How to Write a Narrative Essay or Speech

How to Write a Narrative Essay or Speech

How to Write a Narrative Essay or Speech

For Students & Parents

How to Write a Narrative Essay or Speech

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An Introduction to Essay Writing


  • Choosing a Topic

  • Writing an Introduction

  • Structuring and Outlining

  • Types of Essays

  • Editing and Improving

Illustration depicting the three parts of a narrative essay (introduction, body, conclusion)


Richard Nordquist

Richard Nordquist has a Ph.D. in English and rhetoric and is professor emeritus at Armstrong State University. He is the author of two college grammar and composition textbooks.

Updated October 05, 2018

A narrative essay or speech is used to tell a story, often one that is based on personal experience. This genre of work comprises works of nonfiction that hew closely to the facts and follow a logical chronological progression of events. Writers often use anecdotes to relate their experiences and engage the reader. In doing so, you can give your narrative a level of emotional appeal. It can be serious or humorous, but this emotional appeal is essential if you want to  give your audience some way to connect with your story.

The most successful narrative essays usually share these three basic traits:

  1. They make a central point.
  2. They contain  specific details in support  of that point.
  3. They are clearly  organized in time .

Constructing the Essay

Magazines like the New Yorker and websites like Vice are known for the pages-long narrative essays they publish, sometimes called long-format journalism. But an effective narrative essay can be as short as five paragraphs. As with other kinds of essay writing, narratives follow the same basic outline:

  • Introduction: This is the opening paragraph of your essay. It contains the hook, which is used to grab the reader’s attention, and the thesis or topic, which you’ll detail in the next section.
  • Body: This is the heart of your essay, usually three to five paragraphs in length. Each paragraph should contain one example, such as a personal anecdote or noteworthy event, that supports your larger topic.
  • Conclusion: This is the final paragraph of your essay. In it, you’ll sum up the main points of the body and bring your narrative to an end. Writers sometimes embellish the conclusion with an epilogue or a takeaway.

Narrative Essay Topics

Choosing the topic for your essay may be the hardest part. What you’re looking for is a particular incident that you can recount in a well-developed and clearly organized essay  or speech . We have a few ideas to help you brainstorm topics. They’re quite broad, but something will surely spark an idea.

  1. An embarrassing experience
  2. A memorable wedding or funeral
  3. An exciting minute or two of a football game (or another sporting event)
  4. Your first or last day at a job or new school
  5. A disastrous date
  6. A memorable moment of failure or success
  7. An encounter that changed your life or taught you a lesson
  8. An experience that led to a renewed faith
  9. A strange or unexpected encounter
  10. An experience of how technology is more trouble than it’s worth
  11. An experience that left you disillusioned
  12. A frightening or dangerous experience
  13. A memorable journey
  14. An encounter with someone you were in awe of or afraid of
  15. An occasion when you experienced rejection
  16. Your first visit to the countryside (or to a large city)
  17. The circumstances that led to the breakup of a friendship
  18. An experience that showed that you should be careful of what you wish for
  19. A significant or comic misunderstanding
  20. An experience that showed how appearances can be deceiving
  21. An account of a difficult decision that you had to make
  22. An event that marked a turning point in your life
  1. An experience that changed your viewpoint on a controversial issue
  2. A memorable encounter with someone in authority
  3. An act of heroism or cowardice
  4. An imaginary encounter with a real person
  5. A rebellious act
  6. A brush with greatness or death
  7. A time that you took a stand on an important issue
  8. An experience that altered your view of someone
  9. A trip that you would like to take
  10. A vacation trip from your childhood
  11. An account of a visit to a fictional place or time
  12. Your first time away from home
  13. Two different versions of the same event
  14. A day when everything went right or wrong
  15. An experience that made you laugh until you cried
  16. The experience of being lost
  17. Surviving a natural disaster
  18. An important discovery
  19. An eyewitness account of an important event
  20. An experience that helped you grow up
  21. A description of your secret place
  22. An account of what it would be like to live as a particular animal
  23. Your dream job and what it would be like
  24. An invention you’d like to create
  25. A time when you realized your parents were right
  26. An account of your earliest memory
  1. Your reaction when you heard the best news of your life
  2. A description of the one thing you can’t live without

Other Types of Essays

Narrative essays are one of the three major essay types. The others are:

  • Argumentative: In these essays, the writer makes the case for a specific opinion on a topic, using research and analysis to persuade the reader.
  • Descriptive: This kind of writing relies on detail to describe or define a person, place, thing, or experience. Writing may be either objective or subjective.
  • Expository: Like argumentative essays, expository writing requires research and analysis in order to expound upon a subject. Unlike argumentative essays, the intention is not to change the readers’ opinion but to inform the readers.


  • Angelli, Elizabeth; Baker, Jack; and Brizee, Allen. ” Essay Writing .” 9 February 2018.
  • Beck, Kate. ” Instructions to Write a Narrative Essay. ”
  • Santa Barbara City College staff. ” Structure of a Personal Narrative Essay .”

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Write a Professional Narrative Essay

April 5 , 2018 , by Patricia Jenkins

A Step-by-Step Guide to Write a Professional Narrative Essay

There are numerous kinds of essays you may be assigned to complete. Sometimes, it can be hard to understand the difference between two similar papers. Narrative essay is commonly confused with the descriptive one. This article will lead you through all necessary steps and help you write a successful piece adhering to the particular formatting rules.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

The main purpose of a narrative essay is to tell the reader about events, interactions, and experience that have happened to the author during the particular period of time. It always has a vivid plot. On the contrary, the descriptive essay is aimed at providing an image of a person, a place, some experience or an object without demonstrating a chain of events. The plot is absent or vague.

To write a breathtaking narrative essay quickly, let us introduce you the most compelling step-by-step sequence:

#1. Preparation

Before your creative process actually starts, you should learn a bit more about the general requirements inherent in this kind of the paper, choose the topic, and collect some relevant information to use it as the reference.  

What to Write About?

Your potential theme should be interesting for both you and your audience. The topic of the narrative essay usually refers to the writer’s experience and there is no need to use any data from the outside sources. Besides, there are 3 signs of a successful title of your essay whether it is narrative or something else:

  1. You could barely see it on the web;
  2. It’s quite narrow than wide;
  3. It encourages reading the first sentence of the paper.

Narrative Essay Writing

What is Required of Me?

Asking to compose such a specific kind of academic paper, professors don’t demand of their students to follow strict rules as for other writing assignments and only give them a basic structure. The idea is simple: you take a story from a real life and dwell upon the most vibrant points as far as events are unfolding. The narrative’s parts should be coherent and convey a particular mood.

personal narrative example

Where to Search for Evidence?

You may take them from your own memories since you started writing it. Forget about the exhausting web-research and let your memories pour out on a paper.

#2. Writing Process

Obviously, this stage is the most time-consuming. It can be less if you take into account the following:

Making a Structure and Outlining

Divide your plot into three parts: a setup, the main part and a climax, and a thrilling conclusion. In the introduction, you should hook a reader and make them read the rest of your essay. Allocate the major points of the essay and describe each of them briefly in the body and end up your story with an unpredictable twist and a delightful punch line. In its turn, outlining helps you find the best details of the disclosed issues in the narrative essay.

Narrative Essay Structure

Picture source

Providing Information in First-Person

The narrative is very personal, so you should underline the significance of the ongoing events for your identity. That is why it is common to use “I” statements without switching a perspective in favor of another person.  

Describing the Characters and Places

Even though it’s not a descriptive essay, try to adorn your story with vivid details of crucial objects mentioned in the plot.  Especially, that goes for people who affected the outcome of the whole case; their personalities should be disclosed as comprehensive as possible.

Mention places serving as a location of where an action is held because it reflects the picture’s ambience. Background information which may change the reader’s attitude to characters or even to the meaning of your idea has to be also provided.

Adding a Little Spice

What a narrative without a zest! Dilute your smooth passages with a detail that will turn everything around. It may be antagonist character who is eagerly interfering with your purposes, an unpredictable twist and embarrassing ending or funny jokes and coincidences to break your audience out laughing.

#3. Editing

After crafting the first draft, revise it thoroughly. You will definitely find one, two or a few rough spots while looking through your essay. Make sure you didn’t miss any important points.

Tips for the successful editing:

  • Don’t start to search for mistakes right after finishing the essay. Have a rest and only then take a fresh look at it;
  • Transform big and complicated sentences into simple ones to make them compelling;
  • Avoid use of terms of many meanings;
  • Find all repeats of ideas or arguments and delete them;
  • Verify all citations and formatting in general with a guide;
  • Paraphrase where it is hard to grasp the sense;
  • Reconsider the structure of the essay.

#4. Proofreading

Many students deem that subtitles 3 and 4 in this guide are the same things. But it is not really so: when editing is all about content, style, and paragraph structure, proofreading is performed to detect misspellings and grammar errors. Also, it is the final phase of the writing.

What Should I Do During This Process?

  • Check grammar yourself or use some applications such as or other services from Infographics below, but do not rely on them heavily;
  • Remove double spacing;
  • Replace misspellings with correct words.

editing tools for college students

Picture source

It will be more effective if you entrust someone else to reread your piece: your friends, parents or college mates. They may notice mistakes you missed and share their general opinion on the essay.  

As you can see, the narrative essay is not complicated at all. It is one of the most pleasant forms of writing assignments due to the great involvement of your personality in the paper’s body. Even the rules and requirement can’t get you down – they are practically absent or are as simple as a pie if professor mentions a structure. Turn on your imagination and start crafting a brilliant piece adhering to our recommendations.

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How to Create the Best Narrative Essay
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How to Write a Narrative Essay: the Complete Guide from Introduction to Conclusion

How to Write Any Kind of Essay

Table of Contents

How to Write a Narrative Essay: the Complete Guide from Introduction to Conclusion
What is a Narrative Essay
How to Choose Narrative Essay Topics
How to Write a Narrative Essay Introduction
How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline
How to Write a Narrative Essay Conclusion
Narrative Essay Example of Storytelling
How to Write Narrative Essay: Basic Steps and Tips
What is a Personal Narrative Essay
How to Present Your Story
Few Classic Narrative Essay Topics
Narratives Teach Us to:
Why is it Important to Learn How to Write a Narrative Essay
How to Write a Narrative Essay: the Complete Guide from Introduction to Conclusion

How to write a narrative essay and how to make it an interesting piece of art to read are two questions students struggling all the time. You don’t need to get something big and fancy. Just tell a story in an interesting manner and create a perfectly-organized paper.

Let our team of writers explain to you what is a narrative essay, its goal, mission and remember, you can always order any paper from us at the most reasonable price.

What is a Narrative Essay

What is a narrative essay? These are writing tasks that students are assigned to complete at various moments of their high school and college life. This type of writing involves telling a story from your life. It is relevant to the theme you have in class. Narrative essay may be enjoyable and fun if you take proper approach, just proceed reading to learn how to write a personal narrative essay.

The structure of your paper is very similar to all those typical essays you’ve already written. It goes with the same typical 5 paragraph structure:

  • Introduction – goes with one paragraph to present your topic and idea;
  • Body – has three or more paragraphs to tell the actual story;
  • Conclusion – is the short summary of your thoughts and consequences.

How to Choose Narrative Essay Topics

It is always hard to start. Think about a story that describes a topic given by your tutor. The paper should involve two components:

  • Narration (story)
  • Analysis of that narrative

Your essay can be about some theme, concept, or topic illustrated with the help of your personal narrative essay story.

These papers do not involve any outside sources or research. Various how to write a narrative essay articles state that your personal story is the source of evidence, it is a statement’s support you are up to make. It is absolutely true.

It is a perfect way to test students’ creative skills of storytelling, their ability to connect your experience to a theme discussed in class.

How to Write a Narrative Essay Introduction

An effective essay tells a specific story with clear details. The way is comprehensive.  It is not a novel. You should make it concise and fairly contained limiting it regarding setting, plot, and characters. Choose a story from your life, like a family vacation, a weekend with a friend, a spoiled holiday, or anything like that giving it a hook .

  • Broad stories make a bad essay. Avoid narrative essay introduction starting with “This summer,” or “In my childhood” as they are far too big to highlight specific details required for a story writing.
  • Pick an event from your childhood or your summer, not something that takes a long time to unfold.
  • Also, limit the number of characters in your story. Include only those who are essential. Every friend from your childhood years will be too much. Pick one of them. Then come up with the title for your paper .

How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline

Outline the plot before you begin your writing. Where does it start and where does it end? Write down a list of the most important marks in your story as it is the best way of making sure you will include everything and do not miss anything. You need to include the components of a narrative:

  • The beginning
  • The middle
  • And the end

An outline helps to limit things and keeps you focused on the important marks only. Your narrative essay outline should not be a formal one. This part really helps you write, include major scenes and organize them.

How to Write a Narrative Essay Conclusion

Conclusion is your last step. The final word in the story with no conflict or dialogue. Restate your aim and consider few main tips:

  • Do not forget that your Conclusion is not just the end of a story .
  • A conclusion has to continue a sequence of facts presented earlier.
  • Do not blur the timeline as you write: let the audience track your sequence of events;
  • You learn something and tell about your discovery to the others in Conclusion.
  • Do not leave the reader without a finale, which is not very good if it is not your literary device.
  • Your essay has to make people interested even after they finished reading.

Narrative Essay Example of Storytelling

Proper setting is a very important part of a good story, you should mention the place where the characters are and where the story occurs. Is it a city, or a country, at home or outside? Describe the location where the situation occurs and make it a part of your narration and make sure that a topic is illustrated in the story clearly.

After you have written your narrative essay conclusion, read the entire paper. The relevance to the main statement you make should be very clear, don’t leave your reader with a question. Answer it before he/she gets the chance to ask.

How to Write Narrative Essay: Basic Steps and Tips

Writing process of this kind of a paper is also a great experience to feel. Your future depends on narrative essay topics extremely. You are reflecting the event and giving the experience to other people – your readers; this is the most exciting part of this type of articles. We are going to talk about it later. Now let’s get some tips structured:

  • A piece of writing recreating the experience through time is called a narrative essay.
  • You can base your essay on your own experiences on the experiences of other people. No matter past or present;
  • You are not just telling a story; you are also giving the idea and lesson to your reader.

Starting steps:

  • You should find and identify the experience you are going to write about;
  • The experience should be significant;
  • You should focus on recollecting the details of your experience.
  • You should create an outline and imagine the basic parts.


  • You should use your outline to describe all parts of your essay;
  • Try not just to describe the thing was happening. Tell your reader how and why it was happening;
  • Try to become your reader and to think like them;
  • Remember that for your readers you are the main source of information about your experience;
  • Don’t forget about small details.


  • If you have finished your draft, try to spend some time away from it. Then read it with your fresh mind and eye;
  • You can ask some people to read your narrative and tell you their impressions;
  • Ed more details where they are needed;
  • Remove some parts and sentences that seem to be unnecessary;
  • Try to use the most effective order to present your information.

What is a Personal Narrative Essay

This type of papers is often quite personal. That is why people call it a personal narrative essay. You give the readers insight into your experience. Just tell them about the things that changed you somehow making a difference for the rest of your life; we’ve all had these moments something changes our views. It influences our personality. This task is a great opportunity to write about it.

Choose a topic that allows you to provide a relevant story, then just follow it with the idea of a compelling first-person narration is not the only one. The paper can entertain your readers. Try to excite them or even help them to get over a hard period in their lives. The stories of people who’ve overcome disorders or those who managed to get out of a really difficult crisis are very similar to narrative essays. Think of the way your essay can help others follow you. It will help them to overcome the problems they have.

The narrative essay seems to take its rightful place among the most exciting writing tasks for those who fancy creative assignments. It is not a definition essay or anything of that type. It is quite close to the experience of a real writer: you have to tell a story a personal narrative essay story that will touch the readers. It is a great chance to unleash your creative side not worrying about enough research or referencing. You just write from your heart.

How to Present Your Story

The way you tell your story and the way you felt at that time is just as important as the sequence of facts itself. The same situation can be perceived in different ways by different people with different attention. All the important things in your narrative essay are about the changes in your life, your ideas, your worldview.

Your story does not have to be too serious if the subject is not tough; the stories of serious crises are a good but it is not the only option. You can write about a funny situation that affected you somehow or can tell about something important. Or how you have learned that it is necessary to be more forgiving to people.

Few Classic Narrative Essay Topics

  • Childhood event: You can tell about your any first-time experience;
  • Achieving a goal: Tell people about the greatest important achievement in your life? It can be some easy achievement. It will be very important exactly for you.
  • Failure: Sometimes reading about someone’s failures can also be interesting and very instructive.
  • Good or bad deed: It is always a great challenge for a writer to talk about things like that. Readers will appreciate that;
  • Change in your life: Some important and significant change in your life.

Narratives Teach Us to:

  • To be concise. This is a problem with many students and even professional writers who don’t want to learn how to write a narrative essay correctly. They drag out an idea for several paragraphs if it can be covered in few words. This isn’t the message of great value that they convey, it’s just waffling without a concrete answer to the question. This is where narrating stories can help you work out brevity of writing. Just define the purpose of the story and try to stick to the core.
  • To be creative. It’s not for nothing that an essay is that frequently assigned at schools and colleges. Every time you are asked to tell a story you are expected to come up with new, fresh ideas. If you practice different approaches, you make progress. You write in monotonous style, you just make no headway. Hence your writing and thinking skills remain at the old-time level.
  • To be eloquent. A good engaging story depends on words. Carefully chosen, targeted to get the message across the audience, they absorb reader in a story. This is a good way to enrich your vocabulary and polish writing style. This is because story includes descriptions, characters, and a plot that has to be dynamic.
  • To express yourself with confidence. Remember, you write narratives not just to fit academic standards and earn a grade. The real value of this genre lies in making you express your bold views without being afraid that it’s not appropriate. It also helps a writer find his voice and come to realize that his ideas have value.

Why is it Important to Learn How to Write a Narrative Essay

Why write a narrative essay if it is simple and easy to deal with? Most of the students don’t see any reason for it. They take it as yet another kill-time writing task and do it just for the sake of a grade. Who would take the tell-the-story assignment seriously?

That is a shallow perception of narrative essay writing. It seems to be a waste of time for students, but it is an opportunity for them to display their creativity and writing style. I admit it. This type of essay may not be the most important academic assignment like a research paper; it is rather a tool that helps reach the summit of writing craft.


We hope this article has answered your question about what is a narrative essay. In the end, any essay writing skills won’t gather dust like an old grandma’s chest because they are sure to come into play either in professional life or everyday communication. If you still have doubts about how to write a good narrative essay or want to make sure you are doing everything correctly, just call us anytime , and our team would like to help you out right away.