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The Ground Rule on Writing a Narrative Essay – Approach and Steps

An essay is, perhaps, the most flexible type of academic paper. Of course, it has some strict requirements for the structure and format. But its essence is to let you express your thoughts and reasoning. 

Due to the freeform nature, an essay may combine features of other genres. For instance, a narrative essay is a paper at the interface between creative writing and the traditional college essay. This dual nature can be both an advantage and a trouble. For many students, it means more freedom during work. Other performers face more severe challenges in exploring their storytelling and writing skills. In any case, most students need help with this job.  

This article is about how to write a narrative essay, and we hope that it will help you to do this demanding but exciting assignment.

The specificity of a narrative essay as a separate essay kind

A narrative essay is an essay type demanding to tell a story by sharing some personal experiences and emotions. It differentiates this assignment from other pieces of more “scientific” nature. Writing a narrative essay, you feel freer and can experiment with the form and contents.  

Such essays are often more popular among the public – people like exciting stories. Thus, if you produce an engaging story to grasp your audience – you are a success. However, it is not the most straightforward task. You have to understand the peculiarities of this paper type. Besides, this form does not give you the usual support of authoritative sources, which you can cite. However, you can use references to make the text more vivid or rely on them to stress your point of view.

The first helper when you learn how to write a narrative essay is an example. Look for highly evaluated samples of narrative essays in your library or google them on the Web. Collect several works and read them carefully. This way, you can understand what your professor wants to get from you.

After that, proceed to write your own narrative essay.

Writing a narrative essay – how to start and what to do next

Any essay type requires thorough preparations. Specific features of the narrative essay concern the writing style and “sources” – your primary source is your memories. However, an essay is still an essay, and all the standard preliminary steps are valid here as well.

Find the right topic

The first thing to care about is the topic choice. A narrative essay gives you many options – you can write about anything, literally – unless you have clear instructions in the task assignment. But in any case, there are some criteria to help you: 

  • Choose the topic that appeals to you. If you can talk about it passionately in a chat with your friends, you can surely turn that subject into an excellent narrative essay topic. 
  • Consider the emotional reactions of the audience. Storytelling always provokes emotions. So, you can try to anticipate how your public will accept the story. If there is a strong chance that they will neglect it or get abused – take another topic. 
  • Think about your own feelings. As you have to share your experience, you need to be open and sincere. It might be too emotional or painful for you. Make sure that you can remain in control when telling that story.  

Work the thesis statement out and build the structure

Irrelative of the essay form chosen – it can be a story, a parable, a confession, or any other kind – you need the thesis statement. Like you do for different essay types, you present the main idea of your work in this statement.

  • The thesis statement should introduce the topic or problem.
  • It should summarize your emotional experience for the audience. 
  • You can experiment with the contents – for instance, make an intrigue or hint what your readers will learn further.
  • But you should not use a fact or a “common knowledge” sample as your thesis statement. 
  • Neither should you make it a question or recommendation?

It is very often that you create a “narrator” for this essay type, and this persona is not obligatory you. So, you can present the thesis statement on behalf of that narrator and introduce the point of view. 

After you have the thesis statement, you can proceed to build the structure. Similar to other essays, you need to have the “three-part” schema with the Introduction, the Main Body, and the Conclusion parts.

  • The Introduction is the opening part of 3-5 sentences with a “hook” for the audience. It needs to explain what your essay is about and what it can bring to the readers or listeners. This way, it makes them interested and motivates them to follow your story.
  • Main Body is the story itself. The main demands are that all fragments must be in a logical order, with evident interlinks. The size of the Main Body part can be different. It depends on the essay requirements. But in most cases, you have 3-5 separate paragraphs, and in total, this significant part covers about 75% of your essay.  
  • Conclusion is a summary of your work. You refer to the thesis statement again and evaluate yourself, how well, you’ve coped with the task to prove your idea. Also, you can experiment with the narrative essay Conclusion form. For instance, it can be an open ending or a new provocative statement. In most cases, it is more or less of the same size as the Introduction.  

Many students wonder what the full size of a narrative essay should be. Obviously, it depends on the task requirements – college professors specify the number of pages or words. However, if you have the general instructions only, and you can change the recommended size, it is better to stay laconic. Don’t make the story too long, but make sure that you can expose the topic appropriately. 

Practical writing of a narrative essay

Before you start to write the text, recheck the task requirements. Make sure that you’ve gotten them all correctly, and your plans match them.

The essay of a narrative type has a storyline. You develop the plotline, create characters, and work out the setting. Often, there are elements of dialogues or monologues. These features, together with the more creative style of writing, turn your essay into a story. 

  • Compose this storyline in an essay outline. Define the main points, and assign your arguments and evidence in support to them if you are going to use additional references to support your points of view – mention where you put the citations. 
  • Write the draft. It is more comfortable with a detailed outline, as it gives you a general “picture” of an essay. Then you start to write it down. Fortunately, text editors make it easier to work with the drafts – you will edit them in the same file.
  • Edit the first draft when you complete it. For the first revision, check the evidence, dates, and facts you refer to. Make sure that they all are correct. Check the chronology – in most cases, narrative essay plotlines have the direct chronological order. Still, it can be different if you need it. The essence is that the chronological order must work in favor of your idea.
  • Polish style and language. Get rid of all unnecessary details blurring the focus of your essay. Besides, too wordy texts are more problematic to read and follow. Also, pay attention to the language – stick to the simpler words, but they should not be overused and banal variants. Refer to the thesauruses for synonyms with more specific meanings. 
  • Format the essay properly. The task requirements include the formatting style, so you should follow them. Refer to the guidelines for the APA, MLA, Chicago – whichever format you have to apply. Ensure that the title page, text formatting, and the bibliography list match the style demands. 
  • Let yourself have some rest, the longer – the better, but you need several hours at least. You must refresh your mind and eye before you get to the text for the second revision. Recheck your narrative paper – you may track some missed issues. Correct the wrong wording cases, fix the awkward phrases. By all means, you should correct grammar mistakes – use additional online services like Grammarly for that. 

When you know how to write a narrative essay and get experience in doing this task – it can become an excellent ground for more creative writing. And if you need more professional assistance with this essay or any other essay – our group of authors will be glad to help you with any task.

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