Elements of a personal narrative essay

Lesson 5: Elements of Narrative Essay


  • To know the structure of a narrative essay
  • To learn how to write a narrative essay
  • To understand the advantages and disadvantages when creating a narrative essay

Quick Navigation through the Lesson 5:

Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is one form of writing wherein the writer shares his/her own personal story. This type of essay mostly uses the first person point of view making it more personal both to the writer telling the story and the reader going through it. It mostly talks about you or an experience you went through or something that a person very close to you has gone through or is going through.

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Basic Structure of a Narrative essay

Knowing the basic structure of a narrative essay can really be a big help for all creative writing

1) Introduction

This is the beginning or start of the essay. The introduction must contain:

  1. Hook – A hook is like a quote or saying that immediately catches the readers’ eye. This is the thing that will draw them in to read more about the piece.
  2. Scene – The scene is where the writer gives the readers a gist of the story. Here, one must give readers an idea on where the story is taking place, what it’s about, who the main characters are and so on.
  3. Thesis Statement – this is the theme. The thesis statement is something that will connect the whole story or essay together. This is where the insights from the story are culminated together by the writer.

2) Body

When one is writing the body of an essay he/she must remember to give as much detail about the experience as possible. Be highly descriptive because this is where the writer can describe anything and everything that he/she feels or have felt.

  1. Show them, don’t tell them – the writer should be able to make the readers feel as if they were also present when the event took place when going through his/her essay.
  2. Supporting Evidence – the writer must help the readers understand why the event or the experience was or is significant to him/her. He/she should be able to make them understand the importance of the event to the essay.
  3. Sense of Time – The writer must also have a sense of time. Having a sense of time not only organizes the whole piece but also helps the reader follow easily. The writer will be helping the readers not to get lost.
  4. Transitional words – Transitions help the writer take the readers from one point to another smoothly.

3) Conclusion

Conclusion is the morale of the story. After reading the writers piece the reader must come to a realization or a reflection. This is the ending so the reader must learn a thing or two from the essay.

How to write a Narrative Essay

How to write a narrative essay can vary from who ever is writing it, but here are the basic steps writers uses in order to write narrative essay.

Prewriting is outlining the thoughts and ideas that will be used to write the essay. This helps the writer because it will give him/her a chance to sift through memories and experiences and find the perfect topic to write about.
By drafting the writer gets a more organized glimpse of what he/she is going to write about.
A writer needs to revise their work to give it a more coherent and concise order. Rearranging, omitting, adding etc. some of the sentences or ideas in the essay can help make it a better piece.
Editing is proofreading. The writer must check for grammatical errors, wrong use of punctuation marks, run on sentences etc. to make the piece more sound and structured.
Is sharing the work with readers and getting feedback in return. Feedback helps the writer improve when he/she writes the next piece or story.

Advantages and Disadvantages when Writing a Narrative Essay


  • It will be easier for a writer to write a narrative essay because it mainly uses the first person point of view. It tackles a topic that is about the writer.
  • Writing narrative essay helps a writer gain perspective. It forces the writer to relive or revisit old memories which sometimes can be therapeutic or a source of fun for them.
  • Writing a narrative essay needs minimal research. Since it is about a writer’s personal experience he/she can just write his/her own memories and feelings.
  • Narrative writing helps the writer free his/her imagination.


  • Writing a narrative essay can tackle more of the truth side. Sometimes it limits a writer to use variety.
  • Writing a narrative essay blurs the line between real and unreal. Writers can distort the realness of their stories if they include too much fiction or imagination in their piece.
  • Writing a narrative essay does not mean that all readers will love it.

In conclusion, the lesson aims to teach you about what a narrative essay is and how to start writing one. Now that you have understood what a narrative essay is and all its elements and components, it is time for you to create one yourself. You can write about the everyday life of being a student for an idea, so go on and write.

As for the next lesson, we will be tackling about fiction writing. Fiction simply means writing creatively and freely with the help of one’s imagination. When you are done studying and creating a narrative essay you can head on now to the next lesson to find out more about fiction writing.

Elements of a personal narrative essay

Elements of Narration

Narration: To tell a story based on personal experience

Where did the story take place?

When did it take place?

Who are the main characters in the story?

What can you tell me about them?

What problem(s) did the main character have to solve?

What is the main character’s goal?

What is he/she trying to do?

What are the main things that happened in the story?

How was the story problem resolved?

A Narrative Essay Should:

  1. Establish 4 w’s in setting, in context of action
  2. Show rather than tell
  3. Begin at the beginning – End at the end
  4. Build to a climax – bring action to a close
  5. Prolong exciting parts – Shorten routine facts
  6. Use sequencing or logical order
  7. Have a certain audience
  8. Have a clear point of view in terms of:
    1. Person: Who will tell the story?
    2. Attitude: Personal feelings
    3. Vantage point of narrator

i. Close to action or far away?

ii. Looking back on past?

iii. Reporting on present?

A Possible Outline for Narrative Essays:

Key Aspects of a Narrative Essay

The essay examines and tests an idea, typically in a limited number of words and ideally with a strong focus on a single theme. There are several styles of essay: expository, descriptive, argumentative or persuasive, and narrative or personal. A narrative essay is a window on an experience and reaction or lesson learned. Despite its deceptive brevity, an effective narrative essay can be tricky to write.

It’s Personal and Universal

Most narrative essays are written as stories and should contain all the basic elements of a story, including plot, setting, characters, conflict. climax and resolution. The difference is that an essay exists to make a point, so the writer has to begin with that point in mind and keep it front and center as the story develops. The experience described should have enlightened or changed the writer in some way, and that is what the essay must convey to the reader through the memorable and entertaining or emotional recounting of an event. The story is personal, so the essay may be written in first person, although that isn’t a requirement. However, the message is universal, so the writer has to keep the reader in mind. Narrative essays are not written in second person point-of-view.

Stick to the Sequence

Skipping around will obscure the message and confuse the reader of a short, instructive piece. The story should be narrated as it happened, so the logic of the event mirrors the logic of the writer’s conclusion. This presents an unambiguous takeaway for the reader, who isn’t distracted by deliberately clever or experimental writing, the need to deal with flashbacks or multiple points of view. Style takes a back seat to story, even as the importance of evocative description and precise vocabulary is paramount.

Creating Conflict

A narrative essay is more than a recollection. It has a point, delivered economically, and needs a clear and dramatic moment to reveal that point. Just as a great short story builds toward a climax with something crucial at stake, the essay relies on a disagreement, dispute or controversy to supply tension. Conflict may arise from a clash between characters, a collision between past and future, the necessity for a painful decision that exposes the insight or lesson learned. It comes near the end of the essay, setting up the conclusion that wraps the story and illuminates the theme.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The narrative essay functions a bit like a movie as it brings the event to the reader, allowing full immersion in the emotions and sensory details while delivering a lasting impression that may spark future reflection. Key elements for pulling that off are vivid sensory description and concrete details. The successful essayist will revisit the inciting experience; relive the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, fears and joys of it; and choose only those moments and facts that will grab and hold attention, leading to the final insight. The art is to use just enough rich description and expressive vocabulary and not a syllable more.