What is a Narrative Essay?

Narrative essays share some elements with short stories

You were asked to write a narrative essay for school or college. But you keep wondering: what exactly are you supposed to write? Well, while it is quite simple to define (for example) what a poem is, the definition of an essay is vague, overlapping with those of an article and a short story. When it comes to narrative essays, it is closer to the last one. So, if you need help with finding a topic and organizing your work, start by finding out what are you supposed to produce.

Writing about experiences

When you are writing an essay with a narrative approach, you are expected to share some valuable experience with your readers. That means, stop complaining! Instead of doing a boring research, you get to write about yourself. Basically, when you write a narrative essay, you are supposed to tell a story. Not any story, though. You should tell a valuable experience that makes a point –leaves a certain message in the reader-. That means, you can’t just write about going to the dentist’s. Consider a meaningful experience that left you with some knowledge.

Some conventions you should keep in mind

When you are working on narrative essays, always consider the following conventions. Usually, narratives are written in the first person (I). They rely on sensory and concrete details to achieve their conclusion, that is why you should include specific details. And, such as stories, these essays should include a plot, an appropriate setting, character descriptions, a climax and an ending. Tools such as flashbacks, flash-forwards, and transitions can (and should) be used to build a climax. Use as many details as possible to explain and support your story, and remember no story is worth to be told if it has no conflict.

How to begin?

We recommend you to start by reading a famous extended essay that has many narrative elements: A Room of One’s Own, by British writer Virginia Woolf. First published in 1929, this essay explores women both as writers of and characters in fiction, and often uses resources that could be found in the best novels: check with special attention the part in where she narrates the sad life of Shakespeare’s imaginary sister.

How to go on

Then, you should pick an appropriate topic for your essay: a single, personal expression of something significant you have lived and, hopefully, turns you into a better person. Then, yu should find a generalization, which the narrative supports. For example: “Spending time alone can be hard, but also the best way of knowing yourself”. This is the only way your own personal experience will take on meaning for readers.
And, speaking about readers, always remember to involve them in your story. Recreate the incident for them by using flashbacks and flash forwards, provide plenty of details, and try to make them experience your living. Don’t simply tell about it.
Last but not least, always consider than checking grammar and spelling is a must, whether for this kind of narrative essay as for any other written assignment.

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