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Writing Narrative Essays

Quite often, you may be required to write a narrative essay on a topic that is specific to your course. The reason, usually, is to get you accustomed to thinking in a critical way about how your current attitudes and view of life have been influenced by experiences you have had in the past. Typically, narrative writing focuses on a particular event or chain of events that caused an individual to change their behavior, opinions or views in some significant way. Put simply, there are two elements to narrative writing, a story relating the events and the writer’s reflection on that event.

The use of narrative-style writing is also a good way to introduce a more significant work or indeed conclude it. When it is used this way, the writer can focus on their own unique experiences in any manner where these are relevant to the topic, or they can relate a story that is based on someone else’s experiences to appeal to the readers’ emotions. Whichever style you employ, it should support your wider aims. If you refer to any well-written narrative essay example, you will see that it is recommended the writer makes their story interesting by narrating it in a clear, sequential order, including every important detail and ensuring the information is suited to the particular situation.

Owing to the fact that many narrative essay topics involve writing about something personal, a type of writing that can feel alien in the academic world where formal writing is more common, it is easy for the writer to feel at a loss when it comes to knowing where to begin, what tone to set and what details to include or leave out.

When Is Narrative Writing Required?

Most often, narrative essays are required during the first term or year of writing courses, where literacy is usually the primary focus. Additionally, narrative-style writing can be required on academic courses where the student is asked to think about a significant educational event, on philosophy courses where the student is asked to evaluate their views and values, or on religious courses where the student is asked to consider their behavior or beliefs. As noted previously, narrative writing can also serve to introduce or conclude more significant works where these are relevant to the aims of the text or a course of study.

Brainstorming is a Good Way to Begin

Before you begin writing a narrative essay, think about the style of narrative that is required of you. Brainstorming can really help to uncover a whole range of experiences where these are relevant to the topic. If, for instance, your narrative is of the literary variety, you could begin by looking at a book you really liked – perhaps the first ever storybook you read, or a teacher/tutor you got on well with. In addition, remember, with this type of writing, the experience you relate does not have to be a positive one. It might be that you found it difficult to write a particular paper, learn a foreign language, or take a challenging exam.

Occasionally, the more difficult experiences have more impact than the positive ones when it comes to influencing our feelings and values. However, you need to be careful because you do not want to have to write about an overly sensitive experience that will be read by someone else or that causes you pain to write about. Therefore, select subject matter you feel comfortable writing about and sharing, even if it is only with your tutor. If your course involves peer-review, you certainly need to feel comfortable sharing the contents of your narrative essay with your fellow students.