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A narrative essay is one of the most intimidating assignments you can be handed at any level of your education. Where you've previously written argumentative essays that make a point or analytic essays that dissect meaning, a narrative essay asks you to write what is effectively a story .

But unlike a simple work of creative fiction, your narrative essay must have a clear and concrete motif —a recurring theme or idea that you’ll explore throughout. Narrative essays are less rigid, more creative in expression, and therefore pretty different from most other essays you’ll be writing.

But not to fear—in this article, we’ll be covering what a narrative essay is, how to write a good one, and also analyzing some personal narrative essay examples to show you what a great one looks like.

What Is a Narrative Essay?

At first glance, a narrative essay might sound like you’re just writing a story. Like the stories you're used to reading, a narrative essay is generally (but not always) chronological, following a clear throughline from beginning to end. Even if the story jumps around in time, all the details will come back to one specific theme, demonstrated through your choice in motifs.

Unlike many creative stories, however, your narrative essay should be based in fact. That doesn’t mean that every detail needs to be pure and untainted by imagination, but rather that you shouldn’t wholly invent the events of your narrative essay. There’s nothing wrong with inventing a person’s words if you can’t remember them exactly, but you shouldn’t say they said something they weren’t even close to saying.

Another big difference between narrative essays and creative fiction—as well as other kinds of essays—is that narrative essays are based on motifs. A motif is a dominant idea or theme, one that you establish before writing the essay. As you’re crafting the narrative, it’ll feed back into your motif to create a comprehensive picture of whatever that motif is.

For example, say you want to write a narrative essay about how your first day in high school helped you establish your identity. You might discuss events like trying to figure out where to sit in the cafeteria, having to describe yourself in five words as an icebreaker in your math class, or being unsure what to do during your lunch break because it’s no longer acceptable to go outside and play during lunch. All of those ideas feed back into the central motif of establishing your identity.

The important thing to remember is that while a narrative essay is typically told chronologically and intended to read like a story, it is not purely for entertainment value. A narrative essay delivers its theme by deliberately weaving the motifs through the events, scenes, and details. While a narrative essay may be entertaining, its primary purpose is to tell a complete story based on a central meaning.

Unlike other essay forms, it is totally okay—even expected—to use first-person narration in narrative essays. If you’re writing a story about yourself, it’s natural to refer to yourself within the essay. It’s also okay to use other perspectives, such as third- or even second-person, but that should only be done if it better serves your motif. Generally speaking, your narrative essay should be in first-person perspective.

Though your motif choices may feel at times like you’re making a point the way you would in an argumentative essay, a narrative essay’s goal is to tell a story, not convince the reader of anything. Your reader should be able to tell what your motif is from reading, but you don’t have to change their mind about anything. If they don’t understand the point you are making, you should consider strengthening the delivery of the events and descriptions that support your motif.

Narrative essays also share some features with analytical essays, in which you derive meaning from a book, film, or other media. But narrative essays work differently—you’re not trying to draw meaning from an existing text, but rather using an event you’ve experienced to convey meaning. In an analytical essay, you examine narrative, whereas in a narrative essay you create narrative.

The structure of a narrative essay is also a bit different than other essays. You’ll generally be getting your point across chronologically as opposed to grouping together specific arguments in paragraphs or sections. To return to the example of an essay discussing your first day of high school and how it impacted the shaping of your identity, it would be weird to put the events out of order, even if not knowing what to do after lunch feels like a stronger idea than choosing where to sit. Instead of organizing to deliver your information based on maximum impact, you’ll be telling your story as it happened, using concrete details to reinforce your theme.


3 Great Narrative Essay Examples

One of the best ways to learn how to write a narrative essay is to look at a great narrative essay sample. Let’s take a look at some truly stellar narrative essay examples and dive into what exactly makes them work so well.

A Ticket to the Fair by David Foster Wallace

Today is Press Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, and I’m supposed to be at the fairgrounds by 9:00 A.M. to get my credentials. I imagine credentials to be a small white card in the band of a fedora. I’ve never been considered press before. My real interest in credentials is getting into rides and shows for free. I’m fresh in from the East Coast, for an East Coast magazine. Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish. I think they asked me to do this because I grew up here, just a couple hours’ drive from downstate Springfield. I never did go to the state fair, though—I pretty much topped out at the county fair level. Actually, I haven’t been back to Illinois for a long time, and I can’t say I’ve missed it.

Throughout this essay, David Foster Wallace recounts his experience as press at the Illinois State Fair. But it’s clear from this opening that he’s not just reporting on the events exactly as they happened—though that’s also true— but rather making a point about how the East Coast, where he lives and works, thinks about the Midwest.

In his opening paragraph, Wallace states that outright: “Why exactly they’re interested in the Illinois State Fair remains unclear to me. I suspect that every so often editors at East Coast magazines slap their foreheads and remember that about 90 percent of the United States lies between the coasts, and figure they’ll engage somebody to do pith-helmeted anthropological reporting on something rural and heartlandish.”

Not every motif needs to be stated this clearly , but in an essay as long as Wallace’s, particularly since the audience for such a piece may feel similarly and forget that such a large portion of the country exists, it’s important to make that point clear.

But Wallace doesn’t just rest on introducing his motif and telling the events exactly as they occurred from there. It’s clear that he selects events that remind us of that idea of East Coast cynicism , such as when he realizes that the Help Me Grow tent is standing on top of fake grass that is killing the real grass beneath, when he realizes the hypocrisy of craving a corn dog when faced with a real, suffering pig, when he’s upset for his friend even though he’s not the one being sexually harassed, and when he witnesses another East Coast person doing something he wouldn’t dare to do.

Wallace is literally telling the audience exactly what happened, complete with dates and timestamps for when each event occurred. But he’s also choosing those events with a purpose—he doesn’t focus on details that don’t serve his motif. That’s why he discusses the experiences of people, how the smells are unappealing to him, and how all the people he meets, in cowboy hats, overalls, or “black spandex that looks like cheesecake leotards,” feel almost alien to him.

All of these details feed back into the throughline of East Coast thinking that Wallace introduces in the first paragraph. He also refers back to it in the essay’s final paragraph, stating:

At last, an overarching theory blooms inside my head: megalopolitan East Coasters’ summer treats and breaks and literally ‘getaways,’ flights-from—from crowds, noise, heat, dirt, the stress of too many sensory choices….The East Coast existential treat is escape from confines and stimuli—quiet, rustic vistas that hold still, turn inward, turn away. Not so in the rural Midwest. Here you’re pretty much away all the time….Something in a Midwesterner sort of actuates , deep down, at a public event….The real spectacle that draws us here is us.

Throughout this journey, Wallace has tried to demonstrate how the East Coast thinks about the Midwest, ultimately concluding that they are captivated by the Midwest’s less stimuli-filled life, but that the real reason they are interested in events like the Illinois State Fair is that they are, in some ways, a means of looking at the East Coast in a new, estranging way.

The reason this works so well is that Wallace has carefully chosen his examples, outlined his motif and themes in the first paragraph, and eventually circled back to the original motif with a clearer understanding of his original point.

When outlining your own narrative essay, try to do the same. Start with a theme, build upon it with examples, and return to it in the end with an even deeper understanding of the original issue. You don’t need this much space to explore a theme, either—as we’ll see in the next example, a strong narrative essay can also be very short.


Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf

After a time, tired by his dancing apparently, he settled on the window ledge in the sun, and, the queer spectacle being at an end, I forgot about him. Then, looking up, my eye was caught by him. He was trying to resume his dancing, but seemed either so stiff or so awkward that he could only flutter to the bottom of the window-pane; and when he tried to fly across it he failed. Being intent on other matters I watched these futile attempts for a time without thinking, unconsciously waiting for him to resume his flight, as one waits for a machine, that has stopped momentarily, to start again without considering the reason of its failure. After perhaps a seventh attempt he slipped from the wooden ledge and fell, fluttering his wings, on to his back on the window sill. The helplessness of his attitude roused me. It flashed upon me that he was in difficulties; he could no longer raise himself; his legs struggled vainly. But, as I stretched out a pencil, meaning to help him to right himself, it came over me that the failure and awkwardness were the approach of death. I laid the pencil down again.

In this essay, Virginia Woolf explains her encounter with a dying moth. On surface level, this essay is just a recounting of an afternoon in which she watched a moth die—it’s even established in the title. But there’s more to it than that. Though Woolf does not begin her essay with as clear a motif as Wallace, it’s not hard to pick out the evidence she uses to support her point, which is that the experience of this moth is also the human experience.

In the title, Woolf tells us this essay is about death. But in the first paragraph, she seems to mostly be discussing life—the moth is “content with life,” people are working in the fields, and birds are flying. However, she mentions that it is mid-September and that the fields were being plowed. It’s autumn and it’s time for the harvest; the time of year in which many things die.

In this short essay, she chronicles the experience of watching a moth seemingly embody life, then die. Though this essay is literally about a moth, it’s also about a whole lot more than that. After all, moths aren’t the only things that die—Woolf is also reflecting on her own mortality, as well as the mortality of everything around her.

At its core, the essay discusses the push and pull of life and death, not in a way that’s necessarily sad, but in a way that is accepting of both. Woolf begins by setting up the transitional fall season, often associated with things coming to an end, and raises the ideas of pleasure, vitality, and pity.

At one point, Woolf tries to help the dying moth, but reconsiders, as it would interfere with the natural order of the world. The moth’s death is part of the natural order of the world, just like fall, just like her own eventual death.

All these themes are set up in the beginning and explored throughout the essay’s narrative. Though Woolf doesn’t directly state her theme, she reinforces it by choosing a small, isolated event—watching a moth die—and illustrating her point through details.

With this essay, we can see that you don’t need a big, weird, exciting event to discuss an important meaning. Woolf is able to explore complicated ideas in a short essay by being deliberate about what details she includes, just as you can be in your own essays.


Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

On the twenty-ninth of July, in 1943, my father died. On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born. Over a month before this, while all our energies were concentrated in waiting for these events, there had been, in Detroit, one of the bloodiest race riots of the century. A few hours after my father’s funeral, while he lay in state in the undertaker’s chapel, a race riot broke out in Harlem. On the morning of the third of August, we drove my father to the graveyard through a wilderness of smashed plate glass.

Like Woolf, Baldwin does not lay out his themes in concrete terms—unlike Wallace, there’s no clear sentence that explains what he’ll be talking about. However, you can see the motifs quite clearly: death, fatherhood, struggle, and race.

Throughout the narrative essay, Baldwin discusses the circumstances of his father’s death, including his complicated relationship with his father. By introducing those motifs in the first paragraph, the reader understands that everything discussed in the essay will come back to those core ideas. When Baldwin talks about his experience with a white teacher taking an interest in him and his father’s resistance to that, he is also talking about race and his father’s death. When he talks about his father’s death, he is also talking about his views on race. When he talks about his encounters with segregation and racism, he is talking, in part, about his father.

Because his father was a hard, uncompromising man, Baldwin struggles to reconcile the knowledge that his father was right about many things with his desire to not let that hardness consume him, as well.

Baldwin doesn’t explicitly state any of this, but his writing so often touches on the same motifs that it becomes clear he wants us to think about all these ideas in conversation with one another.

At the end of the essay, Baldwin makes it more clear:

This fight begins, however, in the heart and it had now been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. This intimation made my heart heavy and, now that my father was irrecoverable, I wished that he had been beside me so that I could have searched his face for the answers which only the future would give me now.

Here, Baldwin ties together the themes and motifs into one clear statement: that he must continue to fight and recognize injustice, especially racial injustice, just as his father did. But unlike his father, he must do it beginning with himself—he must not let himself be closed off to the world as his father was. And yet, he still wishes he had his father for guidance, even as he establishes that he hopes to be a different man than his father.

In this essay, Baldwin loads the front of the essay with his motifs, and, through his narrative, weaves them together into a theme. In the end, he comes to a conclusion that connects all of those things together and leaves the reader with a lasting impression of completion—though the elements may have been initially disparate, in the end everything makes sense.

You can replicate this tactic of introducing seemingly unattached ideas and weaving them together in your own essays. By introducing those motifs, developing them throughout, and bringing them together in the end, you can demonstrate to your reader how all of them are related. However, it’s especially important to be sure that your motifs and clear and consistent throughout your essay so that the conclusion feels earned and consistent—if not, readers may feel mislead.

5 Key Tips for Writing Narrative Essays

Narrative essays can be a lot of fun to write since they’re so heavily based on creativity. But that can also feel intimidating—sometimes it’s easier to have strict guidelines than to have to make it all up yourself. Here are a few tips to keep your narrative essay feeling strong and fresh.

Develop Strong Motifs

Motifs are the foundation of a narrative essay . What are you trying to say? How can you say that using specific symbols or events? Those are your motifs.

In the same way that an argumentative essay’s body should support its thesis, the body of your narrative essay should include motifs that support your theme.

Try to avoid cliches, as these will feel tired to your readers. Instead of roses to symbolize love, try succulents. Instead of the ocean representing some vast, unknowable truth, try the depths of your brother’s bedroom. Keep your language and motifs fresh and your essay will be even stronger!

Use First-Person Perspective

In many essays, you’re expected to remove yourself so that your points stand on their own. Not so in a narrative essay—in this case, you want to make use of your own perspective.

Sometimes a different perspective can make your point even stronger. If you want someone to identify with your point of view, it may be tempting to choose a second-person perspective. However, be sure you really understand the function of second-person; it’s very easy to put a reader off if the narration isn’t expertly deployed.

If you want a little bit of distance, third-person perspective may be okay. But be careful—too much distance and your reader may feel like the narrative lacks truth.

That’s why first-person perspective is the standard. It keeps you, the writer, close to the narrative, reminding the reader that it really happened. And because you really know what happened and how, you’re free to inject your own opinion into the story without it detracting from your point, as it would in a different type of essay.

Stick to the Truth

Your essay should be true. However, this is a creative essay, and it’s okay to embellish a little. Rarely in life do we experience anything with a clear, concrete meaning the way somebody in a book might. If you flub the details a little, it’s okay—just don’t make them up entirely.

Also, nobody expects you to perfectly recall details that may have happened years ago. You may have to reconstruct dialog from your memory and your imagination. That’s okay, again, as long as you aren’t making it up entirely and assigning made-up statements to somebody.

Dialog is a powerful tool. A good conversation can add flavor and interest to a story, as we saw demonstrated in David Foster Wallace’s essay. As previously mentioned, it’s okay to flub it a little, especially because you’re likely writing about an experience you had without knowing that you’d be writing about it later.

However, don’t rely too much on it. Your narrative essay shouldn’t be told through people explaining things to one another; the motif comes through in the details. Dialog can be one of those details, but it shouldn’t be the only one.

Use Sensory Descriptions

Because a narrative essay is a story, you can use sensory details to make your writing more interesting. If you’re describing a particular experience, you can go into detail about things like taste, smell, and hearing in a way that you probably wouldn’t do in any other essay style.

These details can tie into your overall motifs and further your point. Woolf describes in great detail what she sees while watching the moth, giving us the sense that we, too, are watching the moth. In Wallace’s essay, he discusses the sights, sounds, and smells of the Illinois State Fair to help emphasize his point about its strangeness. And in Baldwin’s essay, he describes shattered glass as a “wilderness,” and uses the feelings of his body to describe his mental state.

All these descriptions anchor us not only in the story, but in the motifs and themes as well. One of the tools of a writer is making the reader feel as you felt, and sensory details help you achieve that.

What’s Next?

Looking to brush up on your essay-writing capabilities before the ACT? This guide to ACT English will walk you through some of the best strategies and practice questions to get you prepared!

Part of practicing for the ACT is ensuring your word choice and diction are on point. Check out this guide to some of the most common errors on the ACT English section to be sure that you're not making these common mistakes!

A solid understanding of English principles will help you make an effective point in a narrative essay, and you can get that understanding through taking a rigorous assortment of high school English classes !

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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.

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30 Narrative Writing Examples to Elevate Your Writing

In this guide, I’ll share 30 examples that have not only influenced my work but have the power to elevate yours, too.

These are snippets of made-up stories, each demonstrating a key aspect of storytelling.

Read through these narrative writing examples to find the ones that speak to you.

Classic Literature

Colorful collage of symbols representing diverse narrative genres -- narrative writing examples

Table of Contents

As we explore classic literature, let’s consider how historical narrative writing examples have shaped our understanding of effective storytelling.

1. The Whispering Woods

“In the heart of the Whispering Woods, where the leaves spoke secrets to those who would listen, Elizabeth found her courage. It was in the gentle sway of the ancient trees, in the soft murmur of the wind, that her true purpose whispered back to her.”

Why it Works: This example draws on descriptive language and setting to immerse the reader in the story. Classic literature often relies on rich, evocative descriptions to create a vivid mental picture and evoke emotions.

2. The Last Candle

“Thomas stood before the last candle, its flame dancing like the hopes within him. Around him, darkness threatened to consume everything. With a steady hand, he lit the candle, a defiant beacon in the night.”

Why it Works: The symbolism of the candle’s light against darkness reflects the character’s internal struggle. Classic narratives frequently use such symbols to convey deeper meanings and themes.

3. A Duel of Wits

“Under the watchful eyes of the gathered crowd, Eleanor and her adversary circled each other. Words were their weapons, sharp and ready. ‘Your move,’ she taunted, her voice a melody of confidence.”

Why it Works: This example showcases dialogue as a narrative tool. In classic literature, dialogue often serves to reveal character, advance the plot, and create tension.

Contemporary Fiction

Moving into contemporary fiction, it’s fascinating to see how modern narrative writing examples push the boundaries of traditional storytelling.

4. The City that Never Sleeps

“Jamie navigated the neon-lit streets of the city, each step echoing the rhythm of a world that never paused. Here, in the heart of chaos, he found his peace, a paradox as complex as the city itself.”

Why it Works: Contemporary fiction thrives on the contrast and contradictions of modern life. This example uses the setting and the protagonist’s internal reflection to highlight the complexity of urban existence.

5. Echoes of the Past

“Sarah stood at the edge of the abandoned house, the past and present blurring into one. She could hear the echoes of laughter, the remnants of memories long faded but never forgotten.”

Why it Works: Contemporary narratives often explore themes of memory, identity, and the passage of time. This snippet uses sensory details and introspection to delve into these themes.

6. Crossroads

“Mark found himself at a crossroads, literal and metaphorical. To the left, the road to his past. To the right, an uncertain future. With a deep breath, he stepped forward, choosing the path less traveled.”

Why it Works: The use of a crossroads as a motif effectively illustrates the protagonist’s dilemma and moment of decision. Contemporary fiction frequently employs such motifs to represent pivotal moments in the characters’ lives.

Nonfiction Narratives

In this section on nonfiction narratives, we’ll look at how real-life narrative writing examples can be just as compelling as fiction.

7. The Unseen Journey

“Amidst the chaos of war, Dr. Ellis found solace in the small acts of kindness that went unnoticed by the many but meant the world to the few. Her journal entries, a testament to the human spirit, painted a vivid picture of resilience.”

Why it Works: Nonfiction narratives often rely on personal anecdotes to highlight broader themes. This example illustrates how individual stories can reflect universal truths about resilience and humanity.

8. Echoes from the Summit

“Reaching the summit after a grueling climb, Alex looked out over the world below, realizing the mountain was not just a physical challenge but a metaphor for his own personal struggles and triumphs.”

Why it Works: By weaving together personal achievement with introspection, this snippet showcases the reflective quality that makes nonfiction narratives compelling. It highlights the journey, both literal and metaphorical, as a source of insight.

9. The Heart of the City

“In the heart of the city, there was an old bookstore that had witnessed the ebb and flow of generations. Its owner, Mrs. Green, had stories that encapsulated the essence of the city’s soul, tales of love, loss, and rebirth.”

Why it Works: This narrative captures the essence of place and history through the eyes of an individual. Nonfiction narratives excel in bringing to life the stories of places and people, making them relatable and real.

Science Fiction & Fantasy

 futuristic sci-fi city

Our dive into science fiction and fantasy will highlight narrative writing examples that transport readers to entirely new worlds.

10. The Last Starship

“As the last starship prepared to leave Earth, Captain Vega reflected on the journey ahead. Humanity’s hope rested on their shoulders, a new beginning among the stars, where the rules of reality were yet to be written.”

Why it Works: Science fiction narratives like this one expand the imagination to explore what could be. They blend scientific principles with creative speculation, offering a vision of future possibilities and ethical dilemmas.

11. The Forest of Illusions

“In the Forest of Illusions, reality bent and twisted like the ancient trees. Aria, the realm’s guardian, navigated the ever-changing paths, her magic the only light in the darkness, guiding those lost back to truth.”

Why it Works: Fantasy narratives invite readers into worlds where magic is real and moral codes are tested. This example uses the setting and magical elements to create a sense of mystery and adventure.

12. Between Worlds

“Trapped between worlds, Leo discovered a realm where time flowed differently, and every moment was a lifetime. Here, he learned the true value of time, each second a precious gift not to be wasted.”

Why it Works: This snippet explores the theme of time, a common motif in science fiction and fantasy. It challenges readers to think about the nature of time and existence, showcasing the genre’s ability to question reality.

Mystery & Thriller

This mystery and thriller category (one of my personal favorites) will showcase narrative writing examples that masterfully build suspense and intrigue.

13. The Shadow on Elm Street

“As the fog settled on Elm Street, Detective Harper’s instincts told her the quiet was deceptive. The shadow lurking in the mist held secrets, secrets that could unravel the tranquility of this small town.”

Why it Works: Mystery narratives thrive on suspense and the gradual unveiling of secrets. This example sets up an atmosphere of tension and anticipation, essential elements for a gripping mystery.

14. The Forgotten Code

“Inside the dusty library, an ancient code hidden in a forgotten manuscript awaited discovery. Sam, a cryptologist with a penchant for puzzles, found himself entangled in a historical mystery that could change the world.”

Why it Works: The allure of uncovering hidden truths and solving puzzles is at the heart of thriller narratives. This snippet combines history, mystery, and technology, highlighting the genre’s ability to intertwine various elements to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

15. Echoes of Betrayal

“In a world where trust was currency, Lena found the cost of betrayal was higher than she could have imagined. The echoes of her choices reverberated, leading her down a path of suspense and revelation.”

Why it Works: This narrative example showcases the psychological depth and complexity of characters in mystery and thriller stories, emphasizing the consequences of actions and the intricate web of human relationships.

Children’s Stories

For children’s stories, examining narrative writing examples helps us understand how to craft tales that captivate young minds.

16. The Adventures of Wobbly Bob

“Wobbly Bob was a penguin with a sense of adventure larger than himself. Despite his wobbly stance, he dreamed of flying. With the help of his friends, Bob discovered that true courage meant trying, no matter the odds.”

Why it Works: Children’s stories often carry messages of resilience, friendship, and the importance of dreams. This example uses a relatable character and a simple plot to convey life lessons in an engaging and accessible way for young readers.

17. The Magic Paintbrush

“Lily’s paintbrush was no ordinary tool; it was a gateway to worlds born from her imagination. Each stroke was a leap into another adventure, teaching her that creativity was the most powerful magic of all.”

Why it Works: This example emphasizes the power of imagination and creativity, fundamental themes in children’s literature. It encourages young readers to explore their own creativity and the endless possibilities it brings.

18. The Tale of the Timid Turtle

“Timmy, the timid turtle, preferred the safety of his shell. But when his friends needed him, Timmy discovered bravery wasn’t about the absence of fear, but the will to overcome it.”

Why it Works: Through the journey of a relatable character, this story teaches children about bravery and self-confidence. Children’s narratives excel in delivering moral lessons through simple, compelling storytelling.

Young Adult (YA) Fiction

A group of young people in a colorful city

Narrative writing examples in this genre often tackle complex themes relatable to a younger audience.

19. Shadows of Tomorrow

“In a dystopian world, Zoe’s ability to see glimpses of the future branded her an outcast. Yet, this very gift could be the key to saving her people. Amidst chaos, she found her strength and destiny.”

Why it Works: YA fiction often explores themes of identity, belonging, and transformation. This example combines the struggles of growing up with fantastical elements, resonating with the genre’s target audience through an empowering narrative.

20. Echoes of the Heart

“Faced with the turmoil of first love, Alex navigated his feelings for Jamie through a series of letters never meant to be sent. Each word was a step towards understanding his heart’s true echo.”

Why it Works: This narrative captures the intensity and confusion of young love, a central theme in YA fiction. It highlights the genre’s ability to delve into the emotional and psychological development of its characters.

21. The Rebel of Riverdale

“Cassie wasn’t just any student at Riverdale High; she was a voice for the voiceless, a rebel with a cause. Her fight against injustice didn’t just change the school—it changed her.”

Why it Works: This example reflects YA fiction’s engagement with social issues and the journey towards self-discovery and advocacy. It demonstrates how personal growth and societal change can intertwine in compelling narratives.

Horror & Gothic Tales

Our exploration of horror and gothic tales includes narrative writing examples that excel in creating atmosphere and tension.

22. The Whispering Hallways

“In the depths of the night, the hallways of the old mansion whispered with voices of the past. Clara, drawn by curiosity, discovered that some doors, once opened, reveal truths better left hidden.”

Why it Works: Horror narratives excel in creating an atmosphere of suspense and fear, often through the supernatural or the unknown. This example uses setting and mood to build tension, playing on the reader’s fear of what lies beyond the known.

23. The Shadow Beneath the Moon

“Under the full moon’s eerie glow, the shadow moved against the laws of nature, a formless dread that stalked Ethan. The truth of its origin was as horrifying as its intent.”

Why it Works: Gothic tales often blend the horror of the supernatural with psychological depth. This snippet illustrates the genre’s power to evoke terror not just from external threats but from the internal struggle with the unknown.

24. The Curse of the Black Rose

“The Black Rose, once a symbol of unyielding love, became a curse for those who dared to love too deeply. Amelia’s discovery of its legend entwined her fate with a history of darkness and despair.”

Why it Works: Horror and gothic narratives frequently explore themes of curses and doomed love. This example uses a symbolic object to drive the narrative, intertwining the protagonist’s fate with the supernatural.

Romance Novels

Let’s explore narrative writing examples that make our hearts flutter and our minds race with the possibilities of love.

25. Echoes of Love

“In a small town where everyone knew your name, Julia and Michael’s love story unfolded, defying odds and expectations. Their love, echoing through the streets, proved that true connections could break barriers.”

Why it Works: Romance narratives focus on the development of relationships, often overcoming obstacles to love. This example highlights the genre’s emphasis on emotional depth and the power of love to transcend circumstances.

26. The Dance of Hearts

“At the annual masquerade ball, hidden behind masks of pretense, Elizabeth and Alexander’s paths crossed. The dance floor became their world, where unspoken desires and truths danced in the shadows.”

Why it Works: This snippet captures the romantic and mysterious allure of hidden identities and forbidden love, common themes in romance novels that heighten the tension and emotional engagement of the reader.

27. Letters to a Stranger

“Through a series of letters to a stranger, Emma found herself pouring out her heart, finding solace and understanding in an unexpected connection. What started as words on a page blossomed into an unbreakable bond.”

Why it Works: The slow build of a relationship through letters showcases the romance genre’s ability to explore the growth of love and intimacy over time, emphasizing emotional depth and the transformative power of love.

Historical Fiction

We’re about to uncover narrative writing examples that breathe life into the whispers of the past, making history dance vividly in our present imagination.

28. The Painter of the Revolution

“In the turmoil of the revolution, Jeanne’s art became a beacon of hope and defiance. Through her paintings, the story of a nation’s struggle for freedom was etched in colors and shadows, a testament to the indomitable human spirit.”

Why it Works: Historical fiction allows readers to explore past eras through the eyes of its characters. This example illustrates how personal stories can illuminate broader historical events, blending facts with the emotional truths of the human experience.

29. The Whispering Sands

“Amidst the shifting sands of time, Mariam found ancient secrets buried beneath the desert. Her journey into the past revealed the interconnectedness of history and destiny, where each grain of sand held stories of old.”

Why it Works: This narrative uses the setting as a character, exploring the mystery and allure of ancient civilizations. Historical fiction often delves into the discovery of the past and its impact on the present, offering a bridge between eras.

30. The Sea Captain’s Promise

“Bound by a promise made in the heat of battle, Captain Ellis sailed the seven seas, his heart tethered to a land he may never see again. His tale, woven through time, spoke of loyalty, love, and the sacrifices of the sea.”

Why it Works: By focusing on the personal dilemmas of historical figures or characters set in a historical context, this example shows how historical fiction can provide insight into the complexities of human nature and the timeless themes of honor, duty, and love.

This video goes over a few additional examples to really help you:

Tips for Narrative Writing

Here are my top tips, honed from 25 years of writing and storytelling, designed to elevate your narrative writing game.

Each tip is a doorway to a new way of thinking about storytelling.

  • The Emotional Compass: Always anchor your narrative in emotion. Whether it’s joy, fear, sadness, or excitement, the emotional journey of your characters is what truly resonates with readers. Make sure every scene, dialogue, and action adds a layer to this emotional landscape.
  • Dialogue Dynamics: Make your dialogue do double duty. Good dialogue reveals character, advances the plot, and adds to the tension or humor of the situation. Each line should feel essential and reflective of the character’s unique voice.
  • Sensory Immersion: Engage all five senses in your descriptions. The more you can immerse your reader in the world of your story through sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, the more vivid and memorable your narrative will become.
  • The Conflict Crucible: Conflict is the heartbeat of narrative. It’s about more than pitting good versus evil. Rather, it’s about the internal and external struggles that drive your characters to grow and change. Every story needs a crucible—moments that test and refine your characters.
  • Memory Mining: Draw from your own experiences to add authenticity and depth to your narratives. Even if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, the emotions and truths you’ve lived through can bring your story to life in unique ways.
  • The Plot Twist Plow: Don’t be afraid to surprise your readers. A well-timed plot twist can reinvigorate interest and keep the pages turning. However, ensure it’s earned and fits organically within the story’s framework.
  • Character Kaleidoscope: Create characters as diverse and complex as real people. Avoid stereotypes by giving your characters a mix of strengths, weaknesses, goals, and fears that reflect a wide range of human experiences.
  • Setting as a Character: Treat your setting with the same care as your characters. Whether it’s a bustling city or a quiet village, your setting can influence the mood of the story, reflect themes, and affect the plot and characters in meaningful ways.
  • The Revision Revelation: Embrace the revision process as an opportunity to refine and deepen your narrative. The first draft is just the beginning; it’s in revisiting and revising your work that true storytelling emerges.
  • Reader Resonance: Always keep your reader in mind. Craft your narrative to resonate with them, creating moments of connection that transcend the page. Whether through relatable characters, universal themes, or gripping plots, aim to leave a lasting impact.

Final Thoughts: Narrative Writing Examples

As we conclude this exploration of narrative writing examples across genres, remember that these are but a starting point.

The true journey lies in the stories you have yet to write, the characters you have yet to create, and the worlds you have yet to imagine.

Let these examples be your guide, your inspiration, but always strive to find your own path in the vast universe of storytelling. For in the end, it is not just about the stories we tell but about the stories that tell us, shaping who we are and who we aspire to be.

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The Ultimate Narrative Essay Guide for Beginners

blog image

A narrative essay tells a story in chronological order, with an introduction that introduces the characters and sets the scene. Then a series of events leads to a climax or turning point, and finally a resolution or reflection on the experience.

Speaking of which, are you in sixes and sevens about narrative essays? Don’t worry this ultimate expert guide will wipe out all your doubts. So let’s get started.

Table of Contents

Everything You Need to Know About Narrative Essay

What is a narrative essay.

When you go through a narrative essay definition, you would know that a narrative essay purpose is to tell a story. It’s all about sharing an experience or event and is different from other types of essays because it’s more focused on how the event made you feel or what you learned from it, rather than just presenting facts or an argument. Let’s explore more details on this interesting write-up and get to know how to write a narrative essay.

Elements of a Narrative Essay

Here’s a breakdown of the key elements of a narrative essay:

A narrative essay has a beginning, middle, and end. It builds up tension and excitement and then wraps things up in a neat package.

Real people, including the writer, often feature in personal narratives. Details of the characters and their thoughts, feelings, and actions can help readers to relate to the tale.

It’s really important to know when and where something happened so we can get a good idea of the context. Going into detail about what it looks like helps the reader to really feel like they’re part of the story.

Conflict or Challenge 

A story in a narrative essay usually involves some kind of conflict or challenge that moves the plot along. It could be something inside the character, like a personal battle, or something from outside, like an issue they have to face in the world.

Theme or Message

A narrative essay isn’t just about recounting an event – it’s about showing the impact it had on you and what you took away from it. It’s an opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings about the experience, and how it changed your outlook.

Emotional Impact

The author is trying to make the story they’re telling relatable, engaging, and memorable by using language and storytelling to evoke feelings in whoever’s reading it.

Narrative essays let writers have a blast telling stories about their own lives. It’s an opportunity to share insights and impart wisdom, or just have some fun with the reader. Descriptive language, sensory details, dialogue, and a great narrative voice are all essentials for making the story come alive.

The Purpose of a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is more than just a story – it’s a way to share a meaningful, engaging, and relatable experience with the reader. Includes:

Sharing Personal Experience

Narrative essays are a great way for writers to share their personal experiences, feelings, thoughts, and reflections. It’s an opportunity to connect with readers and make them feel something.

Entertainment and Engagement

The essay attempts to keep the reader interested by using descriptive language, storytelling elements, and a powerful voice. It attempts to pull them in and make them feel involved by creating suspense, mystery, or an emotional connection.

Conveying a Message or Insight

Narrative essays are more than just a story – they aim to teach you something. They usually have a moral lesson, a new understanding, or a realization about life that the author gained from the experience.

Building Empathy and Understanding

By telling their stories, people can give others insight into different perspectives, feelings, and situations. Sharing these tales can create compassion in the reader and help broaden their knowledge of different life experiences.

Inspiration and Motivation

Stories about personal struggles, successes, and transformations can be really encouraging to people who are going through similar situations. It can provide them with hope and guidance, and let them know that they’re not alone.

Reflecting on Life’s Significance

These essays usually make you think about the importance of certain moments in life or the impact of certain experiences. They make you look deep within yourself and ponder on the things you learned or how you changed because of those events.

Demonstrating Writing Skills

Coming up with a gripping narrative essay takes serious writing chops, like vivid descriptions, powerful language, timing, and organization. It’s an opportunity for writers to show off their story-telling abilities.

Preserving Personal History

Sometimes narrative essays are used to record experiences and special moments that have an emotional resonance. They can be used to preserve individual memories or for future generations to look back on.

Cultural and Societal Exploration

Personal stories can look at cultural or social aspects, giving us an insight into customs, opinions, or social interactions seen through someone’s own experience.

Format of a Narrative Essay

Narrative essays are quite flexible in terms of format, which allows the writer to tell a story in a creative and compelling way. Here’s a quick breakdown of the narrative essay format, along with some examples:


Set the scene and introduce the story.

Engage the reader and establish the tone of the narrative.

Hook: Start with a captivating opening line to grab the reader’s attention. For instance:

Example:  “The scorching sun beat down on us as we trekked through the desert, our water supply dwindling.”

Background Information: Provide necessary context or background without giving away the entire story.

Example:  “It was the summer of 2015 when I embarked on a life-changing journey to…”

Thesis Statement or Narrative Purpose

Present the main idea or the central message of the essay.

Offer a glimpse of what the reader can expect from the narrative.

Thesis Statement: This isn’t as rigid as in other essays but can be a sentence summarizing the essence of the story.

Example:  “Little did I know, that seemingly ordinary hike would teach me invaluable lessons about resilience and friendship.”

Body Paragraphs

Present the sequence of events in chronological order.

Develop characters, setting, conflict, and resolution.

Story Progression: Describe events in the order they occurred, focusing on details that evoke emotions and create vivid imagery.

Example: Detail the trek through the desert, the challenges faced, interactions with fellow hikers, and the pivotal moments.

Character Development: Introduce characters and their roles in the story. Show their emotions, thoughts, and actions.

Example: Describe how each character reacted to the dwindling water supply and supported each other through adversity.

Dialogue and Interactions: Use dialogue to bring the story to life and reveal character personalities.

Example: “Sarah handed me her last bottle of water, saying, ‘We’re in this together.'”

Reach the peak of the story, the moment of highest tension or significance.

Turning Point: Highlight the most crucial moment or realization in the narrative.

Example:  “As the sun dipped below the horizon and hope seemed lost, a distant sound caught our attention—the rescue team’s helicopters.”

Provide closure to the story.

Reflect on the significance of the experience and its impact.

Reflection: Summarize the key lessons learned or insights gained from the experience.

Example: “That hike taught me the true meaning of resilience and the invaluable support of friendship in challenging times.”

Closing Thought: End with a memorable line that reinforces the narrative’s message or leaves a lasting impression.

Example: “As we boarded the helicopters, I knew this adventure would forever be etched in my heart.”

Example Summary:

Imagine a narrative about surviving a challenging hike through the desert, emphasizing the bonds formed and lessons learned. The narrative essay structure might look like starting with an engaging scene, narrating the hardships faced, showcasing the characters’ resilience, and culminating in a powerful realization about friendship and endurance.

Different Types of Narrative Essays

There are a bunch of different types of narrative essays – each one focuses on different elements of storytelling and has its own purpose. Here’s a breakdown of the narrative essay types and what they mean.

Personal Narrative

Description: Tells a personal story or experience from the writer’s life.

Purpose: Reflects on personal growth, lessons learned, or significant moments.

Example of Narrative Essay Types:

Topic: “The Day I Conquered My Fear of Public Speaking”

Focus: Details the experience, emotions, and eventual triumph over a fear of public speaking during a pivotal event.

Descriptive Narrative

Description: Emphasizes vivid details and sensory imagery.

Purpose: Creates a sensory experience, painting a vivid picture for the reader.

Topic: “A Walk Through the Enchanted Forest”

Focus: Paints a detailed picture of the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings experienced during a walk through a mystical forest.

Autobiographical Narrative

Description: Chronicles significant events or moments from the writer’s life.

Purpose: Provides insights into the writer’s life, experiences, and growth.

Topic: “Lessons from My Childhood: How My Grandmother Shaped Who I Am”

Focus: Explores pivotal moments and lessons learned from interactions with a significant family member.

Experiential Narrative

Description: Relays experiences beyond the writer’s personal life.

Purpose: Shares experiences, travels, or events from a broader perspective.

Topic: “Volunteering in a Remote Village: A Journey of Empathy”

Focus: Chronicles the writer’s volunteering experience, highlighting interactions with a community and personal growth.

Literary Narrative

Description: Incorporates literary elements like symbolism, allegory, or thematic explorations.

Purpose: Uses storytelling for deeper explorations of themes or concepts.

Topic: “The Symbolism of the Red Door: A Journey Through Change”

Focus: Uses a red door as a symbol, exploring its significance in the narrator’s life and the theme of transition.

Historical Narrative

Description: Recounts historical events or periods through a personal lens.

Purpose: Presents history through personal experiences or perspectives.

Topic: “A Grandfather’s Tales: Living Through the Great Depression”

Focus: Shares personal stories from a family member who lived through a historical era, offering insights into that period.

Digital or Multimedia Narrative

Description: Incorporates multimedia elements like images, videos, or audio to tell a story.

Purpose: Explores storytelling through various digital platforms or formats.

Topic: “A Travel Diary: Exploring Europe Through Vlogs”

Focus: Combines video clips, photos, and personal narration to document a travel experience.

How to Choose a Topic for Your Narrative Essay?

Selecting a compelling topic for your narrative essay is crucial as it sets the stage for your storytelling. Choosing a boring topic is one of the narrative essay mistakes to avoid . Here’s a detailed guide on how to choose the right topic:

Reflect on Personal Experiences

  • Significant Moments:

Moments that had a profound impact on your life or shaped your perspective.

Example: A moment of triumph, overcoming a fear, a life-changing decision, or an unforgettable experience.

  • Emotional Resonance:

Events that evoke strong emotions or feelings.

Example: Joy, fear, sadness, excitement, or moments of realization.

  • Lessons Learned:

Experiences that taught you valuable lessons or brought about personal growth.

Example: Challenges that led to personal development, shifts in mindset, or newfound insights.

Explore Unique Perspectives

  • Uncommon Experiences:

Unique or unconventional experiences that might captivate the reader’s interest.

Example: Unusual travels, interactions with different cultures, or uncommon hobbies.

  • Different Points of View:

Stories from others’ perspectives that impacted you deeply.

Example: A family member’s story, a friend’s experience, or a historical event from a personal lens.

Focus on Specific Themes or Concepts

  • Themes or Concepts of Interest:

Themes or ideas you want to explore through storytelling.

Example: Friendship, resilience, identity, cultural diversity, or personal transformation.

  • Symbolism or Metaphor:

Using symbols or metaphors as the core of your narrative.

Example: Exploring the symbolism of an object or a place in relation to a broader theme.

Consider Your Audience and Purpose

  • Relevance to Your Audience:

Topics that resonate with your audience’s interests or experiences.

Example: Choose a relatable theme or experience that your readers might connect with emotionally.

  • Impact or Message:

What message or insight do you want to convey through your story?

Example: Choose a topic that aligns with the message or lesson you aim to impart to your readers.

Brainstorm and Evaluate Ideas

  • Free Writing or Mind Mapping:

Process: Write down all potential ideas without filtering. Mind maps or free-writing exercises can help generate diverse ideas.

  • Evaluate Feasibility:

The depth of the story, the availability of vivid details, and your personal connection to the topic.

Imagine you’re considering topics for a narrative essay. You reflect on your experiences and decide to explore the topic of “Overcoming Stage Fright: How a School Play Changed My Perspective.” This topic resonates because it involves a significant challenge you faced and the personal growth it brought about.

Narrative Essay Topics

50 easy narrative essay topics.

  • Learning to Ride a Bike
  • My First Day of School
  • A Surprise Birthday Party
  • The Day I Got Lost
  • Visiting a Haunted House
  • An Encounter with a Wild Animal
  • My Favorite Childhood Toy
  • The Best Vacation I Ever Had
  • An Unforgettable Family Gathering
  • Conquering a Fear of Heights
  • A Special Gift I Received
  • Moving to a New City
  • The Most Memorable Meal
  • Getting Caught in a Rainstorm
  • An Act of Kindness I Witnessed
  • The First Time I Cooked a Meal
  • My Experience with a New Hobby
  • The Day I Met My Best Friend
  • A Hike in the Mountains
  • Learning a New Language
  • An Embarrassing Moment
  • Dealing with a Bully
  • My First Job Interview
  • A Sporting Event I Attended
  • The Scariest Dream I Had
  • Helping a Stranger
  • The Joy of Achieving a Goal
  • A Road Trip Adventure
  • Overcoming a Personal Challenge
  • The Significance of a Family Tradition
  • An Unusual Pet I Owned
  • A Misunderstanding with a Friend
  • Exploring an Abandoned Building
  • My Favorite Book and Why
  • The Impact of a Role Model
  • A Cultural Celebration I Participated In
  • A Valuable Lesson from a Teacher
  • A Trip to the Zoo
  • An Unplanned Adventure
  • Volunteering Experience
  • A Moment of Forgiveness
  • A Decision I Regretted
  • A Special Talent I Have
  • The Importance of Family Traditions
  • The Thrill of Performing on Stage
  • A Moment of Sudden Inspiration
  • The Meaning of Home
  • Learning to Play a Musical Instrument
  • A Childhood Memory at the Park
  • Witnessing a Beautiful Sunset

Narrative Essay Topics for College Students

  • Discovering a New Passion
  • Overcoming Academic Challenges
  • Navigating Cultural Differences
  • Embracing Independence: Moving Away from Home
  • Exploring Career Aspirations
  • Coping with Stress in College
  • The Impact of a Mentor in My Life
  • Balancing Work and Studies
  • Facing a Fear of Public Speaking
  • Exploring a Semester Abroad
  • The Evolution of My Study Habits
  • Volunteering Experience That Changed My Perspective
  • The Role of Technology in Education
  • Finding Balance: Social Life vs. Academics
  • Learning a New Skill Outside the Classroom
  • Reflecting on Freshman Year Challenges
  • The Joys and Struggles of Group Projects
  • My Experience with Internship or Work Placement
  • Challenges of Time Management in College
  • Redefining Success Beyond Grades
  • The Influence of Literature on My Thinking
  • The Impact of Social Media on College Life
  • Overcoming Procrastination
  • Lessons from a Leadership Role
  • Exploring Diversity on Campus
  • Exploring Passion for Environmental Conservation
  • An Eye-Opening Course That Changed My Perspective
  • Living with Roommates: Challenges and Lessons
  • The Significance of Extracurricular Activities
  • The Influence of a Professor on My Academic Journey
  • Discussing Mental Health in College
  • The Evolution of My Career Goals
  • Confronting Personal Biases Through Education
  • The Experience of Attending a Conference or Symposium
  • Challenges Faced by Non-Native English Speakers in College
  • The Impact of Traveling During Breaks
  • Exploring Identity: Cultural or Personal
  • The Impact of Music or Art on My Life
  • Addressing Diversity in the Classroom
  • Exploring Entrepreneurial Ambitions
  • My Experience with Research Projects
  • Overcoming Impostor Syndrome in College
  • The Importance of Networking in College
  • Finding Resilience During Tough Times
  • The Impact of Global Issues on Local Perspectives
  • The Influence of Family Expectations on Education
  • Lessons from a Part-Time Job
  • Exploring the College Sports Culture
  • The Role of Technology in Modern Education
  • The Journey of Self-Discovery Through Education

Narrative Essay Comparison

Narrative essay vs. descriptive essay.

Here’s our first narrative essay comparison! While both narrative and descriptive essays focus on vividly portraying a subject or an event, they differ in their primary objectives and approaches. Now, let’s delve into the nuances of comparison on narrative essays.

Narrative Essay:

Storytelling: Focuses on narrating a personal experience or event.

Chronological Order: Follows a structured timeline of events to tell a story.

Message or Lesson: Often includes a central message, moral, or lesson learned from the experience.

Engagement: Aims to captivate the reader through a compelling storyline and character development.

First-Person Perspective: Typically narrated from the writer’s point of view, using “I” and expressing personal emotions and thoughts.

Plot Development: Emphasizes a plot with a beginning, middle, climax, and resolution.

Character Development: Focuses on describing characters, their interactions, emotions, and growth.

Conflict or Challenge: Usually involves a central conflict or challenge that drives the narrative forward.

Dialogue: Incorporates conversations to bring characters and their interactions to life.

Reflection: Concludes with reflection or insight gained from the experience.

Descriptive Essay:

Vivid Description: Aims to vividly depict a person, place, object, or event.

Imagery and Details: Focuses on sensory details to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Emotion through Description: Uses descriptive language to evoke emotions and engage the reader’s senses.

Painting a Picture: Creates a sensory-rich description allowing the reader to visualize the subject.

Imagery and Sensory Details: Focuses on providing rich sensory descriptions, using vivid language and adjectives.

Point of Focus: Concentrates on describing a specific subject or scene in detail.

Spatial Organization: Often employs spatial organization to describe from one area or aspect to another.

Objective Observations: Typically avoids the use of personal opinions or emotions; instead, the focus remains on providing a detailed and objective description.


Focus: Narrative essays emphasize storytelling, while descriptive essays focus on vividly describing a subject or scene.

Perspective: Narrative essays are often written from a first-person perspective, while descriptive essays may use a more objective viewpoint.

Purpose: Narrative essays aim to convey a message or lesson through a story, while descriptive essays aim to paint a detailed picture for the reader without necessarily conveying a specific message.

Narrative Essay vs. Argumentative Essay

The narrative essay and the argumentative essay serve distinct purposes and employ different approaches:

Engagement and Emotion: Aims to captivate the reader through a compelling story.

Reflective: Often includes reflection on the significance of the experience or lessons learned.

First-Person Perspective: Typically narrated from the writer’s point of view, sharing personal emotions and thoughts.

Plot Development: Emphasizes a storyline with a beginning, middle, climax, and resolution.

Message or Lesson: Conveys a central message, moral, or insight derived from the experience.

Argumentative Essay:

Persuasion and Argumentation: Aims to persuade the reader to adopt the writer’s viewpoint on a specific topic.

Logical Reasoning: Presents evidence, facts, and reasoning to support a particular argument or stance.

Debate and Counterarguments: Acknowledge opposing views and counter them with evidence and reasoning.

Thesis Statement: Includes a clear thesis statement that outlines the writer’s position on the topic.

Thesis and Evidence: Starts with a strong thesis statement and supports it with factual evidence, statistics, expert opinions, or logical reasoning.

Counterarguments: Addresses opposing viewpoints and provides rebuttals with evidence.

Logical Structure: Follows a logical structure with an introduction, body paragraphs presenting arguments and evidence, and a conclusion reaffirming the thesis.

Formal Language: Uses formal language and avoids personal anecdotes or emotional appeals.

Objective: Argumentative essays focus on presenting a logical argument supported by evidence, while narrative essays prioritize storytelling and personal reflection.

Purpose: Argumentative essays aim to persuade and convince the reader of a particular viewpoint, while narrative essays aim to engage, entertain, and share personal experiences.

Structure: Narrative essays follow a storytelling structure with character development and plot, while argumentative essays follow a more formal, structured approach with logical arguments and evidence.

In essence, while both essays involve writing and presenting information, the narrative essay focuses on sharing a personal experience, whereas the argumentative essay aims to persuade the audience by presenting a well-supported argument.

Narrative Essay vs. Personal Essay

While there can be an overlap between narrative and personal essays, they have distinctive characteristics:

Storytelling: Emphasizes recounting a specific experience or event in a structured narrative form.

Engagement through Story: Aims to engage the reader through a compelling story with characters, plot, and a central theme or message.

Reflective: Often includes reflection on the significance of the experience and the lessons learned.

First-Person Perspective: Typically narrated from the writer’s viewpoint, expressing personal emotions and thoughts.

Plot Development: Focuses on developing a storyline with a clear beginning, middle, climax, and resolution.

Character Development: Includes descriptions of characters, their interactions, emotions, and growth.

Central Message: Conveys a central message, moral, or insight derived from the experience.

Personal Essay:

Exploration of Ideas or Themes: Explores personal ideas, opinions, or reflections on a particular topic or subject.

Expression of Thoughts and Opinions: Expresses the writer’s thoughts, feelings, and perspectives on a specific subject matter.

Reflection and Introspection: Often involves self-reflection and introspection on personal experiences, beliefs, or values.

Varied Structure and Content: Can encompass various forms, including memoirs, personal anecdotes, or reflections on life experiences.

Flexibility in Structure: Allows for diverse structures and forms based on the writer’s intent, which could be narrative-like or more reflective.

Theme-Centric Writing: Focuses on exploring a central theme or idea, with personal anecdotes or experiences supporting and illustrating the theme.

Expressive Language: Utilizes descriptive and expressive language to convey personal perspectives, emotions, and opinions.

Focus: Narrative essays primarily focus on storytelling through a structured narrative, while personal essays encompass a broader range of personal expression, which can include storytelling but isn’t limited to it.

Structure: Narrative essays have a more structured plot development with characters and a clear sequence of events, while personal essays might adopt various structures, focusing more on personal reflection, ideas, or themes.

Intent: While both involve personal experiences, narrative essays emphasize telling a story with a message or lesson learned, while personal essays aim to explore personal thoughts, feelings, or opinions on a broader range of topics or themes.

5 Easy Steps for Writing a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is more than just telling a story. It’s also meant to engage the reader, get them thinking, and leave a lasting impact. Whether it’s to amuse, motivate, teach, or reflect, these essays are a great way to communicate with your audience. This interesting narrative essay guide was all about letting you understand the narrative essay, its importance, and how can you write one.

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Narrative Essay Guide

Narrative Essay Examples

Last updated on: Feb 9, 2023

Narrative Essay Examples: Samples & Tips

By: Nathan D.

Reviewed By: Chris H.

Published on: May 26, 2020

Narrative Essay Examples

Writing a narrative essay for the first time?

Don't know how to tell an engaging story?

A narrative essay tells a story. It could be anything like a childhood memory or a personal narrative or experience, or anything that affected you in any way. It is somewhat like a descriptive essay and tells a story in elaborate detail.

But it is different from an argumentative essay as it also includes a person’s perspective.

We have explained the dos and don’ts of narrative writing with the help of few examples here.

Continue to get some great narrative essay examples

Narrative Essay Examples

On this Page

A Detailed Analysis of a Narrative Essay

Good narrative essay examples help you to understand how this type of essay is written. They are structured and they tell an engaging story. They follow the usual essay structure and includes:

  • An introduction
  • A thesis statement

Generally, there are 5 paragraphs in an essay. However, you can increase the number based on the topic to  write a narrative essay  step by step.

Below, we have discussed a narrative essay example in detail and have added some more examples to guide you. You can download the samples and go through them before writing your essay.

A Spontaneous Visit to Ukraine

“Travelling has always been one of my favorite activities. By the time I was 30, I had already visited a number of countries in North America. However, I had never been to Europe. Visiting the grand places like Venice, London and Paris are one of my unfulfilled and burning desires.

My chance of visiting Europe came as a surprise. A distant friend called to give Season Greetings and invited me to visit Ukraine. He was working for an NGO there and wanted me to visit him. I was looking for a chance only and it came quite unexpectedly.

Without further adieu, I booked the first flight to Ukraine. It was a completely different place than what I have known for so far. Its culture is quite different than what we have in the US and Canada and it is situated on a territory that is a bit smaller than Texas. Surprisingly, it was considered quite big by the European standards.

Lvis, where I went, is a beautiful city that is filled with spiritual symbols and objects.

The people are deeply religious and traditional as you will find statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary nearly in every corner. The people are friendly and the place is exquisitely beautiful with traditional churches and wooden houses, mountain rivers, beautiful lush forests and bright meadows.

It is a beautiful place and I believe that everyone should visit it at least once. As for me, I have grown quite a fondness for it and will be coming back to explore it.”

The example is ideal to understand how a good narrative essay is written. It explains the writer's visit to Ukraine and his experience and observation there.

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Narrative Essay Samples - Free and Downloadable

Below are some PDF examples that you can download and save.

Death of a Moth


A Teeny Tiny Treasure Box


He Left so I could Learn


Violence can be an Answer


My College Education


Tips to Write a Great Narrative Essay

Having great narrative writing skills is important. No matter what field you are, there will be a time when you will have to explain some things. And this is why teachers give these types of essays to you. They want to train you to present your point of view engagingly.

Following are some helpful tips that will help you write a narrative essay.

  • It should be clear and described in detail.
  • It should be in the first person narrative.
  • It is presented in chronological order.
  • It includes dialogues and vivid sensory details.
  • It should have strong motifs and symbols.
  • It should be engaging.

Besides, a strong narrative essay topic will make it more engaging. It is important that you have a strong topic for your narrative. Here is a list of narrative essay topics for your help to choose from and write a good essay.

However, it is not possible for every student to write an impressive essay. That is why some students are always looking for professional assistance.

Tough Essay Due? Hire Tough Writers!

Do you also need help with your narrative essay? provides the best essay writing service . We have a team of expert writers, strong customer support, and affordable prices.

Order now to get your perfect narrative essay.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 basic components of a narrative essay.

The 5 basic and core elements of a narrative essay are given below.

Without discussing these elements, no narrative essay is complete.

What is a narrative paragraph?

A narrative paragraph tells a story and this story is, most of the time, from your personal experience and event.

Nathan D.

Literature, College Essay

Nathan completed his Ph.D. in journalism and has been writing articles for well-respected publications for many years now. His work is carefully researched and insightful, showing a true passion for the written word. Nathan's clients appreciate his expertise, deep understanding of the process, and ability to communicate difficult concepts clearly.

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Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

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Narratives build on and encourage the development of the fundamentals of writing. They also require developing an additional skill set: the ability to tell a good yarn, and storytelling is as old as humanity.

We see and hear stories everywhere and daily, from having good gossip on the doorstep with a neighbor in the morning to the dramas that fill our screens in the evening.

Good narrative writing skills are hard-won by students even though it is an area of writing that most enjoy due to the creativity and freedom it offers.

Here we will explore some of the main elements of a good story: plot, setting, characters, conflict, climax, and resolution . And we will look too at how best we can help our students understand these elements, both in isolation and how they mesh together as a whole.

Visual Writing


What is a narrative?

A narrative is a story that shares a sequence of events , characters, and themes. It expresses experiences, ideas, and perspectives that should aspire to engage and inspire an audience.

A narrative can spark emotion, encourage reflection, and convey meaning when done well.

Narratives are a popular genre for students and teachers as they allow the writer to share their imagination, creativity, skill, and understanding of nearly all elements of writing.  We occasionally refer to a narrative as ‘creative writing’ or story writing.

The purpose of a narrative is simple, to tell the audience a story.  It can be written to motivate, educate, or entertain and can be fact or fiction.


narrative writing | narrative writing unit 1 2 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

Teach your students to become skilled story writers with this HUGE   NARRATIVE & CREATIVE STORY WRITING UNIT . Offering a  COMPLETE SOLUTION  to teaching students how to craft  CREATIVE CHARACTERS, SUPERB SETTINGS, and PERFECT PLOTS .

Over 192 PAGES of materials, including:


There are many narrative writing genres and sub-genres such as these.

We have a complete guide to writing a personal narrative that differs from the traditional story-based narrative covered in this guide. It includes personal narrative writing prompts, resources, and examples and can be found here.

narrative writing | how to write quest narratives | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

As we can see, narratives are an open-ended form of writing that allows you to showcase creativity in many directions. However, all narratives share a common set of features and structure known as “Story Elements”, which are briefly covered in this guide.

Don’t overlook the importance of understanding story elements and the value this adds to you as a writer who can dissect and create grand narratives. We also have an in-depth guide to understanding story elements here .


Narrative structure.

ORIENTATION (BEGINNING) Set the scene by introducing your characters, setting and time of the story. Establish your who, when and where in this part of your narrative

COMPLICATION AND EVENTS (MIDDLE) In this section activities and events involving your main characters are expanded upon. These events are written in a cohesive and fluent sequence.

RESOLUTION (ENDING) Your complication is resolved in this section. It does not have to be a happy outcome, however.

EXTRAS: Whilst orientation, complication and resolution are the agreed norms for a narrative, there are numerous examples of popular texts that did not explicitly follow this path exactly.


LANGUAGE: Use descriptive and figurative language to paint images inside your audience’s minds as they read.

PERSPECTIVE Narratives can be written from any perspective but are most commonly written in first or third person.

DIALOGUE Narratives frequently switch from narrator to first-person dialogue. Always use speech marks when writing dialogue.

TENSE If you change tense, make it perfectly clear to your audience what is happening. Flashbacks might work well in your mind but make sure they translate to your audience.


narrative writing | structuring a narrative | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

This graphic is known as a plot map, and nearly all narratives fit this structure in one way or another, whether romance novels, science fiction or otherwise.

It is a simple tool that helps you understand and organise a story’s events. Think of it as a roadmap that outlines the journey of your characters and the events that unfold. It outlines the different stops along the way, such as the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, that help you to see how the story builds and develops.

Using a plot map, you can see how each event fits into the larger picture and how the different parts of the story work together to create meaning. It’s a great way to visualize and analyze a story.

Be sure to refer to a plot map when planning a story, as it has all the essential elements of a great story.


This video we created provides an excellent overview of these elements and demonstrates them in action in stories we all know and love.

Story Elements for kids


How to write a Narrative

Now that we understand the story elements and how they come together to form stories, it’s time to start planning and writing your narrative.

In many cases, the template and guide below will provide enough details on how to craft a great story. However, if you still need assistance with the fundamentals of writing, such as sentence structure, paragraphs and using correct grammar, we have some excellent guides on those here.

USE YOUR WRITING TIME EFFECTIVELY: Maximize your narrative writing sessions by spending approximately 20 per cent of your time planning and preparing.  This ensures greater productivity during your writing time and keeps you focused and on task.

Use tools such as graphic organizers to logically sequence your narrative if you are not a confident story writer.  If you are working with reluctant writers, try using narrative writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing.

Spend most of your writing hour on the task at hand, don’t get too side-tracked editing during this time and leave some time for editing. When editing a  narrative, examine it for these three elements.

  • Spelling and grammar ( Is it readable?)
  • Story structure and continuity ( Does it make sense, and does it flow? )
  • Character and plot analysis. (Are your characters engaging? Does your problem/resolution work? )


narrative writing | aa156ee009d91a57894348652da98b58 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

The story’s setting often answers two of the central questions in the story, namely, the where and the when. The answers to these two crucial questions will often be informed by the type of story the student is writing.

The story’s setting can be chosen to quickly orient the reader to the type of story they are reading. For example, a fictional narrative writing piece such as a horror story will often begin with a description of a haunted house on a hill or an abandoned asylum in the middle of the woods. If we start our story on a rocket ship hurtling through the cosmos on its space voyage to the Alpha Centauri star system, we can be reasonably sure that the story we are embarking on is a work of science fiction.

Such conventions are well-worn clichés true, but they can be helpful starting points for our novice novelists to make a start.

Having students choose an appropriate setting for the type of story they wish to write is an excellent exercise for our younger students. It leads naturally onto the next stage of story writing, which is creating suitable characters to populate this fictional world they have created. However, older or more advanced students may wish to play with the expectations of appropriate settings for their story. They may wish to do this for comic effect or in the interest of creating a more original story. For example, opening a story with a children’s birthday party does not usually set up the expectation of a horror story. Indeed, it may even lure the reader into a happy reverie as they remember their own happy birthday parties. This leaves them more vulnerable to the surprise element of the shocking action that lies ahead.

Once the students have chosen a setting for their story, they need to start writing. Little can be more terrifying to English students than the blank page and its bare whiteness stretching before them on the table like a merciless desert they must cross. Give them the kick-start they need by offering support through word banks or writing prompts. If the class is all writing a story based on the same theme, you may wish to compile a common word bank on the whiteboard as a prewriting activity. Write the central theme or genre in the middle of the board. Have students suggest words or phrases related to the theme and list them on the board.

You may wish to provide students with a copy of various writing prompts to get them started. While this may mean that many students’ stories will have the same beginning, they will most likely arrive at dramatically different endings via dramatically different routes.

narrative writing | story elements | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

A bargain is at the centre of the relationship between the writer and the reader. That bargain is that the reader promises to suspend their disbelief as long as the writer creates a consistent and convincing fictional reality. Creating a believable world for the fictional characters to inhabit requires the student to draw on convincing details. The best way of doing this is through writing that appeals to the senses. Have your student reflect deeply on the world that they are creating. What does it look like? Sound like? What does the food taste like there? How does it feel like to walk those imaginary streets, and what aromas beguile the nose as the main character winds their way through that conjured market?

Also, Consider the when; or the time period. Is it a future world where things are cleaner and more antiseptic? Or is it an overcrowded 16th-century London with human waste stinking up the streets? If students can create a multi-sensory installation in the reader’s mind, then they have done this part of their job well.

Popular Settings from Children’s Literature and Storytelling

  • Fairytale Kingdom
  • Magical Forest
  • Village/town
  • Underwater world
  • Space/Alien planet


Now that your student has created a believable world, it is time to populate it with believable characters.

In short stories, these worlds mustn’t be overpopulated beyond what the student’s skill level can manage. Short stories usually only require one main character and a few secondary ones. Think of the short story more as a small-scale dramatic production in an intimate local theater than a Hollywood blockbuster on a grand scale. Too many characters will only confuse and become unwieldy with a canvas this size. Keep it simple!

Creating believable characters is often one of the most challenging aspects of narrative writing for students. Fortunately, we can do a few things to help students here. Sometimes it is helpful for students to model their characters on actual people they know. This can make things a little less daunting and taxing on the imagination. However, whether or not this is the case, writing brief background bios or descriptions of characters’ physical personality characteristics can be a beneficial prewriting activity. Students should give some in-depth consideration to the details of who their character is: How do they walk? What do they look like? Do they have any distinguishing features? A crooked nose? A limp? Bad breath? Small details such as these bring life and, therefore, believability to characters. Students can even cut pictures from magazines to put a face to their character and allow their imaginations to fill in the rest of the details.

Younger students will often dictate to the reader the nature of their characters. To improve their writing craft, students must know when to switch from story-telling mode to story-showing mode. This is particularly true when it comes to character. Encourage students to reveal their character’s personality through what they do rather than merely by lecturing the reader on the faults and virtues of the character’s personality. It might be a small relayed detail in the way they walk that reveals a core characteristic. For example, a character who walks with their head hanging low and shoulders hunched while avoiding eye contact has been revealed to be timid without the word once being mentioned. This is a much more artistic and well-crafted way of doing things and is less irritating for the reader. A character who sits down at the family dinner table immediately snatches up his fork and starts stuffing roast potatoes into his mouth before anyone else has even managed to sit down has revealed a tendency towards greed or gluttony.

Understanding Character Traits

Again, there is room here for some fun and profitable prewriting activities. Give students a list of character traits and have them describe a character doing something that reveals that trait without ever employing the word itself.

It is also essential to avoid adjective stuffing here. When looking at students’ early drafts, adjective stuffing is often apparent. To train the student out of this habit, choose an adjective and have the student rewrite the sentence to express this adjective through action rather than telling.

When writing a story, it is vital to consider the character’s traits and how they will impact the story’s events. For example, a character with a strong trait of determination may be more likely to overcome obstacles and persevere. In contrast, a character with a tendency towards laziness may struggle to achieve their goals. In short, character traits add realism, depth, and meaning to a story, making it more engaging and memorable for the reader.

Popular Character Traits in Children’s Stories

  • Determination
  • Imagination
  • Perseverance
  • Responsibility

We have an in-depth guide to creating great characters here , but most students should be fine to move on to planning their conflict and resolution.


narrative writing | 2 RoadBlock | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

This is often the area apprentice writers have the most difficulty with. Students must understand that without a problem or conflict, there is no story. The problem is the driving force of the action. Usually, in a short story, the problem will center around what the primary character wants to happen or, indeed, wants not to happen. It is the hurdle that must be overcome. It is in the struggle to overcome this hurdle that events happen.

Often when a student understands the need for a problem in a story, their completed work will still not be successful. This is because, often in life, problems remain unsolved. Hurdles are not always successfully overcome. Students pick up on this.

We often discuss problems with friends that will never be satisfactorily resolved one way or the other, and we accept this as a part of life. This is not usually the case with writing a story. Whether a character successfully overcomes his or her problem or is decidedly crushed in the process of trying is not as important as the fact that it will finally be resolved one way or the other.

A good practical exercise for students to get to grips with this is to provide copies of stories and have them identify the central problem or conflict in each through discussion. Familiar fables or fairy tales such as Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Cinderella, etc., are great for this.

While it is true that stories often have more than one problem or that the hero or heroine is unsuccessful in their first attempt to solve a central problem, for beginning students and intermediate students, it is best to focus on a single problem, especially given the scope of story writing at this level. Over time students will develop their abilities to handle more complex plots and write accordingly.

Popular Conflicts found in Children’s Storytelling.

  • Good vs evil
  • Individual vs society
  • Nature vs nurture
  • Self vs others
  • Man vs self
  • Man vs nature
  • Man vs technology
  • Individual vs fate
  • Self vs destiny

Conflict is the heart and soul of any good story. It’s what makes a story compelling and drives the plot forward. Without conflict, there is no story. Every great story has a struggle or a problem that needs to be solved, and that’s where conflict comes in. Conflict is what makes a story exciting and keeps the reader engaged. It creates tension and suspense and makes the reader care about the outcome.

Like in real life, conflict in a story is an opportunity for a character’s growth and transformation. It’s a chance for them to learn and evolve, making a story great. So next time stories are written in the classroom, remember that conflict is an essential ingredient, and without it, your story will lack the energy, excitement, and meaning that makes it truly memorable.


narrative writing | tension 1068x660 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

The climax of the story is the dramatic high point of the action. It is also when the struggles kicked off by the problem come to a head. The climax will ultimately decide whether the story will have a happy or tragic ending. In the climax, two opposing forces duke things out until the bitter (or sweet!) end. One force ultimately emerges triumphant. As the action builds throughout the story, suspense increases as the reader wonders which of these forces will win out. The climax is the release of this suspense.

Much of the success of the climax depends on how well the other elements of the story have been achieved. If the student has created a well-drawn and believable character that the reader can identify with and feel for, then the climax will be more powerful.

The nature of the problem is also essential as it determines what’s at stake in the climax. The problem must matter dearly to the main character if it matters at all to the reader.

Have students engage in discussions about their favorite movies and books. Have them think about the storyline and decide the most exciting parts. What was at stake at these moments? What happened in your body as you read or watched? Did you breathe faster? Or grip the cushion hard? Did your heart rate increase, or did you start to sweat? This is what a good climax does and what our students should strive to do in their stories.

The climax puts it all on the line and rolls the dice. Let the chips fall where the writer may…

Popular Climax themes in Children’s Stories

  • A battle between good and evil
  • The character’s bravery saves the day
  • Character faces their fears and overcomes them
  • The character solves a mystery or puzzle.
  • The character stands up for what is right.
  • Character reaches their goal or dream.
  • The character learns a valuable lesson.
  • The character makes a selfless sacrifice.
  • The character makes a difficult decision.
  • The character reunites with loved ones or finds true friendship.


After the climactic action, a few questions will often remain unresolved for the reader, even if all the conflict has been resolved. The resolution is where those lingering questions will be answered. The resolution in a short story may only be a brief paragraph or two. But, in most cases, it will still be necessary to include an ending immediately after the climax can feel too abrupt and leave the reader feeling unfulfilled.

An easy way to explain resolution to students struggling to grasp the concept is to point to the traditional resolution of fairy tales, the “And they all lived happily ever after” ending. This weather forecast for the future allows the reader to take their leave. Have the student consider the emotions they want to leave the reader with when crafting their resolution.

While the action is usually complete by the end of the climax, it is in the resolution that if there is a twist to be found, it will appear – think of movies such as The Usual Suspects. Pulling this off convincingly usually requires considerable skill from a student writer. Still, it may well form a challenging extension exercise for those more gifted storytellers among your students.

Popular Resolutions in Children’s Stories

  • Our hero achieves their goal
  • The character learns a valuable lesson
  • A character finds happiness or inner peace.
  • The character reunites with loved ones.
  • Character restores balance to the world.
  • The character discovers their true identity.
  • Character changes for the better.
  • The character gains wisdom or understanding.
  • Character makes amends with others.
  • The character learns to appreciate what they have.

Once students have completed their story, they can edit for grammar, vocabulary choice, spelling, etc., but not before!

As mentioned, there is a craft to storytelling, as well as an art. When accurate grammar, perfect spelling, and immaculate sentence structures are pushed at the outset, they can cause storytelling paralysis. For this reason, it is essential that when we encourage the students to write a story, we give them license to make mechanical mistakes in their use of language that they can work on and fix later.

Good narrative writing is a very complex skill to develop and will take the student years to become competent. It challenges not only the student’s technical abilities with language but also her creative faculties. Writing frames, word banks, mind maps, and visual prompts can all give valuable support as students develop the wide-ranging and challenging skills required to produce a successful narrative writing piece. But, at the end of it all, as with any craft, practice and more practice is at the heart of the matter.


  • Start your story with a clear purpose: If you can determine the theme or message you want to convey in your narrative before starting it will make the writing process so much simpler.
  • Choose a compelling storyline and sell it through great characters, setting and plot: Consider a unique or interesting story that captures the reader’s attention, then build the world and characters around it.
  • Develop vivid characters that are not all the same: Make your characters relatable and memorable by giving them distinct personalities and traits you can draw upon in the plot.
  • Use descriptive language to hook your audience into your story: Use sensory language to paint vivid images and sequences in the reader’s mind.
  • Show, don’t tell your audience: Use actions, thoughts, and dialogue to reveal character motivations and emotions through storytelling.
  • Create a vivid setting that is clear to your audience before getting too far into the plot: Describe the time and place of your story to immerse the reader fully.
  • Build tension: Refer to the story map earlier in this article and use conflict, obstacles, and suspense to keep the audience engaged and invested in your narrative.
  • Use figurative language such as metaphors, similes, and other literary devices to add depth and meaning to your narrative.
  • Edit, revise, and refine: Take the time to refine and polish your writing for clarity and impact.
  • Stay true to your voice: Maintain your unique perspective and style in your writing to make it your own.


Below are a collection of student writing samples of narratives.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to read these creative stories in detail and the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the critical elements of narratives to consider before writing.

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of story writing.

We recommend reading the example either a year above or below, as well as the grade you are currently working with, to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.

narrative writing | Narrative writing example year 3 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |


When students have a great journal prompt, it can help them focus on the task at hand, so be sure to view our vast collection of visual writing prompts for various text types here or use some of these.

  • On a recent European trip, you find your travel group booked into the stunning and mysterious Castle Frankenfurter for a single night…  As night falls, the massive castle of over one hundred rooms seems to creak and groan as a series of unexplained events begin to make you wonder who or what else is spending the evening with you. Write a narrative that tells the story of your evening.
  • You are a famous adventurer who has discovered new lands; keep a travel log over a period of time in which you encounter new and exciting adventures and challenges to overcome.  Ensure your travel journal tells a story and has a definite introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • You create an incredible piece of technology that has the capacity to change the world.  As you sit back and marvel at your innovation and the endless possibilities ahead of you, it becomes apparent there are a few problems you didn’t really consider. You might not even be able to control them.  Write a narrative in which you ride the highs and lows of your world-changing creation with a clear introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • As the final door shuts on the Megamall, you realise you have done it…  You and your best friend have managed to sneak into the largest shopping centre in town and have the entire place to yourselves until 7 am tomorrow.  There is literally everything and anything a child would dream of entertaining themselves for the next 12 hours.  What amazing adventures await you?  What might go wrong?  And how will you get out of there scot-free?
  • A stranger walks into town…  Whilst appearing similar to almost all those around you, you get a sense that this person is from another time, space or dimension… Are they friends or foes?  What makes you sense something very strange is going on?   Suddenly they stand up and walk toward you with purpose extending their hand… It’s almost as if they were reading your mind.


narrative writing | Copy of Copy of Copy of HOW TO WRITE POEMS | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

When teaching narrative writing, it is essential that you have a range of tools, strategies and resources at your disposal to ensure you get the most out of your writing time.  You can find some examples below, which are free and paid premium resources you can use instantly without any preparation.

FREE Narrative Graphic Organizer

narrative writing | NarrativeGraphicOrganizer | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students |


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A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:


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Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies

narrative writing | narrative writing lessons | 7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love |

7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love

narrative writing | Top narrative writing skills for students | Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students |

Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students

narrative writing | how to write a scary horror story | How to Write a Scary Story |

How to Write a Scary Story

narrative coursework examples

Understanding Narrative Writing (Examples, Prompts, and More)

narrative writing

Narrative writing is a writing style that helps to tell stories with more emphasis. It contrasts with descriptive and persuasive writing styles. Learn everything you need to know about narrative writing in this comprehensive guide.

What is narrative writing?

We have all read stories- both fictional and non-fictional. Narrative writing is exactly that- it is storytelling. While most narrative-style writing has a main character or protagonist, sometimes narratives can be about humanizing inanimate objects or abstract feelings.

Whatever happens to the said character or protagonist is called the story or the plot. Like most stories, narrative writing has conflict, resolution, and observation, and is in short- a story you would want to read.

Narrative writing is just one of the writing styles among others, namely expository, descriptive and persuasive writing . While all of the listed styles are very distinct, it is easy to confuse them for another. Hence, it is important to know the difference between each.

Descriptive Writing

A descriptive style of writing focuses on rich imagery and sensory description of smells, sights, and sounds. It is usually used in screenplays, essays, and poems. It serves the purpose of immersion- where the reader can actively imagine themselves being transported to the place or situation that the author describes.

  • Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing is much like a political or philosophical text where one side attempts to establish its stance. Being persuasive in your writing style is a needed skill for reviewers and political columnists. Especially since they give essential takes on situations and decisions where the reader is persuaded by the text to agree or disagree with a certain argument. This style of writing is also applied in speeches, slogans, editorials, and opinion pieces.

How is narrative writing different from the expository style of writing?

To know that we must first know what the expository style of writing is. Expository writing is more about facts than fiction. Think textbooks, neutral news articles, etc. Anything that states facts without sensationalizing them is an exposition. This is in direct contrast with narrative writing which is more about storytelling than about facts.

What is a personal narrative?

As the name suggests, a personal narrative is about a person. Usually, this person is you. A personal narrative helps see things from your personal perspective. Personal narratives are used where intimacy is required.

Because they offer a window into the writers’ beliefs, methods, and emotions, memoirs, autobiographies, and deeply personal story pieces captivate us as readers. However, publishing your whole life story is not necessary to produce a personal narrative.

A cover letter or an admissions essay may be written by a student, or you may be attempting to describe your relevant qualifications. Your story will center on personal development, thoughts, and experiences irrespective of your goal.

Because of its digestible style and the fact that humans are empathic beings, personal tales enable us to relate to the experiences of others.

Narrative writing

Types of narrative writing

1. viewpoint narrative.

Viewpoint narrative tells the story from the eyes of the protagonist. This lends a unique lens to the story as the reader journeys through the paragraphs to see it unfold in real-time as the protagonist goes through the events.

For instance, Moby Dick by Herman Melville utilized viewpoint narrative to make Ishmael’s motives in the story hit home for the reader.

2. Descriptive Narrative

This is usually written in the third person as the descriptive narrative style entails a descriptive account of a situation, person, or place. But, many descriptive style narratives are written in the first person too. Usually, it uses vivid imagery and sensory words that help the reader immerse in the story.

3. Linear and Non-Linear Narrative

If the progression of the events in the plot happens one after the other, then it is a linear narrative style of writing. For example, in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, everything happens in a linear chronological order. Whereas in a book like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, there are multiple competing timelines that occur simultaneously. Such a style of narrative writing is non-linear.

Components/Devices needed to craft a narrative

1. Descriptive communication : Instead of explaining facts straight, this form of language elicits sentiments. Imagery, personification, similes, and metaphors are examples of descriptive linguistic devices.

2. Characters: A narrative may have a small cast of characters or a large one. The narrator is sometimes the lone character to appear in certain narratives. The tale is being recounted from the perspective of the narrator, who may or may not engage with the other characters.

  • Protagonist: Almost every story requires a protagonist among the characters. The figure whose tale is being recounted as they strive to accomplish a goal or overcome a struggle is the protagonist. He/She is sometimes referred to as the central character as well.
  • Antagonist: The adversary is a figure that appears in almost every story. The villain is just the person or thing that the protagonist must face in order to triumph over hurdles; they are not always the “bad guy.” The adversary can be a person, a natural force, the protagonist’s community, or even a characteristic of the protagonist’s nature in many stories.

3. Plot: The sequence of events that take place in your tale makes up the plot. A storyline might be straightforward with just one or two key events, or it can be intricate and have several layers.

4. Structure: Each narrative, even those that are nonlinear, is ordered in some fashion. This is how the central protagonist chases their objective or responds to a problem. No matter how you arrange your story, there are three main sections:

  • Beginning: The moment the reader encounters your words is the start of your narrative. This is important to grab the reader’s attention so that they continue to read through the rest of what you have to say.
  • Middle: The middle is the body, where the conflict occurs, and the story sets up the obstacle that needs to be overcome by our protagonist in order to attain something of importance.
  • End: The ending is the resolution where the result of our protagonist’s efforts is declared. It could either end positively, negatively or vaguely- where the ultimate fate of the characters is left up to the reader’s imagination.

5. Theme: Each narrative has a theme whether you intend it to be or not. For instance, Harry Potter is about magic, Little Women is about female adolescence, and To Kill a Mockingbird is about racism and childhood trauma.

What do you need to write a narrative?

Narrative writers have most if not all of the following skills:


Narratives require a structure, even if it is non-linear and complex, with multiple parallel timelines. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a chronological narrative where the older protagonist narrates a story that happened during her childhood.

Having interesting beginnings:

The start captures the readers and encourages them to keep reading. Hence, it is important to craft interesting beginnings for stories.

For example, George Orwell’s iconic sci-fi novel 1984 opens with the sentence , ‘It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.’

It’s an incredible opening to set the mood for a book that is about surveillance and the dystopian future of commodifying privacy.


Description is like salt- it is necessary, but if overdone, can ruin the story. If what you are describing is not of the essence to the plot, it can get very boring for readers to go through paragraphs of descriptions of meadows(a la Tolkien).

For instance, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess does a wonderful job of letting the description and detail be an effective plot device. It isn’t overdone nor is it left fully to the readers. It is immersive enough for the reader to be engrossed but relevant enough for the reader to want to keep reading.

Suspense is a great technique to make the reader turn pages. It is a tried and true way to win a reader’s interest. There is simply no way to talk about suspense without mentioning Agatha Cristie. Her 1939 novel And Then There Were None displays the mastery of Cristie. She keeps the reader engaged till the very end to find out who is the killer on the island where a band of vacationers mysteriously die off.

Stretch the main event:

Pacing is incredibly important in storytelling. If you spend 3 chapters setting up a conflict that gets solved in one page, it is not as gratifying of an ending. Hence, it is important that the main event is identified and written about in a way that uses action, description, and ample establishment prior to its reveal.

For example, let’s look at The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle:

The wagonette swung round into a side road, and we curved upward through deep lanes worn by centuries of wheels, high banks on either side, heavy with dripping moss and fleshy hart’s-tongue ferns. Bronzing bracken and mottled bramble gleamed in the light of the sinking sun. Still steadily rising, we passed over a narrow granite bridge and skirted a noisy stream that gushed swiftly down, foaming and roaring amid the gray boulders. Both road and stream wound up through a valley dense with scrub oak and fir.

At every turn Baskerville gave an exclamation of delight, looking eagerly about him and asking countless questions. To his eyes, all seemed beautiful, but to me , a tinge of melancholy lay upon the countryside, which bore so clearly the mark of the waning year. Yellow leaves carpeted the lanes and fluttered down upon us as we passed. The rattle of our wheels died away as we drove through drifts of rotting vegetation. Sad gifts, as it seemed to me, for Nature to throw before the carriage of the returning heir of the Baskervilles.

The majority of the chapter’s first half was made up of rather fast-paced conversation. But the action slows down when the protagonists approach the moor. Doyle uses a couple of techniques to maintain this slower tempo. The wording grows increasingly detailed as the phrases lengthen and become more complicated. This is a great example of good pacing while describing the main events.

Good endings:

Good endings don’t mean that the end needs to be a happy one. It just means that it has to make sense and leave the reader with a feeling of something intense. It can be happiness, sadness, anger, or even hopefulness. What the reader shouldn’t feel are boredom and predictability. In many cases of good stories, even if the ending is predictable, it is done in a way that makes sense and leaves the reader wanting more.

Narrative writing prompts to use:

  • Finish this story: The pirates set sail on their ship in search of . . .
  • Write about a time you wished you were somewhere/someone else
  • Write a story that ends with: ‘Our paths were different, but our destination was the same.’
  • Write a story using the following words: elephant, diaper, rose, house

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narrative coursework examples

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narrative coursework examples

About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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narrative coursework examples

How to Write a Coursework

narrative coursework examples

Coursework projects do not resemble essays, research papers, or dissertations. They are the combination of all three. Students spend less time writing coursework than on making a term paper, but this type of work requires more time and efforts than an ordinary essay - it is made of several essays. Thanks to our guide, each student can discover how to write coursework. If you are running out of time or lack experience to complete the specific coursework, we recommend using our coursework writing services to hire professional academic writers.

What is Coursework and Why Does It Matter?

Coursework definition: General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) coursework is a typical academic assignment, given in the course of study to evaluate the student’s knowledge, skills, and identify the final grade. Many students face this type of writing in the US colleges. One of the examples is a coursework UTD (The University of Texas at Dallas) - the requirements of this institution are strict, and many students fail to submit their papers and pass the corresponding courses.

Such type of assignment helps to have the ‘detective’ hat on: a student observes, examines, and evaluates the chosen topic using credible, up-to-date, and relevant sources. Working under controlled conditions is important. Participating in every school class will help to prepare good coursework by the end of the term. Take a look at the examples of what students of various profiles may face:

  • English Composition - English coursework is an extended essay in most cases. A student has a right to pick the topic. The tutors provide their students with the list of recommended titles to choose from, sources to observe & analyze, and a format (e.g., a comparison between different relevant articles)
  • Sciences - coursework for science is a complicated assignment. Such type of work appears in the form of a scientific paper to test what a writer investigates and reports independently.
  • Geography - geography coursework is about collecting, reporting, and explaining information to reply to a certain geographical question or offer solutions to the problem. One idea is to explore the usage of a shopping mall or analyze the recent tornado. No matter whether you have to prepare a coursework Columbia or such paper for other educational institutions, keep in mind these differences!

Types of Coursework Explained

English Language coursework is the most common type of this assignment. At advanced GCE level, the student will be expected to write a couple of essays, totaling 3,000 words. Every assignment is 20 marks maximum.

Types of Coursework

An analytical essay : Evaluate, compare, & contrast 3 different sources of data interconnected by a common theme; written /spoken / multimedia content. Discuss different uses for targeting various audiences. Learn more on our blog.

Original essay with a supportive commentary : A student will have to come up with a single piece of media writing in the observed modes (written, spoken, or multimodal). Add a supporting piece with details about the aspects of English language. English Language & Literature coursework is a bit different. The basic requirements are the same, and the parts are:

An analytical study : Sharing an analysis of the chosen piece and its relation to the related content. It will show how well the writer understands the original piece. Tutors grade such works based on the:

  • Use of the proper terminology and the coherence of the written words;
  • Understanding & evaluation of the way a structure, form, and language create the written & spoken word;
  • Opportunity to observe relationships between various pieces of writing.

Creative writing & commentary : Produce a creative piece that imitates the style of the assessed text. Share comments to backup your understanding. The goal is to show the knowledge, prove the competence, and use appropriate language skills in communicating with the target audience. You will also need a relevant coursework resume (review) in both cases. Keep on reading to learn how to write coursework of A level.

How to Write a Coursework: Guide for Students

Several factors may lead to the coursework being disqualified. It is a serious matter! The risk factors include:

  • Plagiarism - it is the worst thing that could happen to any type of academic assignment. Lots of relevant information is available on the world wide web today, and the tutors are strict about the issue of plagiarism. Write everything in your own words! If you decide to insert the quotes from the sources, apply the suggested citation format and develop a list of references. Sign the declaration claiming it is your original project. If you're unsure about how to approach this, seeking professional help by choosing to write my coursework can be a wise decision.
  • Word count - do not ignore the specific requirements concerning the length of the coursework. Specify if the footnotes, appendices, & references are included in the word count.
  • Topics - go through the list of available themes. If there is an examination planned on the specific topic, try to pick another idea for the coursework.
  • Tutor’s assistance - do not ignore the help of your instructor, ask them to provide guidance on what to write. Ask the questions to learn more details, but keep in mind they can go through the 1st draft once and just offer some general recommendations.

Choosing a Topic for Your Project

Dedicate enough time to this extra important question. Select the field of your interest if it is possible to relate it to the course. That is the golden rule of choosing a coursework topic - keep in mind the rest of the hints:

  • Analyze the offered list of topics or develop yours
  • Pick a topic from the area of your expertise related to the studied subject
  • Select the topic you are interested in
  • Choose the topic you’ve started to observe in the past
  • Check how much relevant, up-to-date information is available on the Internet about each of the topics
  • Pick what you can measure, change, & control (they call it a ‘fair test’)
  • Use the ideas of previous researchers and students
  • Do not choose a topic with a vast scope - you risk struggling to research it correctly

10 Good Coursework Topics

  • Non-traditional Forms of Poetry with TC Tolbert
  • Documentary Foundations: Usage of Oral Histories with Beth Alvarado
  • Traditional Forms of Poetry
  • Hermit Crabs: Type of Fiction
  • Writing the Autobiographical Poem
  • Creative Non-Fiction on the Examples of New Journalists
  • Authors without Borders
  • Writing the Sticky Stuff
  • Socially Engaged Literary Arts
  • Common Vocabulary

Research & Data Collection

Research is an integral part of coursework. Have you written research papers before? If yes, you will find it easier to select proper primary & secondary sources and gather the necessary information (evidence to support the main point - thesis). Depending on the required paper format, cite & reference the following sources:

  • Books & e-Books

Base the project on a specific hypothesis. The research must start with minimum one hypothesis. The research stage for some topics may consist of visiting websites to collect information. Leave another time for collecting the data as it is the heart of the research. Three methods of data collection are known:

  • Direct personal investigation : The one an author does individually (using literature and findings from previous studies);
  • Interview/Questionnaire : The researcher should gather the data from the respondents asking questions regarding required data;
  • Discussion with community leaders : Community leaders are approached to fetch information for the necessary data.

In case a student works on a scientific experiment, they should pay attention to planning the analysis with the help of rigorous scientific methods (keeping in mind the Health & Safety precautions you take). Review background information and theories. Take notes to express what you expect to occur to compare & contrast it to what happened in real life. In the write-up stage, one has to evaluate and present the findings.

6 steps to writing a good introduction

Writing a Coursework Outline

The writing process follows the research. Do not start it without preparing an action plan and scheduling the work - a paper pin for English coursework is based on an extended essay . An outline will look different for the science coursework projects. The goal of creating a plan is to prevent a writer from being disorganized and waffling.

Writing a Coursework Outline

Let us explain coursework outline on the specific example - a project on the global pursuit of lower costs and the role of human rights.

Start with the brief introduction explaining why it might be a topic of interest for many people. Mention those vast corporations like Wal-Mart abuse human rights by choosing and using child labor in the factories.

Provide an overview of the problem . Define human rights and costs. Pick the definitions from the official dictionaries and cite them properly when inserting in the text. Try to explain the terms in your own words.

Develop a body of the coursework , start with the case for & against ethical business practices. Using evidence and examples, list the arguments supporting ethical business practices and another side of the coin. Include a business case for ethical practices after the opening body paragraph.

Move to discussing ethical responsibilities ; explain why business organizations should care about the ethical aspects of their activities. After three sections of the body, one can conclude the paper. It can be a good idea to share a fact or statistics stressing the importance of research problem in the essay conclusion. End up with the reference list that may look this way:

  • Klein N (2000) No Logo (Flamingo, London)
  • Marcousé I, Gillespie A, Martin B, Surridge M and Wall N (2003) Business Studies 2e (Hodder Arnold, Oxon)
  • Royal Dutch Shell (2006) 4th Quarter Financial Report at (site example)


Additional Elements

Supporting materials and pictures are a must! The sciences & geography projects require tables, charts, graphs, and other types of images to illustrate the complicated topic. Not only should you add the pictures - it is essential to interpret and reference each of them. A separate part of the coursework where the student list and explains every visual element is Appendix , and it is an optional part. The presence of appendix increases the chances to earn an A+.

How to Write an Introduction for Coursework?

Most of the students underestimate the role of introduction & conclusion when it comes to writing an essay. An eye-catchy introduction is a key to success. The primary purposes of a coursework introduction are:

  • To grab the reader’s attention
  • To introduce the topic
  • To explain the research importance
  • To come up with a compelling thesis statement

The opening paragraph shows the depth of the writer’s acquaintance with the topic. Look at the expert tips below. They will help to learn how to write a coursework introduction to make the tutor want to read your entire paper.

What Is an Introduction?

The introduction of GCSE coursework is the opening paragraph that aims to interpret the central questions and purposes of the entire paper. It should have several elements to be effective. Those are:

  • A hook sentence
  • Background information
  • Problem significance
  • Solid thesis statement

Advice from our Experienced Writer

How to write an introduction to coursework? The quality of this part predetermines paper’s success. Look at some common mistakes writers do while working on the coursework introduction - try to prevent them!

Ignoring the prompt. Many students tend to neglect the tutor’s instructions. It is critical to read the prompt several times, highlight the main points, research question, rules, and grading rubric details.

Missing a plan. The prompt does not always say to develop a coursework outline. Without a plan for every separate section, it is impossible to write a flawless piece step-by-step. No matter whether you have to write a term paper, research paper, dissertation, or C3 coursework, get ready with the detailed plan. Once you understand how to write an introduction, it will be easier to develop the rest of the paper.

For those who need a helping hand in ensuring their work meets all the standards and deadlines, don't hesitate to buy coursework from trusted professionals.

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Unleashing your creativity: story structures for top-scoring igcse narrative writing.

narrative coursework examples

As IGCSE students, you’re on a quest to master the art of narrative writing, and I’m here to be your trusted guide.

Today, we’ll explore the fascinating world of story structures that will help you craft captivating, engaging, and top-scoring narrative pieces. So, buckle up and get ready to unleash your creativity and embark on a journey to the land of A+ narratives!

We’ll start first with our recommendations for narrative structures that you can try out in your writing (more specific and targeted blog posts, examples, and templates will follow in the coming weeks), and also provide examples that take place in some books that you can consider reading; they are mostly classics.

While they won’t demonstrate the entirety of each one of these narrative structures in full, they will provide some valuable insight into what to look for and also provide examples that you can reference if you have the interest (and the time!) to pursue some reading. 🙂

In the final section, we will justify these recommendations with specific reference to the mark scheme.

Do know also that it is possible to combine this narrative structures with one another and that you most likely will do so as you utilise the techniques that you learn in this post in order to deal with the unseen prompts that you will encounter on the exam and write stories at large 🙂

Sounds good? Let’s go! 🚀

Narrative Structures

  • The Classic Three-Act Structure: Tried and True

The three-act structure is like a reliable old friend, always there to guide you through the world of storytelling. This classic approach divides your narrative into three parts: the setup, confrontation, and resolution. By establishing a strong beginning, middle, and end, you’ll create a well-balanced and engaging story that is sure to impress your IGCSE examiners.

“Once upon a time in a faraway land, there lived a young girl named Cinderella who was forced to work as a servant for her wicked stepmother and stepsisters.” – Cinderella, Charles Perrault.

This opening line from the classic fairytale of Cinderella sets the stage for a story that follows the three-act structure. The first act introduces the characters and the central conflict, the second act chronicles Cinderella’s struggles and her magical night at the ball, and the third act brings about resolution and a happy ending as she marries the prince.

Note however that the Three-Act Structure does not necessarily entail a happy ending – it is just a framework for setting up your story, and definitely can and should be used in conjunction with some of the other narrative structures as well as intelligent discernment in order for you to construct a piece that will impress and wow your examiners! Thank you to Ms. Rani CK for discussing this with me 🙂

  • The Hero’s Journey: Embrace the Adventure

The Hero’s Journey, inspired by Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, is a story structure that revolves around a protagonist’s transformative adventure. Your hero (or heroine) will face trials, overcome obstacles, and ultimately return as a changed person. By incorporating this powerful structure into your narrative writing, you’ll create a compelling and dynamic story that captures the essence of human experience and captivates your readers (and examiners).

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s opening line in The Hobbit introduces the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, and marks the beginning of his Hero’s Journey. Throughout the story, Bilbo leaves his comfortable home, faces various trials and adventures alongside a group of dwarves, and ultimately returns transformed, having discovered his inner courage and resourcefulness.

  • In Medias Res: Start with a Bang

Dive headfirst into the action by employing the “in medias res” (Latin for “in the midst of things”) story structure. This technique drops your reader right into the heart of the action, creating an immediate sense of intrigue and excitement. By starting with a gripping event, you’ll pique your reader’s curiosity and encourage them to keep reading as you gradually reveal the backstory and context. This bold approach will show your IGCSE examiners that you’re a fearless and innovative storyteller.

“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” – The Trial, Franz Kafka.

Franz Kafka’s The Trial starts in medias res, as the protagonist Josef K. is arrested without any prior explanation. This opening plunges the reader right into the action and establishes a sense of immediacy and confusion, setting the stage for a narrative that will gradually reveal the circumstances and consequences of this arrest.

  • Nonlinear Narrative: Play with Time

Who says stories need to follow a chronological order? By experimenting with a nonlinear narrative, you’ll weave a tale that jumps between different time periods, creating an intricate and thought-provoking story. This structure requires skillful planning to ensure your reader can follow the story’s progression, but when executed well, it can lead to a captivating and memorable piece that will undoubtedly impress your IGCSE examiners.

“All this happened, more or less.” – Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five is a prime example of a nonlinear narrative. The novel tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, who becomes “unstuck in time” and experiences events from his life in a disjointed order. This opening line acknowledges the narrative’s unconventional structure, as the story will jump back and forth in time to explore Billy’s life, war experiences, and encounters with extraterrestrial beings.

  • Frame Narrative: Stories within Stories

Unleash the full power of your storytelling abilities with a frame narrative. This structure involves a story within a story, where an outer narrative “frames” an inner one. By employing this sophisticated technique, you’ll create depth and layers to your writing, offering your reader multiple perspectives and a rich, immersive experience.

“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.” – Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a frame narrative, as it begins with a series of letters from Captain Walton to his sister, chronicling his Arctic expedition. The story of Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation is relayed to Walton, who then recounts the tale to his sister through the letters. This structure adds layers of depth and multiple perspectives to the narrative, enriching the overall storytelling experience.

Why do these work?

In this section, we’ll delve into how each of the story structures we’ve discussed can help students achieve top marks in their IGCSE narrative writing, specifically addressing the marking criteria for content, structure, and style.

  • The Classic Three-Act Structure

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): The three-act structure’s clear beginning, middle, and end ensures that your narrative is well-balanced and organized. By establishing a strong setup, confrontation, and resolution, you can create complex, engaging, and effective content, satisfying the requirements for the highest marks.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): A well-executed three-act structure also allows for precise vocabulary and varied sentence structures, as well as a consistent, well-chosen register that aligns with the context of the story. These elements contribute to a high-scoring narrative in terms of style and accuracy.

  • The Hero’s Journey

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): The Hero’s Journey offers a strongly developed plot that features character development, trials, and a satisfying climax. This story structure enables you to create engaging, complex, and effective content that demonstrates a deliberate and well-managed narrative flow.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): The adventurous nature of the Hero’s Journey allows for the use of precise, well-chosen vocabulary and varied sentence structures. The story’s context also lends itself to an appropriate and consistent register, further contributing to a high-scoring narrative.

  • In Medias Res

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): By starting your narrative in the midst of action, you immediately create engaging, complex, and effective content. The suspenseful nature of this structure requires careful management, which, when done successfully, demonstrates a secure and well-balanced narrative flow.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): In medias res encourages you to use precise vocabulary and varied sentence structures to convey the excitement and tension of the story. The structure also allows for a consistent, well-chosen register that aligns with the high-stakes context, ultimately contributing to a top-scoring narrative.

  • Nonlinear Narrative

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): A nonlinear narrative enables you to create complex, engaging, and effective content by challenging traditional storytelling conventions. Skillful planning is required to maintain a well-balanced and carefully managed narrative flow, which, when executed well, will satisfy the highest marks’ requirements.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): The intricate nature of a nonlinear narrative demands precise vocabulary and a range of sentence structures to convey the story’s progression effectively. By demonstrating a consistent, well-chosen register suitable for the context, you’ll create a high-scoring narrative in terms of style and accuracy.

  • Frame Narrative

Content and Structure (W1 & W2): A frame narrative provides depth and layers to your writing, allowing you to create complex, engaging, and effective content. This sophisticated structure requires careful management to ensure a secure, well-balanced, and deliberate narrative flow, satisfying the top marks’ requirements.

Style and Accuracy (W3 & W4): The multiple perspectives offered by a frame narrative enable the use of precise, well-chosen vocabulary and varied sentence structures. A consistent and appropriate register that aligns with the story’s context further contributes to a top-scoring narrative in terms of style and accuracy.

By carefully applying these story structures to your narrative writing, you can address the mark scheme’s criteria for content, structure, and style, putting you on the path to achieving the highest possible grades in your IGCSE narrative writing exam.

Conclusion: Your Path to Narrative Greatness

Remember, aspiring storytellers, the key to crafting an outstanding narrative piece lies in your choice of story structure and your ability to execute it masterfully. By exploring these various structures and aligning them with the highest IGCSE grade requirements, you’ll be well on your way to creating captivating, engaging, and top-scoring narratives.

So, go forth and weave your tales, for the world of narrative writing awaits! May your pen be mighty, your imagination boundless, and your stories unforgettable. With dedication, creativity, and a little guidance from these story structures, you’ll soon be the author of narratives that will not only impress your IGCSE examiners but also leave a lasting impact on all who read them.

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narrative coursework examples

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Dear all, The Narrative essay compilation has been updated! Want to gain the exact examples you need for that A*? Sign up for a Premium membership so that you don’t miss out, today! V. We hope you enjoyed these essays! If you want to join our IGCSE First Language English […]

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narrative coursework examples

It’s never too late. 

The scene is familiar. You wake up one morning and the page of the calendar turns.  Yet again. Imperceptibly, you’ve crept one day closer towards that test, that exam.  Maybe time passed and you didn’t realize it.  Maybe it wasn’t all that important to you.  Maybe the only reason that […]

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Your Complete Guide to IGCSE Coursework

This guide includes everything you need to know about all the IGCSE coursework.

Like many of our other Complete Guides this article is not meant to be read in its entirety – just skip to whichever section is most relevant to you.

By Rebecca Lally, Saoirse Boyle, Hazel Fricska, and Nina Hopley

English Language

What do you need to do?

You need to submit 3 pieces of work, each of 500-800 words: a descriptive and/or narrative piece; an informative, analytical and/or argumentative piece; and a response to a text. Our teacher got us to write multiple practice pieces for each of the three text types during year 10 so that we could pick our favourites to redraft at the start of year 11. Your coursework portfolio is worth 50% of the total marks, which can help make up for lower scores in the exam if you know that is where you will struggle.

You need to pick different topics for each piece; this will allow you to create contrast through the portfolio and showcase different styles of writing. The descriptive piece offers the most creative freedom, although your teacher should offer some general guidance. We wrote pieces restaurants for our informative writing coursework and, for the media response piece, we wrote open letters to Wayne LaPierre, an American gun rights lobbyist.

Any advice?

  • Don’t use a thesaurus. Switching out every other word for a supposedly better synonym is not what will make your work good! Your writing will come across as stilted and pretentious.
  • Channel your efforts into creating fluidity and a consistent voice. Read through your work in your head and then out loud. Whilst reading ask yourself some questions: Where do the words start tripping over each other? Are you repeating anything?
  • Try to show, rather than tell. Don’t fill your work with fluffy adjectives. Take the restaurant review as an example. You can say the food was “great”, “scrumptious”, “delicious”, “incredible”, but this doesn’t give  the reader any new or important information! Instead, describe the different textures, the different colours on the plate and the flavours of the food.
  • Listen to your teacher. Your work will be internally assessed by a panel of teachers. You are allowed one draft – make it count. Make it as good as you can before you hand it in; once you have received feedback make sure to take all their advice on board.
  • Let others read your work. Friends, parents, classmates. Tell them to be brutal, to pick it apart. A fresh pair of eyes can provide valuable insight and notice little things that you won’t. This can be especially helpful to do with students from other English classes! Their teacher may have approached a requirement in a different way and this may help you see aspects of your work from different perspectives.
  • Your creative piece is an opportunity to show off your beautiful writing and rich descriptive language. Don’t worry about the plot. You will not be able to write an entire story in less than 800 words without sounding rushed. Focus on creating atmosphere and providing insight into your character(s).
  • Be as specific as possible in your informative piece. Again, no fluffy adjectives! What information is most important to the reader and how will you relay this to them?
  • In your media response piece, acknowledge every single point the text makes, explicit or implicit.  These points must be analysed and evaluated.  You must show that you understand the general tone of the text and the opinion of the writer. Do you agree with the journalist? Follow these pointers to write a cohesive and well-developed argument.

You need to produce a detailed essay, up to 2000 words in length, answering a question set by the school. You will need to do your own research from a variety of sources, evaluate different information and form your own opinion/argument. This year, we were asked to evaluate the significance of Gustav Stresemann, a chancellor and foreign minister from Germany’s Weimar years.

  • Define the question clearly. Take significance: what does ‘significance’ mean? How is it different from importance? How will you measure it? Are there different kinds of significance? Answer these questions in your introductory paragraph.
  • Read widely on the topic before you start writing, or even planning. This is the phase which should take the longest. It is really, really hard to write or plan an essay until you are totally familiar with the topic. By developing an opinion before you start writing, you can be consistent through the entire essay and really drive your point home.
  • Read from a variety of reliable sources. Read any and all sources put on moodle by your teacher, check out books from the MMC, use JSTOR. This will set you apart from other candidates.
  • You don’t need to mention every event in a period of time, or a person’s life.  Decide what is most important and what adds substance to your argument.
  • Keep your ‘background information’ concise. The assessor is a History teacher – just assume they already know the details of the Weimar constitution, or the state of Germany at the time. The point of this essay is not to say what happened, but to evaluate events and develop your own argument.
  • Keep referencing the question! You literally cannot use the keyword of the question, in our case, ‘significance’, too many times.  You defined your criteria at the start of the essay, you should use these criteria and explain how information fits into it.
  • Don’t just organize chronologically. Organise chronologically and, within that, thematically. Reference events that happen later or earlier if it backs up an assertion that you have made.
  • Compare and contrast similar events. What was different about the handling of situation A and situation B? What was the significance of each event? How much did each event impact the following years?
  • Acknowledge both sides of the story, the role played by other figures and surrounding circumstances.
  • Listen to your teacher’s advice. Like in English it is your teacher who will be assessing it and they have your best interests at heart.

Geography coursework is worth 27.5% of your overall geography grade. You will be taken on a field day to collect data and, after that, you have the summer to write it all up.

2017’s topic: “ An Investigation Into the Impact of Skiing on the Natural Environment” , carried out at Col de la Faucille.

2016’s topic: “ An investigation into River Processes on La Promenthouse”, carried out at La Promenthouse river.

Before going on the field trip, you will be given class time to prepare your investigation. You will come up with a research question, hypotheses to test and you will write out justifications for these hypotheses. The data collection will occur in groups and you can share results with students from other classes. But, you will be on your own when it comes to writing up your final report.

  • Don’t leave it all to the end of summer, or the night before it is due! Especially if you did not finish your introductory work at the end of the year. It was a lot more time consuming than anyone expected.
  • Focus on the analytical part of the coursework – this is what you should spend the most time and effort on. Any analysis or assertion you make is fine, as long as you can back it up with data and/or geographical theory.
  • Use at least 4 types of graphs. Don’t just use the same scatter graphs or bar charts over and over again. Your teachers will have suggestions for other types. Building a GE graph may be more time-consuming, but it is more interesting than an excel column graph and will help you stand out from the other candidates.  
  • Make your draft count. This is your only chance to get feedback, so make it as good as it can be. Your teacher is there to help.
  • Don’t stress about the word count. Even our teacher admitted it would be very difficult to get an A* in 2000 words. You shouldn’t write a thesis, but it’s totally ok if you end up with 4000.
  • Follow any checklist or rubric you are given. Make sure you are fulfilling every requirement. Don’t miss out on easy marks!

You will complete up to 8 prep sheets; it is preferable you make 8 to the best of your ability, as this will show the examiners you have a wide variety of skills. You will then do a final piece of work based on 2 of your prep sheets. You do have the option to do two exams, rather than coursework and one exam. While the coursework is more work overall, you will be under less time pressure than if you were taking an additional exam.

To score highly, you will need to perfect your technical skill. It is also crucial to demonstrate your artistic development – you can do this by including small mind maps based on a theme/unit, and by doing small ‘test’ sketches exploring various arrangements for a more detailed piece. In addition, your prep sheets should be aesthetically pleasing, as presentation does count. Bluetack your pieces of work to the sheet when you first hand it in, so you can rearrange the layout, or remove/add/improve any work. Use a variety of mediums to show versatility. Fortunately, the course will force you to create large projects and use different media (batik, lino, still life, collage).

It is okay if you feel that you need to redo almost every prep sheet that you handed in during year 10 – with time and patience, you will improve. When you have time away from the art class, during the holidays, reflect on the work that you have finished and try to perfect it. This way, when the deadline comes around in year 11, you will have finished and will be ready to focus all your artistic energy on the exam!

The most daunting thing about coursework is how many weeks you have to complete it! The themes are open ended and you have a lot of freedom. Unfortunately, this can paralyze rather than inspire. Art is time-consuming, and you are juggling it with 8 other subjects which each have their own homework and tests. You might push art to the side in order to tackle more imminent deadlines, dreaming of the great work you will produce when you have the time to sit down and devote yourself to it… but this will not happen. There is never going to be a ‘good time’ to do it. I ended up spending 6 days solid over the Christmas break drawing my final piece, and by day 3 I had started to despair, but I am so glad I finished it.

You should be prepared to fail: allocate time to hate your work, feel frustrated by your work and then pick yourself up and start again. Grab a black sharpie and title all of the documents that you are given by the department, such as, “ Year 11 coursework requirements” and, “Art unit planner”, with PLAN TO FAIL. This will remind you to get your head out of the clouds and make you start work immediately. Coursework is composed of prep sheets and a final piece (that has its own prep sheet as well): it is a lot of physical work to produce.

  • Plan to fail! It will go wrong, take a direction you did not intend or even want! You must factor in time to start over.
  • C ommit to ideas. Brainstorm your theme exhaustively in the first week of the assignment to find an idea you really love, then commit. Don’t start over halfway through.
  • Don’t start year 11 with incomplete prep sheets. Finish them all before the coursework final is due.
  • Finish every drawing. You may hate it, but if you don’t finish it, you won’t learn anything from it.
  • Use the guidelines the art department gives you. Pin them up on a notice board and share them with your parents – keep those deadlines firmly in sight.
  • Use the Art room at lunchtime , consult your teachers regularly for advice and guidance.

You need to complete*:

  • Two stylistically different compositions
  • Two solo performances
  • A group performance

*There is also set work covering the work of one artist (for us, Felix Mendelssohn), World Music, and the music of one particular region (for us, Latin America). These are not part of the coursework component but are part of the syllabus.

It is ok if you have never played an instrument or studied music theory – as long as you love the subject. It may be wise to take private lessons in music theory and an instrument from the beginning of year 10. If you already play an instrument and know some music theory, you are ahead of the game!

In year 10 you are informed about the coursework, but class time is not devoted to it until year 11. Because the deadline is so far away, it is rare anyone starts working on it. Many of my peers decided to take the internal exam after realising they wouldn’t have the time to acquire the skills needed. Get started immediately. Record your performance to the best of your ability in year 10, even if you find it disappointing. In year 11 you will have the opportunity to listen to it again and re-record, challenging yourself further on the content. Same for compositions – experiment with melodies and sounds even if you are not confident. When Year 11 begins you will have a starting point to build from.

For compositions, as they have to be very different, listen to music from a variety of genres. In doing this you will find out what you like and it will be easier to create something you enjoy. If you find using Garageband difficult, talk to Mr. Aram. He always makes himself available to help, so don’t be shy or insecure about your work. He is not expecting you to be a musical prodigy!

When you are happy with your compositions in Garageband you then have to transpose everything into note form, using software like Sibelius. This is time-consuming  and challenging, especially if you are not confident with musical notation. So, plan to learn and ask for help before it’s too late. Go to the music department at lunch or work on your score with your classmates so that you all struggle together and can help each other.

Music is such an enriching subject that allows insight into different cultures and can lead to global understanding and communication. You want your compositions to reflect this exposure – which is very challenging because you need a certain level of skill. You can acquire these with help from teachers and extracurricular lessons but it all takes time as you still have 8 other subjects with equal demands. Ultimately, plan to fail and to experiment so that you have the time to achieve your best.

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English narrative coursework

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The unsuspected traitor

The bells rang and three men Dave, Dan and Beck came barging out of the bank. Dave, Dan and Beck were all heavily built brutal men. They were twice the size of an average adult and they were armed to their teeth. Dan had a semi automatic shotgun in his hands and a Walther P99 (a semi automatic handgun) tucked in his belt. Beck had an AK-47 and Dave had a long and mean M15 in his huge arms.

“Go, go, be quick!” screamed Dave at Bruce as they jumped into the car.  

Bruce who was sitting on the driver seat of a two thousand and seven black BMW M5 slammed his big foot on the accelerator and the car revved well above six thousand RPM. The chase had begun. The black BMW M5 with four big guys seated in it was racing in the front, speeding well over the limit and 5 flashing police cars followed behind.

After turning a few corners Bruce thought he had lost the police and slowed his speed down a little, but then he could hear the police sirens once again. It was tough driving in the congested city center but Bruce was the right tool for the job. He quickly dropped the car to 1 st  gear and slammed his foot once again on the accelerator. After dodging all the traffic Bruce successfully reached the motorway, (which wasn’t busy). The police cars were close behind and by now three more police motorbikes had joined the cars.  

“Oh no, these guys are never gonna give up,” remarked Beck.

“Shoot ‘em, now!” commanded Dave.

The windows from all three sides went down, Dave, Dan and Beck rose out of their sides and started shooting at the police. Dave with his long and mean M15 held in his massive arms shot the drivers of two police cars going side by side. The cars collided with one another and went up in flames. Dan shot two police on motorbikes on the head with his powerful semi automatic shotgun and the motorbikes uncontrolled spun off the motorway. Bruce saw more police cars and motorbikes heading towards them and knew this meant trouble. He suggested to his friends that they should get in and he will try to overrun the police.

Join now!

BANG! A bullet hit the back window of the BMW M5 and all three of them dropped back into the car and Bruce once again revved the car and left the police cars behind. The police cars could never compete with the BMW M5 in speed. After a long drive they stopped outside a big bungalow. Bruce pressed the button on a remote and the garage door opened with a buzz. Bruce parked the car while the others went in the bungalow.

This is a preview of the whole essay

“It was a bloody tough day today,” remarked Beck. “The police just increase in number and seem to get tougher after every robbery.”

“They are on our tail now, we should be at full alert,” claimed Dan. “They search for us day and night.”

“Whatever it is, it is all over now,” responded Beck.

But he was wrong it had hardly begun, and everyone knew that including Beck. Everyone knew that Brad, the officer in charge of the mission was never going to give up until he had finished the most wanted criminals in the country Dave, Dan, Beck and Bruce.

“Just get the bag and check the money out will ye, we haven’t got time for this nonsense,” thundered Dave.

Bruce went to get the black bag and everyone had their eyes settled on it. Bruce unzipped the bag and they were in for a surprise. The bag was full of blank papers instead of notes!

How can this happen? Who could have tricked them? This was what went through everyone’s minds. They were sure they had checked the bag before they got out of the bank and it was full of crispy bank notes. Then how can the money change to blank papers? Everyone sat down to think about this calamity that had struck them not only the first time but four times in a row. Someone was playing games with them!

The sun was setting and the men were deep in thoughts about their lives, about their future. They had been deprived of something their lives depended on. The money could have freed them from the grasp of the godfather forever and they could have sated a new life as good people.  

Dave, Dan, and Beck never really wanted to turn to the crime world but incidents persuaded them to. The three brothers were orphans since the age of ten. They grew up in the streets and one day they met another orphan called Bruce and they become really good friends.  They use to live by begging from people in the streets because they had no one to look after them. One day a really high classed person came to them when they were all around the age of fourteen years old. He told them that he will give them a nice home to live in, and they will be given good food as well.

Dave denied his invitation because he knew that the man was none other than Edward the godfather. He knew that his works were bad and evil. Bruce who was a quiet but a greedy person persuaded his friends to join Edward and they agreed with him after many arguments. The godfather’s intention was obviously to use them for his dirty works and after the first robbery the greed for money fell in their hearts and they started to adapt the bad ways of Edward. Dave, Dan and Beck still had a little feeling at the back of their hearts that they were going to do something bad that they will regret later and that is what happened exactly.

Once when Bruce was sent to threaten someone for not paying money to the godfather, Beck, Dan and Dave were sent to kill a woman named Michael because she had been causing problems in the godfather’s gang. They succeeded in killing her but after they killed her they saw a necklace in her neck that seemed familiar. It was the same necklace their mum used to wear and she had given to their sister! That is when they realised that they were caught up in a big mess.

Dave, Dan and Beck were all in tears when they realised what they had done. They knew that they had to give up this work right now and so they asked the godfather to remove them from the gang. But the godfather never really cared about their sister because all he wanted was money. The godfather knew that the three brothers were his best men and if he let them leave his gang then his gang will tremble.

He still agreed to let them go, but he wanted them to use them for his last job. He wanted them to steal a very rich bank and give all the stolen money to him. They rejected to do that but then he threatened them by saying he will kill them if they deny. They had no other choice but to agree.

They robbed a bank three times but when they will open the bag after the robbery all they would see was blank papers. The godfather acted as thought he was being generous to them and gave them a last chance. But now it happened again, and they had no money to pay him which meant they had to prepare for their death!    

“Dan, what did you do with the bag when I gave it to you,” said Dave staring in to his eyes.

“I…I…don’t know really I just left it near my feet in the car and took it in when we reached the house,” replied Dan unconfidently.

“Bruce did you do anything to it,” asked Dave.

No answer. Dave looked around to where Bruce was sitting but he was missing!  

“Where is he,” demanded Dave.

“He was said he needs to go to the toilet, but that was a long time ago.” replied Beck and Dan together.

They searched for him everywhere in the house but could not find him and his car was gone as well. Where could he have gone? Before they could go any further with the search for Bruce disaster stroked. BANG! BANG! BANG! Bullets were fired from the outside and a voice was heard on the microphone.

“This is the police, we have got your house surrounded, and you have no chance of escaping.” “Surrender or we open fire.”

The announcement was repeated once again and all three of them raced from one window to another. It was true there was no chance to escape; it was fully surrounded by police. What the police never thought of was the garage. The garage had a door to it from the inside of the house and there was a car parked there as well. Dan, Beck and Dave ran to the garage as the police started to fire at their house.

Brad, the police officer, heard the starting noise of the engine. He realized that he had missed a spot and ordered the team to gather around the garage but it was too late the garage broke with a smash and a black Porsche Cayenne jumped out. The police started to chase them close behind and this time they were prepared for them. The gang’s skilled driver Bruce wasn’t there to help them dodge the police. The police shot their car and the Porsche went out of control but luckily it stopped after a few spinning and Dave, Beck and Dan ran out of the car.  They did their best to fight but as you know crime pays its price and they were all killed by the fearless police officer, Brad.

The news was on every channel, every newspaper and every street of the country. The most wanted criminals were killed. Bruce was watching the television with Edward and laughed at the stupidity of his friends. He had betrayed his friends for money, he had made them come towards the criminal world, and he had helped Edward use them for the last and the biggest robbery in their life and then to take the money of them. He had to pay for this. Someone had to kill him and the godfather. That someone was always at their tail, and he will not stop until he had finished the godfather and Bruce.

This story shows us that it does not matter who tells you to follow the bad path you should not follow it. You should not listen to your friend if they insist you to follow the bad path especially if you know it is the bad path because you are surely to regret later. Crime pays for its price.  

English narrative coursework

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  • Word Count 1837
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  • Subject English

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narrative coursework examples

Bethany Lee's Film Studies Blog

A Level Student's Film Studies Blog

Coursework Evaluative Analysis

Absent is a short film of 5:00 minutes that includes a narrative twist.

Short films referenced

Curfew (Shawn Christensen, 2012) 19:42 minutes Connect (Samuel Abrahams, 2010) 05:00 minutes Pitch Black Heist (John Maclean, 2012) 13:00 minutes Wasp (Andrea Arnold, 2003) 25:46 minutes About a Girl (Brian Percival, 2001) 09:51 minutes Stutterer (Benjamin Cleary, 2015) 13:00 minutes

Total running time: 86:19

Narrative Structure

Approaches to narrative structure vary from film to film depending on the intended meaning and effects. In order to develop the plot of my own film, I took inspirations from several short film narratives.

The narrative of Pitch Black Heist (John Maclean, 2012)  begins with the introduction of two strangers who proceed to make a connection and develop a friendship; this is shown through a montage of them singing and playing pool which inspired my own montage of my two characters, intended to encourage the audience to identify with and care about their friendship. Similarly, in Connect (Samuel Abrahams, 2010) the narrative begins with the introduction of a single character who makes a connection with a stranger despite people around them being oblivious and trapped in their mundane lives. At the end of the narrative in Connect the two strangers go their separate ways; however, I chose to use the unspoken connection between strangers as a plot device to build-up their relationship and increase the impact of the narrative twist. At the end of Pitch Black Heist , the strangers are revealed to have a past relation: they are father and son. This narrative twist inspired the ending of my own film when my two characters, Lisa and Phoebe, are revealed to have been best friends in the past.

The short film that arguably had the biggest impact on my own is Curfew (Shawn Christensen, 2012) as my presentation of two protagonists are similar to Christensen’s. The audience is encouraged to sympathise with the main protagonist due to his loneliness; a similar narrative technique in used in Stutterer (Benjamin Cleary, 2015) as the audience sympathises with the protagonist whose speech impediment causes him to be socially secluded. In Curfew , the audience is also encouraged to like the young girl due to her kindness towards the protagonist; in my own film, the audience sympathises with Phoebe due to her isolation from her friends and are therefore encouraged to like Lisa because of her kindness towards Phoebe.

About a Girl (Brian Percival, 2001) influenced my use of a non-linear timeline to structure the events in Absent. The film begins with a relaxed childish tone but suddenly changes to a much darker realisation at the narrative twist to provoke shock within audience. I took inspiration from this narrative structure not only in About a Girl , but also in Wasp (Andrea Arnold, 2003) which begins with character introduction and the establishment of the character’s situation before the climax of emotional intensity is reached at the end when the baby is in danger. My film follows a similar plot structure with character introduction occurring at the beginning followed by the fun bowling game taking dominance of the middle of the narrative before the reveal of Lisa’s death at the end transform the tone and triggers the audience’s revelation of the truth that Lisa wasn’t actually present throughout the film.

Cinematic Influences

When creating the shot list and deciding how I wanted to portray my narrative visually and creatively, I took inspirations from techniques used in other films.

In terms of mise-en-scene, I took enormous inspirations from Curfew’s  presentation of the bowling alley location on-screen. In my own film, I mirrored establishing shots used in Curfew such as the low-angle close up of the shoes lined up and the long shot from the side of the lanes used to capture the background and immerse the audience in the setting.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 15.04.49

I also took cinematic influences from bowling alley scenes used in the feature film  The Big Lebowski (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, 1998) which I watched and analysed before creating the shot list for my own film.  The Big Lebowski influence is most evident in my imitation of the camera movement following Jesus that begins with a wide shot as he starts to bowl and ends on a close up of his shoes; I achieved a similar shot using a steadicam to track my character. The shot shows the progression of the bowling routine whilst providing shot variation to prevent the visual techniques used to showcase the bowling becoming repetitive to the audience.

The Big Lebowski: wide shot

For further shot variation, I used an extreme close up of my characters eyes with the bowling ball blocking the rest of her face, similar to the close up used in The Big Lebowski .

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 15.10.02

The sound design in both Curfew and The Big Lebowski mix the character’s dialogue with background noises of the bowling alley to create audience familiarity with the atmospheric location. Throughout my own film, due to the absence of dialogue, the background noise of the bowling alley takes dominance of the score allowing the audience to focus on the story taking place in the location.

For the end montage sequence of my film, I wanted to create an essence of verisimilitude to present the authenticity of the friendship between my two characters. In order to achieve this, I took inspiration from the use of handheld camera movements in both About a Girl, focusing the audience’s attention on the central character and Wasp, focusing the audience’s attention on the environment the family find themselves in. However, instead of using handheld camera to portray a snapshot of suburban lifestyles like in About a Girl and Wasp , I chose to combine the use of handheld camera and bright lighting environments, such as the sun flares in the woods or neon lights in the arcade, with a soft toned non-diegetic compiled score in order to achieve a more dream-like and idealistic quality reflective of a joyful time in the characters lives.

About a Girl: handheld camera

I also took editing inspiration for my montage from the well-known sequence in Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, 2009) . A shift in tone occurs in the film when a wide shot of Ellie and Carl painting a child’s bedroom transitions through the wall to a wide shot of them in a hospital being told they can’t have children; in my own montage, the shift in tone is presented when a close up of Lisa smiling pans to the sky before panning back down to a close up of her in the same position but frowning. The transition signifies the change in narrative and emotionally manipulates the audience to enter a state of dejection.

Up: wide shot in bedroom

To establish the bond between my two characters I decided to use shot reverse shot  similar to shots used in Stutterer.  The characters are framed in the centre of close-ups, their eyes are illuminated by street lights and the emotions conveyed in their performances encourage the audience to care about their relationship. In my own short film, I used a similar shot reverse shot with my characters framed in the centre using sunlight, rather than streetlights, to emphasise my characters’ features and create a caring and happy atmosphere right before the shift in tone.

Stutterer: close up

Creating meaning and effect

In order to achieve the emotional effect I was aiming for in my film, I had to make a number of creative decisions to meaningfully portray the relationship between my two characters. Perhaps the most important moment for achieving this was the first time my characters see each other in the bowling alley. After having Lisa enter and sit on the lane next to Phoebe, I chose to use shot reverse shot beginning with Phoebe staring blankly at Lisa who then smiles in response prompting Phoebe to return the expression; the close up shots help establish intimacy and mark this moment as their first connection. This technique was also used in the short film Connect for the same purpose: to signify the beginning of a connection between two focal characters.

Absent: close up

To convey a sense of energy, excitement and fun I edited a collection of shots to the beat of the up-tempo non-diegetic complied score “Boom Boom Boom” ; I feel that this technique worked well, especially due to the juxtaposition of the flashback sequence at the end of the film being edited to fit a slower non-diegetic complied score called “Where’s My Love?” in order to create a poignant feeling within the audience that contrasts the happy performances portrayed by the characters on-screen.

It was my intention to deliberately have an absence of dialogue throughout the film, not only to allow the diegetic atmosphere of the bowling alley to take dominance but also to increase the shock within the audience when Lisa speaks the first line of dialogue in the entire film: “We should have done this when I was alive”. The only other dialogue in the film is at the mid-point of the final montage when Lisa says “I need to tell you something” commencing the change in tone from happy and carefree to serious and sad as her illness takes over. I chose to have the screen fade to black for this line to juxtapose the vibrancy of the shots depicting their friendship and I edited the song to slow down before the line to exaggerate this moment as the turning point in the mood of the montage. Building up to dialogue in order to heighten its impact on the audience is used in many films including About a Girl  where the dramatic pause before she says “I’ve gotten used to lying to her” juxtaposes her preceding verbose monologue and announces a shift in tone before the shock narrative twist at the end.

I also tried to increase the emotional impact on the audience by concluding the friendship montage with several match cuts; flashbacks of Lisa and Phoebe at the beach are bluntly cut with shots framing Phoebe on her own. These juxtapositions are further emphasised by the vibrant yellow coat Phoebe wears and the bright lighting in the shots of them together contrasting the change in costume to a dark green coat and cold lighting when Phoebe is alone to represent the darkness that has consumed her after the loss of Lisa who brought the light to her life. However, I feel as though these match cuts were less effective due to the slight differences in the framing, I could have framed the shots more precisely in order to increase the effect on the audience.


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This is great, Beth — you give lots of detail and the comparison shots are very effective and convincing. You do need to proof-read carefully, however, and your captions and photos need to be formatted properly (it would also be nice if all the stills were the same size).

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