Structure Of A Personal Narrative Essay

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

The Personal Narrative Essay Outline

There are two times when you will write personal narrative essays – for a college admissions essay requirement and as a course assignment in an English com class. Usually such essays will be written in response to some prompt and will entail your depiction of an experience or experiences that in some way have shaped what you now believe or value, or even the person you have become. Some students find this type of essays to be the most difficult one. That’s why we have decided to give you some tips and help with it. Whether for admissions or assignment, the personal narrative essay outline is essentially the same and should at least roughly conform to the following structure.

Introduction

The Hook: Your first sentence should be compelling and make the reader want to continue. Let’s say you are going to present a tale about your travel abroad, specifically an experience of being “pick-pocketed” in Florence, Italy. You might begin with a startling fact about the number of incidents of this crime in a day in that city or the fact that child gypsies are sent out by their families to pick-pocket as a means of supporting those families. On the other hand you may start with a description of your feelings caused by this accident. It will be an intriguing start, because the reader would like to know what the reason for your fear or despair was.

Set the Scene: Here you want to give the reader the general place and time of the experience(s) you will be relating. Sometimes, the experiences may occur over a period of time (for example, growing up in poverty) or they will relate to a single incident (being in Italy for a week as a part of family vacation). You must always include such information in the introduction. The reader should know from the very beginning where and when the action takes place.

The Thesis Statement: They can be a bit different from the statement you would write for another type of essay. You can actually begin your story, for example, “The morning began like any other, with breakfast and decisions about what we would visit that day, but it certainly ended up differently,” or you can offer a lesson learned, “I now know why travelers are encouraged to protect their valuables with one of those pouches that can go inside their clothing,” or some theme that your story will portray, “Hardships and lack make us all innovators of sorts.” It should also be interesting so that the reader would want to know more and continue reading the essay.

The Body

Usually, the body paragraphs will tell the story of the experience. However, this is not always the case. Suppose your essay is about growing up in poverty and you have used the theme that this condition turned you into an innovator (your theme). Each paragraph will then provide the reader with an example of how you became an innovator. Perhaps you learned how to fashion “toys” from objects you found in the neighborhood; perhaps you learned how to mix unlikely combinations of food when there was very little in the cupboard; perhaps you started to design and make clothes when there was no money to buy them.

Remember that every argument should always be followed by examples.

Remember to use good transition sentences between your body paragraphs – they can come either at the end of a paragraph to introduce the next one, or at the beginning of the new paragraph with some reference back to the previous one. All the paragraphs should be connected and the narration should be logical.

The other point is this: you need to “show” the reader your story, not just “tell.” You can do this by injecting actual conversation or by descriptions that paint a picture. Remember that you should avoid direct and dry statements here. Show your story in bright colors and use more description paragraphs.

The Conclusion

Reflect on your experience(s) by asking yourself a couple of questions. What have you learned? How has your life been impacted? Would you act differently if you could relive that situation again? It’s very important to understand the lessons that you have received. It will explain your choice to write about this event and show that you are mature enough to learn from your experience, even if it’s bad.

Some Additional Tips

Usually these essays are written in the first person, so you will be using a lot of “I’s.” After you have written the piece, go back and see if you can replace some of those “I’s” by altering sentence structure. You may want to use passive constructions here also. There shouldn’t be many repetitions in the text.

You will obviously move from past to present and back to past tenses in this essay, and that is expected. Try to make it easy for a reader to understand when you give a retrospective and when the narration is in the present time. Don’t mess it up too much.

The Ideas On Writing

Some Personal Narrative Essay Ideas

1.       Choose an incident or experience that is a bit “extreme” – extremely frightening, extremely humorous, extremely sad or poignant, or different from the experiences that most people have. This will make your narration far more interesting to the reader. Try to avoid boring and obvious things. But also don’t forget to include the lessons you have learned from this extreme experience, otherwise the story will seem incomplete or even senseless.

2.       If you are responding to an essay prompt for college admissions, you will have options. For some students it makes the task easier, while others struggle even more with these given options. Read those options carefully and make a list of what you might write about for each prompt. Then review your lists and choose the one about which you have the most passion and emotions. This will make your writing more interesting as the chosen topic will be the most appealing for you.

3.       If you are looking at a college admissions essay, and you have time to generate topic ideas, set up a file on your phone. It is with you every day, and you can enter ideas as they come to you. Some people also prefer using notebooks for all their thoughts. Choose the variant that is more suitable for you and write down all the topics that come to your mind during the day. Then, when you get ready to choose a topic, you will have lots of options. You can also try mind mapping to choose the topic you want to speak about. There are a lot of tips and information about mind mapping on the web, so it’s not difficult to find out more about it.

4.       If the assignment is due shortly, and you do not have much time, sit quietly some place, go back to your childhood and move toward the present. What incidents or experiences really stick out in your mind? Which do you remember in great detail? These are your options. Consider using them.

This is a rather simplistic explanation for narrative essay construction, but it should get you started. You can find a great guide "how to write a personal narrative essay" on many college websites, so if you need more details, check those out! Also if you find yourself in a situation where you need professional help with writing your narrative essay – don’t hesitate and contact us! Our expert writers will perform an excellent paper for you no matter how short your deadline is and our support team will help you to place an order. They will also keep you informed of all the details of the ordering process. Thus you may be sure that your narrative essay will be written on time in an interesting and exciting way.

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