How to Write a Narrative Essay That Accurately Tells Your Story

Your story deserves to be told, and getting assigned a narrative essay in school becomes the perfect opportunity to do just that. This is the one time you have complete control over the topic you discuss and how it’s related to others because, after all, it’s straight out of your very own memory. And while you may be led in a certain direction by your teacher—for example, being asked to write about an event specifically from your early childhood—you still have a pretty big say when it comes to selecting the story that you tell.

However, like all other forms of academic writing, a good narrative essay is structured. And it also meets the requirements given to you by your teacher and your school district. So, it’s not exactly an assignment you can just write without any preparation. It does require quite a bit of extra effort and skill to pull it off successfully.

Thankfully, learning about narrative essays before you start writing is a smart way to make sure that you understand the assignment you’ve been given. And this helpful guide will explain exactly what a narrative essay is, what the requirements are for a narrative essay, and how to write a narrative essay to the best of your abilities.

What is a Narrative Essay

Still lost on what a narrative essay actually is? Don’t worry about it!

A narrative essay is simply a piece of academic writing in which you share an experience you’ve had at any time in your life. Whether it be a dramatic event, a depressing incident, a personal experience, or a funny little anecdote from your past, narrative essays are based on relaying what happened to you from your own point of view.

Just think of writing a narrative essay as your chance to be creative while still having a central point behind telling this particular story to others. In essence, you get to express yourself, share a piece of your life and have a purpose all wrapped into one.

Unlike other types of essays, your job is not to encourage your reader to draw any particular conclusions by proving something to them while they read your narrative essay. Instead, you’re simply giving them new information—based on your lived experience—and allowing them to come up with their own opinions along the way.

The whole point of writing a narrative essay is to gain practice with the art of storytelling.

And the fun comes in from writing a true story in a seemingly fictional way. Basically, you’re like the narrator of your own life experience. And your job is to tell your tale to others in a structured yet very creative type of way.

Interestingly enough, while most narrative essays are told in the first-person point of view, you can always choose to write your personal narrative essay in the second or third-person point of view as well.

Requirements for a Narrative Essay

The requirements for a narrative essay are pretty unique in terms of other pieces of academic writing you may have completed in writing classes in the past. To help you meet those requirements, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Select a topic that you remember clearly. Your narrative essay needs to reflect the entire story from start to finish. A good narrative doesn’t have holes in it.
  • Narrative essays are a form of formal storytelling. Therefore, they should include all five basic elements of a story: plot, setting, point of view, characters, and conflict.
  • There needs to be a purpose behind telling the story you choose. Don’t simply talk about something uninteresting you’ve done. Instead, choose a story that illustrates a major event in your life, explains how you’ve developed over time, or shows the reader an example of a lesson you’ve learned.
  • Be descriptive. Use details that trigger your reader’s senses so they experience your event for themselves.
  • Choose a point of view and stick to it. While narrative essays don’t have to be in first-person, oftentimes it’s easier for writers to tell their story that way. Regardless, once you pick the point of view, you can’t switch back and forth or your reader will surely be confused.
  • Follow the basic structure for a narrative essay. Narratives are meant to be personal but you should not write this type of formal assignment like you’re having a casual conversation with a friend.

Writing a narrative essay is a really unique experience since it’s unlike many of the other writing assignments you’ll receive in school. Be sure to meet all the requirements for a narrative essay as outlined above, but have some fun being creative with it as well.

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Topics for a Narrative Essay

Since narrative essays are based on the personal life experiences you’ve actually lived through, it’s impossible to make a list that ever ends. You could literally start making a list of topics for a narrative essay today and still be thinking of new suggestions each day moving forward.

While this definitely makes it easy to come up with ideas, it sure makes it hard to narrow those ideas down. At some point, you’ll just have to pick one and decide to go with it.

However, it’s your choice whether you want to write a compelling story about something that made you happy or sad, taught you something new or reinforced something you already thought to be true, or lent itself to making a good story for other reasons.

Here are 10 topics for a narrative essay to get your brain churning with ideas:

    • The day you began a new family tradition

    • Getting asked out on your first date

    • A memorable vacation you took

    • Picking out a new pet

    • Trying something new for the first time

    • An accident that you were involved in

    • The worst nightmare you ever had

    • Losing someone close to you

    • Your first day at a new school

  • An event that changed the whole course of your life

Think of these 10 topics for narrative essays as a starting point. While you can certainly choose to focus on one of them and start writing now, they can also inspire you to think of a new idea as well.

personal narrative essays

Narrative Essay Structure

In many ways, writing a narrative essay is very different from writing any other type of essay in school. But, there is still a narrative essay structure that you must follow in order to earn a top grade.

To write an effective narrative essay, follow the 5 paragraph formula below:

  • Introduction with thesis statement
  • Body paragraph # 1
  • Body paragraph # 2
  • Body paragraph # 3
  • Conclusion

As always, this formula is used to get you started. Some essays will need more than 3 body paragraphs to express everything that needs to be said while others may not. If you’re unsure, ask your teacher for their personal advice.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

Once you understand the basic 5 paragraph essay structure, learning how to write a narrative essay is a pretty straightforward process.

It all starts out with the planning stage—which includes creating an outline, gathering all the details of the story you’re about to tell, and reviewing the rubric you’ve been proved.

Next, tackle your first draft using your outline to keep you organized along the way. Review it once yourself then have another person like a peer, a parent, or a teacher go over it as well.

Lastly, complete your final draft by incorporating any necessary changes that you find personally or those that have been suggested to you by someone else. A final draft is also your last chance to add in some extra details that will make your narrative even more interesting to your reader.

Skipping any of these crucial steps is not advised. Writing a narrative essay is a process and each stage is important in completing the final product.

narrative essays examples

Narrative Essay Examples

There are many reasons why you should read a couple of narrative essay examples before you begin your assignment.

Reading narrative essay examples introduces you to new writing styles. Plus, it helps you do things naturally like learning new vocabulary words, improving your spelling, knowing where to place punctuation in the correct spots, and crafting compound sentences.

Lastly, reviewing narrative essay examples illustrates the structure you’re expected to follow on your own narrative essay assignment.

So, here are some narrative essay examples you can use as a new learning experience for you:


Now that you know everything you need to know about narrative essays, it’s time for you to get started. With a bit of practice, and some occasional guidance from your teacher, you can write a narrative essay that tells your personal story while also meeting the requirements listed on your rubric.

Honestly, you already have what it takes to earn an exceptional grade on this assignment because you’ve been talking about your experiences with others your entire life. What’s not to love about that?

So, give your best effort, review this guide as often as you like, and start sharing your tale. By simply following the structure that’s listed above, you can turn one of your favorite or not-so-favorite memories into a piece of formal writing that gets read by others.

Sooner than you think, your narrative essay will be complete. And you’ll have earned more experience with the writing process so that you’re even better prepared for next time.

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