The art of the narrative essay

narrative essay structure

The purpose of a narrative essay is essentially to tell a story. It is like a cross between an essay and a piece of creative writing, where you write about an experience that you've had in your life. There are many aspects that make it like an essay: firstly, like any other essay, you should have an introduction and conclusion, where you must explain why you have chosen this particular memory, so the reader understands why it is important to you. This is also a good opportunity to look at the experience very reflectively, and you could detail how your view of this experience may have changed over time. Furthermore, it should be written in excellent, formal, standard English like with any essay, with a little less artistic license than you have for a creative piece. Another positive aspect of writing a narrative essay is that there's really no need to do any reading and research - everything you need is already in your head.

The main reason that a narrative essay resembles a piece of creative writing (probably most easily comparable to a short story) is because it is essentially a story, just one based on something you've experienced. The narrative essay structure is quite simple: it will have a beginning, a climax, and an ending. At the beginning, it is important to set the scene, just as you should do with any story. Try to give plenty of details about characters and places, using vivid verbs and modifiers to make it seem real to your reader. Multi-sensory descriptions help to make everything seem even more real, as the reader can imagine what you could hear, smell, taste and touch, rather than just what you could see.


If you want to see some good examples of a narrative essay structure, then why not try looking online? The great thing about narrative essays is that you don't have to worry about plagiarism - as long as you're not intending to copy an essay and hand it in as your own work. You can take inspiration from the work you read online, because you will be writing a brand new, original piece, written about your own experiences - which are unique to you. You can also find plenty of good ideas for topics for your narrative essay on the Internet. Popular topics include memorable journeys, first days at school or college, or a day or moment that changed your life. Don't be afraid to choose something that's been done before, because someone else's memorable journey, first day at school or life-changing moment was probably completely different to yours.

Because you're writing about yourself, you'll probably be writing from the first person perspective (using 'I'), although sometimes the third person perspective (using 'he' or 'she') can be used. The only thing that matters is that you're consistent. The same goes for what tense you write in: you will probably want the past (perfect) tense, but as long as you're consistent, it's really up to you. Your story doesn't have to be completely chronological; for example, you may choose to use a flashback, but just try not to keep jumping around in time because it can become very confusing.

As with any essay make sure you carefully proofread your work before handing it in. Try and read it through at least twice and then, ideally, ask someone else to check it for you. It can be very difficult to spot mistakes in your own work, when you've been sat staring at it for so long. If there's no one to do this for you, leave it for a day or so then come back for another read.