How to Write a Narrative Essay: a guide and a Sample

A narrative essay is one of the most interesting writing works because it involves one telling a story about an event or a phenomenon to demonstrate how well they understand it. However, it can also be boring to the reader if the writer does not take time to organize their thoughts effectively and establish a good flow. A good narrative essay requires excellent storytelling skills to attract and retain the attention of the readers. This is why it is important that the writer develops interest and passion towards the story or subject.

Definition of a narrative essay

A narrative essay is an academic paper that involves telling a story to the reader about an experience or an event in an engaging and interesting manner. It is aimed at painting an image of the experience or event in the mind of the reader within a certain number of words. It requires that the narrator creates a conducive atmosphere through writing to get the reader immersed into the story through a precise yet detailed display of thoughts. The narrator determines an appropriate start, body, and end of the story and the manner of conveying the message in a way that captures the reader’s attention. Let us talk about the steps to writing an excellent narrative essay.

Choosing a topic for a narrative essay

Here are the guidelines for choosing a topic for your narrative essay:

  1. Inspiration from other works

One method of choosing an appropriate topic for your narrative essay is to get ideas from other writers. The best way to learn from others is to read their work and understand the genre and the flow of their writing. You can be provided with sample narrative essays by your instructor or you can find samples online. Read the sample to understand the writing style and the organization.

  1. Based on a theme or topic

Second, you can choose a narrative story based on a theme or a topic. Narrative essays are a composition of experiences or stories around certain concepts. As such, they may not require researching for evidence to support your points. Therefore, you can choose a story related to a topic covered in class or as guided by the instructor. 

  1. Based on assignment guidelines

Another important consideration when choosing a topic for your narrative essay is to ensure that it matches the instructions given in the assignment. While the instructor may give you the freedom of selecting a story, it is required to fit into a specific assignment guideline. For example, you may be required to write about your first experience as an intern in a company.

  1. Precise topic

Your narrative topic should be short and precise to fit in the length requirement for the assignment.  The story should not be too long to bore the readers but also not too short to leave the readers hanging. Therefore, you should focus on precise topics rather than broad topics that may require much space. Moreover, it should not have too many characters that might confuse the reader.

Lastly, it is important that your story is captive and engaging to the reader. Therefore, it should be rich in good storytelling elements such as suspense, happiness, humor, smell, sight descriptions, and many more. 

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The rules and guidelines for writing a narrative essay

Create an outline

Introduction section

After choosing a topic, develop an outline detailing how you will organize your thoughts. Like most academic writing works, a narrative essay follows the order of introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction of your narrative essay should be able to engage the readers to make them want to continue reading. Therefore, you should use intriguing statements like quotes or questions. The introduction section of your essay should also give a highlight of what the story is about. Third, make sure that you state the purpose of your writing and give readers insights into the story.

Body section

The second section of the narrative essay is the body which contains the details of the story. It is made of paragraphs detailing various sections of the story organized in a manner that readers can follow through and understand the plot. One of the important factors to consider in creating a great body is to make the details relevant and create a mood to keep readers intrigued. The body should also be organized sequentially to help readers follow through with the story. Additionally, you should incorporate some storytelling techniques such as dialogue to keep readers active. The use of techniques such as rhetorical questions, description of sights helps paint a perfect picture of the story in the minds of the reader. 

Conclusion section

The last section of the narrative essay is the conclusion where you give the closing comments about the story as well as a summary of the body. It is important to keep the readers’ interested in your story by leaving them with something to think about. This should not be an introduction to another related story or suspense but a statement about a lesson learned from the story. 

Write a draft

Having identified an outline for the narrative essay, now you can start writing your first draft by collecting your thoughts about the story or experience together. Here are some factors to consider to make a captive and compelling draft.

  1. Write in the first person

Unlike most academic writing, a narrative essay involves giving one’s personal narration hence should be written in the first person. Make sure that the personal perspective is maintained throughout the paper to ensure consistency. This consistency ensures that the flow is maintained to avoid confusing the readers by switching perspectives. However, there are exceptions, when narrating one’s story, you may write in 3rd person. Alternatively, the instructor may require that the story be narrated in the third person. 

  1. Give detailed descriptions of the characters

Characters are the makers of a story because they instigate action and cause responses that make up the plot. Describing the characters, therefore, helps readers understand the plot and how they interact with each other to make the story. Some of the factors to consider when describing your characters are; who was present when it happened; and how they influenced the story outcome. While basic information about the physical outlook of the characters is important, you should focus on interesting information about them that adds to the story. For example, instead of talking about the color of their eyes, talk about their scary look that adds to their role in the story. 

  1. Create a sense of conflict

Interesting stories are ones that involve conflict between protagonist and antagonist where the protagonist eventually becomes a victor. They keep the reader engaged and wanting to know what happened to the protagonist at the end of the story. The antagonist is what stands in the way of a protagonist or the obstacle to achieving their goal. As the narrator, you should take the role of a protagonist struggling with something or fighting against someone and eventually becoming victorious. 

  1. Describe the places

The location of the story is key to creating a perfect picture in the reader’s mind. It helps the reader put everything into perspective by associating the place with characters and actions to improve their understanding. You should include a vivid description of the place or location of the story and their relation to the characters.

Revising the essay

This is the last stage in your narrative essay writing which involves editing and proofreading. Go through the essay for missed spots or important points. Consider the following when editing:


  • Make sure that the essay achieved its purpose by comparing the story against the thesis statement. Read through the essay while focusing on how it is aligned with the theme. A good essay should be able to remain relevant to the theme.
  • Break down or simplify the complicated statements into simple ones. The essence of a narrative essay is to tell readers about your experience. Therefore, you should always strive to make sure that they understand every bit of it.
  • Identify and remove any repetitions of ideas. When narrating a story one is likely to be carried away and sometimes repeat ideas. This may compromise the clarity of the story and make it boring. 
  • Verify the essay format. Narrative essays involve the use of quotations to represent statements from characters. Ensure that all the quotations are well punctuated.


The second part of revision is proofreading to detect grammar errors and misspellings. Here are some tips to consider when proofreading your work:


  • Check for spelling errors using available applications.
  • Take your time to scan your work for grammar errors.  Although there are online and offline applications for this, you should not rely on them heavily.


Sample of a narrative essay


Family Health and Heredity

           My immediate family is composed of my father, mother, myself, and my eight years old brother. Born in 1965, my father is a sanitation officer, while my mother remains a nurse practitioner having been born in 1970. Mostly, the prevalence of brief and severe diseases remains minimal in our family, while that of chronic ones is more imminent. Precisely, my father has previously suffered from hypertension/high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, and stroke, while my mother has also suffered from chronic cough. In my father’s case, it is possible to believe that these conditions have emerged from a genetic perspective, especially high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia as the history of my paternal extended family has numerous incidences in which individuals have suffered from these conditions. Conversely, no genetic or historical relations remain attached to the case of chronic cough concerning my mother. Therefore, it is not genetically inherited as cough has no link with other or previous relatives in her family tree. Currently, both my brother and I have experienced no signs of the conditions that have affected or continue to influence our parents.

          I conversed with a family member, an uncle, regarding our relatives (both maternal and paternal) and discovered some facts about acute and chronic diseases. For example, two individuals who attracted my attention from the maternal side were my grandmother and uncle. Notably, the former suffered from high blood pressure, lung cancer, and heart attack, while the latter suffered from hypertension alone. While my grandmother was a pastry chef, my uncle was a blacksmith. Later, my grandmother died from the heart attack. From the paternal side, my aunt had a history of suffering from osteoarthritis and stroke, while an uncle was exposed to both stroke and hypertension. The former had no job, while the latter was a retired correction officer. Overall, I can conclude that hypertension and stroke appear to exist historically in the family links.

          An analysis of the family tree in both our nuclear and extended families reveals the existence of various diseases that appear to be genetically transmitted. Precisely, they seem to affect many individuals with direct blood ties. They include high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, chronic cough, heart attack, and stroke. Moreover, there is an instance of lung cancer which I would consider behavioral because it is an isolated case and affected only one individual. Another reason for this deduction would be the fact that it is not predictable genetic trend. Only my grandmother has suffered from it, and there are no such occurrences in the preceding generations. However, the other five, high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, chronic cough, heart attack, and stroke appear to have a consistent trend in both the paternal and maternal families.

          Since stroke is prevalent in my family, both my brother and I are at risk. To prevent the probability of having stroke and to minimize the hazard, I must avoid fatty and salty foods. In addition, I must exercise regularly and watch on my weight. Regarding hypertension, I should maintain healthy weight, ensure consistent balanced diet, limit the consumption of alcohol, exercise regularly, and monitor my blood pressure consistently. Lastly, minimizing hypercholesterolemia may include avoiding saturated fats, eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, limiting the consumption of cholesterol, and consuming fatty fish (Moulton). In such a way, the mentioned trends can help prevent me from getting a stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack, and hypercholesterolemia.


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