How To Write A Narrative Essay Step-by-Step

Your teacher has given you a narrative essay assignment. Chances are, they did not cover how to write it. And, if they did, they just covered the narrative essay format or outline. Don’t worry – in this article, you will learn everything you need to write a narrative essay that will score you an A.

What is a Narrative Essay?

For this type of essay, you need to understand what a narrative essay is. How is it different from other types of essays you’ve tackled in the past?

Simply put, a narrative essay is a story based on one or more of your real-life experiences. However, your story should be related to a specific theme. In other words, you are telling a story to prove a certain point. For instance, you could narrate an experience that taught you the importance of patience.

Keep in mind that a narrative essay is a story. As such, it should have characters, a plot, a setting, and the conflict. It is a personal story, so you, the writer, are either the protagonist or antagonist.

So, how is a narrative essay different from other essays?

In a narrative essay, you guide a reader to a certain point through a story. At the end of it, the reader can draw their own conclusion.

Unlike other essays, you do not persuade or criticize a contrary point of view. You are not trying to prove anything. You are simply sharing an experience that taught you a life lesson.

The main characteristics of a narrative essay are:

  • Written in the first person
  • Written to inform not argue
  • Describe an event or experience in chronological order
  • A non-fictional story as it should be based on an actual experience
  • Has the elements of a story (characters, plot, setting, and conflict) but follows the structure of an essay

The Format of a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay format includes the introduction, body, and conclusion.


The introduction is where you introduce your story. However, your story should not begin here. Instead, focus on grabbing the reader’s attention.

A good introduction;

  • Has a catchy opening sentence: You could start with a quote, an interesting fact, or an unexpected point of view.
  • Provides background information about your story: Let the reader know why your story is significant.
  • Includes a thesis: What are you trying to communicate by sharing your story? For instance, you could share your experience with a bully to show that the public school system requires reforms.


Narrate your story in three body paragraphs. Introduce the characters, setting, events, conflict, and the aftermath.

The best way to write a story in a narrative essay is in chronological order. The first paragraph should cover the moment leading up to the conflict or climax.

The second paragraph should include the climax. Make it exciting and intriguing by focusing on the feelings you experienced.

Compare the conflict with other situations to make your reader understand you better.

The third body paragraph covers the aftermath, result, or resolution. This paragraph also includes the lesson learned.


Like the intro, the conclusion is only one paragraph. In this paragraph, restates your thesis (lesson learned) and reiterate the main points in your story. Consider how your story relates to the real world.

An excellent conclusion includes a call to action. For instance, if your story was about bullying, you could ask readers to take action against this vice.  

How to Write a Narrative Essay Step-By-Step

What does the actual process of writing a narrative essay involve? Read on to find out.

Step 1: Pick a Topic

Just like a narrative type of essay, teachers allow a topic of your choice. That in itself is the problem. You have many life experiences. Which one should you pick for your narrative essay?

Do a little brainstorming:

  • Ask yourself what life experience is appealing enough to hook a reader.
  • Consider things that bother you enough to want to discuss with others.
  • List those life experiences you learned a lot from.
  • Find those topics relevant to modern society. You could even use social media to find what your peers are discussing.
  • Attempt free writing. Start writing down your thoughts until you run out of ideas. Then go through what you have written to see if there are any ideas good enough for a narrative essay.

Are you still getting stuck? The following narrative essay topic ideas might provide some inspiration.

  • The most embarrassing experience of my life
  • How I learned to drive (swim, play piano, etc.)
  • A memorable journey
  • How my teacher influenced my life
  • Why I will never regret participating in school events
  • How I overcame a painful break-up
  • Why you should treat strangers with respect
  • The superpower I wish I would have

When choosing a story, make sure your story fits the assignment. Although teachers allow you some freedom, they provide a prompt with guidelines on the theme. Themes for narrative essays generally require stories involving:

  • Moments that changed your life
  • How you overcame adversity
  • Experiences where you ignored life principles such as respect and lived to regret the consequences

More importantly, choose a story with a manageable plot. An essay is short: pick a contained and concise story.

For instance, your first year of junior high school is broad enough to fit a novel. A better approach would be to pick a single experience from junior high school.

Like cause and effects essays, to avoid many details, limit the number of characters you introduce. You should Only include essential characters. Mostly, the protagonist (you) and an antagonist.

Step 2: Create an Outline

A narrative essay does not require research. But before you start writing, you need to organize your thoughts.

Organizing your thoughts allows you to come up with a thesis quickly and fill any gaps in your story. For all that, you need a narrative essay outline.

Write down the essay structure (introduction, body, and conclusion). Then, briefly note down what you will write in each paragraph. Does it make sense? If not, re-organize until it feels right.

Step 3: Write the First Draft

Use your outline to write the first draft. Revisit the narrative essay guidelines covered earlier, such as writing in the first-person narrative.

Use descriptive and sensory language. The reader was not there; so, paint a clear picture of the events. Allow the reader to feel, hear, smell, taste, and even touch the events in your story.

Descriptive language employs the use of modifiers (adjectives and adverbs). However, do not overuse or use weak adverbs. Strong verbs and nouns sometimes describe events better than adverbs.

Step 4: Revise Your Narrative Essay Draft

After finishing your first draft, revise. However, do not do that immediately. Take a walk, watch a movie, do another assignment – distract yourself so you can revisit the draft with a fresh perspective.

When revising, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are my words descriptive enough?
  • Is the essay easy to understand?
  • Did I effectively engage the reader?
  • Did I follow the narrative essay structure?
  • Does my story convey the intended message? Is there a connection between the story and the thesis?

Step 5: Edit the Final Draft

After revising edit or proofread:

  • Check for grammar and typos
  • Replace complex sentences with simple ones
  • Remove repeated phrases and ideas

Ask someone else to go through your final draft. They might improve your essay by spotting mistakes you couldn’t.

Summary on How to Write a Narrative Essay

Narrative essays are different from other essays. They are based on personal experiences, not research. Plus, they are written in the first-person narrative.

Brainstorming a relevant topic is perhaps the most challenging part. Remember, you are not just writing a story, but a story with a theme.

After finding a good topic, create an outline to organize your thoughts. After you have everything figured out, begin writing. Do not forget to proofread your work. Typos and grammar mistakes create a bad impression on readers.

The information above covers all you need on how to write a narrative essay. Bookmark this page for the next time you get stuck while writing a narrative essay.

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