The sights and smells in your story should all be discussed in particular details. When you're thinking of stories that might make for good essays, it's important to think of some that are rich in these kinds of details. When you're describing your grandmother's house and a specific weekend you remember spending there, it's not important to remember exactly what was cooked for dinner on Friday night, unless that's an important part of the story. What did your grandmother typically cook? What did it usually smell like? Those are the details we need. Typically, narrative essays are "non-fiction," which means that you can't just make up a story.
It needs to have really happened.
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Force yourself to stay as true as possible to the straight story. Outline the plot before you begin. Where does your story start? Where does it end?
Narrative Essay Examples for College and School
Writing up a quick list of the major plot points in the story is a good way of making sure you hit all the high points. Every story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. It helps to limit things as much as possible. While it might seem like we need to know a bunch of specific details from your senior year, try to think of a particularly tumultuous day from that year and tell us that story. Where does that story start? Not the first day of school that year.
Learn how to write a narrative essay with these easy-to-follow tips
Find a better starting point. If you want to tell the story of your prom night, does it start when you get dressed? Does it start when you spill spaghetti sauce all down your dress before the dance? While that might seem like the climax of a story you want to tell, it might make a better starting place.
Go straight to the drama. You don't need to write up a formal outline for a narrative essay unless it's part of the assignment or it really helps you write. Listing the major scenes that need to be a part of the story will help you get organized and find a good place to start. Use a consistent point of view. Generally, narrative essays will be written in first person, making use of "I" statements, which is a little unusual compared to other assignments you'll be given in school.
Whether you're giving us scenes with dialog, or discussing what happened in past-tense, it's perfectly fine to use first person in a narrative essay. This is a difficult and advanced technique to try to pull off, and it usually has the effect of being too complicated.
There should only be one "I" in the story. In general, narrative essays and short stories for that matter should also be told in past tense. So, you would write "Johnny and I walked to the store every Thursday" not "Johnny and I are walking to the store, like we do every Thursday. If so, be consistent with your pronouns throughout the story. Describe the important characters. Who else is important to the story, other than yourself?
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Who else was present when the story took place. Who affected the outcome of the story? What specific, particular details can you remember about the people in the story? Use these to help build the characters into real people. Particular details are specific and only particular to the character being described.
While it may be specific to say that your friend has brown hair, green eyes, is 5 feet tall with an athletic build, these things don't tell us much about the character. The fact that he only wears silk dragon shirts? Now that gives us something interesting. Try writing up a brief sketch of each principal character in your narrative essay, along with the specific details you remember about them. Pick a few essentials. Find the antagonist and conflict. Good narratives often have a protagonist and an antagonist, which is what creates the conflict.
The protagonist is usually the main character in most narrative essays, that'll be you who is struggling with something. It might be a situation, a condition, or a force, but whatever the case, a protagonist wants something and the reader roots for them. The antagonist is the thing or person who keeps the protagonist from getting what they want.
Who or what is the antagonist in your story? To answer this question, you also need to find out what the protagonist wants. What is the goal? What's the best case scenario for the protagonist? What stands in the protagonist's way? The antagonist isn't "the bad guy" of the story, necessarily, and not every story has a clear antagonist.
How To Write A Narrative Essay: General Guidelines
Also keep in mind that for some good personal narratives, you might be the antagonist yourself. Describe the setting. Just as important to a good story as the characters and the plot is the setting.
Where does the story take place? At home? In the city or the country? Describe the location that the story takes place and let the setting become part of your story. Do a freewrite about the location that your story takes place. What do you know about the place? What can you remember? What can you find out?
If you do any research for your narrative essay, it will probably be here. Try to find out extra details about the setting of your story, or double-check your memory to make sure it's right. Use vivid details. Good writing is in the details. Even the most boring office environment or the dullest town can be made compelling with the right kinds of details in the writing.
Remember to use particulars—unique details that don't describe anything else but the specific thing you're writing about, and let these vivid details drive the story. You might tell us something like, "My dad was always sad that year," but if you wrote "Dad never spoke when he got home from work. We heard his truck, then heard as he laid his battered hardhat on the kitchen table. Then we heard him sigh deeply and take off his work clothes, which were stained with grease.
Make sure your theme is clearly illustrated in the story. After you've written your rough draft, read back over it with an eye for your theme. Whatever the purpose of your telling us the story that you're telling us needs to be made very clear. The last thing you want is for the reader to get to the end and say, "Good story, but who cares?
Get the theme into the very beginning of the essay. Just as a researched argument essay needs to have a thesis statement somewhere in the first few paragraphs of the essay, a narrative essay needs a topic statement or a thesis statement to explain the main idea of the story. This isn't "ruining the surprise" of the story, this is foreshadowing the important themes and details to notice over the course of the story as you tell it. A good writer doesn't need suspense in a narrative essay.