Narrative Essay Outline: Format, Worksheet and Example

Before you start writing any essay, it is wise to outline what you intend to include in your essay regardless of the type. This guides you in writing the information that needs to be given. It also helps you organize your thoughts and avoid any distractions by nonessentials.

Writing a Narrative Essay Outline

Usually, most narrative essays are written in three paragraphs. This is, however, not a rule that is etched in stone – the number of paragraphs you decide to use will depend on how much you need to write. The important thing to bear in mind is to ensure that you do not include unnecessary details that can make your essay too long. Your aim should be to write something that retains the interest of whoever is reading your essay without boring or confusing them. The outline of your essay should generally include an introduction, the body of the essay, and a conclusion.

For a three-paragraph essay, the narrative essay structure could look like this:

  • Introduction: This is where you introduce your topic and the theme you intend to address. Your introduction should start with a catchy phrase, quote, or saying. You could also use a rhetorical question that gets the reader thinking and wanting to read your story. Since you are giving a narration, the “hook” within the introduction should be very intriguing. A story is useless if it can’t capture and maintain interest.
  • Body paragraph one: this paragraph caters to the beginning of your story. It would be best if you started introducing the characters of your story here. This paragraph also gives a background to your story. In this paragraph, you should use descriptive and clear vocabulary to introduce your story. This would be a good place to give information such as your story’s place, time, and period.
  • Body paragraph two: The second paragraph begins to share details on actions, consequences, and other important details required by the essay. Build your story in this paragraph to the point of climax.
  • Body paragraph three: This paragraph should tell how your story ends. You could use anecdotes or quotes as a wrap-up for your story. Concluding details such as results and consequences can be added to this paragraph.
  • Conclusion: The resolution of your story in this paragraph should highlight important details you want your readers to pick from your story. Decisions made, lessons learned, changes made, etc., can be written out in this paragraph. This is also where you restate the reason or theme of your essay.

Narrative Essay Format

Writing a narrative essay is like writing a story, so you can import the style of writing a narrative story format into writing your essay. To form the outline of a story, some approaches have been itemized. These include:

1. The plot-based approach

The plot of a story is the series of acts and actions that make up the story. A plot-based format should itemize the different important actions you intend to include in the storyline. Example

  • I graduated from school.
  • Search for a job before college.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen while waiting for college
  • Take refresher courses etc.

2. The scene-based approach

Every story, including a personal narrative essay, must have a scene(s). You could build the outline of your story based on the places of importance to your story.

Writing down the important places could help jolt your memory in the course of writing so that you don’t leave out any important detail. For example:

  • Grandpa’s house – I met the person who introduced me to photography.
  • Best friend’s party – I did my first photoshoot
  • My aunt’s office – I got introduced to magazine photoshoots etc

3. The theme-based approach

A theme-based outline maps out the central themes you intend to explore in your writing. This approach is suitable when you intend to address more than one theme. This approach does not work for all types of stories, so it may not work for your personal narrative essay. For example:

  • Willingness to learn – working with my uncle at his auto shop
  • Loyalty – staying with my uncle’s practice regardless of pay
  • Dedication – getting to work early to get in some work hours before the full day.

4. Freytag’s Pyramid Approach

Freytag’s approach is based on a pyramid that uses the five basic elements of a story to create an outline. The basic elements considered are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.


There is no perfect format for writing a story outline, and it is up to you to choose the best format you can work with. The most important point to note as you write out the outline of your essay is to ensure that you capture all the details you need to cover. Remember to write keywords or phrases that can trigger remembrance of the events you desire to include in the essay.

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