8 Useful Tips for Narrative Essay Writing

by Sidney Thompson 8 min read
A man writing in a notebook
A man with a notebook sitting in an armchair

When studying, high school and college students have to submit different works, one of which is a narrative essay. Written in the first person, such essays aim to share personal experiences.

Knowing how to write a narrative essay is an important skill for any student. Having mastered it, you will learn how to express your thoughts creatively and illustrate your experience.

If you haven't dealt with the narrative writing format yet, then this article is for you! What is a narrative essay? What’s the purpose of narrative writing? How to write a good narrative essay? We’ll answer these questions further, so keep reading!

What Is Narrative Writing?

A student holding a pen
A person writing on a paper

Let’s begin with the definition of a narrative essay, its purpose, and its typical structure. 

Narrative essay definition

What is a narrative text? We can define narrative essay writing as an essay that tells a story from an author’s perspective. This type of essay has one central point around which the entire writing revolves. All events and characters described in the text also relate to the motif of the story.

Purpose of narrative essay

The main purpose of a narrative paper is to tell a story about the experiences that happened to you. In this type of essay, simply describing the events in chronological order won’t be enough. You need to catch the reader’s attention by making the story as vivid as possible. 

With a good descriptive essay, the reader will want to become a part of the events described, fully immersing themselves in your story.

Why do professors give students such essays? Unlike other types of academic writing, this type of essay challenges a different skill set in you. Narrative paper writing challenges your ability to tell a compelling story. You need to find creative ways to convey your message and tell about meaningful experiences in your life.

A typical essay structure

A setting, plot, characters, climax, and resolution are essential elements of a narrative type of essay. Let’s briefly define each of these building blocks:

  • The setting is where the events unfold
  • The plot stands for the sequence of events you are telling about
  • Characters are people other than the author that played an important role in your story
  • The climax is the moment of the highest tension in the development of the story
  • The resolution is the end of your story where you draw meaningful conclusions

Here is what a typical narrative paper outline looks like:

  • An introduction that starts with a hook and establishes the theme
  • A body that communicates the setting, characters, and plot, ultimately leading to a climax
  • A conclusion where you highlight the relevance of the story or lessons learned

Choosing the Best Narrative Writing Topics

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Two female students making notes in notebooks

When it comes to choosing narrative topics, the tasks may vary in the guidance on what to write about. College admission essays often come with a list of prompts to choose from. 

Prompts can be both open-ended and more specific. A prompt to respond to may ask you to describe a certain event (say, your first school day). Or, you may have to recall a challenging situation that taught you something. 

Sometimes, you may have more freedom to choose an essay topic. But, such freedom often creates difficulty in picking the right subject. How to come up with good topics for narrative papers? Here are some proven tips to follow.

Reflect on personal experiences

Your personal experiences can be a major source of inspiration for your writing. Consider telling about situations that took a surprising turn or influenced you significantly. You can show how the challenges faced have shaped your personality and forced you to grow.

Stick with a specific event

Since writing a narrative essay involves storytelling, it’s worth focusing on a specific moment in your life. A foreign trip, a conversation with an important person, or a challenging situation can make a good essay topic.

We’ll provide expert tips for writing a story later in this article, so stay tuned!

Focus on your audience

When thinking about narrative writing topics, focus on your audience’s interests. Opt for topics relevant to your readers, be it the admissions committee, or a wider audience.

Consider subjects that matter to you

Along with focusing on your audience, make sure that the topic is meaningful to you. Describing what you’re passionate about is easier than writing about irrelevant subjects.

Check essay prompts

If the instructor didn't give you a list of prompts, why not look them up online? The Common App essay prompts can give you some inspiration for crafting a good topic.

Add room for sensory details

As mentioned before, narrative writing is a chance for you to express your thoughts creatively. Here, you can use catchy language and add sensory details. When choosing a topic, stick with the one that gives you room for engaging the senses. 

Still, struggling with identifying good topics for a narrative paper? Here are 10 examples that might give you some inspiration:

  1. 1. The most memorable day of my life
  2. 2. Overcoming a fear that had held me back
  3. 3. A life-changing trip abroad
  4. 4. Meeting someone who greatly influenced my life
  5. 5. A proud moment in my life
  6. 6. Learning a valuable lesson from a difficult experience
  7. 7. The moment I realized my true passion
  8. 8. Standing up for myself or someone else in a challenging situation
  9. 9. Relocating abroad and adapting to a new environment
  10. 10. An unforgettable accomplishment or achievement

How to Write Narrative Paper: 8 Tips to Follow

A “How to” sticky note on a whiteboard
A person sticking a note on a whiteboard with the words "How to" written on it

So, we’ve discussed how to define a narrative essay and structure it. Now, it’s time to see what makes a good narrative essay. Let’s see how to write a narrative paper step-by-step.

#1 Create an outline for narrative paper writing

Start by creating an outline to make your writing successful. Draw a draft of the narrative structure you’re going to use. It will help to stay focused and consistent in expressing your thoughts. 

An outline also helps you keep track of the events that are important for the story. Note which characters will take part in the story and how you will introduce them. 

An outline also makes it easier to find room for sensory details like smells, tastes, sight, hearing, and touch.

How to outline a narrative essay? See the example below.

I. Introduction

  • Hook
  • Establishing Theme

II. Body

  • Setting
  • Characters
  • Plot/ Events Sequence
  • Climax

III Conclusion

  • Reflection on the Relevance of the Story

#2 Write a powerful introduction

Now that you have an outline ready, how do you start a narrative paper? An introduction is the first element of your essay that a reader will see. It needs to be captivating and engaging enough to make the reader want to read further. 

Start with a hook — a sentence that grabs the reader’s attention. It can be a rhetorical question, an interesting quote, or a vivid description.

After the hook, provide some background information to establish the context for your story. In the last sentence of the introduction, explain the purpose of your paper.

Prepare a catchy thesis statement — something that will motivate readers to dive into your story.

#3 Write a body that builds up to the theme

The body of your text should build up to the climax of the story. Make sure you cover all events that happened and show how they affected your life. 

In an essay, each sentence should have some connection to the main idea. Your narrative should provide vivid details about the setting, characters, and plot. The body of your story communicates the message you want to deliver.

Include sensory details that will make your readers feel as if they’re part of your story. Provide enough dialogue between your characters to make the story more alive.

Focus on a single event — don’t try to cover too much ground in one essay. The climax of the narrative should also be present in the body paragraphs. 

#4 Reach a logical conclusion

After the climax, you can move to the conclusion. In the conclusion of your writing, explain the relevance of your story to the reader. Show how the events described have changed you and what lessons you’ve learned from them.

#5 Use the pronoun "I" to create a personal connection

Remember that narrative papers should come from the first person. So, use personal pronouns “I” and “me” when you talk about your experiences. You can also use other characters’ names, but make sure to refer to yourself as well.

Using a personal connection helps make your essay more vivid. It helps your readers to empathize with you and share your experiences.

#6 Use active voice for more clarity

Active voice is especially fitting when it comes to telling stories. It helps to convey information more clearly and efficiently than the passive voice.

In an active voice, the subject performs an action. In a passive voice, the subject has an action done to it. Active voice not only sounds more natural but also makes your writing less wordy and easier to read.

#7 Use creative language

Narrative writing is a great opportunity to express your creativity. Use adjectives and adverbs to make your story more vivid. You can also use hyperboles, metaphors, and similes for the same purpose.

Make sure that each sentence has some meaning and provides important details about your story. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination flow while writing!

#8 Revise, edit, and proofread

Once you finish your draft, it's time for revision and proofreading. Check the sequence of the events described in your essay. Make sure the events contradict each other. 

Read your essay out loud to see if there are any inaccuracies or missing elements in it. Use a spell checker and proofreading software to make sure your essay is error-free.


Narrative paper writing is a great opportunity to be creative and express your thoughts freely. You need to have a clear idea about the purpose and structure of the paper to succeed in this type of writing. Choosing good topics for narrative papers is also essential.

In this article, we've covered the most important steps for narrative paper writing. Follow these narrative writing tips, and you'll produce a story that captures readers' attention! Good luck with crafting your work of art!

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