Write a Narrative Essay the Right Way

Students often feel confused between narrative and descriptive essays. When tasked with writing a narrative essay, you need to adhere to certain formatting guidelines. Understanding the elements required to craft narrative essays can prove the ideal starting point.

What Is A Narrative Essay?

As the title suggests, a narrative essay narrates certain events during a specific time period. The writer has to adopt a storytelling format, with the structure mimicking that of a novel or short story. In comparison, a descriptive essay describes the subjects or objects involved in an event without focusing on the event itself. In other words, there is no plot. The main idea is to offer an introduction of a person or location.

Essential Elements for Writing a Narrative

There are three essential elements you need to keep in mind when writing a narrative essay, namely character, theme, and dialogue. Here’s a brief overview of each element:


You can hook the attention of the reader by creating interesting characters. When you start writing your essay, you have to outline the characters that will drive the narrative and move the plot forward. Often, readers develop a personal connection with the text if the antagonist and protagonist engage effectively. Based on the narrative essay structure you adhere to, you have to spend time developing each character before you start writing.


Along with defining the characters, you have to define the theme of the narrative from the outset. Provide readers the chance to gain a good understanding of the message you are trying to communicate. The purpose of the theme is to help you carry the plot forward in a particular direction. The theme will also determine the lessons your characters will learn over the course of the story.


Last, but not least, your paper requires punchy dialogue. The words coming from your characters’ engage the readers, and without good dialogue, you might lose their interest. You can incorporate direct and indirect dialogue.

  • Direct Dialogue: Use quotation marks when adding direct dialogue, as these represent the words a character speaks
  • Indirect Dialogue: Provide a second-hand account of the words spoken by a character, but not quoting them exactly

When writing a narrative essay, your main emphasis will be on the plot and theme. However, without dialogue, your readers might not be able to grasp the message you are trying to communicate. Do note that you have to clearly indicate which character is speaking when writing dialogue.

Read also: How To Write An Argumentative Essay Outline

Structuring a Narrative Essay

Narrative essays should include three main parts. You have to be familiar with each part so you can create the most suitable structure. A decent structure not only makes the essay readable but also assists you with writing. Here’s a look at the three main parts of an essay:


Without meaning to scare you, the introduction of your paper is the make or break factor. If you don’t get the introduction right, you will lose the readers’ interest. The purpose of the introduction is giving a clear idea of the subject or theme of the essay. Also, in the introduction, you have to incorporate the story you will narrate. In other words, your introduction should tell the reader why they should continue reading till the end.


The body of your paper should continue the story you start building in the introduction. The rule of thumb is limiting the body to three paragraphs to convey the story. Also, you have to introduce your characters in this part of the essay and highlight how they will influence the plot. The purpose of the body is communicating the theme of your write-up. A key to writing a compelling story is adding some humor, especially when describing an event.


The conclusion is as, if not more, important than the other two parts of your narrative essay. You cannot just end the article abruptly. You have to offer some key takeaways to the reader, which includes reinforcing the theme. Depending on the theme of your paper, you might also have to add a call-to-action.

Topic Examples

Selecting the right topic is important when writing a narrative essay. Here are a few topic ideas you can fall back on:


You can pick a topic based on your experience. Keep in mind that writing a paper covering events you experienced firsthand is easier. For instance, you can write an essay on an event that helped you become a better person. Or perhaps the scariest experience in your life.


While being preachy is a strict no-no, you can take a moral bent when deciding on a topic for your paper. You can write a narrative essay about the moral dilemma you faced in your life. You can also consider writing about a moment where you had to choose between a rock and a hard place.


You can get an easy pass by writing a paper related to a topic of your interest. For one, you will find it easier to research the content, and even writing will not be a challenge. Come up with a list of topics that interest you and plan your essay accordingly. For example, you can write an article about the life lessons your favorite sport taught you while narrating a specific event or game.

Bonus Tips

Clear Main Idea

Define your main idea outright in the introduction. Deciding on a theme before you start writing and tailoring the narrative to that theme is the key to establishing a clear main idea.

First-Person Narrative

Keep the essay active and engaging by opting for a first-person narrative. You can instead go for a third-person story, but first-person proves a better option.


You shouldn’t provide extraneous or superfluous details that don’t affect the plot. You may encounter the temptation to stretch your narrative by extending the narrative. However, if the information does not influence the plot or reflect the theme, you should avoid it.


You should narrate the events from your story in chronological order. Encourage ‘binge-reading’ by building on from the previous part of the essay in each subsequent section.

And a no-brainer to conclude: proofread the final draft. You cannot afford to have any errors in your paper.


So there you have it, a brief guide to writing a narrative essay. However, if you feel this requires too much work and you already have a lot on your plate, you can use our custom essay writing service here. Get the necessary help to craft a masterful paper, regardless of the purpose and level of complexity.

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