A narrative structure may vary more than most, the key is to simply have events or subjects connect in a way that the reader can understand. You can connect them chronologically as one event moves to the next, but there other ways. If your events or subjects do not connect then it is not a narrative essay. The structure you pick is up to you, but do not go to creative. Include the standard introduction and conclusion to be on the safe side, as your professor may overlook your creativity and simply think you do not know how to introduce or conclude an essay (it is best not to risk it).
Plan your essay from the start
Take the time to write an essay plan. A narrative essay may seem easy if you are writing about a personal experience, but you can go very wrong. You can add too much detail and go over word count, or your experience may not be as “Lord of the Rings” as you imagine. It may be more “Cow jumped over the moon,” which leaves you with lots of word count to fill. Plan your essay in advance, note down the key features, the key stepping-stones and the key points you wish to communicate and then make sure they connect to form a narrative.
Think of the word count compared to the number of events
Ever spoken to an old lady that can make a short story into an epic tale? She describes her trip to the hospital and includes how heavy the rain was, the smell on the bus, and the chubby person in front of her in the queue. Do not make the mistake of adding in more events and more detail than your word count allows. You may have to trim your narrative down to the key features.
Your word count defines how much descriptive writing you include
This is a similar point to the one made above, but there is still a balance to be struck. A writer could have a word count of 50,000 words and still fill it with events and leave little room for descriptive content. Even if you have a short word count, you will have to add in at least a little descriptive content. If you are stuck for ideas then ask yourself questions such as what, where, how, why, who, when, and consider your senses. How did it feel, smell, taste, sound?
How to guess the structure based on the marking system
Here is a handy tip that is going to serve you well through all your essay assignments. Below you can see an essay assignment for a narrative essay. The elements detailing the parameters (such as tense, person view, spelling, word choice, etc) are not mentioned, this is just the bare bones of part of the assignment brief.
Write a narrative essay about a significant event in your life – 6000 words
– Details of the event (20 marks)
– How it affected you at the time (20 marks)
– How it has changed you (10 marks)
– What you would have done (10 marks)
You have 6000 words, but look at how the marking system works. If you spend 5000 words giving details of the event, then do you think you will get full marks? Use the marks beside each brief to approximate how many words you should spend on each.
There are 60 marks in total, so 6000 words divided by 60 equals 100. That is 100 words per mark, so you should spend your word count in a following manner:
– Details of the event (2000 words)
– How it affected you at the time (2000 words)
– How it has changed you (1000 words)
– What you would have done (1000 words)
Where the mark distribution system may not help you
There are some assignments you will receive, probably not narrative essays, where this sort of system will fail you. For example, an essay may ask you to name Newton’s three laws for three points and then explain Newton’s second law for six points. The three points will probably only need a paragraph, whereas the six points will probably need a page or two of writing. Use your best judgment when using the mark-to-word count trick mentioned above.