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Narrative Essay Requirements

by Amy Mahoney

A narrative essay tells a story about a significant personal experience to convey an important message or lesson to the reader. Narrative essays are written more like stories than research papers and include colorful descriptions and personal observations. Requirements for narrative essays include a consistent point of view, a clear purpose, detailed descriptions and a well-organized structure.

Point of View

Personal narrative essays are usually written in first person, using the word “I.” This point of view is the most natural choice because a narrative essay is about your personal experiences and observations. First-person point of view also helps make the essay feel more immediate for the reader. Occasionally, a narrative essay may be written in third-person point of view. This happens if, for example, the essay was about an experience that happened to an older relative. Make sure you only use one point of view consistently throughout the entire piece so you don’t confuse the reader.

Purpose

A narrative essay isn’t just an interesting story about an experience. It also guides the reader towards an insight by showing what you learned from that experience. By the end of the essay, the significance of your memory must be clear to the reader. For example, if you wrote about the poverty you witnessed during a trip to an impoverished country, your essay should show not just what you saw, but also how that experience changed your perspective or motivated you to action.

Detailed Descriptions

Your narrative essay should include detailed, creative descriptions that make the reader feel like they are part of the story. Bring your experience to life by using concrete, sensory details to describe your experience: for example, what you smelled, tasted, touched, heard or felt. Include personal observations and thoughts as well as descriptions of what happened. Colorful descriptions capture the reader’s attention and make your essay memorable and interesting.

Organized Structure

A narrative essay requires you to write about your experience in an organized, logical way that will make sense to a reader. Include a strong introduction that helps the reader understand the point and purpose of the essay. Use body paragraphs to write about your experience in a sequential or logical order. Use transitions to help the reader clearly understand the timeline of events. Conclude with a final paragraph that draws a powerful conclusion and circles back to the purpose you indicated in the introduction.

References

About the Author

Amy Mahoney has been a writer for more than 15 years. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines including “The Boston Globe,” “Reader’s Digest” and the “Miami Herald.” She holds a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.

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