Online Writing Lab
Roane State Community College
- OWL Home
- Getting Started
- Break It Up
- Thesis Statements
- Types of Essays
- Persuasive / Persuade
- Cause and Effect
- Comparison and Contrast
- Narrative & Descriptive
- Division & Classification
- Literary Terms
- Topic Sentences
- A Brief Note About Clarity
- Prepositions and Idioms
- Removing Word Clutter
- Revision Checklist for Essays
- Guide to Comma Use
- Run-on Sentences
- Sentence Fragments
- Research Papers
- Research Paper FAQ
- How to Write a General Research Paper
- Argumentative Research Paper
- Using Search Engines Wisely
- Evaluating Web Sources: Is It FLAWED?
- MLA Style
- Diagrams for Citations
- Formatting a Works Cited Page and Paper
- Using Sources Correctly
- Works Cited Entries
- In-Text Citations
- APA Style
- Diagrams for Citations
- Formatting a References Page and Paper
- Citation Style
- In-Text Citations
- Writing Tips
- Revision Checklist for Essays
- Tone and Audience Awareness
- Reference Materials
- Common Errors in English
- Grammar Bytes (interactive exercises)
- Grammar and Style Notes
- Literary Index
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- Self Study Questions for ESL Students
- Using Search Engines Wisely!
Types of Papers: Narrative/Descriptive
To write a narrative essay, you’ll need to tell a story (usually about something that happened to you) in such a way that he audience learns a lesson or gains insight.
To write a descriptive essay, you’ll need to describe a person, object, or event so vividly that the reader feels like he/she could reach out and touch it.
Tips for writing effective narrative and descriptive essays:
- Tell a story about a moment or event that means a lot to you–it will make it easier for you to tell the story in an interesting way!
- Get right to the action! Avoid long introductions and lengthy descriptions–especially at the beginning of your narrative.
- Make sure your story has a point! Describe what you learned from this experience.
- Use all five of your senses to describe the setting, characters, and the plot of your story. Don’t be afraid to tell the story in your own voice. Nobody wants to read a story that sounds like a textbook!
How to Write Vivid Descriptions
Having trouble describing a person, object, or event for your narrative or descriptive essay? Try filling out this chart:
What do you smell?
What do you taste?
What do you see?
What do you hear?
What might you touch or feel?
Remember: Avoid simply telling us what something looks like–tell us how it tastes, smells, sounds, or feels!
- Virginia rain smells different from a California drizzle.
- A mountain breeze feels different from a sea breeze.
- We hear different things in one spot, depending on the time of day.
- You can “taste” things you’ve never eaten: how would sunscreen taste?
Using Concrete Details for Narratives
Effective narrative essays allow readers to visualize everything that’s happening, in their minds. One way to make sure that this occurs is to use concrete, rather than abstract, details.
…makes the story or image seem clearer and more real to us.
…makes the story or image difficult to visualize.
…gives us information that we can easily grasp and perhaps empathize with.
…leaves your reader feeling empty, disconnected, and possibly confused.
The word “abstract” might remind you of modern art. An abstract painting, for example, does not normally contain recognizable objects. In other words, we can’t look at the painting and immediately say "that’s a house" or "that’s a bowl of fruit." To the untrained eye, abstract art looks a bit like a child’s finger-painting–just brightly colored splotches on a canvas.
Avoid abstract language—it won’t help the reader understand what you’re trying to say!
Abstract: It was a nice day.
Concrete: The sun was shining and a slight breeze blew across my face.
Abstract: I liked writing poems, not essays.
Concrete: I liked writing short, rhythmic poems and hated rambling on about my thoughts in those four-page essays.
Abstract: Mr. Smith was a great teacher.
Concrete: Mr. Smith really knew how to help us turn our thoughts into good stories and essays.
Sample Papers – Narration
- Student Sample: Holiday Warfare
- Student Sample: Leandro
- Student Sample: Small-Town Terror
Sample Papers – Descriptive
- Student Sample: Young Lions,
- Student Sample: The Old
- Student Sample: The Curse of
- Student Sample: Diller’s
- Student Sample: Lou’s Place
© Roane State Community College
About the OWL
The RSCC OWL was born June 5, 1995. It’s among the oldest (and wisest) OWLs.
Comments about these pages should be directed to: Mike Hill , RSCC Learning Center Director.
Essay Writing with EssayPro
How to Write a Narrative Essay to Take Their Breath Away
How to Write a Narrative Essay to Take Their Breath Away
Narrative essays are a popular type of academic writing . Both high school and college students write loads of them. These essays show your creativity, character, and ability to tell a compelling story. Telling a great story could be a challenging task. That’s why EssayPro’s team have compiled a list of things you need to know before writing a personal narrative essay.
- Good Narrative Essay Topics
- Narrative Essay Example For College
- Narrative Essay Example for High School
- General Advice
Fear not, for we are all authors! Every person’s life is a story. Who else could be the author besides the person experiencing it? Writing a short story is different than writing an essay about your entire life . They key here is to cut out a memory or experience that stands out for you and turn it into a great story.
What Is A Narrative Essay?
A simple narrative essay definition is a piece of academic writing that tells a story. As the author, your purpose is to create a lifelike experience for the reader. You must place them in the middle of the action and keep them engaged. You would normally tell this story from your point of view.
There are several types of narrative essays to discuss.
Autobiographical Narrative Essay
This assignment prompts you to describe a memorable event that happened in your life. It’s not an autobiography, contrary to what the title suggests. You must think of a specific event that matters to you and explore it. Focus on the story and its purpose, instead of details.
Descriptive Narrative Essay
The autobiographical essay would have you focus on the story without exaggerating details. In a descriptive narrative essay, you have more creative freedom. You must describe a situation, memory, or experience in vivid detail. Your goal is to paint a picture for the reader and tell a beautiful story.
A well-written descriptive narrative paper is usually straightforward. It takes a complicated story and narrows it down, allowing the reader to infer the rest. Great writers avoid over-exaggeration and stick to their purpose. There are always some limits to the amount of content you can provide to your readers. Keep this in mind when choosing what to describe in your work.
The tricky thing about the narrative essay is that there are always some limits to the amount of content you can provide your readers with. Ideally, a well-written narrative paper is one that takes a complex story and crunches it down into a limited number of words while always remaining relevant to the purpose. At the same time, keeping the attention of the audience is crucially important.
Good Narrative Essay Topics
When it comes to topics , there are several things you need to take into account.
Start by carefully reading the directions of your assignment. Teachers will often tell you what they are looking for in your narrative piece. Most narrative essays share a few common characteristics:
A Conflict/Challenge: An inciting incident that creates the tone and sets the story in motion.
A Protagonist: A relatable character that faces the conflict or challenge to overwhelming odds.
A Change or Growth: Overcoming the conflict or challenge sparks some change in the protagonist. A realization may have sparked this change. It could also be an after-effect of the characters development throughout the story.
These variables are the essentials of storytelling. You need to spend time brainstorming to connect all the dots and create great story ideas. Search your memories and experiences, and you’ll find something worth writing about!
Here are some narrative essay ideas to help you brainstorm:
- Overcoming Fear
- Facing a Challenge
- A New Experience or Discovery
- A Moment of Excitement
- Learning a Tough Lesson
- A Thrilling Moment of Adrenaline
- The Moment You Stood Up For Yourself
- Relationship Experience
- A Discovery That Changed Your Life
- A Rebellious Act
These are a few common examples that students tend to explore. Consider making a story based on your personal life experiences. The most vivid memories are usually the ones that tell a great story!
Narrative Essay Outline
Narratives have a standard format. This includes the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion. Some follow the 5 paragraph narrative essay outline . Composed of 3 body paragraphs, each contains a new idea.
- The Introduction must lay out the setting and ignite the movement of the story.
- The Body Paragraphs travel through the story. Describing it in vivid detail, they slowly untangle the puzzle that is the purpose.
- The conclusion unravels the purpose for the reader. You must ensure that the reader understands the essence of your story.
Now let’s break down some critical parts of each section of the paper!
The Introduction must accomplish 3 main goals:
- Each Narrative Essay should start out with a strong hook. It carries the reader through the introduction and gets them engaged in the story. To create a strong hook you can:
- Bring up a future scenario as an initial starting point.
- Offering a quote that will be relevant later in the essay.
- Place your reader in the middle of the action.
- Set the scene for the reader:
- As authors, we want to throw the reader’s boat into a chaotic storm and get them engaged.
- However, it doesn’t hurt to give them a life jacket, in case they start sinking in confusion.
- Allow the reader to get an idea of what’s going on. Don’t give it all away, and keep them thinking!
- Defining the purpose:
- Without giving away too much information, give insight into what the essay is all about.
- Don’t give away the lesson you’ve learned just yet. Give your reader merely a sneak peek of what’s about to come.
The Body Paragraphs Must Accomplish 4 Main Goals!
The body paragraphs will vary depending on the length of the essay. The range of the story should match its impact.
If it’s a quick life lesson that many others have experienced, don’t stretch out the plot. Perhaps you need to put the reader in your shoes for the story to work. In this case, you have a fair reason to make it more prolonged and intense.
Vivid and relevant detail: The narrative essay is all about creating a scene as well as a mood to follow. Even best essay writers spend hours and are meticulous when it comes to details. Don’t spam your sentences with literary symbols. As long as each sentence serves a purpose, then you are good to go.
Dialogue: Throwing the reader into a spoken scene is an effective way to refresh their attention. Dialogue is a great way to give a story life and support the atmosphere. Still, you must use it constructively. For example, if you have two New Yorkers talking to each other, using London slang won’t be a great choice.
Write chronologically: It’s hard for the reader to understand the timeline unless the author is blunt. Keeping things sequential is the best way to keep your paper organized.
Avoid narration deviation: If you are talking about personal experience, the first-person voice would work best. If this a story you heard from a friend – using the third person would make more sense.
Your conclusion has the task of stating your purpose and offering a final comment. As the story wraps up, the reader must have lived through your experience. In the end, it would be good to leave them with something to think about.
Narrative Essay Examples
The content of narratives essays can vary when it comes to different institutions. We have decided to provide you with examples in case you face a problem.
Example for College
College professors search for the following qualities in their students: the ability to adapt to different situations, the ability to solve problems creatively, and the ability to learn from mistakes. Your work must demonstrate these qualities, regardless of whether your narrative paper is a college application essay or a class assignment.
You want to demonstrate your character and creativity. Describe a situation where you have encountered a problem. Tell the story of how you came up with a unique approach to solving it. Connect it to your field of interest. The narrative can be exciting and informative if you present it in such fashion.
Example for High School
High school is all about showing that you can make mature choices. You accept the consequences of your actions, and retrieve valuable life lessons. Think of an event where you believe you have acted exemplary and made an adult choice. A personal narrative essay example as such will showcase the best of your abilities.
Finally, use outside sources to help you get the best result possible. Try searching for a sample narrative essay to see how others approached it.
Writing a narrative essay should be a positive experience. It doesn’t restrict you to a linear format that doesn’t allow for variation. This is one of the most free-spirited and creative essays to write. That doesn’t mean that rebelling against all rules and writing something absurd is fair play.
Your primary goal is to take the reader on a journey. Have them share your experience and take something away from it. The best stories are always the ones that teleport the reader out of their comfort zone.
Essay Writing Tip From Our Professional Team
The practice of writing a narrative essay is your first step to creative writing. Something my English teacher always told me in high school and something that I want to pass on to you is: the more personal, the more universal. When we write stories about ourselves we are ultimately writing about everyone else in the world; humanity generally shares the same problems. There are two things that appear in all good narratives: it involves the readers and it presents importance. When a story is important and showcases change, then the reader will pay attention to it. If a story relates to the reader, they feel for it and develop a deeper emotional connection to it. As the article articulates quite well, the story also makes a point. Perhaps your custom essay does not have a flat out moral, but it has a beginning, a middle, and an end that has an impact. Make sure to select an event that feels important to you and write about it; make it real for the readers.
Prof. Marjorie Eckhart , from EssayPro
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Tips on Writing a Narrative Essay
Parents, does your student need assistance with writing a narrative essay? Our teachers can help. Sign up for either our Elementary School Narrative Writing , Middle School Essay Writing, or High School Essay Writing course for 1-to-1 guidance.
In a narrative essay, the writer tells a story about a real-life experience. Everyone enjoys a good story—especially one that captures the imagination. However, the narrative essay goes further. In it, the writer places a personal experience within the context of a larger theme, such as a lesson learned. When writing a narrative essay, the writer wants not only to tell a good story, but also convey why the story has meaning.
The Five-Step Writing Process for Narrative Essays
At Time4Learning, we are great believers in the writing process . The writing process empowers you to write with better results by giving providing concrete, proven steps to follow. Here, we examine how to write a narrative essay using the five-step writing process . You should find the following suggestions helpful.
1. Prewriting for the Narrative Essay
The prewriting phase in narrative essay writing is particularly important. When planning how to start a narrative essay, think about your life experiences in the context of the assignment’s theme, for example ‘write about achieving a goal.’ When selecting an experience to write about, keep in mind that even a small incident (or goal, in this case) can make a good essay topic if it has significance for you. If writers feel an emotional connection to their topic, their narrative essay will be more effective.
Once you’ve chosen a topic, spend time sorting through your memories and recalling details, including the year, season, setting, people, and objects involved. Think about the sequence of events and remember; no detail is too small. Often it’s the small details that communicate big ideas! Creating an outline of the story’s narrative flow is very helpful.
2. Drafting a Narrative Essay
When creating the initial draft of a narrative essay, follow the outline, but focus on making the story come alive, using the following techniques:
- Personal narrative essays are most naturally written in the first person, and using “I” gives the story an immediacy that engages the reader.
- In telling the story, don’t gloss over the details. Readers have no prior knowledge of the story, and many times even one detail accidentally left out will skew their understanding.
- Use vivid descriptions and words that illustrate. In narrative writing, the writer’s job is to involve the reader, rather than simply inform. Take a look at this sentence: “Losing the game felt like the bottom of my world dropped out.” It conveys so much more about the significance of the writer’s experience than simply saying, “I was disappointed that we lost the game.”
- While narrative essays are non-fiction, elements of fiction should not be ignored. True stories also benefit from the writer’s ability to use plot-building techniques.
3. Revising a Narrative Essay
In the revision phase, students review, modify, and reorganize their work with the goal of making it the best it can be. In revising a narrative essay, students should reread their work with these considerations in mind:
- Does the essay unfold in an easy-to-understand progression of events? Do the transitions make sense or confuse the reader?
- Does the essay involve the reader in the experience? Could there be more detail, or is there extraneous detail that distracts the reader’s attention?
- Is the word choice descriptive, or merely informative?
- Has the larger message of the essay been conveyed effectively? Has a connection been made between the experience and its meaning to the writer? Will the reader be able to identify with the conclusion made?
In structuring a narrative essay, it’s the writer’s choice when to reveal the significance of the experience. Some writers make this connection to theme in the opening paragraph. Others like to focus on the experience and reveal its significance at the end. Writers should experiment which way works best for the essay. Clueing in the reader upfront helps their understanding, but saving the revelation to the end can leave the reader with more to think about.
4. Editing a Narrative Essay
At this point in the writing process, writers proofread and correct errors in grammar and mechanics, and edit to improve style and clarity. Having a friend read the essay is a good idea at this point, and allows the writer to see their work from a fresh perspective.
5. Publishing a Narrative Essay
Due to its personal nature, sharing a narrative essay with the rest of the class or even with friends and family can be both exciting and a bit scary. Remember, there isn’t a writer on earth who isn’t sensitive about his or her own work. The important thing is to learn from the experience and use the feedback to make the next essay even better.
Time4Writing Teaches Narrative Essay Writing
Time4Writing essay writing courses offer a highly effective way to learn how to write the types of essays required for school, standardized tests, and college applications. A unique online writing program for elementary, middle school, and high school students, Time4Writing breaks down the writing process into manageable chunks, easily digested by young writers. Students steadily build writing skills and confidence, guided by one-on-one instruction with a dedicated, certified teacher.
At the elementary level, Time4Writing has a dedicated 8-week Narrative Writing Course that walks beginning essay writers through every step of the writing process to make sure that mastery is complete. Our middle school Welcome to the Essay and Advanced Essay courses teach students the fundamentals of writing well-constructed essays, including the narrative essay. The high school Exciting Essay Writing course focuses in depth on the essay writing process with the goal of preparation for college. The courses also cover how to interpret essay writing prompts in testing situations. Read what parents are saying about their children’s writing progress in Time4Writing courses.
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