5 Things You Must Include in Your Narrative Essay

When I first heard of narrative essays, I was confused. How could an essay be narrative? Weren't essays just five paragraphs that told you three things about a subject? Much to my delight, I discovered that not only were narrative essays not limited to five paragraphs (maybe not to your delight if this is your first one and you're trying to get it done fast), but they were written in the first-person point of view, and they included a story - who doesn't love a good story!

A narrative essay is essentially a story embedded in an essay framework.

Think of the last story you told. The greater the stakes, the closer your friends paid attention. Just like a good story told with friends, a great narrative essay will keep your reader on the edge of their seats right to the end.

As you look at the list of characteristics below, think of the last story you told. I bet the stories that captured people's attention included all five of the following elements of a good narrative essay.

Characteristic #1. Starts with a memorable moment

Choose an event from your life, narrow it down to a significant moment within that experience, and voila, you have the story for your essay. You'll be diving deep and exploring the heart of what on the surface may seem like an insignificant event. But, because of your life experiences before that event, it's significant. And, in your essay, you'll be sharing how that moment impacted you. 

Characteristic #2. Includes a chronologically organized story

Unlike stories where you flashback to a previous event, the story in your narrative essay is contained in a single moment. You may set the scene with some broader ideas, but when you tell the story, you'll tell it chronologically, as it happened in real-time. 

Start with the problem, the moment things started going wrong. Because without a problem, you have no story. 

You'll tell how you tried solving the problem and the troubles you had along the way. When you're finally able to solve the problem, the reader should breathe a sigh of relief, or laugh, or even cry with you.

Characteristic #3. Uses thoughts and feelings to share the significance of events

When you share what you were thinking and feeling during the event, the reader can empathize with you. Because you've engaged their emotions, they'll feel compelled to keep reading. They're putting themselves in your shoes and wondering how they'd handle it if they were in the same situation.

As you plot your story, make a note of your thoughts and feelings.

For example:
you start the story feeling optimistic --> then the problem hits, and you're angry --> you try to solve the problem and are frustrated -->finally it gets solved, and you're thankful

Characteristic #4. Uses vivid details to describe people and settings

While emotions help the reader empathize with you, vivid details allow the reader to experience the moment with you. 

By only adding vivid details to significant elements of the characters (people) and setting of your story, you get to shape the reader's experience.

For example: If it's not significant that you were wearing your best jeans on the day of the event, don't make a note of it. If it's important that the grass was wet, describe it in vivid detail.

Plot out the significant details about the people and settings in your story. When you reflect on your experience, you should be able to connect the significance of those details with the outcome of the story. 

Characteristic #5. Creates a reflective ending that shows how the experience affected the writer

The emotions, vivid details, and the plot intertwine throughout your story and culminate in a reflective ending that gives the reader something to ponder about their own life situation.

You'll know you've done it right when you read your essay aloud and can clearly visualize the situation, feel the feelings you felt when you were going through that moment, and remember the transformation you experienced.

Now that you better understand what a narrative essay is and what to include when you write yours let's write one!

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You'll complete your outline and be ready to write your first draft by the end of the class.

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