The very first thing you think of when someone mentions essay is that you have to make an argument, find evidence, and write it in a somewhat philosophical manner. But, it doesn’t always have to be like that. Did you know you can tell a story through essay? I’m talking about narrative essays, a unique style of writing that combines the best of both worlds: storytelling and essay composing. The chances are high you’ll have to compose this type of paper sooner or later, and when the time comes this post will come handy. Throughout this article, I’m going to show you how to create an outline for a narrative essay and make your professor or client happy with the quality of your work.
What is a narrative essay?
A narrative essay is defined as a type of writing wherein the author narrates or tells the story. The story is non-fictional and usually, deals with the writer’s personal development. Unlike in other essay forms, using the first person is acceptable in these papers. Narrative essays can also be anecdotal, experiential thus allowing writers to express themselves in a creative and more personal manner.
Despite the fact you’re telling the story through the narrative essay, you must not identify it with a short story. How? Short stories are usually fictional and allow essay writers to change the plot, add different characters or rewrite the ending in a bid to better fit the narrative. On the other hand, with these essays, the author is required to pull a cohesive narrative arc from memory and events that, actually, happened. Just like other forms of essays, this style of writing needs a thesis statement. In fact, the entire narrative in your essay aims to support the thesis you wrote in the introduction. As you already know, short stories don’t require thesis statement and you’re not required to prove anything.
Narrative essay structure
If you’ve never written a narrative essay before and you need help essay online at this moment you’re thinking how complicated it seems. The beauty of this writing style is the ability to get your point across through a story and it’s not that difficult when you know how to structure it correctly.
Just like with other types of essays, a functional outline is essential. That way you know what to include in different parts of the paper and everything it entails. I have created diagram below to help you out.
An intro isn’t just a small paragraph that you have to write in order to get to the “real stuff”. If an entrance of some amusement park isn’t interesting, you’d feel reluctant to go in. If the first chapter of the book is boring, you’re less likely to ditch it. Essays aren’t exceptions here, the beginning or starting point is essential. Introductions attract reader’s attention, makes him/her wonder about what you’re going to write next.
The introduction of the narrative essay is written either in the first or third person. It’s recommended to start off your work with a hook including some strong statement or a quote. The sole purpose of the hook is to immediately intrigue your professor, client, audience, and so on. As seen in the diagram above, after the hook you have to write a sentence or two about the importance of the topic to both you and the reader. Basically, this part has to be written in a manner that readers of the paper can relate to. You want them to think “I feel that way”, “I’ve been through that” etc.
The last sentence (or two) of your paper account for the thesis statement, the vital part of your essay. The reason is simple, the thesis informs readers about the direction you’re going to take. It allows the audience to tune into author’s mind. Since the primary purpose of every essay is to prove some point and your story is going to be told for a reason, the thesis cements your overall attitude and approach throughout the paper.
The introduction should be:
Now that your introduction is complete, you get to proceed to write body paragraphs. This is where all the magic happens, it’s the part wherein you start, develop, and end the narration. The number of paragraphs in this section depends on the type of narration or event you want to write about and the plot itself.
This segment starts with the setting or background of the event to allow readers to understand relevant details and other necessary info. Every great story starts with the background, a part where you introduce the reader to the subject. Make sure you enter precise details because that way the readers are more involved in the story.
Besides important details about the subject and event you’re going to describe through the narrative essay, it’s highly practical to introduce characters or people that are involved in some particular situation. Describe their physical and personality characteristics. However, ensure that characteristics you include are relevant to the essay itself. This is yet another point where narrative essay differs from the short story. When writing a short story, you get to include all sorts of personality traits to develop your character. Here, you only mention those that are important for your thesis and narrative. Instead of listing characters one after another, introduce them through the story. The best way to do so depends on the type of the subject or event you’re going to write about, different kinds of topic require a different approach. Regardless of the approach, you opt for to introduce characters, always stick to the “relevant characteristics” rule.
Short anecdote or foreshadowing, basically, refers to details establishing conflict or the stakes for people regarding some specific situation. This part is a sort of precursor to the onset of the event. Use these paragraphs to explain:
- How things started to happen
- What people involved (characters) did to reach the point where the event of your story was imminent i.e. point of no return
- Detailed description of the situation
- How you felt about everything
TIP: Bear in mind that this doesn’t, necessarily, have to refer to some unfortunate event with tragic consequences. You can use the same approach to writing about other kinds of situations that lead to a more optimistic outcome.
Logically, the event has to reach its climax, a breaking point of the story, which requires detailed description. Don’t forget to include emotions, how it made you (or someone else) feel. The climax should be accurate, don’t exaggerate and stray from the truth just to make it more interesting. Instead, make this part more vivid, include powerful words and adjectives to make readers feel the tension and emotions you experienced.
After every climax, there comes the resolution good or bad. This is the part where you write how everything resolved. Without this segment, the narrative would seem incomplete and your hard work would be ruined.
So, body paragraphs should contain the following qualities:
- Detailed descriptions
- Relevant details
- Accurate information
- Powerful adjectives to truly depict the situation
You finished the narrative and before you’re done with the writing part of the essay, it’s time to conclude it. Just like the intro, this paragraph also bears a major importance. The conclusion should provide moral of the story, reflection or analysis of the significance of the event to you and the reader. This is yet another opportunity to make readers relate to your paper. Use this segment to describe what lesson you learned, how did this event affect/change your life, and so on. Depending on the subject, you could also include call-to-action to raise awareness of some growing issue in the society.
Dos and don’ts
- DO start your essay with a question, fact, definition, quote, anything that you deem interesting, relevant, and catchy at the same time
- DON’T focus only on the sense of sight when writing narrative essay, use all five senses, add details about what you heard or felt
- DO use formal language
- DO use vivid details
- DO use dialogue if necessary
- DON’T use the same structure of sentences, vary them to make the writing more interesting
- DO describe events chronologically (it’s the easiest way to tell the story)
- DO use transition words to make it clear what happened first, next, and last
Tips to remember
- The goal of narrative essay is to make a point, the event or story you’re going to tell needs some purpose
- Use clear and concise language
- Every word or detail you write needs to contribute to the overall meaning of the narrative
- Record yourself talking about the event to easily organize different details
- Don’t complicate the story; imagine you’re writing the narrative for a child. Would he/she understand the narrative? That always helps to simplify text
- Revise, modify, edit, and proofread
Narrative essays help you get some point across through storytelling, but you shouldn’t mistake them for “regular” short stories. I explained how to structure your work, differentiate it from short stories, and how you can easily develop your narration. Following the outline will help you write a high-quality essay and diagram from this article can serve as a visual clue you can use to compose your work. Start practicing today and write a narrative essay about some major event in your life. You can do it!
Image courtesy of Amra Serdarevich
My eyes were red and burning as blood slowly ran down my forehead. My cramped and trembling fingers hovered over the keyboard like it was a Ouija board. I closed my eyes and, when I opened them again, the blog post was finished. It was like nothing I had written before.
Okay, so, that didn’t happen. But, with any luck, that beginning has motivated you to read the rest of this blog post. And, therein lies the magic of a hook.
It can be difficult to keep your audience reading–because, let’s face it, most of us have short attention spans. However, a good hook can do just that. It’s the difference between pulling your reader into your writing and losing them to other distractions.
Without an interesting hook, you can lose your reader before the second paragraph.
A good hook is key to nearly every essay you write, but maybe none more so than in the narrative essay. So, let’s take a look at how to start a narrative essay.
What Is a Narrative Essay?
Before you can fully engage in what makes the perfect hook for your narrative essay, let’s make sure you know what a narrative essay is exactly.
A narrative, quite simply, is a story. Unlike other essays in which you may need to argue or prove something, a narrative essay is about telling a story.
Quite often, of course, this will be a story from your life. We all have stories. We tell them often. However, not all of those stories in your brain will make for a good narrative essay.
For example, you may have a really funny story about the time you ate grass as a kid and threw up at school. But, what will the reader take away from the story? Don’t eat grass? Well, we already know that.
Perhaps you also have a story about the first time you cut the lawn. You remember it being fun, exciting. However, the moment your father offered to pay you to do it, it suddenly felt unappealing, like work. Now, this story has potential, featuring a character transformation and a lesson to be learned.
A good narrative essay will be fun to write, interesting to read, and meaningful in some way, among other things.
And, it should all start with an awesome hook.
Why Is It Important to Know How to Start a Narrative Essay off on an Interesting Foot?
Well, let’s keep this simple, shall we? When we write something, we want people to read what we have written. That goes double for something that is personal, like a narrative essay.
However, if the reader isn’t engaged in your writing, they aren’t going to finish it. Why would they when they could be learning about the Arab Spring through Jurassic Park Gifs?! (Cough DieBuzzfeed Cough).
This makes it utterly important that you grab their attention early. Whereas they have the opportunity to learn something incredibly useful from your stellar narrative, the vortex of technological distractions can blend their brains into a fine purée.
So, please, start your essay off on an interesting foot. Please. Think of the children.
A good hook sentence grabs your audience and refuses to let go. It sets the tone for the rest of your story. It gets under your reader’s skin right from the beginning and starts to stir those feelings that your narrative essay intends to address.
16 Awesome Hooks to Start a Narrative Essay
There are myriad ways in which you can formulate your hook sentence. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, because, well, writing doesn’t always fit into a mold. It involves being bold and striking out on your own and trusting your gut, even if your writing doesn’t fit neatly into a category.
However, having said that, there are some tried-and-true methods for hooking a reader. Here are few of the most common types of hooks, along with some awesome examples:
Quote from Literature
Is there a piece of literature that influenced you or relates directly to your story? Use a quote from it to eloquently connect your reader to your narrative.
- I had felt so alone for so long, wondering why I was different, why I couldn’t be normal, when I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano for the first time: “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” That was it.
- I was alone in my room reading On the Road in which Jack Kerouac wrote, “A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.” I was immediately transported back to that heavy summer day at Penn Station, July 23, 2010.
Quote from a Famous Person
Has a famous person inspired you in some way? The good news is that your reader probably knows the person too, you know, because of the whole famous thing. Tap into that connection.
- Christopher McCandless once said, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” It was in this spirit that I packed a small bag and left home at the age of 18.
- As Socrates waited for his execution, he practiced a tune on his flute. When asked what was the use, he replied, “To know this tune before dying.” I can’t explain my own motivations any better. I just need to know.
No matter whether it’s funny or moving, starting your essay, right off the bat, with an intriguing anecdote from your story can be a great way to raise questions in your reader that keep them reading until the end. Authors do this all of the time.
- One day, when I was ten years old, my father woke me for school. We had cereal together in the kitchen. He asked if I’d brushed my teeth. He walked me to the bus stop and told me to have a good day. It was a completely normal morning, which is what really gets me, because it was the last time I ever saw him.
- The children talked about me, as they tended to do, not knowing that I could understand what they were saying. “Look at his eyes and his nose. So weird.” The life of an American in China is somewhat akin to an animal in a zoo, I suppose.
If you have more of a direct style, instead of writing an anecdote meant to stir up questions in your reader, you may choose to just present them with a question. Again, the search for the answer can keep the pages turning.
- They assured me that my choice would change nothing. But, how could it not? Could you sit down at sixteen years old and choose between your father and your mother, knowing the other will be devastated?
- You just won the lottery. We’ve all imagined this scenario from time to time. What would you buy? Where would you go? What would change? Well, what if I told you that you didn’t need to win the lottery at all? Would you believe me?
If you want to be even more direct, try bypassing the questions and simply hitting your reader with the answer. Now, obviously, no one likes to be told what to think, so the idea is to feed the reader a bit of a shocking statement that motivates them to find out how you arrived at it.
- Nothing you learn in the first seventeen years of your life means a thing. This was crystal clear the day I turned eighteen.
- There is no such thing as free will. If it existed, I would have had a say in when, where, and to whom I was born.
The idea here is to present your reader with a fact that they are unaware of. Obviously, since we are talking about narrative essays, this will somehow have to relate to you personally. If executed correctly, it will add another layer to your story, putting it into perspective for the reader.
- Every cell in the human body is replaced over the course of about seven years. That means, not one part of me from that April day ten years ago is still with me today.
- Write now, as you read this, you are flying through space at a speed of 67,000 mph. There have been times in my life when I swear I could feel it.
A narrative essay is not only about getting your message across. You must pull your reader into the story. You can do this by clearly describing your setting so your reader can envision it; once in, it will be difficult for them to get out.
- As he pounded on the door, the room shook. I knew it would open eventually, and nothing would be the same, but I wasn’t watching the door. I couldn’t take my eyes off the Little League trophy that was slowly moving closer and closer to the edge of my shelf.
- There was an old water tower in my hometown that I’d climb from time to time. I’d sit dangling my feet off the edge, picking at the flaking turquoise paint, and watching the cars carry those lucky people down that road, towards the setting sun, far away from me.
How can statistics relate to a narrative essay? Well, that depends on your story, but they can help the reader understand where you’ve been or where you’re going.
- 25% of anorexia and bulimia sufferers are men, so why did I feel so alone?
- The average American consumes 77.1 liters of beer per year in the United States. Then again, my father wasn’t average.
As alluded to before, this isn’t a complete list. However, with any luck, these examples have helped inspire you to understand how to start a narrative essay with a great hook.
If you still feel unsure about your hook, or your narrative essay in general, send it over to the dedicated editors at Kibin. They will give you honest, constructive feedback on how hooked they felt after reading your introduction.
Until then, explore the rest of the Kibin blog for stimulating content that nurtures the mind instead of turning it into mush.
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