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  How to Write a Narrative Essay

How to Write a Narrative Essay

Narratives are stories. Narratives are plots. They are essays that tell a story — hopefully in an interesting way — that also convey themes. Often, if you are asked to write a narrative essay, you will not be asked to research a theory or topic. Rather, you will be asked to use your imagination instead of a bibliography. You may need to research for this narrative essay; nonetheless, the writing of it may come more easily to you for you do not need to quote specific words from primary sources.

Here is a short reference guide on how to write the narrative essay.

  1. Decide on a topic
  2. Discuss the topic with your teacher/professor and peers either in class or in a group discussion or private tutorial
  3. Brainstorm several different ways the narrative can go (see spider diagram below)
  4. Start writing
  5. Do not stop writing. Let your writing flow onward in a stream of consciousness type of way.
  6. Reread the essay.
  7. Edit for grammar and the technical rules of writing.
  8. Let someone else edit/read over your essay for content and grammar.

Before you begin writing your narrative essay, it helps to brainstorm ideas for where you want your narrative to go. Because you are able to invent plot, you can write anything your imagination invents. As a result, you will want it to appear coherent and plausible. Many narrative writers use diagrams to begin. Start with the main idea (person, subject, object), and circle it. Then, write lines from the circle for descriptive words for that one main idea. Let each spoke continue outward farther and farther, until you have a spider-looking diagram with many thoughts. You can pick any of those for your narrative and follow it.

Ultimately, you will have written a narrative (story) that reads more pleasurably than academically. Because of the nature of the narrative essay, you will usually be assigned to write one only in creative writing or literature seminars. Often in composition and freshman writing courses, people also are assigned narrative essays to write. If you are given this assignment, it is important to remember that a narrative essay is still an essay. It is not a novel excerpt or a novella. It is a self-contained essay with a theme (or thesis) still at the focus of the writing. And even though it is more creative than academic, grammar and syntax are still vital to the success of the essay.