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Like the stories you're used to reading, a narrative essay is generally (but not always) chronological, following a clear throughline from beginning to end.Even if the story jumps around in time, all the details will come back to one specific theme, demonstrated through your choice in motifs.
But not to fear—in this article, we’ll be covering what a narrative essay is, how to write a good one, and also analyzing some personal narrative essay examples to show you what a great one looks like.
At first glance, a narrative essay might sound like you’re just writing a story.
There’s nothing wrong with inventing a person’s words if you can’t remember them exactly, but you shouldn’t say they said something they weren’t even close to saying.
Another big difference between narrative essays and creative fiction—as well as other kinds of essays—is that narrative essays are based on motifs.
To return to the example of an essay discussing your first day of high school and how it impacted the shaping of your identity, it would be weird to put the events out of order, even if not knowing what to do after lunch feels like a stronger idea than choosing where to sit.
Instead of organizing to deliver your information based on maximum impact, you’ll be telling your story as it happened, using concrete details to reinforce your theme.But narrative essays work differently—you’re not trying to draw meaning from an existing text, but rather using an event you’ve experienced to convey meaning.In an analytical essay, you examine narrative, whereas in a narrative essay you create narrative.Today is Press Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, and I’m supposed to be at the fairgrounds by A. I’m fresh in from the East Coast, for an East Coast magazine.Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me.If they don’t understand the point you are making, you should consider strengthening the delivery of the events and descriptions that support your motif.Narrative essays also share some features with analytical essays, in which you derive meaning from a book, film, or other media.I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish.I think they asked me to do this because I grew up here, just a couple hours’ drive from downstate Springfield.For example, say you want to write a narrative essay about how your first day in high school helped you establish your identity.You might discuss events like trying to figure out where to sit in the cafeteria, having to describe yourself in five words as an icebreaker in your math class, or being unsure what to do during your lunch break because it’s no longer acceptable to go outside and play during lunch.