How to Write a Narrative Essay: Step-by-Step Guide 


The academic writing niche is versatile and diverse, urging you to practice different skills every day. Thus, even if you have become a pro researcher able to find supporting evidence for any subject and craft a great outline for argumentative writing, you may still face compositional challenges. 

One of them is a narrative essay – a task that requires a completely different set of skills and follows a unique structure different from that of argumentative writing. Here we cover the basics of narrative composition to help you ace this skill and experience no friction in narrative writing. 

Writing a Narrative Essay: The Basics  

At first, getting a narrative essay assignment may confuse you. What should the piece be about if you don’t need to research any background data or create a thesis statement with the essay’s main idea? How to develop it coherently and logically to meet the professor’s expectations? 

We recommend thinking of a narrative task as a descriptive essay, with the only exception that it presupposes describing an experience instead of an object or person. While descriptions focus on specific physical details and features of the analyzed objects, a narrative essay should have a chronological, unfolding structure typical for a literary work. 

What Is a Narrative Essay? 

This type of essay is similar to descriptive or reflective writing you might have already encountered in studies. It deals with a lived experience or a fictional story you share with your readers. Some examples of a narrative task prompt include:

  • Your biggest failure or success. 
  • A life-changing encounter in your life. 
  • A life-threatening event that changed your life values and attitudes. 
  • A story of friendship or betrayal. 
  • A dream job/place/partner. 

Any prompt will do if it requires you to exercise your creative writing skill and share a coherent, engaging story about a fragment of your life, whether real or imagined. You don’t need to generate any thesis statement or supporting evidence for this essay; however, narrative texts should still follow the logical structure of academic writing and the conventions of writing (e.g., the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion). 

How to Start a Narrative Essay? 

As soon as you get an assignment to write a narrative essay, the first stumbling block is finding a topic. The problem may get more serious if your professor doesn’t stipulate any concrete topic, giving you absolute freedom of choice. In this situation, you should find something really worthy in your past experiences – something that you remember well and can discuss in an attention-grabbing, emotional way. Some evergreen topics to consider are: 

  • The places or people that inspire you. 
  • Stories about relationships (friendship, betrayal). 
  • Stories about challenges you encountered and how you overcame them. 
  • Stories about dreams – where you want to study, travel, or work in the future. 

Once you’ve decided on the topic, it’s time to think about the conflict. Unlike the traditional forms of academic writing, narrative essays don’t have a thesis statement but offer a conflict at the beginning. For example, you may tell how you met a friend and were fooled by them or how you got into an unpleasant story and then figured out a solution. Remember, people don’t like to read boring happy stories. They want to see how you suffered and finally overcame the problem; that’s why the conflict is so essential as a starting point of top-quality narrative writing. 

Narrative Essay Example 

Let’s cover the structure of a narrative essay in the form of an example with explanations. Use this universal template for devising your own narrative pieces whenever your professor requires you to compose such texts. 


China is called a country of the Rising Sun, but for me, the first day in this new country turned into the darkest nightmare. 


I longed for some exotic experience after the first year of education at the Asian studies department. 


Knowing a couple of sentences in Chinese, I was sure I would easily find my way in this country without a guide or a companion.


So, I bought a ticket with my final cash and decided to spend a couple of exciting weeks in the country of rice and wonders. 


However, after arriving at the airport and spending a couple of hours senselessly looking for a bus to the town, I finally realized that I would need more than a pleasant smile to get along with the locals. 


I tried to talk to a taxi driver and ask him to bring me to the nearby hotel, but he didn’t understand my Chinese and English. So, I had to walk to the hotel for two hours and finally landed in my room, hungry and tired. I realized that I needed to approach the issue differently. 


I opened my Chinese-English dictionary and downloaded the lectures I missed during the year. My exciting journey was only beginning, and I decided to add value to it by using this chance to improve my Chinese and catch up with the school curriculum. 

Writing a Narrative Essay: How to Compose a Hook?  

As you already know, a hook, or a conflict, is the attention-grabbing device you should use at the beginning of your essay to capture the readers’ attention. The hook should sound extraordinary to catch the focus of demanding readers and keep them interested until the story’s end. Here are the tips for effective hook formulation: 

  • A shocking claim. Did you ever see cats communicating by spitting? That’s possible in the south of China.  
  • An interesting fact. Did you know that the Great Wall’s stones are bound with mortar made of rice? 
  • Statistical data. The Forbidden City, one of China’s greatest tourist highlights, has over 9,000 rooms
  • A question. For example, “would you like to celebrate the New Year for 15 days like the Chinese do it every year?” 
  • A famous person’s quote. For example, a famous Hollywood actress Bai Ling once said, “because of the Chinese culture of obedience, you don’t ask questions… You follow and obey.” 


How many paragraphs in a narrative essay? 

A classical essay should follow a five-paragraph format, which means you have an introduction, a conclusion, and three body paragraphs, each dedicated to a particular aspect of your subject. 

How do you write a narrative essay? 

To compose a compelling narrative essay, you should share some story or experience you once had (or imagine a fictional experience). You don’t need to convince the readers of anything or provide arguments; it’s just a story unfolding from an exciting intro to the culmination. 

How long is a narrative essay? 

The length of your narrative assignment depends on the professor’s prompt or the requirements of the publication to which you’re planning to submit the text. It may be a page long, telling a condensed short story in a very brief form. Otherwise, it can be an extended work of 5-10 pages, covering your experience in tiny details and offering a detailed chronological account of all events. 

How to write an introduction for a narrative essay? 

The narrative piece’s introduction differs from the one you’re required to compose in other academic tasks. It doesn’t have a thesis statement and looks more creative overall. You can introduce the story’s settings and characters, setting the stage for the story’s events. 

How to end a narrative essay? 

The ending of the narrative story should include some endowment or moral. You should share your takeaways from your life experience, whether it was a bitter learning lesson or an inspiring and life-changing event. Share these conclusions with the readers to show how you advanced through that experience. 


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