Best Narrative Essay Format Guidelines

September 13, 2022 F WP

Best Narrative Essay Format Guidelines

Table of Contents

Narrative essay writing is a breath of fresh air for students and writers across the globe as it allows simplicity and freedom, even in the fold of buttoned-down academic writing. As the name indicates, the narrative essay is based on a personal experience or an incident that drastically influenced the succeeding days.

Even though it has a casual nature, the essay needs to follow a rigid structure to make the story accessible to readers. That’s why it has three distinct parts following specific purposes.

So, if students are wondering about what is a narrative format, this is what it is all about!      

Writing A Compelling Introduction

An introduction is a part where things are set up and the thesis statement is written to let readers understand what the central point of an essay is, according to the author. To make it interesting and enticing for readers, writers should start with a hook and then set the stage in the opening that can foreshadow the upcoming events in the body.

Explaining It All In The Body

This is the meat and bones of the narrative essay structure. Every essential element of the story is explained and revealed in this part. That’s why it has the most contribution in terms of word count. 

Writers have the space and discretion to do justice to the plot, characters, setting, and theme so that the whole narrative can become relatable and believable for the readers.  

Tying Loose Ends In Conclusion

This is where all good or bad things come to the end. In the conclusion, the writers need to close up the narrative by revealing the lessons learned from the story. Somehow, it is about connecting the introduction and body for the reader, especially the thesis statement.     

Streamlining Diverse Parts of A Narrative Essay

On the face of it, the narrative paper format may seem like a simple task. You need to write a story with a lesson based on your personal experience. This is simple. In reality, there are many angles and elements that writers need to implement and balance to come up with a relatable narrative.

In this section, we will go through the essentials and help novice writers identify and understand them so that they can take care of them when they make outline formats for narrative essays.


Things never exist in a vacuum. There is always a “before” and “after” when things happen. The background of a narrative essay or a story is about setting the stage. The “setting” is different and will come later in this section.

For instance, the background is the essential information about characters or incidents before the conflict or the central point of the story.   

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the central point of the personal narrative format essay. This is mostly introduced in the opening with a bold and brief statement. It should be as specific as possible because it helps both readers and writers to understand the narrative and keep it taut.

The thesis statement keeps the scope and reaches of the essay to a single focus point. That’s why it is necessary to come up with one along with a topic as soon as possible.  


The questions a writer answers in terms of when, where, why, how, and what of the story. Again, this is an essential element of the narrative because this will help readers identify and relate to the characters and places in the story.

The important thing in this regard is the consistency and continuation of the setting across the narrative. 


Action is the journey of the protagonist, either physical, mental, or spiritual. These could be the changes that characters undergo before they become a better version of themselves at the end of the story.

Clear, well-paced action is the key to a successful narrative because readers need to know the journey if they cannot live it.

Format For Personal Narrative Essay

Whether you are a trained author or a novice writer studying in high school or college, it is not recommended to start writing without any preparation. That’s why this section is dedicated to helping writers understand the importance of the planning and formatting phase so that they can breeze through the process of actual writing.  

Research To Gather Relevant Information 

Even though narrative essays are based on personal incidents and experiences, there is a good bit of research that goes into writing them. Many writers consider their first drafts to be the best forms of research.

They can recall and note down the incident or experiences and then draw meaningful conclusions based on the themes, plot, and characters from that. Either you get the story from simply relying on your memories or you gather facts by applying a little extra force. In any case, you need research to weave a relatable narrative.  

Topic Selection

Topic selection is the ultimate driving force to get your narrative essay writing format to the finish line. As the saying goes, you need to start a narrative essay by selecting a topic before you can make it to the finish line. 

There are many ways to go around the selection of the perfect topic. One pro tip can be to come up with a functional topic before writing and then finalizing the topic based on the final copy of the story.   

Here are some other tips for a narrative format essay example:

  • The topic should be luring and enticing to the readers 
  • It should not reveal everything nor should it keep everything secret
  • The idea is to have a title that can make readers want more


The opening or introduction of a narrative is about setting a hook and letting readers into the author’s world. The writer can set up the stage and even introduce principal characters and then finish off the opening with the thesis statement.

Many writers spend a big chunk of time writing the opening because it can make or break the narrative for them.       


This is the lengthiest part of the essay. In the case of school and college narrative essays, three paragraphs are dedicated to writing the body out of five. The writer has to show all the essential elements of the narrative in this part, including the theme, setting, characters, and plot. 

Since there is no apparent constraint on volume in this section, it is utilized by writers to make the story relatable and believable to the readers.


Closing is as important as the opening of the narrative essay, if not more. While the readers are in a trance between the opening and the body of the essay, it is best to keep up the magic and finish it off with a superb conclusion.

Writers reflect on the narrative and conclude that readers can see and feel which is the primary purpose of writing a personal narrative story.

Length of A Narrative Essay

There is no controversy or debate surrounding the length of a narrative essay. As a standard, school, and college narrative essays have a defined structure with a predictable word count.

At most, it has around 1500 words with five distinct paragraphs. One each for the introduction and conclusion and three for the body. There are also cases when the word count is capped at around 1000 by instructors. This is the threshold and below it, narrative essays can fall flat.  

What About A Narrative Paragraph?

Narrative paragraphs, just like narrative essays, tell a story or an event in chronological order. But the structure differs because it is only limited to a single paragraph. So, the readers can expect the action or the plot but there is little depth that you can expect from that paragraph.

The prime example of narrative paragraphs is news stories and articles that tell a story.       

Things To Make A Narrative Essay Great

A narrative essay is not a homogeneous whole but a collection of different elements that are balancing each other to make a story relatable and believable to readers. If you think getting the best idea is the only thing you need, you are mistaken. 

In this section, we will take a hard look at the things that can make your narrative great.   

Solid Plot

A plot is something or events that happened or unfold in the whole story. Still, it is not a straightforward account of events but a lively detail that can evoke images in the minds of the readers.

  • Centered around a single point in time and space, the plot should raise the dramatic or suspense effect in a story that should be answered by the author in the remaining story
  • Even the plot is not a whole in its nature but it is dependent on every line and paragraph, that answers that question    

Believable Characters

Characters house the narrative, both primary and secondary. Characters take the story and live it and help readers see it through their journey.

In most personal narrative essays, characters are only a handful and they are easy to manage for seasoned writers. They should have depth and reach them so that they can come as believable to readers.    

Relatable Conflict

Conflict is the spirit of a narrative. There is no narrative or story without disruption or an abrupt change of events. For instance, if a person was living a normal life until one day he woke up and found a deep change in his physicality or mentality, this change or conflict will drive the story and make it interesting.

People face conflicts daily and some are more crucial and influential than others. In any case, they must be able to draw parallels from the narrative to be interested in it.

Well-Grounded Theme

In simple words, a theme in a narrative is the central meaning of the story. It can be about tragedy, meeting or losing someone or something. It tells the story from the lens of the writing.

Most narrative essays do not blurt out themes in an open way but infuse them with the characters, plot, and setting. That’s why writers with complete command over elements can make the best of the themes. 


Narrative essays are written based on personal experiences or incidents. For schools or colleges, narrative essays have defined structure and word count. Normally, narrative essays have five paragraphs.

  • Opening (One paragraph)
  • Body (Three paragraphs)
  • Closing (One paragraph)

Narrative essays do not have a defined word count in most cases. For schools and colleges, the commonly used length of essays is 1500 words. There are instances when colleges ask students for writing an essay of around 1000 words.

Whether it is for writing a college essay or to secure admission, it is best to know about the length.

These are the steps to writing a winning narrative essay:

  • Organizing your thoughts
  • Researching your topics
  • Developing a bold and brief thesis statement
  • Writing the introduction to set the stage
  • Composing the body
  • Concluding the narrative

Narrative sentences, like narrative essays and paragraphs, tell a story or an event. Since it is hard to encapsulate the whole event in a sentence, they move the story forward with necessary information and details.

In addition to this, they can showcase an emotion or evoke an image in readers’ minds. 

Narrative writing is about basing your writing or story on a personal experience or an incident. It is about a person’s journey, either physical or mental, and takes the reader with it through imagery and other literary devices.

On the contrary, cookbooks, non-fiction books, and so on are considered non-narrative writing.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the personal narrative essay format is important before starting. There is a defined structure for essays whether you are writing as a school or college assignment or to secure admission in one. Since it is about a personal experience, many people believe that there is no need to research or go through multiple drafts.

After reading this post, you will know about the format and structure of the narrative essay. This will help you in your future endeavors.  

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