resolve, challenges your creativity, and ultimately transforms you as a writer. As you embark on this quest, remember that every word you write is a step closer to achieving your dream . Embrace the highs and lows, the twists and turns, and the discoveries you’ll make about yourself along the way.

Your novel is your legacy, a testament to your dedication and passion for storytelling. It’s a gift to the world , a chance to touch the hearts and minds of readers who will journey through your pages. So take a deep breath, muster your courage, and begin. The blank page awaits your story, and only you can tell it.

As you move forward, bear in mind that while the path to writing a novel is filled with challenges, it’s also lined with the support of fellow writers, invaluable resources, and the unyielding power of your imagination. Write bravely, revise wisely, and never lose sight of the magic that sparked your desire to create.

Remember, the world needs your story, and it’s time for you to share it . Take the first step today, and let the adventure of novel writing unfold.

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  • He is writing a detailed narrative of his life on the island.

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Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > Four tips for writing a memoir

Four tips for writing a memoir

Everyone possesses a life story that’s worth sharing. Life’s experiences, from joys to sorrows, loves, and loves lost, collectively shape us, and connect us through shared human experiences. Because of this connection, memoirs can palpably resonate with readers. The key differentiator between your memoir being a best-seller or relegated to the bargain bin, aside from personal fame and popularity, lies in the quality of your writing. Tell your story in a way that truly resonates with your audience by applying these four invaluable tips for writing a memoir.

A picture of an empty notebook

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a narrative that highlights a specific moment in an author’s life. Often mistaken for an autobiography, memoirs tend to offer a more intimate perspective. Authors unpack a vulnerable and impactful moment that profoundly influenced them in a way that forges a connection with their readers. These authentic, real-life experiences are shaped by the author’s emotional response to an event, emphasizing personal interpretation and how it affected them rather than serving as a historical account.

Tips for writing a memoir

If you’ve decided to write a memoir, it’s important to remember that you’re not giving an account of your entire life. Instead, narrow your lens and focus on a few specific moments that influenced you, as opposed to an entire autobiography. Now that you understand the essence of a memoir, let’s explore some essential tips to enhance your writing:

Select a snapshot of your life

1. tell the truth.

Above all, your audience must trust you. While a memoir allows you to infuse your feelings and interpretations into events, it must remain grounded in fact, not fiction. Present the events as they occurred truthfully. The essence of a memoir lies in delving deeply into how an event transformed you, so maintain honesty with both yourself and your readers as you write.

2. Make your memoir a narrative with rich characters

Breathing life into well-developed and relatable characters is what truly brings a story to life, whether it’s a poem , short story, or memoir. When referencing people in your life, delve into their character by considering their motivations, their connection to you, and other pertinent factors as you recount your story. This approach allows readers to establish a personal connection with these individuals, making your narrative more engaging and emotionally resonant.

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3. Consider joining a memoir writing group

Give thought to becoming a part of a memoir writing group or workshop. Fellow writers can serve as excellent editors, offering valuable feedback and support. Additionally, such a group can provide you with accountability, enabling you to track your progress while gaining fresh perspectives on your writing.

4. Avoid cliches and stereotypes

To connect with your audience, it’s important to keep your story feeling fresh by steering clear of clichéd phrases and stereotypes in your memoir. Find your unique voice and embrace its originality using colloquialisms , tone , and delivery, allowing your writing to stand out without relying on tropes.

Memoirs possess the inherent power to weave compelling narratives. Effective memoirs, devoid of clichés and stereotypes, can immerse audience members in genuine experiences. Use these tips to dig deep into your personal experiences and deliver truthful, impactful narratives to your audience. For more techniques to captivate readers with accounts of your personal experiences, learn more writing tips .

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  1. Narrative Writing Sample- Grade 6

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  2. Narrative Writing Ideas for Students

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  1. How to Write a Narrative: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

    Vivid details are essential to crafting a narrative, so practicing descriptive writing is time well spent. You may also be able to work a description of a coffee cup, chirping bird, or passerby into your narrative. 4. Choose a theme or message for your narrative. A narrative needs a point.

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

    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 .

  3. How to Write a Narrative Essay

    Interactive example of a narrative essay. 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. Narrative essay example.

  4. How to Write a Perfect Narrative Essay (Step-by-Step)

    A narrative essay is a form of writing where you share a personal experience or tell a story to make a point or convey a lesson. Unlike other types of essays, a narrative essay aims to engage your audience by sharing your perspective and taking them on an emotional journey. To begin, choose a meaningful topic. Pick a story or experience that ...

  5. How to Write a Personal Narrative: Steps and Examples

    However, like any other type of writing, it comes with guidelines. 1. Write Your Personal Narrative as a Story. As a story, it must include an introduction, characters, plot, setting, climax, anti-climax (if any), and conclusion. Another way to approach it is by structuring it with an introduction, body, and conclusion.

  6. What Is Narrative Writing? A Guide

    Updated on August 4, 2021 Writing Tips. Narrative writing is, essentially, story writing. A narrative can be fiction or nonfiction, and it can also occupy the space between these as a semi-autobiographical story, historical fiction, or a dramatized retelling of actual events. As long as a piece tells a story through a narrative structure, it ...

  7. How To Write A Narrative: Tips And Techniques For Engaging Storytelling

    5. Resolution. How to write a narrative: Choosing your narrative subject. A. The significance of selecting the right subject. B. Personal experiences vs. fictional stories. - Personal experiences: - Fictional stories: C. Finding inspiration for your narrative.

  8. How to Write a Narrative Essay in 5 Steps

    Step 1: Topic choice (or prompt given) The first step in writing a narrative essay is to determine the topic. Sometimes, your topic is chosen for you in the form of a prompt. You might map out the topics you want to mention in the essay or think through each point you'd like to make to see how each will fit into the allotted word count (if ...

  9. How to Write a Narrative Essay

    A narrative essay is a prose-written story that's focused on the commentary of a central theme. Narrative essays are generally written in the first-person POV, and are usually about a topic that's personal to the writer. Everything in a narrative essay should take place in an established timeline, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

  10. How to write a narrative essay [Updated 2023]

    1. Pick a meaningful story that has a conflict and a clear "moral.". If you're able to choose your own topic, pick a story that has meaning and that reveals how you became the person your are today. In other words, write a narrative with a clear "moral" that you can connect with your main points. 2.

  11. How to Write a Story In 6 Steps: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide to

    It's certainly exciting to think about all the different options that could be explored in a story. But where to begin? Every writer works in a different way. Some writers work straight through from beginning to end. Others work in pieces they arrange later, while others work from sentence to sentence. Whether you're writing a novel, novella, short story, or flash fiction, don't be ...

  12. How to Write a Great Story in 5 Steps

    To be a story, the following five elements must be present: Setting. Plot. Conflict. Character. Theme. In our six-word example above, the reader is tasked with inferring most of these elements from the few words provided, like who the characters are and the conflict that led to the baby shoes being placed for sale.

  13. How to Write a Good Story (11 Tips from an Actual Writer)

    Let's get started with 11 tips to help you write a good story: 1. Write Interesting, Believable Characters. Good stories require relatable characters that readers will remember long after they finish the book. There are a few key things to keep in mind when creating characters that will make your story stand out.

  14. How To Write A Narrative

    Whether you're writing a personal narrative, a fictional story, or a historical account, there are certain elements and strategies that can help you craft a well-written and impactful narrative. The first step in writing a narrative is to choose a topic or theme that you want to explore. This could be a personal experience, an idea or concept ...

  15. 3 Great Narrative Essay Examples + Tips for Writing

    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 ...

  16. How to Write a Short Story: The Short Story Checklist

    In your story, start writing scenes around conflict, and make sure each paragraph and piece of dialogue relates, in some way, to your protagonist's unmet desires. 4. Write Your First Draft. The scenes you build around conflict will eventually be stitched into a complete story.

  17. 10 Personal Narrative Examples to Inspire Your Writing

    To inspire your writing and reveal the sheer diversity of this type of essay, here are ten great examples personal narratives from recent years: Click to tweet! 1. "Only Disconnect" by Gary Shteyngart. Personal narratives don't have to be long to be effective, as this thousand-word gem from the NYT book review proves.

  18. How to Write a Short Story in 9 Simple Steps

    Know what a short story is versus a novel. 2. Pick a simple, central premise. 3. Build a small but distinct cast of characters. 4. Begin writing close to the end. 5. Shut out your internal editor.

  19. 5 Narrative Writing Examples

    His work is one of the best narrative essay examples of the 19th century. "My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady.". "Notes of a Native Son" by James Baldwin.

  20. How to tell a good story: 8 tips for captivating your audience : Life

    7. Before you deliver the story, practice, practice and practice again - but don't memorize it. It's natural to feel nerves before sharing a story aloud. Become very familiar with your story ...

  21. Best Narrative Story Ideas to Inspire Your Writing

    Describe your greatest fear, and how you have or have not overcome it yet. Pick one of your Instagram photos. Write about the story behind it. Prepare to kick your writing into gear by browsing through our list of 200+ Narrative short story ideas. New prompts are added each week, and you can search by genre.

  22. How to Write a Novel: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Let your ideas flow without censorship. Craft the seed of your story - a premise that excites you and holds the promise of a flourishing narrative. This seed will grow into the heart of your novel, the central theme that will guide your writing journey. Embrace your unique voice. You have a story within you that no one else can tell.

  23. How to Write a Short Story: Step-by-Step Guide

    Short stories are to novels what TV episodes are to movies. Short stories are a form of narrative writing that has all the same elements as novels—plot, character development, point of view, story structure, theme—but are delivered in fewer words. For many writers, short stories are a less daunting way to dive into creative writing than attempting to write a novel.

  24. Examples of 'Narrative' in a Sentence

    He is writing a detailed narrative of his life on the island. The first weaves in and out of the narrative of the film. — Jazz Tangcay, Variety , 6 Oct. 2023

  25. Four tips for writing a memoir

    The essence of a memoir lies in delving deeply into how an event transformed you, so maintain honesty with both yourself and your readers as you write. 2. Make your memoir a narrative with rich characters. Breathing life into well-developed and relatable characters is what truly brings a story to life, whether it's a poem, short story, or ...

  26. How to Summarize a Story: A Step-by-Step Guide

    A story summary is not the same as a story review or a literature analysis. A story summary is an objective overview of the story that focuses on the narrative arc of the story, highlighting the beginning, middle, and end, without personal opinions or analysis. The goal is to give the reader a clear understanding of the story's core events.