Narrative Essay Format

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A narrative essay may be considered one of the essay varieties that allows the most creativity, especially since some essays are written in the first person. For example, a personal essay makes for an easy narrative essay. The format is also rather flexible in relation to other essay types, but in order to get a better grade it is wise to follow a format or structure.

Your essay formatting

The word “format” is used in numerous different ways, but the technical side of your formatting will usually be given by your teacher. It is also known as the style of the essay, and may be something such as APA, Harvard, Chicago, etc. This article does not cover the “style” version of essay formatting, as you should learn those details when you pick up your essay from your professor/teacher. This article covers the formatting in terms of structure. How you lay out your essay and the processes you may like to follow are laid out in this article.

Picking your topic and naming your narrative essay

Your topic may have been picked for you, and if that is the case then at least you know what is expected by your professor and you are not left guessing. It is common to have a title that compliments your essay topic. Think of it in terms of naming your essay rather than coming up with a technical title.

For example, if your essay is about your trip to Vancouver, then instead of a title saying “Things to experience in Vancouver” you could name it, “My trip to Vancouver and all that I saw”, or “The sights, sounds, smell and experience of Vancouver.”

Do I need a hypothesis or thesis statement?

You can insert a thesis or hypothesis within your introduction, but you must then make sure your narrative essay is leading towards a resolution of your thesis or hypothesis. It may expand upon them, lead them to a conclusion, or show how they are indefinable, unfixable or sit on the fence. Still, if you include a thesis statement or hypothesis then you have to conclude at the end of the essay. If you do not include a thesis statement or hypothesis then you may go without a conclusion or may simply conclude with a final sentence.

Your thesis or hypothesis is not just a question, though the reader will expect a conclusion if you ask a question in the introduction. A thesis or hypothesis is inserted into the introduction and acts like a guide for your essay. People should be able to look back at your thesis or hypothesis and see how the part they just read is related to it in some way.

Writing your introduction

You do not have to sell your essay in the introduction, but it makes for a better essay if you do. Sell the idea of reading the essay with clever writing, marketable copy, or a strong thesis or hypothesis that makes the reader ask a question, (a question that you subsequently answer in your essay).

Your goal is to introduce your reader to your topic in the same way you may introduce business partners in a meeting, or how you may introduce people to the good Marvel movies (the ones with Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy). For example, if you were introducing those movies then you would could explain a little of what they are about, the main characters, their back-story, when they did what they did, why they did what they did, and the purpose of their current situation (i.e. revenge, accident in the lab, caught in a conflict, etc).

This may seem like a big job, as the background to your narrative essay may be rather large. Can you imagine fitting all the Marvel movie details into one introduction? If it looks as if your introduction will be a large one, you should go over the outline of what you want to communicate within the introduction. You then build the rest of the details into opening paragraphs. Given just enough details in the introduction to get people interested, but do not make it too long.

As mentioned earlier, you may also like to spell out your thesis or hypothesis, or may like to explain your intentions within the introduction.

The bulk of your essay

Your first paragraphs may be building the background to your essay, just like the Marvel examples above, in which you explain more about your topic before you get into the bulk of the narrative. Otherwise, you may like to start the narrative right away. The body has no set format other than remaining consistent. This means if you choose to write in the first person, then you cannot slip into second or third person without an explanation. The same goes for tense, and the same goes for story transition. People should be able to see where one story ends and another begins without confusion.

The complicated bit

This section explains how your narrative essay doesn’t have to run in a chronological order as if it were a children’s bedtime story, but understanding it may be difficult for some, in which case those people should stick to a chronological order format (it is safer).

Think of your narrative like a train track. You build the track and the readers follow it. This is most easily done by putting things in chronological order, but you do not have to resort to that if you do not wish.

Some people connect their narrative with events, such as A caused B, and B caused C, etc. This may be done in chronological order, but it doesn’t have to. Event A may have upset someone that influenced event D, but event C may not have happened if the person from event A had not been upset enough to influence event D. Chronologically, event B and event D happened at the same time.

Some people connect their narrative in a Pulp fiction manner, by way of showing that all the stories are interrelated in what may be a tiny way, but that doesn’t appear obvious until all the essay is read.

The conclusion

This is the easy part. Your essay should have driven people straight to the conclusion. If you had a thesis or hypothesis, then answer the question within it or call back to it directly in order to conclude upon it (even if the conclusion is, “I don’t know.”).

If you did not have a thesis or hypothesis, then you can end it with a concluding sentence if you wish, just so long as some sort of resolution is gained by the reader. In other words, the reader shouldn’t be able to superimpose a “to be continued” on the end of your essay.

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