Understand the assignment
What is a narrative essay? The purpose of a narrative essay is to tell a story or to relate an experience. The events are usually told in chronological (time) order. These essays use words that show time like "after" and "then." For a narrative essay to be complete, it should include all parts of a story if told as a story (plot, characters, setting, climax, etc.)
Brainstorm to find a topic
Think about an event that was memorable for you. It could be a very happy event, an event that taught you something important, a time you were surprised, etc. Don't choose an event that is too big. For example, don't write about your first year in college. There will be too many things to write about in a 2-3 page essay. Instead, choose a smaller event, like your first day of college.
- A life-changing experience
- The first time ...
- The happiest day ...
- Overcoming an obstacle
- How I met my best friend
Think about some of the most memorable events in your life. Use the map below to complete a brainstorm activity.
Once you have your topic chosen, think about the event in as much detail as possible.
- Why was the event memorable?
- Where were you?
- Who was there?
- What did you see?
- What did you smell?
- What did you hear?
- How did you feel?
Choose a focus
If the story is very long, you may need to focus on a more specific part of the story (e.g., First day at the ELC > Emotions felt on the first day at the ELC). Do not choose a story that is too long or complicated for a short essay.
Outline your essay
A narrative essay follows typical essay organization with an introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.
Once your write your thesis statement, organize your story into paragraphs. There are many ways you can do that. Look at basic example outlines.
Example: Essay Outline #1
TH: The week of midterm exams was the most stressful week of my first semester of college.
TS: The week of midterms was stressful because I had six different tests to take.
TS: The week of midterms was stressful because it was also the week of cleaning checks.
TH: I struggled with a lot of stress during my first midterm exam experience.
Example: Essay Outline #2
TH: My worst piano performance taught me a very valuable lesson.
TS: It was my worst performance ever.
TS: I learned the value of having confidence.
TH: I learned how important confidence was from my worst performance ever.
Narrative essays have an introduction paragraph that establishes the setting, the characters, and any background knowledge readers need to understand your story. Your introduction paragraph should end with your thesis. The thesis tells the importance of the story (e.g., "My wedding was the happiest day of my life."
The body paragraphs in your narrative essay contain the plot. Divide your story up into major events and tell about each event in each of your body paragraphs. Each event you choose should support the thesis of your paper. The topic sentences for your body paragraphs should introduce the event that you will narrate in that paragraph.
The conclusion should tell how the story ended and re-emphasize the im- portance of the story. It should start by summarizing your thesis statement and end with a closing statement that in some way makes a prediction, suggestion, or opinion.
Exercise 1: Brainstorm
Spend five minutes answering the questions above.
This will help make the memory vivid in your mind. If you do not have a vivid memory, you will not be able to paint a clear picture for your reader. It's okay to start writing in short (or even incomplete) sentences
- Went to beach alone
- Felt peaceful
- Bright sun
- Heard the waves
Exercise 2: Write your thesis
After choosing a topic and focus for your paper, start outlining by thinking about why the event you chose is important. Use that information to write your thesis.
- The week of midterm exams was the most stressful week of my first semester of college.
- My graduation day was one of the most exciting days of my life.
- The most unforgettable experience was going skydiving.
- My worst piano performance taught me a very valuable lesson.
Your Thesis: ___________________________________________________
Exercise 3: Make an outline
Start your outline with your thesis sentence and your topic sentence.
You can add the other details after your outline is approved.