A narrative requires telling a story --- usually about something that happens to the writer --- in such a way that the audience learns a lesson or gains insight, explains Roane State Community College's Online Writing Lab. A narrative relies on personal experience. To decide what insight or lesson a writer wants an audience to learn includes using prompts, which are ways to identify the experience the writer wants to focus on. For instance, a childhood event, bad deed, a failure and achieving a goal are all types of prompts a writer can use to pick an experience for the essay. A prompt works to focus the writer as he prepares to write.
Different genres of writing require first, second or third person forms. For instance, an academic paper requires writing in third person. Although a writer can compose a narrative using third person such as "he," "she" or "it," most narratives don't use it. Instead a narrative primarily consists of writing in the first person. Writing in first person involves using words like "I," "me" or "my." Typically, using first person is preferred because the story is told from a writer's point of view and not a fictional character's.
A narrative doesn't deviate much from traditional storytelling. A narrative should follow the basic story conventions, which consist of a plot, characters, setting, climax and an ending. A plot, also called a storyline, is what happens to the characters in the narrative. Characters are the writer and other people involved in the story such as a parent, a stranger or a teacher. Setting is the location where the story occurs. A climax is the major turning point in a story, and the ending is the resolution of the story.
Details allow an audience to visualize everything a writer describes in a narrative. Using concrete descriptive language is a way to achieve that goal. When a writer uses concrete language a narrative appears clearer and easier to grasp. An example of concrete language is the sentence: The hard rain burst through the clouds, hitting my face and preventing me from seeing Mike fall.