Writing a Narrative Essay
Do you have an interesting story to tell? Is there some past event, situation, or personal encounter you wish to share with others? The narrative essay is the perfect vehicle for doing so. With this type of essay, you relate your experiences (or those of another person) in a compelling way that holds your readers’ interest.
Everyone loves a good story. Of course, The Golden Rule espoused innumerable times to writers is to “show” not “tell” your story. Like a great short story or novel, you want vivid details and unique descriptions in your narrative essay.
Think of a good narrative essay as a movie for the mind. Your reader sees your story in their mind’s eye – while their eyes see plain words on paper or a PC screen. However, the power of the words used and their arrangements into sentences enthrall readers.
Done well, a narrative essay transports a reader to the time and place you choose to convey. A good narrative essay makes a reader feel as if they’re going through the life experience themselves. When they finish reading a powerful narrative the story sticks with them long after the reading.
To create an effective narrative essay, write in the first person. This is the “I” in writing. This brings your reader close to you and your experiences. Think of a narrative essay in the first person as a coffee shop chat with a friend. You’re telling them a good story and hope they find it interesting.
The key to a good narrative essay is having a major point to get across. Your essay must not be an exercise in verbiage. There must be a purpose – a central theme to present and a point you wish to make. Let’s face it, what’s the point of relating a story if there’s no point to the story. Your readers want to know of life lessons learned or insight gained from your or someone else’s experiences.
With all of the above in mind, here are steps to follow when writing the narrative essay:
Define the Story Clearly
Your first step is to choose the story you wish to tell. Consider the true essence of the story. For example, you may have tried skydiving for the first time. The general idea about the sport of skydiving is not the heart of your personal story. The heart of your story may be how skydiving helped you overcome fears and try something new in your life. Readers will find the details of how you finally found the courage to leap out of a plane more fascinating then a recitation of skydiving basics.
Your next step is to write down all the details you can remember concerning your story. Let the thoughts pour out and get them down on paper. Don’t worry about writing perfect sentences just yet. Work on recalling and collecting the details of your experiences and consider the five senses – the touch, taste, smell, and hearing and seeing of the story.
Organize and Outline
Now, take all those recollections and organize them. You may want to organize the story chronologically. Alternatively, you may want to present the story in a different fashion, switching from present to past and back again.
Upon organizing your story’s details, create an outline. An outline is your story structure on paper. It’s a roadmap of how you want your story to get from Point A – your introduction, to Point B – your conclusion. An outline keeps you on course so you convey your major points in a logical way without getting sidetracked off-topic.
Now you can let those words flow. Just go to it. Follow your outline and tell your story. Introduce your topic with an intriguing first sentence and paragraph that makes your audience want to keep reading. Introduce the experience, why it’s important. You can also introduce the experience or jump into the story headlong and wait to the end to reveal its importance and significance.
The body of the narrative essay is where you engage in that detailed, vivid, descriptive writing. Present your major points in an organized manner according to your outline. Use anecdotes and imagery to bring your story to life. Using the movie analogy again, let your readers’ see the story in their mind so they feel they are there. This helps them form an emotional attachment in the story. Your narrative essay should not read like an automobile owner’s manual.
End your narrative essay with a thought-provoking conclusion. Tie up the story with a satisfying ending that helps a reader understand the significance of the story. They need to realize why the story is important to you and possibly them. You want your reader pondering your essay and its central theme and point after reading it.
Okay, now you can concentrate on fine-tuning those sentences created in your first draft. In addition, focus on grammar, punctuation, and the tone of your narrative essay. Go over your word choices and sentence types. Is there enough of that vibrant, vivid description essential to a quality narrative essay. Is there enough detail about persons, places, and things? Do you believe, in the end, that your readers’ will truly feel they experienced your story? Consider these points so your finished work is one that’s easy to read, clear, and enlightening.
Some Final Tips
When writing a narrative essay, don’t assume your readers’ know things about your story. Reading your essay is the first exposure they have to the experience you’re presenting to them. They need to know and understand important details so they are clear on the point you’re trying to make.
Avoid clichés in your writing. Clichés are common sayings and phrasings worn by overuse. They present nothing new to the reader.
Avoid generic, bland descriptions. Was the woman wearing shoes, or was she wearing infrared high-heels, as sleek as a Formula 1 Ferrari sending shockwaves across the street because of their boldness.
Let narrative essay writing be your platform for telling a good story. A narrative essay that lets readers’ experience today, something you experienced in the past, is an essay that satisfies. A top-notch narrative essay is something that your readers’ may never forget.