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How to write a Narrative Essay: Guide and Examples

How to write a Narrative Essay: Guide and Examples

Narrative essays can be some of the most challenging papers to write. It requires an understanding of storytelling, character development and a mastery in language use. Get all your narrative essay writing questions answered with this informative blog post! We’ve provided examples from different academic levels so that you can see how it should look at every level–from elementary school to college-level assignments. Plus we have suggestions for 20+ topics if you need help getting started on crafting your own personal narrative paper about yourself or someone else’s life experience. We’ll also provide helpful links that will take you step-by-step through the process so that writing this type of paper becomes as natural as brushing your teeth or driving home from work after being on call all night. So grab some coffee (or tea) and get ready to dive in!

What is a narrative essay?

Narrative essays are a popular genre in both academic and creative writing, as they appeal to the human desire for storytelling. A narrative essay is typically telling a story about something that happened or what someone did. It’s called “narrative” because it tells stories of events from an author’s perspective. They are a great way to tell your story, share your experience, and show the reader who you are.

Narrative essays take readers through an event or series of events that changed the course of someone’s life in some way. Narratives can be written as a first person story, or can be written as if you are telling someone else’s story. In either case, you should use strong detail and sensory language to describe what is happening and how it makes you feel.

3 Steps for writing a narrative Essay

  1. The first step is brainstorming for ideas. Spend some time thinking about what topic or event that occurred in your life that could make an interesting story. In order for your narrative essay to be effective, you need to have a good story idea, one with lots of interesting details and an engaging tone. This might take a while but it’s worth taking enough time until you find something that interests you more than anything else. Find examples online by research keywords that will help give direction to how you are going to start out with your own project. For example if someone were interested in exploring their experience around race and culture, they might look up “narrative essays race” or “cultural narrative essay.
  2. Next, start drafting out your rough draft of what you want to say. Keep things short at first because we don’t know how long our finished product will be yet! You can always go back and add details later on if they come up as needed throughout the process of crafting your essay. Remember that sometimes it can be helpful to just start with some initial phrases like “I remember when I was a child in the Dominican Republic” so you don’t get overwhelmed by trying to come up with an entire story from scratch.
  3. It’s time to edit and proofread your final draft. Do not move on until you have a well-written, error free essay that can be proud of!

Components of a good Narrative Paragraph

  • A story
  • An introduction to the protagonist’s character
  • A problem or conflict that arises in the narrative
  • Some sort of resolution, even if it is just temporary and not completely happy. Narratives can be sad because they are reflective on how things have gone wrong for us, but we still need something positive at their end: this could mean finding closure with one thing while looking ahead optimistically towards our future.

Tips for Writing a Great Narrative Essay

To make your writing more interesting, try using one or more of these tricks:

  • Introduce conflict early on in the story. The introduction to a narrative essay is the most important part of writing this type of essay. The introduction sets up the reader’s expectations for what they are about to read. It also contains an anecdote that provides some background information on why this story matters and how it relates to your life story. Writing a great intro paragraph can be difficult–you need something engaging but not too dramatic or self-indulgent.
  • Include dialogue between characters
  • Use descriptive language to paint a picture of what is happening on the page
  • Consider creating compelling scenes and dialogue in your story, or find out how to use figurative language like similes or metaphors
  • Refer back to past events and how they led up to this moment
  • Foreshadow what might happen next by giving hints about it before telling readers why it happened.
  • It’s also important not only to set up tension and suspense but also resolve them at the end of your story

Narrative essay Outline and Template

As with any essay, one should have a thesis statement and an introductory paragraph. One’s narrative is different because of the first person point-of-view writing style; it will be much more personal to write about your experiences as opposed to what you think someone else might experience. There are three basic parts that make up a good narrative: introduction, background story or incident (i.e., something worth telling), and conclusion/summary.

This is the structure to follow when writing a narrative essay:


When we want to start our narrative essay, we need introductions that can hook readers into reading on! This intro paragraph has two main functions: get their attention and set the scene for what they will be reading.

Background Story

The next part of the narrative is to tell your story or describe an incident that happened and it’s worth telling


Lastly, you want to end with a summary paragraph which reiterates what this experience was about- why it’s important for others to read. This section will also highlight the theme of your narrative essay!

Personal Narrative Essay

A personal narrative essay is a story that you tell about yourself. You can share your own experience or explore an issue from another perspective, as long as it’s something significant to you and has deeply affected who you are now. It could be based on one event in your life, but usually narratives revolve around several episodes of different lengths with twists and turns along the way. They should reflect “I” rather than third person narrative writing such as “he.”

Narrative essays allow us to reveal intimate details about ourselves without feeling too vulnerable because they require readers’ engagement – we want them asking questions so we have more opportunities to elaborate on our thoughts later in the text if need be. The most important thing about writing a narrative is to tell an honest story. We need to trust that the reader will be able to identify with our feelings even if they’re different from theirs and allow them into our world for a while, so it helps if we make sure there are words in sentences rather than just blank spaces!

20 Narrative essay Topic Ideas

Here are some 20+ ideas for a personal narrative essay Topics:

  1. How do you deal with those who don’t seem to take you seriously?
  2. What’s your work life like and how does it shape the way you spend time outside of work?
  3. Do people ever accuse you of being too sensitive or emotional – what is that like for you when they say this?
  4. How has a specific book changed the way I see things (or not)?
  5. What did my family mean to me growing up, and what meaning would I want them to have now?
  6. What is the best way to spend an hour of free time?
  7. What is my favorite childhood memory?
  8. Why do people who are interested in politics have to be so intense about it all the time and not just enjoy what they’re doing?
  9. Do you ever feel like your friends only care about themselves, but never see that there’s a bigger picture out there (outside of their own)?
  10. How has exposure to culture shaped how I view myself or other cultures?
  11. What is the most difficult thing about being a type of person?
  12. I’ve always accepted my situation and never really questioned it until now – what can I do to change that, or should I just give up on everything as a lost cause?
  13. If you could say anything to someone who hurt your feelings, but didn’t apologize for their actions, what would you want them to know from your perspective (or why)?
  14. How does our environment have an effect on us in terms of mental health and overall well-being?
  15. What are some ways we can use technology more intentionally instead of just mindlessly scrolling through social media posts all day long?
  16. Did people ever make fun of me because they saw something different in me than other people see?
  17. What has been the hardest thing to give up on or let go of in your life so far?
  18. I’m having a hard time figuring out my career path and would like some advice.
  19. Why do we feel bad about ourselves, even when others don’t seem to be making fun of us at all (or not nearly as much)? Why is the feeling still there after someone else reassures us that nothing’s wrong with our appearance/a situation/etc.?
  20. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by everything going on around you, which makes it harder for you to focus on one specific task or activity without getting distracted? If so, I think I might have ADHD. What should I do if this answer is yes?
  21. How has your upbringing or past experiences shaped who you are today in terms of personality, interests, values, beliefs etc.? What would you change if given the chance? Why was this experience important to your life at that point in time?
  22. Your profession not fulfilling its promise: How did it happen (if relevant) – how did this affect your trajectory – how has it affected those around you- what options might there be now –what do you want to do next
  23. Do you believe in the idea of ‘paying it forward’? Why or why not?
  24. What does success mean to you? Is there anything/one person who inspires your idea of success?
  25. What skills have you acquired during your career which will be most beneficial to someone starting a career in your industry?
  26. It’s always interesting getting into new hobbies or activities outside your comfort zone – why did you decide to go ahead with these things despite being unsure if they would work out?
  27. What are your plans after graduating college? What professional certifications do you plan on taking and why did you choose them?

Examples of a narrative essay

Sample 1

I cannot begin with my triumphs over hardship because I haven’t experienced many of them. I have always been fortunate to live in a world where there are no true hardships, but instead the challenges of everyday life that seem insurmountable at times. As such, my narrative is not about overcoming adversity so much as it’s about how growing up with privilege has shaped and molded me into who I am today.

I’m afraid this may come off like an apology or some sort of excuse for what seems like weaknesses on the surface – but rather than choosing simply one specific event from which to draw experience-based conclusions, I want to talk about everything: family dynamics; education systems; social aspects (friends/relationships); race relations; media influences etc., because all these things contribute to shaping us just as much if not more so than any single event.

Sample 2

My narrative is about privilege, and what it means to be privileged in the United States of America. Specifically: white middle-to-upper class male with a heterosexual cisgender identity living on the east coast in his twenties; education from private school/top ten university largely spent abroad before coming back home after graduation for work.

I am not involved or interested (or qualified) enough to speak about wider global issues here – but I do hope that this account will at least provide useful insight into one person’s experience growing up privileged in America today, as well as how my life might have been different if certain factors were changed along the way.”


Here are some other famous narrative essay examples:

  1. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1962

This is a personal narrative essay written by Lewis Black. The author talks about his experience of being in high school during the Cuban Missile Crisis when there was an increased threat of nuclear war happening between Russia and America. He discusses how he felt that everyone would die because people were talking as if it was inevitable but nobody had any control over what happened. It’s not until sometime passes that he understands how fortunate they are for living through this crisis with little damage done (due to luck).

I am not, as I once was apt to be in such moments of panic and despair, consumed by a sense of my own personal insignificance. If the bomb had dropped on me then and there, it would have killed only one person–me.” Lewis Black

  1. The Birthmark: A True Story 1845

This is an example essay written about how Madame Merle’s husband left her because she has a birth mark from being born with erythroblastosis fetalis (a form of hemolytic disease). The author tells us that “it suffused her cheek; so much so that you might doubt its mortal origin” which made him think his wife wasn’t beautiful enough for him. This story is an interesting way to show how we live through things and learn from them.

  1. My Dream House Wish List” by Danielle Wainwright
  2. It’s a Family Tradition To Do the Unthinkable for Christmas!” by Maria Dimmitt, as told to Gabrielle Birkner.
  3. Transcription of “A Personal Narrative Essay on Embarrassment and Body Image.” From Julia Bolus’s podcast interview with Dr. Julie Sheppard-Hanger (February 2017) at The Story Studio in Chicago.


Narrative essays are a genre of non-fiction writing, often used in English courses. They tell the story of an event or events from the point of view of someone involved in those events–either as a participant or observer. A narrative essay is not just about telling what happened; it’s also about exploring how these things have affected you and your life since they’ve occurred. Our Academic paper writers and essay rewriters at Essay-writing.com can help with any type of assignment that needs to be written, but here we’ll focus on personal narratives because there are so many potential topics for this style! What do YOU want to write about? We’re ready when you are!

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