How to Write a Biographical Narrative Essay

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A narrative essay provides a narrative, or story, to its reader, while a biographical essay describes the life of another person. When you write a biographical narrative essay, you are telling the story of another person's life. Before you begin writing, decide what aspects of a person's life you want to explore, and what examples you will use to explore them.

1 Decide on Your Subject

The first and most important decision you must make when writing your essay is who you will focus on. Your subject could be a member of your family, a friend, or even a historical figure. Keep in mind, however, that the less you know about this person, the less you will know about their feelings and motivations. If you're writing about someone you know well, ask them questions. Pick an aspect of that person's life to focus on. To make your essay as interesting as possible, chose a time in that person's life that shows change or growth. For example, if you were writing about your older sister, you could focus on a time when she was fighting with your parents, and how they eventually started to get along again.

2 Find Events to Illustrate Your Story

Once you've picked the person on whom you want to focus and the story you want to explore, choose events that you will use to tell your story. Find three or four times in your subject's life that illustrate the struggle or growth that you're writing about. These could be as simple as small conversations you've had with that person, or as dramatic as a mental breakdown. When you pick an event, think about how you will use it to show change in your subject. This is especially important if you are writing about a historical figure, since you will only have events, and not your personal impressions, to analyze. On the other hand, say you are writing about your sister's contentious relationship with your parents. Perhaps you noticed that for a long time she simply avoided talking to them, but when she turned 16 they started having loud, drawn-out fights. Even if you don't think this is a positive change, you could use it to show how your sister had changed, and was now able to confront your parents.

3 Structure Your Narrative

Now that you know the major events you want to concentrate on, use them to figure out your essay's structure. Your essay should begin with a paragraph or two providing background for your story. Describe the person you are writing about, and the setting of your story. Where did they live? What sort of things did they enjoy? What kind of relationship do you have with them, if any? The bulk of your paper will be the three or four events that you have chosen. Place these in chronological order -- that is, in the order in which they happened. This will give your reader a sense of progression over time. Finally, include a couple paragraphs at the end of your essay to provide conclusion to your story. Tie up any unaddressed details in these paragraphs, and provide a description of your subject, showing how he has changed.

4 Concrete Details

With your structure, you can put pen to paper and write your essay. A narrative essay should include descriptive, concrete details. For example, if you are writing a scene in a park, you could describe whether it was sunny or rainy, what color the trees were, whether birds were chirping. These details will make your story feel more grounded, and allow your reader to feel closer to the physical events you're describing. Use longer descriptions in place of vague statements. For example, instead of writing "It was dark outside," you might use "She couldn't see 2 feet in front of her."

Once you've written a draft of your essay, go back and edit it. Check for spelling, grammar and run-on sentences. Replace vague descriptions with details. Remove repetitive sentences, and expand any sections that feel too short. Finally, check whether your concluding paragraphs address the central point of your story, and tie up any loose ends.

Jon Zamboni began writing professionally in 2010. He has previously written for The Spiritual Herald, an urban health care and religious issues newspaper based in New York City, and online music magazine eBurban. Zamboni has a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Wesleyan University.