How to Write a Narrative Essay: General Guidelines

Narrative essays are one of the most common essays that students must write in their academic journeys. Several students see the narrative topics and are quickly attracted to writing them, but many fail to consider the key features of this type of essay. To write a good narrative essay, you must think deeply and thoroughly. A good narrative essay keeps the reader’s interest from the beginning to the end. But to successfully achieve this, there is a need to answer the question: “what is a narrative essay?” first.

What is a Narrative Essay?

A narrative essay tells a story. It has a focal point, a goal that serves as the jumping pad for every other aspect of the essay. Narrative essays have characters, dialogue, incidents, timelines, and every other component of a familiar story. The essayist is the storyteller in a narrative essay.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

Writing a narrative essay requires you to weave a convincing story using real-life happenings. The challenge with narrative essays is that you have a lot to write but are limited to a certain number of words at the very best. Writing a narrative essay tests the essayist’s ability to retell a story in a few words but with enough to keep the reader glued to the end.

General Guidelines to Writing a Good Narrative Essay

In writing a good narrative essay, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Be as descriptive as possible. This is a story, so it is good that you are as detailed as possible in describing things. A good description will awaken the reader’s mind to imagine what you are trying to describe. A good description gives the reader a sense of being a part of the story and helps to keep the interest of the reader.
  2. Do not include unnecessary details. As much as there is a need to be as descriptive as possible, you should bear in mind that the goal is to keep your reader’s interest and not to bore them. Adding unnecessary details can be counterproductive, boring your reader, or distracting from the main theme.
  3. A narrative essay generally has a specific theme. Unlike short stories or novels, there is often a single theme that is to be addressed. It is important that in writing, you keep this theme in mind and ensure that your writing addresses the theme.
  4. A good story must have a good and continuous sequence; the same goes for a narrative essay. It could help you draw an outline of the story by sequence so that in writing, you follow a sequence that the reader can easily follow. A disjointed storyline is likely to cause disinterest in your reader.

How to Start a Narrative Essay

Different authors begin their stories in different ways in a bid to lead into the main story. Some begin with catchy phrases, and others could start with a quote. However you decide to begin, you must ensure that your opening words draw the attention of your audience – in this case, the readers.

You could lose your audience right from the first paragraph without an attractive opening. Your opening words could be coined from a famous literary text, anecdotes, or a movie. In choosing your opening sentences, however, you should not make the mistake of using an opening that contradicts the theme of your narration. It is safer not to use a quote at all than to use a quote that is off tangent.

Essentials of a Narrative Essay

Writing a narrative essay is almost like writing a story, with a few exceptions. First, narrative essays are written around a theme to pass a previously intended lesson. Apart from any other components of an essay, the core features are what sets a narrative essay apart. These core features include character, theme, and dialogue.

  • Character: A narrative essay’s character(s) function just as characters in any regular story. The characters are the actors who act out the actions and have the dialogues presented in the essay. Whether the essay is an autobiography, a biography, or a work of imagination, characters are essential to a narrative essay.
  • Theme: generally, before a narrative essay is begun, a theme should have been set in mind. The theme could range from any aspect of life, career, etc. The theme sets the essay’s tone, guiding the essayist on what information to include or exclude.
  • Dialogue: here it is the same as in a normal story – a conversation between two or more people. In a narrative essay, a key feature is a dialogue between the story’s characters. The dialogue is useful to draw the reader’s interest in the story being told. The dialogue keeps the reader’s interest in the sequence of the narration.


Writing a narrative essay tests your creativity and ability to retain the readers’ interest. You must keep your choice of words simple and your story relatable. This piece teaches you how to write a narrative essay that is distinction-worthy. So, if you want to wow your readers while staying on your A-game, follow the guidelines given here.