Personal Narrative Essay Outlines

The very first thing you think of when someone mentions essay is that you have to make an argument, find evidence, and write it in a somewhat philosophical manner. But, it doesn’t always have to be like that. Did you know you can tell a story through essay? I’m talking about narrative essays, a unique style of writing that combines the best of both worlds: storytelling and essay composing. The chances are high you’ll have to compose this type of paper sooner or later, and when the time comes this post will come handy. Throughout this article, I’m going to show you how to create an outline for a narrative essay and make your professor or client happy with the quality of your work.

What is a narrative essay?

A narrative essay is defined as a type of writing wherein the author narrates or tells the story. The story is non-fictional and usually, deals with the writer’s personal development. Unlike in other essay forms, using the first person is acceptable in these papers. Narrative essays can also be anecdotal, experiential thus allowing writers to express themselves in a creative and more personal manner.

Despite the fact you’re telling the story through the narrative essay, you must not identify it with a short story. How? Short stories are usually fictional and allow essay writers to change the plot, add different characters or rewrite the ending in a bid to better fit the narrative. On the other hand, with these essays, the author is required to pull a cohesive narrative arc from memory and events that, actually, happened. Just like other forms of essays, this style of writing needs a thesis statement. In fact, the entire narrative in your essay aims to support the thesis you wrote in the introduction. As you already know, short stories don’t require thesis statement and you’re not required to prove anything.

Narrative essay structure

If you’ve never written a narrative essay before and you need help essay online at this moment you’re thinking how complicated it seems. The beauty of this writing style is the ability to get your point across through a story and it’s not that difficult when you know how to structure it correctly.

Just like with other types of essays, a functional outline is essential. That way you know what to include in different parts of the paper and everything it entails. I have created diagram below to help you out. 

Introduction

An intro isn’t just a small paragraph that you have to write in order to get to the “real stuff”. If an entrance of some amusement park isn’t interesting, you’d feel reluctant to go in. If the first chapter of the book is boring, you’re less likely to ditch it. Essays aren’t exceptions here, the beginning or starting point is essential. Introductions attract reader’s attention, makes him/her wonder about what you’re going to write next.

The introduction of the narrative essay is written either in the first or third person. It’s recommended to start off your work with a hook including some strong statement or a quote. The sole purpose of the hook is to immediately intrigue your professor, client, audience, and so on. As seen in the diagram above, after the hook you have to write a sentence or two about the importance of the topic to both you and the reader. Basically, this part has to be written in a manner that readers of the paper can relate to. You want them to think “I feel that way”, “I’ve been through that” etc.

The last sentence (or two) of your paper account for the thesis statement, the vital part of your essay. The reason is simple, the thesis informs readers about the direction you’re going to take. It allows the audience to tune into author’s mind. Since the primary purpose of every essay is to prove some point and your story is going to be told for a reason, the thesis cements your overall attitude and approach throughout the paper.

The introduction should be:

  • Short
  • Precise
  • Interesting
  • Relatable

Body paragraphs

Now that your introduction is complete, you get to proceed to write body paragraphs. This is where all the magic happens, it’s the part wherein you start, develop, and end the narration. The number of paragraphs in this section depends on the type of narration or event you want to write about and the plot itself.

This segment starts with the setting or background of the event to allow readers to understand relevant details and other necessary info. Every great story starts with the background, a part where you introduce the reader to the subject. Make sure you enter precise details because that way the readers are more involved in the story.

Besides important details about the subject and event you’re going to describe through the narrative essay, it’s highly practical to introduce characters or people that are involved in some particular situation. Describe their physical and personality characteristics. However, ensure that characteristics you include are relevant to the essay itself. This is yet another point where narrative essay differs from the short story. When writing a short story, you get to include all sorts of personality traits to develop your character. Here, you only mention those that are important for your thesis and narrative. Instead of listing characters one after another, introduce them through the story. The best way to do so depends on the type of the subject or event you’re going to write about, different kinds of topic require a different approach. Regardless of the approach, you opt for to introduce characters, always stick to the “relevant characteristics” rule.

Short anecdote or foreshadowing, basically, refers to details establishing conflict or the stakes for people regarding some specific situation. This part is a sort of precursor to the onset of the event. Use these paragraphs to explain:

  • How things started to happen
  • What people involved (characters) did to reach the point where the event of your story was imminent i.e. point of no return
  • Detailed description of the situation
  • How you felt about everything

TIP: Bear in mind that this doesn’t, necessarily, have to refer to some unfortunate event with tragic consequences. You can use the same approach to writing about other kinds of situations that lead to a more optimistic outcome.

Logically, the event has to reach its climax, a breaking point of the story, which requires detailed description. Don’t forget to include emotions, how it made you (or someone else) feel. The climax should be accurate, don’t exaggerate and stray from the truth just to make it more interesting. Instead, make this part more vivid, include powerful words and adjectives to make readers feel the tension and emotions you experienced.

After every climax, there comes the resolution good or bad. This is the part where you write how everything resolved. Without this segment, the narrative would seem incomplete and your hard work would be ruined.

So, body paragraphs should contain the following qualities:

  • Detailed descriptions
  • Relevant details
  • Accurate information
  • Powerful adjectives to truly depict the situation
  • Interesting
  • Emotions

Conclusion

You finished the narrative and before you’re done with the writing part of the essay, it’s time to conclude it. Just like the intro, this paragraph also bears a major importance. The conclusion should provide moral of the story, reflection or analysis of the significance of the event to you and the reader. This is yet another opportunity to make readers relate to your paper. Use this segment to describe what lesson you learned, how did this event affect/change your life, and so on. Depending on the subject, you could also include call-to-action to raise awareness of some growing issue in the society.

Dos and don’ts

  • DO start your essay with a question, fact, definition, quote, anything that you deem interesting, relevant, and catchy at the same time
  • DON’T focus only on the sense of sight when writing narrative essay, use all five senses, add details about what you heard or felt
  • DO use formal language
  • DO use vivid details
  • DO use dialogue if necessary
  • DON’T use the same structure of sentences, vary them to make the writing more interesting
  • DO describe events chronologically (it’s the easiest way to tell the story)
  • DO use transition words to make it clear what happened first, next, and last

Tips to remember

  • The goal of narrative essay is to make a point, the event or story you’re going to tell needs some purpose
  • Use clear and concise language
  • Every word or detail you write needs to contribute to the overall meaning of the narrative
  • Record yourself talking about the event to easily organize different details
  • Don’t complicate the story; imagine you’re writing the narrative for a child. Would he/she understand the narrative? That always helps to simplify text
  • Revise, modify, edit, and proofread

Bottom line

Narrative essays help you get some point across through storytelling, but you shouldn’t mistake them for “regular” short stories. I explained how to structure your work, differentiate it from short stories, and how you can easily develop your narration. Following the outline will help you write a high-quality essay and diagram from this article can serve as a visual clue you can use to compose your work. Start practicing today and write a narrative essay about some major event in your life. You can do it! 

Image courtesy of Amra Serdarevich

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 qualified team have compiled a list of things you need to know before writing a personal narrative essay.


Table Of Contents



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.

You need to use vivid and evocative detail to create an atmosphere for the reader. Moreover, you need to be very specific with the information you use. Use the type of vocabulary that sounds most realistic to your scenario. This will support the atmosphere you want to create.

There are several types of narrative essays:

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 Example

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 show these qualities. Regardless of whether your narrative is a college application essay or an 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.

General Advice

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.

If you are still struggling in deciding what to write about - think of your story as a coming of age tale. An event that transformed you into the person you are today.

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

Prof. Marjorie Eckhart, from EssayPro

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.

Looking to write a narrative essay?

Sometimes life catches us all off guard and we find ourselves in need of some academic assistance. Contact our custom essay writing service and find the perfect writer to help with your task.

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