How to Write a Narrative Essay: Tell Your Story, Your Way |

When writers set down the facts of their lives into a compelling history, they ’ ra writing a narrative test. Personal narrative essays explore the events of the writer ’ randomness own liveliness, and by crafting a nonfiction piece that resonates as storytelling, the essayist can uncover deeper truths in the global .

narrative essays weave the writer ’ s factual lived experiences into a compel narrative .

so, what is a narrative essay ? Whether you ’ ra compose for college applications or literary journals, this article separates fact from fabrication. We ’ ll look at how to write a narrative try through a bit-by-bit process, including a look at narrative essay topics and outlines. We ’ ll besides analyze some successful narrative test examples .
Learn how to tell your floor, your room. Let ’ s honkytonk into this exciting writing style !

What is a Narrative Essay?

The narrative try is a branch of creative nonfiction. besides known as a personal essay, writers of this genre are tasked with telling honest stories about their populate experiences and, as a result, arriving at certain realizations about life sentence .
intend of personal narrative essays as nonfiction short circuit stories. While the essay and the short fib trust on different writing techniques, they arrive at alike outcomes : a brawny floor with an mind, theme, or moral that the proofreader can interpret for themselves .
now, if you haven ’ triiodothyronine written a narrative try before, you might associate the word “ essay ” with high school English class. Remember those boring 5-paragraph essays we had to write, on the topic of some book we barely read, about subject count that didn ’ thymine interest us ?
Don ’ t worry—that ’ s not the kind of try we ’ rhenium talking about. The parole essay comes from the french trier, which means “ to try. ” That ’ s precisely what writing a narrative test is : an undertake at organizing the real number world into language—a journey of making meaning from the chaos of liveliness .

narrative essays work to surface meaning from know have .

Narrative Essay Example

A great narrative test example is the piece “ Flow ” by Mary Oliver, which you can read for spare in Google Books .
The essay dwells on, as Mary Oliver puts it, the fact that “ we live in paradise. ” At once both an ode to nature and an recommend to love it fiercely, Oliver explores our place in the endless beauty of the universe .
Throughout the essay, Oliver weaves in her thoughts about the world, from nature ’ sulfur noble beauty to the interrogate “ What is the life I should live ? ” Yet these thoughts, however profound, are not the bulk of the test. Rather, she arrives at these thoughts via anecdotes and observations : the migration of whales, the strings of fish at high tide, the imaginative rescue of a spinous pisces from the arid prop up, etc .
What is most fundamental about this test, and possibly most amusing, is that it ends with Oliver ’ south questions about how to live animation. And so far, the stories she tells show us precisely how to live life : with caution for the populace ; with admiration ; with tenderness towards all of life and its superb, cryptic, seemingly-random beauty .
such is the ability of the narrative test. By examining the random facts of our lives, we can come to capital conclusions .
What do most essays have in common ? Let ’ s look at the fundamentals of the try, before diving into more narrative test examples .

Narrative Essay Definition: 5 Fundamentals

The personal narrative try has a distribute of room for experiment. We ’ ll dive into those opportunities in a bite, but no matter the form, most essays contribution these five fundamentals .

  • Thesis
  • Personal experience
  • Meaning from chaos
  • The use of literary devices
  • Insight

Let ’ s explore these fundamentals in depth .

1. Thesis

All narrative essays have a thesis statement. however, this international relations and security network ’ t the formulaic thesis affirmation you had to write in school : you don ’ t need to map out your argument with painstaking specificity, you need merely to tell the lector what you ’ re writing about .
Take the aforementioned test by Mary Oliver. Her dissertation is this : “ How can we not know that, already, we live in eden ? ”
It ’ s a simple even provocative statement. By posing her thesis as a question, she challenges us to consider why we might not treat this earth as paradise. She then delves into her own understand of this eden, providing relevant stories and insights as to how the earth should be treated .
now, be careful with abstract statements like this. Mary Oliver is a master of language, so she ’ s able of creating a dissertation statement out of an outline theme and building a beautiful essay. But concrete theses are besides welcome : you should compel the lector ahead with the cardinal argument of your solve, without confusing them or leading them wide .

You should compel the reader fore with the cardinal argument of your influence, without confusing them or leading them astray

2. Personal Experience

The personal narrative essay is, shockingly, about personal feel. But how perform writers distill their experiences into meaningful stories ?
There are a few techniques writers have at their disposal. possibly the most common of these techniques is called braid. Rather than focusing on one continuous story, the writer can “ braid ” different stories, weaving in and out of unlike narratives and finding common threads between them. Often, the subject topic of the try will require more than one anecdote as attest, and braiding helps the author uphold their dissertation while showing rather of telling .
Another important consideration is how you tell your floor. Essayists should consider the lapp techniques that fiction writers use. Give ample consideration to your try ’ mho fructify, word choice, point of view, and dramatic social organization. The narrative essay is, after all, a narrative, so tell your fib how it deserves to be told .

3. Meaning from Chaos

Life, I think we can agree, is chaotic. While we can trace the events of our lives through causal agent and consequence, A leads to B leads to C, the accuracy is that therefore much of our lives are shaped through circumstances beyond our control .
The narrative essay is a way to reclaim some of that command. By distilling the facts of our lives into meaningful narratives, we can uncover deeper truths that we didn ’ thymine realize existed .

By distilling the facts of our lives into meaningful narratives, we can uncover deeper truths that we didn ’ triiodothyronine gain existed .

Consider the try “ entirely Daughter ” by Sandra Cisneros. It ’ s a brief read, but it covers a batch of different events : a lonely childhood, countless moves, university education, and the trials and tribulations of a successful writing career .
Coupled with Cisneros ’ musings on culture and gender roles, there ’ s a lot of biography to distill in these three pages. Yet Cisneros does sol masterfully. By organizing these life events around her dissertation statement of being an only daughter, Cisneros finds meaning in the many disparate events she describes .

4. Insight

As you go about writing a narrative essay, you will finally encounter moments of insight. Insight describes those “ aha ! ” moments in the work—places in which you come to deeper realizations about your life, the lives of others, and the populace at large .
now, insight doesn ’ triiodothyronine indigence to be some massive, culture-transforming realization. many moments of insight are found in little interactions and quiet moments .
For exemplar, In the above essay by Sandra Cisneros, her moments of penetration come from connecting her breeding to her fight as an entirely daughter. While her childhood was frequently lonely and disappointing, she realizes in hindsight that she ’ south lucky for that breeding : it helped nurture her heart as a writer, and it helped her pursue a career in writing. These moments of gratitude work as insight, allowing her to appreciate what once seemed like a load .
When we reach the conclusion of the try, and Cisneros describes how she felt when her founder read one of her stories, we see what this gratitude is building towards : love and acceptance for the life she chose .

5. Literary Devices

The personal narrative essay, equally well as all forms of creative writing, uses its fair plowshare of literary devices. These devices don ’ t need to be complex : you don ’ t need a sprawl extended metaphor or an intricate sic of juxtapositions to make your test compelling .
however, the occasional symbol or metaphor will surely aid your story. In Mary Oliver ’ s test “ Flow, ” the author uses literary devices to describe the impressiveness of the ocean, calling it a “ caldron of changing greens and blues ” and “ the great palace of the earth. ” These descriptions reinforce the thick beauty of the land .
In Sandra Cisneros ’ essay “ only Daughter, ” the author employs different symbols to represent her don ’ south masculinity and sense of sex roles. At one point, she lists the few things he reads—sports journals, slasher magazines, and photograph paperbacks, frequently depicting scenes of ferocity against women. These symbols represent the separate between her forefather ’ second gendered think and her own literary instincts.

More Narrative Essay Examples

Let ’ s take a look at a few more narrative try examples. We ’ ll analyze each essay based on the five fundamentals listed above .

Narrative Essay Example: “Letting Go” by David Sedaris

Read “ Letting Go ” here in The New Yorker .
Sedaris ’ essay dwells on the culture of cigarette smoking—how it starts, the world it builds, and the difficulties in quitting. Let ’ s analyze how this narrative try example uses the five fundamentals of try spell .

  • Thesis: There isn’t an explicitly defined thesis, which is common for essays that are meant to be humorous or entertaining. However, this sentence is a plausible thesis statement: “It wasn’t the smoke but the smell of it that bothered me. In later years, I didn’t care so much, but at the time I found it depressing: the scent of neglect.”
  • Personal Experience: Sedaris moves between many different anecdotes about smoking, from his family’s addiction to cigarettes to his own dependence. We learn about his moving around for cheaper smokes, his family’s struggle to quit, and the last cigarette he smoked in the Charles de Gaulle airport.
  • Meaning from Chaos: Sedaris ties many disparate events together. We learn about his childhood and his smoking years, but these are interwoven with anecdotes about his family and friends. What emerges is a narrative about the allure of smoking.
  • Insight: Two parts of this essay are especially poignant. One, when Sedaris describes his mother’s realization that smoking isn’t sophisticated, and soon quits her habit entirely. Two, when Sedaris is given the diseased lung of a chain smoker, and instead of thinking about his own lungs, he’s simply surprised at how heavy the lung is.
  • Literary Devices: Throughout the essay, Sedaris demonstrates how the cigarette symbolizes neglect: neglect of one’s body, one’s space, and one’s self-presentation.

 Narrative Essay Example: “My Mother’s Tongue” by Zavi Kang Engles

Read “ My Mother ’ s Tongue ” here in The Rumpus .
Engles ’ essay examines the dysphoria of growing up between two vastly different cultures and languages. By asserting the close attachment between korean terminology and culture, Engles explores the absurdities of growing up as a child of korean immigrants. Let ’ s analyze how this narrative essay example uses the five fundamentals of essay writing .

  • Thesis: Engles’ essay often comes back to her relationship with the Korean language, especially as it relates to other Korean speakers. This relationship is best highlighted when she writes “I glowed with [my mother’s] love, basked in the warm security of what I thought was a language between us. Perhaps this is why strangers asked for our photos, in an attempt to capture a secret world between two people.”This “secret world” forms the crux of her essay, charting not only how Korean-Americans might exist in relation to one another, but also how Engles’ language is strongly tied to her identity and homeland.
  • Personal Experience: Engles writes about her childhood attachment to both English and Korean, her adolescent fallout with the Korean language, her experiences as “not American enough” in the United States and “not Korean enough” in Korea, and her experiences mourning in a Korean hospital.
  • Meaning from Chaos: In addition to the above events, Engles ties in research about language and identity (also known as code switching). Through language and identity, the essay charts the two different cultures that the author stands between, highlighting the dissonance between Western individualism and an Eastern sense of belonging.
  • Insight: There are many examples of insight throughout this essay as the author explores how out of place she feels, torn between two countries. An especially poignant example comes from Engles’ experience in a Korean hospital, where she writes “I didn’t know how to mourn in this country.”
  • Literary Devices: The essay frequently juxtaposes the languages and cultures of Korea and the United States. Additionally, the English language comes to symbolize Western individualism, while the Korean language comes to symbolize Eastern collectivism.

Narrative Essay Example: 3 Rules for Middle-Age Happiness by Deborah Copaken

Read “ 3 Rules for Middle-Age Happiness ” here in The Atlantic .
Copaken ’ s essay explores her kinship to Nora Ephron, the screenwriter for When Harry Met Sally. Let ’ s analyze how this narrative test exemplar uses the five fundamentals of essay write .

  • Thesis: This essay hands us the thesis statement in its subtitle: “Gather friends and feed them, laugh in the face of calamity, and cut out all the things—people, jobs, body parts—that no longer serve you.”
  • Personal Experience: Copaken weaves two different threads through this essay. One thread is her personal life, including a failing marriage, medical issues, and her attempts at building a happy family. The other is Copaken’s personal relationship to Ephron, whose advice coincides with many of the essay’s insights.
  • Meaning from Chaos: This essay organizes its events chronologically. However, the main sense of organization is found in the title: many of the essayist’s problems can be perceived as middle-aged crises (family trouble, divorce, death of loved ones), but the solutions to those crises are simpler than one might realize.
  • Insight: In writing this essay, Copaken explores her relationship to Ephron, as well as Copaken’s own relationship to her children. She ties these experiences together at the end, when she writes “The transmission of woes is a one-way street, from child to mother. A good mother doesn’t burden her children with her pain. She waits until it becomes so heavy, it either breaks her or kills her, whichever comes first.”
  • Literary Devices: The literary devices in this article explore the author’s relationship to womanhood. She wonders if having a hysterectomy will make her “like less of a woman.” Also important is the fact that, when the author has her hysterectomy, her daughter has her first period. Copaken uses this to symbolize the passing of womanhood from mother to daughter, which helps bring her to the above insight.

How to Write a Narrative Essay in 5 Steps

No matter the length or subjugate matter, writing a narrative essay is a easily as these five steps .

1. Generating Narrative Essay Ideas

If you ’ ra not certain what to write about, you ’ ll want to generate some narrative essay ideas. One manner to do this is to look for writing prompts on-line : Reedsy adds newfangled prompts to their site every workweek, and we besides post writing prompts every Wednesday to our Facebook group .
Taking a step back, it helps to merely think about formative moments in your life. You might a great idea from answering one of these questions :

  • When did something alter my worldview, personal philosophy, or political beliefs?
  • Who has given me great advice, or helped me lead a better life?
  • What moment of adversity did I overcome and grow stronger from?
  • What is something that I believe to be very important, that I want other people to value as well?
  • What life event of mine do I not yet fully understand?
  • What is something I am constantly striving for?
  • What is something I’ve taken for granted, but am now grateful for?

finally, you might be concern in the advice at our article How to Come Up with Story Ideas. The article focuses on fiction writers, but essayists can surely benefit from these tips arsenic well .

2. Drafting a Narrative Essay Outline

once you have an mind, you ’ ll want to flesh it out in a narrative test delineate .
Your outline can be ampere childlike or ampere complex as you ’ d like, and it all depends on how long you intend your essay to be. A simple draft can include the follow :

  • Introduction—usually a relevant anecdote that excites or entices the reader.
  • Thesis: What is my central argument for this essay? What point am I trying to make to the reader?
    • Argument 1: What argument can I make to uphold my thesis?
      • Event 1: What story will I use to uphold my argument?
      • Analysis 1: How does this event serve as evidence for my thesis?
    • Argument 2
      • Event 2
      • Analysis 2
    • Argument 3
      • Event 3
      • Analysis 3
  • Conclusion: How can I tie these events together? What do they reaffirm about my thesis? And what advice can I then impart on the reader, if any?

One matter that ’ randomness missing from this outline is insight. That ’ mho because insight is much unplanned : you realize it as you write it, and the best insight comes naturally to the writer. however, if you already know the insight you plan on share, it will fit best within the psychoanalysis for your test, and/or in the essay ’ mho ending .

Insight is much unplanned : you realize it as you write it, and the best penetration comes naturally to the writer .

Another thing that ’ randomness missing from this is inquiry. If you plan on intertwining your try with research ( which many essayists should do ! ), consider adding that inquiry as its own fastball point under each lead .
For a different, more fiction-oriented approach to outlining, check out our article How to Write a Story Outline .

3. Starting with a Story

now, let ’ s tackle the hardest question : how to start a narrative essay ?
Most narrative essays begin with a relevant history. You want to draw the reviewer in right away, offering something that surprises or interests them. And, since the try is about you and your survive experiences, it makes sense to start your test with a relevant anecdote .
Think about a narrative that ’ second relevant to your thesis, and experiment with ways to tell this narrative. You can start with a surprise morsel of negotiation, an unusual situation you found yourself in, or a beautiful set. You can besides lead your essay with research or advice, but be certain to tie that in with an anecdote quickly, or else your reader might not know where your essay is going .
For examples of this, take a spirit at any of the narrative test examples we ’ ve used in this article .
theoretically, your thesis statement can go anywhere in the essay. You may have noticed in the former examples that the thesis statement international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate always explicit or immediate : sometimes it shows up towards the concentrate of the try, and sometimes it ’ s more imply than stated immediately .
You can experiment with the placement of your thesis, but if you place your thesis later in the essay, make sure that everything before the thesis is intriguing to the proofreader. If the lector feels like the try is adrift or drilling, they won ’ t have a reason to reach your thesis, nor will they understand the argument you ’ re make .

4. Getting to the Core Truth

With an introduction and a thesis afoot, continue writing about your experiences, arguments, and research. Be certain to follow the structure you ’ ve sketched in your sketch, but feel free to deviate from this outline if something more natural occurs to you .
Along the direction, you will end up explaining why your experiences matter to the proofreader. here is where you can start generating penetration. Insight can take the shape of many things, but the focus is always to reach a core truth .
insight might take the come forms :

  • Realizations from connecting the different events in your life.
  • Advice based on your lived mistakes and experiences.
  • Moments where you change your ideas or personal philosophy.
  • Richer understandings about life, love, a higher power, the universe, etc.

5. Relentless Editing

With a foremost draft of your narrative try written, you can make your essay sparkle in the editing process .

Remember, a first draft doesn ’ thymine have to be arrant, it precisely needs to exist .

Remember, a beginning draft doesn ’ metric ton have to be perfect, it just needs to exist. here are some things to focus on in the edit work :

  • Clarity: Does every argument make sense? Do my ideas flow logically? Are my stories clear and easy to follow?
  • Structure: Does the procession of ideas make sense? Does everything uphold my thesis? Do my arguments benefit from the way they’re laid out in this essay?
  • Style: Do the words flow when I read them? Do I have a good mix of long and short sentences? Have I omitted any needless words?
  • Literary Devices: Do I use devices like similes, metaphors, symbols, or juxtaposition? Do these devices help illustrate my ideas?
  • Mechanics: Is every word spelled properly? Do I use the right punctuation? If I’m submitting this essay somewhere, does it follow the formatting guidelines?

Your test can undergo any number of revisions before it ’ s cook. Above all, make certain that your narrative essay is easy to follow, every password you use matters, and that you come to a deeper understanding about your own life .

Above all, make sure that your narrative essay is easy to follow, every bible you use matters, and that you come to a deeper understanding about your own animation .

Next Steps for Narrative Essayists

When you have a completed try, what ’ randomness following ? You might be interest in submitting to some literary journals. here ’ randomness 24 literary journals you can submit to—we hope you find a great family for your spell !

If you ’ re looking for extra feedback on your work, feel rid to join our Facebook group. You can besides take a look at our upcoming nonfiction courses, where you ’ ll learn the fundamentals of try write and make your report even more compelling .
Writing a narrative essay international relations and security network ’ t easy, but you ’ ll find that the commit can be very rewarding. You ’ ll learn about your exist experiences, come to deeper conclusions about your personal philosophies, and possibly even challenge the way you approach life. So find some paper, choose a subject, and get writing—the global is waiting for your narrative !

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