Everyone loves good stories, and a narrative essay is your opportunity to tell yours. Knowing how to write a narrative essay will help you sell yourself and show your knowledge and experience using storytelling. This makes narrative writing an invaluable skill to possess when applying for college and finding jobs in the future. Many students find this essay format exciting, as it lets you experiment and draw ideas out of your own life rather than facts from a library book. So exactly what is a narrative essay?
Narrative essays tell a story about the writer's particular experience, sharing the lessons or morals they've learned. A narrative essay has all the elements of a story: a central plot, usually with you as the main character, a conflict, climax, and a resolution. Keep in mind that your story's theme and central message have to demonstrate certain strengths that you've grown to possess from the story you've chosen to tell about.
With the narrative essay definition out of the way, it's time to learn how to write a narrative essay and turn a story from your life into a vivid and moving piece of academic writing.
What to Write a Narrative Essay About
Before you start writing your narrative essay, you've got to think of a story or event from your life where you've experienced growth or change. This takes a little brainstorming. Choosing a story for a narrative essay may be hard, but with some references and external reading, you can get a solid idea of what's expected from you. To familiarize yourself better with this essay style, take some time, and read similar essays by great writers. Here are some good examples of narrative writing that can help get you inspired:
- Karrie Higgins - Strange Flowers
- Roger Rosenblatt - Making Toast
- Virginia Woolf - The Death of a Moth
- Ralph Waldo Emerson - Self-Reliance
- George Orwell - Shooting an Elephant
- Kurt Vonnegut - Here is a Lesson in Creative Writing
- Nora Ephron - A Few Words About Breasts
Narrative essays follow a certain theme or concept, draw conclusions, and show what the central character (you) has learned from the experience. They draw parallels between your personal life and something you'd present in a professional environment as a testament to your skill or positive willpower. Most narrative writing comes with canons or story arcs that typically focus on change and growth.
- A negative experience that you have overcome and how it made you stronger
- Consequences of personal failure and how you've dealt with them
- A moment in your life that transformed your personality
After some external reading and soul-searching, you should have a much easier time writing a narrative essay. Then, you can start searching for stories from your life and finding the one that fits your case.
Remember, if you get lost, you can always refer to your essay rubric or prompt. Your instructor has already set in place all the guidelines you have to follow while writing. Knowing what your professor expects from you will greatly help you when crafting a good narrative essay.
If you haven't figured out what to write a narrative essay on, we've done some brainstorming for you that should help you out.
How to Choose Narrative Essay Topics + Some Tips on Writing
- Narrative turns story into information
The story on its own serves little purpose, unless rearranged into a narrative and crafted specifically for an audience to read. The primary purpose of writing and reading narratives is to draw out valuable life lessons from your own, or other people’s personal experience.
- Pick a story that matters
Remember that the story you choose to tell must have meaning. Meaning gives the story significance, and allows the reader to draw conclusions from the outcome.
- Plan ahead for perfection
Before sitting down to write, draw out your story into sections, or an outline. Make sure that you know the intro, body, and conclusion of the story, and specifically what happens in each section.
- Use descriptive language
Throughout the course of writing, you’re expected to place the reader in the shoes of the protagonist using descriptive language. So when you pick a story, make sure you can recall it vividly and visually, and are able to share this experience with the reader.
- Always stick to the structure
Structure is key, in any story. Like other essays, the narrative essay follows a 5-paragraph structure, where the paper is split into 5 sections. That’s an introduction with background info and a thesis, three body paragraphs where you develop your story, and a conclusion where everything is summarised. Before writing, break up your story into these sections as best you can, and you’re guaranteed to not get lost in your own story.
So when thinking how to choose a topic for a narrative essay, focus on stories that matter, have a cohesive structure, and a strong resolution. Below, we’ve brought together some narrative essay topics which we think will make for a good story.
Choosing from a Pool of Narrative Essay Topics Ideas
When you have a list of ideas for a narrative essay, it’s often hard to stick with one. That’s why you’ve got to ask yourself several questions to know which idea works best. Choosing the best topic can depend on several factors:
- What purpose does this narrative essay serve?
- Is it for a college application? If yes, sell yourself.
- Or is it for a literature class? If yes, get creative.
- Will you be giving a presentation?
- If yes, go with a topic that’s guaranteed to capture and impress your peers.
- Is your story a long or a short read?
- Does your topic of choice avoid common tropes and cliches?
- Professors give extra marks for originality
Crafting a Narrative Essay Outline
When crafting a narrative essay outline, consider the classical structure that any essay has. Although your primary focus is representing a novel about yourself, the essay must be structured in a way where there is a clear focus or a thesis and details that support it, leading up to a conclusion. Here's a narrative essay outline example you can follow.
- The Hook (get your reader excited)
- Set the Background (tell them some background information: who, what, when, where, how)
- Thesis Statement (share the moral of the story or what you've learned from it)
- Show, Don't Tell (use your knack for creative writing to make the reader feel like they're there with you)
- Supporting Evidence (use character dialogue, illustrate your scene, make references that the reader can connect with: famous movies, a can of soda, a billboard with a loud slogan)
- Passage of Time (tell the reader if it's night or day if it's 2016 or 2005)
- Transitions (structure your story in parts and transition smoothly from one part to the next)
- The Moral of the Story (wrap it up, tell the reader what you've learned, and bring out the thesis in a new light)
Once you've got the hang of the narrative essay structure and decided on your topic, try filling in this outline to help guide you throughout your writing process. An outline is an incredible reference tool that enables you to stay on track and not get carried too far away in your story. Even a short narrative essay has structure. So stay focused, and you'll have a great draft in no time.
After having broken down your story into parts, it's time to look at how to write a narrative essay step by step based on this outline.
How to Start a Narrative Essay
Every good piece of narrative writing opens up with a hook. A hook is what captures your reader's attention in the narrative essay introduction and briefly introduces your story's tone and main idea. If you don't know how to craft a hook, don't worry, it's easy. Here are some ideas:
- Pose a rhetorical question to make the reader think
- Start with a famous quote that's relevant to your topic
- Give an interesting fact or statistic and tie it to your story
- Start with a joke or anecdote to lighten up the mood
- Use the shock factor to your advantage, make the reader restless to learn more
After having hooked your reader, it's time to set the scene and introduce the setting and characters. The reader needs to feel like they're in your shoes and see what you have seen. Don't give too much away in your narrative essay introduction, as your characters and setting will develop over the course of your paper. Merely introduce the people who will be in the story, and specify where the story takes place. If you order essay, all these things will be written by a pro writer.
Finally, it's time to wrap up your introduction with a thesis statement for narrative essay. In other essays, the thesis is your main argument, which you have to defend. Conversely, here the thesis begins the story or gives a hint of its conclusion: "I'll never go boat riding with my friends again," or "When I start my next business, it will be with my own money."
Remember that the introduction merely seeks to hook your reader and give them an overview of your narrative. With this in mind, your narrative essay thesis shouldn't spoil the rest of the story. Don't give too much info away, or your intro could backfire and make the reader uninterested in reading the rest of your story. Keep it short, sweet, and enticing.
Narrative Essay Body Paragraphs
Now it's finally time to tell your tale, and the narrative essay body paragraphs are the meat of your story. Consider your body paragraphs within a three-part structure: one that sets up your story, the next telling it up to a climax, and the last sharing how the story ends.
The body of a narrative essay is where the most interesting stuff happens. There are three main paragraphs, each serving their unique purpose within the context of your essay.
The first body paragraph
Sets up the Background and introduces all the main characters in your story. This is where you can show your knack for descriptive writing, as painting a story with pictures rather than words is a great way to keep the reader interested.
Every detail you mention, every trope you introduce will be mirrored or resolved later in your story. So make sure that your first narrative essay body paragraph introduces everything you need the reader to know so that you can continue telling your story without adding anything extra.
The second body paragraph
Focuses primarily on the conflict or problem which the main character is faced with. After you've introduced the setting and the characters, it's important to keep the momentum going and make the reader connect or sympathize with your protagonist.
A tip for the second body paragraph: try maintaining a sense of urgency, and it will help propel your story forward. Like a good movie, your narrative essay structure should have movement and never get stale. Keep it going until you're finally ready to reveal all the cards in the third paragraph.
The Third Body Paragraph
Now we're in the endgame, the point where your story reaches the climax. This is part of your story where the conflict gets resolved, and the protagonist emerges as a changed person. Maybe they've learned something significant from how things turned out, and it has helped them grow and turn into the person they are today.
The best narrative essays are often coming-of-age stories, and you'll find the most recommended topics or ideas for a narrative essay are, in fact, stories about growth and improvement by overcoming hardship. After you're done writing the body of a narrative essay, it's time to proceed to the conclusion.
How to End a Narrative Essay
Just like the introduction, your narrative essay conclusion is a very important and nuanced part of your essay. Imagine one of those Netflix TV shows that's not so good but keeps you interested by leaving you at the edge of a cliff at the end of every season. When thinking about how to end a narrative essay, remember that we want to give the reader a sense of completion. So a Netflix style cliffhanger won't do.
Your story needs a finale, reflecting on the events, and taking out valuable lessons learned along the difficult journey. Consider that your story's conclusion is an explanation of why this story was important to tell and how its resolution will shape your future actions and decisions.
A narrative essay conclusion will often mirror back to significant parts of the plot, which have been introduced at the beginning of the story. This is done on purpose to show how the protagonist has changed their morals, values, or beliefs: giving it the effect of "I was once blind, but I can now see." Reflect back on your introduction and first body paragraph, give the reader a sense of completeness by reminding them of the thesis, and close on a confident and robust note (provide them with something to think about as they put down your essay).
That's how to end a narrative essay: you've not only told a solid story but had an impact on the reader by making them empathize and grow with you on your journey. A powerful conclusion indeed!
Choosing a Proper Narrative Essay Format
So now that you're done with writing a narrative essay, you might think it's time to submit and get dressed for that party, but hold on! A good essay is nothing without editing and formatting. Let's finish dressing your essay in a proper academic narrative essay format before you rush off into the night.
When sitting down to edit, there are a few cosmetic things an online essay writing service suggests to make your essay look proper within just a couple of minutes. Here are some tips on how to format a narrative essay:
- Find out the requirements for your format. Most narrative essays are written in APA since they have no reference points or sources. APA format is the easiest way to format your essay; check the guidelines for it here.
- Title Page. Every essay has one, regardless of the format, just place the title of your essay, your name, date, and your professor's full name dead in the middle of a blank page. You know what title pages look like, come on.
- Headers, footers, margins, and spacing. These vary depending on the essay format. Sometimes the headers are just page numbers, and sometimes it's numbered with your name next to them. The margins and line spacing requirements are specified in the guidelines for your essay format. It sounds difficult, but in truth, most of that stuff is done automatically and just takes a few clicks.
- Reference/ bibliography page. A reference page is only relevant when you have references, which include but are not limited to: quotes, passages of text from other sources, statistics, etc. It's very rare to find a reference page in narrative essays because rarely people live their lives and think, "Hey, I should save this moment in case I need to cite it later."
Asking yourself questions like this when going through a pool of narrative essay topics ideas will help you narrow down your search. Once you’ve found the story you want to tell, organize it into an outline and you’re ready to go. In the following sections we will offer several lists of topics to help you get started:
Personal Narrative Essay Topics
Students always choose personal narrative writing ideas because these are the stories they know best. Dive into your personal experiences and you’re guaranteed to find a topic that showcases your personality in a positive and interesting light.
- A story about overcoming fear
- A story about becoming a better person
- The time you’ve shown bravery
- The time you made a solid decision and stuck with it
- A personal story about a moment that changed your life
- A personal story about the moment you’ve decided who you want to become
- A story about establishing friendship
- A story about letting go of a toxic friend or relationship
- A story where you've achieved a personal goal
- The time you’ve shown growth and maturity
- Something that shaped you into who you are today
- Your personal experience with malice
50 Best Narrative Essay Topics
There are endless sources from which you can draw topics for narrative essay and write a fascinating story. Stories also follow common tropes, whether it’s a movie or a piece of literature, chances are that you’ve encountered a similar type of character development to the one you’re about to write.
Given that, we’ve selected 50 best narrative essay topics which follow common tropes, and could spark some ideas for narrative writing in you. Just remember-- for the best outcome, make your own version of the story:
- A memorable story from your summer vacation
- A magical Christmas story
- A scary story you’d tell around a bonfire
- Getting in trouble at school
- The time you stood up to a bully
- A natural disaster story that you’ve faced
- The first time you’ve broken a bone
- A memorable trip that you’ve had
- An experience that has taught you a valuable lesson
- A story about charity, or helping someone in need
- Tell a story about your pet
- The time you’ve created something that you’re proud of
- Your first experience with something
- A relationship that you’re thankful for
- Partnership: a story where you’ve accomplished something together with a friend
- Your memorable stranger story
- A story about getting lost
- The time you made a friend in an unexpected way
- Motivational story: how you got yourself out of a tough situation
- A quintessential college experience story
- A story about a feat of bravery
- Make up a story about yourself that didn’t happen
- Losing something, and getting something else in return
- Your first shot at an extreme sport
- A travel story which you’d never want to forget
- A story from your life that you would tell your kids
- An inspirational story that helped you discover what you want to do in your life
- A metaphorical story about your alter ego
- Overcoming boredom: how you’ve pushed yourself to stop slacking
- Graduation story: talk about your last days at high school
- Toy story: create a narrative with your old toys as main characters
- Imagine you were a superhero and tell a story about it
- The toughest decision that you’ve had to make
- A fascinating story about an object: make it come alive
- A story about a place that's important to you
- An encounter with a wild animal story
- Tell a story about when you came out first place
- Underdog story: tell a story about when you were not expected to win but you did
- Sports story: a memorable moment from your experience with sports
- A memorable story about your experience with mountain climbing
- A story about your encounter with something magical
- A religious experience that you’ve had
- Foreigner story: a story about your experience in a foreign city or country
- The time that you’ve befriended a foreigner in your own city or country
- Tell a story about the first time you’ve made money
- A family story: talk about a memorable family experience
- Talk about the first time you’ve realised that your skills can make you money
- Tell a story where you wanted to do something wrong, but ended up doing the right thing
- Tell a story about a person from your life who inspires you
- Tell your story about a person from history, or a celebrity whom you idolise
Outstanding Narrative Essay Topics for College Students
College years are some of the most vibrant years of your life. There you will encounter new beginnings, hardships, wonderful romances, and sleepless nights thinking of narrative writing ideas for your literature class. There is an almost endless amount of things you can write about in college, that’s why you’ll have no problem finding proper narrative essay topics for college:
- The transition from high school into college
- If you study abroad, tell about the first day you landed in a new country
- The first time you’ve made friends in college
- Talk about a memorable experience in a class
- Tell a story about your experience with a professor who pushed you to grow and develop
- Overcoming the biggest hardship during your college years
- Your greatest achievement in college
- Tell a story about college relationships, how they differ from high school
- A story about a skill that you’ve learned in class and applied out of class
- How did college shape you?
- Simply tell a story about a crazy experience in college, after which you’ve learned something new
- Tell the quintessential broke student in college story
Narrative Essay Topics for High School Students
High school nostalgia is a thing. We all remember our first crush or that mean teacher who turned out good in the end. Here are some narrative essay topics for grade 8 that will have you take a dip in your high school years and come out with a throwback story.
- An inspiring teacher who had believed in you
- We all have stories about our high school librarian
- Freshman year: a story about your transition into high school
- Senior year: a story about your last year in high school
- A story about your high school crush
- Your favorite high school hobby
- An extracurricular activity that you enjoyed doing
- Were you on a JV or Varsity team? Tell a sports story about it
- The class you had in high school, lessons from which you still use today
- Your greatest high school achievement
- Graduation day: how did it go?
- A story about high school friends, parties, and moving on
Literacy Narrative Essay Topics
Getting literate means getting smart, whether you’re learning a new language or reading a new book. And there will always be fascinating encounters along your journey to literacy that you can become topics for a narrative essay. As college students travel all over the world and study abroad, plenty fascinating language barriers and new knowledge stories happen every day. Think about that and churn out some good narrative essay topics:
- A story about your experience learning a second language
- A story about how a book has impacted your life
- Draw parallels between yourself and a famous character from a book or a film
- Tell a story about your experience with poetry
- Or your experience with history
- How has literature affected your life?
- Talk about a writer or a story which has inspired you to do something
- A story about how you’ve gotten wisdom from the lyrics of a song
- Tell a story about a painting
- Tell a story about a sculpture
- Talk about your experience with studying abroad and breaking the language barrier
- Tell a story about how getting educated in a certain topic beforehand has gotten you out of a sticky situation.
Interesting Narrative Essay Topics
Want to keep your reader at the edge of their seat? Focus on examples of narrative essay topics with a twist, those unexpected stories that stick in the memory of the reader. Why write about overcoming bravery when you could be telling an exorcism story? Here are some narrative writing topics that will keep them gripped:
- Tell a story about the ancient practice of exorcism
- Tell an extreme story about someone truly living on the edge
- Tell a story about a Poltergeist encounter
- Share your doppelgänger story
- Tell a story from the perspective of an object, a food like an apple or a grain of rice
- Sink into the dream world, and tell a metaphysical story from a dream
- Go down the opposite path, paint a nightmarish scenario and tell a story within it
- Pick a theme or a classical fiction trope: like a vampire story or a superhero story
- Tell a story about a house that’s haunted or has magical qualities
- Tell a story from the perspective of an animal, like one of your pets
- Yuppie Nightmare Cycle story: tell a story about your venture down an obscure rabbit hole
- Online experience: tell a story about the weirdest experience you’ve had online
- Celebrity dreams: tell about the dream you’ve had with a celebrity
See? It's not that difficult. You've got a solid, well-formatted piece of narrative writing which already looks like it's ready to print. Just remember, reading through it a couple of times and changing little things up never hurt anybody. As they say, writing is only 50% of the job. All the real magic happens in editing. Just look at how much this formatting stuff helped your essay look good. Now you can leave it for a while and give it a second look in the morning.
We hope we've helped you write a superb narrative essay! Good luck!