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Key Aspects of a Narrative Essay


A narrative essay gives the writer the opportunity to share a story. The Purdue Online Writing Lab describes the narrative essay as anecdotal, experiential and personal. The goal of the narrative essay is to emphasize an idea through the telling of a story. While narrative essays are more creative than a traditional essay, there are still key elements to a successful narration.

The Thesis

Though the narrative essay takes on a personal approach, an argument is still presented in the initial paragraph in the form of a thesis. The thesis presents an idea based on a personal experience and an example of supporting details that give the idea validity. According to Southeastern University's guidelines for a personal narrative, the thesis should be a one-sentence statement that is debatable, not a fact nor based on a generalization.

The Introduction

The introduction paragraph presents the overall topic of the essay. This first paragraph should define the overall topic. For example, if the purpose of the narrative is to illustrate the importance of organization for a student, the introduction will include a definition of organization in relation to the topic. The introduction also explains why the topic is relevant to an the audience and ends with the thesis.

The Body

The body of a narrative essay is usually written in chronological order, relaying anecdotal examples of the idea in the order they occur. The essay may also focus on a single incident which is told in chronological order. Each supporting detail presented in the thesis should be addressed by a paragraph in the body of the narrative essay. Each of these paragraphs should also include a topic sentence to let the reader know which detail to address. For example, in the organization essay, the first paragraph may tell a story of an incident when lack of organization led to trouble at school.

The Conclusion

A narrative essay includes a conclusion paragraph that tells the final action of the event. It should also include the moral of the story and an analysis of why the event or series of events were significant both to the writer and to the lesson learned.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

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