Elements Of Narrative Essay Writing

Narrative Essays

Summary:

The Modes of Discourse—Exposition, Description, Narration, Argumentation (EDNA)—are common paper assignments you may encounter in your writing classes. Although these genres have been criticized by some composition scholars, the Purdue OWL recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students’ need to understand and produce them.

Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-07-30 01:39:00

What is a narrative essay?

When writing a narrative essay, one might think of it as telling a story. These essays are often anecdotal, experiential, and personal—allowing students to express themselves in a creative and, quite often, moving ways.

Here are some guidelines for writing a narrative essay.

  • If written as a story, the essay should include all the parts of a story.

This means that you must include an introduction, plot, characters, setting, climax, and conclusion.

  • When would a narrative essay not be written as a story?

A good example of this is when an instructor asks a student to write a book report. Obviously, this would not necessarily follow the pattern of a story and would focus on providing an informative narrative for the reader.

  • The essay should have a purpose.

Make a point! Think of this as the thesis of your story. If there is no point to what you are narrating, why narrate it at all?

  • The essay should be written from a clear point of view.

It is quite common for narrative essays to be written from the standpoint of the author; however, this is not the sole perspective to be considered. Creativity in narrative essays often times manifests itself in the form of authorial perspective.

  • Use clear and concise language throughout the essay.

Much like the descriptive essay, narrative essays are effective when the language is carefully, particularly, and artfully chosen. Use specific language to evoke specific emotions and senses in the reader.

  • The use of the first person pronoun ‘I’ is welcomed.

Do not abuse this guideline! Though it is welcomed it is not necessary—nor should it be overused for lack of clearer diction.

Have a clear introduction that sets the tone for the remainder of the essay. Do not leave the reader guessing about the purpose of your narrative. Remember, you are in control of the essay, so guide it where you desire (just make sure your audience can follow your lead).

Elements of Narrative Writing

Narrative Unit Vocabulary terms
a series of incidents that are related to one another, what happens in a story, includes 5 stages (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution)
usually in the beginning of a story, where the characters, setting, and conflict (problem) are introduced
the part of the story where the conflict(s) develop, in which the suspense and interest builds
the turning point or most exciting moment of a story, in which the main character comes face to face with the main conflict and a change happens
all the loose ends of the plot are tied up, the conflict and climax are taken care of in this part of the story, and the suspense is eased
where the story comes to a reasonable ending and the outcome is resolved
the time and place of the action of a story, where and when it happens
the people, animals, or imaginary creatures that take part in a story
the main problem or struggle between different forces in a story, keeps the action moving forward, can be EXTERNAL or INTERNAL
a struggle between the character and an outside force (another character, group of characters, or nature)
a struggle within a character's mind which happens when a character must deal with opposing thoughts or feelings
the main character in a story, involved in the main conflict, usually seen as hero/heroine, and usually goes through a change as the plot runs its course
a force working against the protagonist (main character) in a story, usually another character, but can be a force of nature, society, or an internal force w/in the main character, usually seen as the bad guy/villain
undergoes an important change in the story that occurs as the plot unfolds, comes to a realization that permanently changes them (protagonist is usually dynamic, but not always)
remains the same throughout a story, and while something may happen to them, they do not change as a result of the events of the plot
the important lesson, moral, or teaching we gain from looking closely at the characters' actions, as well as the events and outcomes of the story
is the story of the writer's own life, told by the writer
the life story of a person told by someone else
a conversation between characters, usually set off by quotation marks to indicate a speaker's exact words
writing or speech that is not meant to be taken literally. It is used by writers to state ideas in vivid or imaginative ways
includes characters, conflict, setting, and a plot and is usually written to share a theme (moral, or teaching) with the reader
the perspective, or vantage point, from which a story is told
Words and phrases that help readers see, hear, taste, feel, or smell what the author is describing
the process a writer uses to create and develop a character, and gives the reader details about a character's actions, thoughts, words, relationships and emotions
Writing that presents and explains ideas or that tells about real people, places, or events
narrative writing that is invented or imagined
those for whom a piece of writing is intended
words or phrases that help make smooth connections between parts of a text
a comparison between two things that are not alike using the words "like" or "as" (ex. "X is like Y")
a comparison between two things that are not alike without using the words "like" or "as" (ex. X is Y)
to give human characteristics to something that is not human (ex. The branches were waving at me.)
an obvious and intentional exaggeration (ex. I have a ton of homework.)
words that are sounds (ex, zap, pow, buzz, whoosh)
repetition of the first consonant sound (ex. She sells seashells by the seashore.)
words that create an image in the reader's mind that allow us to see what is not directly stated in the text, writing that shows instead of tells

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