How to Write a Narrative Essay
by Chris Angelopoulos
You are most likely here because the seemingly daunting task of writing a narrative essay lies before you. However, this should not be cause for concern. Narrative essays are just a structured form of the ancient human practice of storytelling. Telling a story can even provide an opportunity to cover a subject you are the world’s foremost authority on: yourself. The recipe for a great narrative essay is one part creativity mixed with one part structure to guide your creative ideas from the spark of inspiration to an engaging tale that will captivate readers. Read on to find out how to accomplish this.
Creativity and structure are both important on the path to writing a great narrative essay. The first step on this journey involves brainstorming, which is a way to lay the structural groundwork that will allow your ideas to flow. For a complete overview of brainstorming tools and methods, make sure to read the brainstorming article in this how-to writing series.
One of the best methods of brainstorming for a narrative essay about your own life is to just start writing down, as quickly as possible, all the important or life changing events you have experienced. You can use Speare to help you quickly capture ideas before they evaporate. Just enter the ideas in the order they come to you. The organizational work should wait until your thoughts are safely cataloged.
It may seem like extra work to write down many ideas quickly when you may not be using all of them and will have to rewrite the ones you do. However, it is often better to have a range of viable options to choose from than to struggle for hours to come up with the perfect idea or lose a great idea that never made its way from your head to the screen.
There Can Be Only One
Once you have a collection of ideas, the next step is to choose the best idea from among that set and determine the next important structural element of your paper: your thesis. Using Speare, you can safely tuck away alternate ideas on the Palette and use the Canvas to start crafting your essay around a main idea. With a narrative story, the thesis is the big idea you are trying to communicate to readers. This should be chosen carefully, changed only with a good reason, and kept in mind for every portion of your essay.
A great way to pull a central idea out of a story is to ask what kind of life changing event it was. Think about if it affected you most deeply on a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or some other level. Focus on the most important point of the story to you and try to use each section to support the central thesis.
The Space Time Continuum
A critical component of storytelling is giving readers a sense of space and time to help them experience the memory you wish to share. You can describe the events in vivid detail, but it is also important to paint a chronological picture of the story with all important events included. Speare makes it easy to rearrange different parts of your essay until a coherent timeline emerges. Think about important events leading up to and since the event that give additional meaning and depth to the story. This way you can build a compelling story that will draw the reader in from beginning to end and focus their attention on the central idea you want to communicate.
Story of My Life
One of the benefits of telling your own story in a narrative essay is getting to use first person pronouns such as I, me, we, us, my, and mine. Remember that even though you can use such words, you should not overuse them and risk taking attention away from the content of the story.
Putting together a narrative essay from start to finish can actually be a rewarding experience if you use the right tools to build a memorable tale from your own experience.