What Is the Purpose of a Narrative Essay & How Can a Writer Accomplish the Purpose?

Childhood experiences can inspire good narrative essays.
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Some students dread narrative essays. The assignments are often personal, and writing a story about a real experience can be hard. Many academic disciplines and real-life professions use narratives to communicate important ideas. A medical case history is a narrative. Defense attorneys and prosecutors tell different narratives about crimes in their closing arguments in court. Learn to write a good narrative to communicate better with others and receive better grades.

1 Narrative Uses

Narrative essays tell a story that makes a point. Storytelling is one of the most basic ways people communicate their experiences with each other. Different academic disciplines emphasize narratives. Psychology students frequently read case histories to learn about different disorders. History students read narratives of important events, especially eyewitness accounts. Writing a narrative about yourself may not seem educational, but it will improve your writing skills and help you to learn more from narratives you read in the future.

2 Developing Ideas

Read the writing prompt or prompts you have been assigned carefully. Consider the length of the essay that the teacher has assigned. Select the prompt that inspires the most ideas, not necessarily the one that seems easiest at first. Match something you have personally experienced with the prompt you have selected. Focus on an event that takes place over no more than a few days. Decide the specific point you want to make in your narrative about the event.

3 Developing the Thesis

Narrative essays do have a thesis sentence. Your thesis sentence will be the point or reason the story is being told. Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes wrote a narrative essay, "Salvation," about how he lost his religious faith. His thesis sentence is his first: "I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen." Hughes' point was that he lost his faith in God at age 12. His narrative tells the story of the church meeting when that occurred.

4 Writing the Narrative

Follow your thesis sentence with the events of the narrative you intend to tell. Start at the beginning. Include important events, such as what you said and did as well as what others said and did. Leave out unimportant details. Condense dialog to the most important statements. Ensure that readers know the facts about how old you were, as well as when and where the events occurred. Split up dialog with one paragraph per speaker. Conclude with a recap of the story's meaning and your main point.

Amy Sterling Casil is an award-winning writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She is a professional author and college writing teacher, and has published 20 nonfiction books for schools and libraries.