Author: Ian McAllister
Narrative essays are a storyteller’s delight
When someone asks “How are you?” do you use it as an excuse to tell them about something that happened to you a short time before? You are a born narrator. To be honest, I think that you learn to tell stories by listening to other people tell stories, and observing what techniques work and what doesn’t work. Of course, when you were learning to speak, your observations about story telling didn’t use any long words!
If people listen to your stories, with no sign of impatience, then you can probably do well at narrative essays.
The difference between a story and a narrative essay is that the latter starts off by stating what you can learn from the story or stories.
Facilities for narrative essays
- How much time do you have? Are you writing a half-hour essay for an exam, or some homework, or a larger project with some months to complete it?
- Will you be using a computer?
- Do you have a tape-recorder, or know how to record your voice to the computer or digital recorder?
You have all the equipment you need, and all the time you need to use it, and you are familiar with how to use it.
Great. That means you don’t have to be right. Make lots of mistakes. Start writing your story on the computer, just as you would tell it. When you realize that you have missed out some information needed to explain the story, just put it in wherever you have reached. That is the beauty of a word-processor – you can rearrange everything later.
Don’t let anything interfere with your story. Imagine that you have run for half an hour to give an urgent report. You are telling your story between gasps, as you recover from running too fast. There are two VIPs beside your listener, and they want to continue the conversation that you interrupted with your report. You must somehow keep your listener’s attention. Don’t stop for a second, or the VIPs may snatch his attention away from you.
When you finish the story, leave it for a time. Every time you think of something that you should have put in the story, put it in. That is what a word processor is for.
These are your worst conditions. Have your watch on the desk, and know when your narrative essay has to finish.
Select your story. It should be something that you find interesting yourself, because you probably can’t make something boring sound interesting in the time you have for the exam.
Brainstorm onto a brain map, but don’t take more than 5 minutes. You have no time to waste!
Look at the brain map and try to get a feel for what you can learn from the story, or what is its overall meaning.
Write your first sentence to generalize the meaning of your narrative essay, then expand on the generalization for the rest of the introductory paragraph.
Experts sometimes keep changing their point of view during a book, and sometimes they write in flashbacks. I wish they wouldn’t! If the experts can’t make me enjoy the variations, you can’t either.
So I suggest that you stick to the “I” point of view and tell it in chronological order. If it is a true story you may want to tell it from the he or she point of view, but be consistent, don’t change your point of view throughout your narrative essays.
Development of narrative essays
Stories should have a setting, characters, plot, climax and conclusion. You may also want to answer what, how, why, where, when. A standard plot is
- Description of pleasant circumstances
- Event threatens the circumstances
- The threat builds
- The threat is overcome in a grand climax
I always hated History lessons, until I got a teacher who was a good storyteller. History is a collection of narratives. Most history has the above requirements for a story, but is boring. So perhaps the story requirements are necessary, but the storyteller is the one who makes the story worth hearing.
If you are using a computer, go through the above requirements for a story, and add whatever you think is necessary to your rapidly told tale.
If you are in an exam, number the ideas on your brain map and start writing. If you are a natural storyteller you don’t need my advice. If you aren’t, then you should avoid narrative essays if you can.
Start with a Nova and work to a climax
The function of the first paragraph is to make you read the second one. The second one must make you read the third, and so on. The beauty of a personal story is that it carries a sense of urgency built in to it. Your job is to prevent the reader being bored.
You are a clumsy clown
If your story allows it, present yourself as a clumsy clown! Everybody loves a clown, and they don’t want to hear about you having success after success. Invent blunders that you could have made, and add them (together with their consequences) to make yourself seem even more ridiculous. If you haven’t already discovered it, it is fun to make people laugh at your mistakes.
Laughter means “The situation makes me afraid, but I know that I am really safe.” The first time a baby laughs is probably when Dad tosses him into the air and catches him. People laugh at your mistakes because they are afraid of making them themselves, but they feel safe, because it is happening to you, not to themselves!
This is a cheap way to make your narrative essays interesting to the reader.
Bring in some of your skills at writing descriptive essays
As described in the above link, you should use all of your six senses in your descriptions to bring your narrative essays to life, and make them real to the reader.
If you are working with a computer you can keep adding descriptions and humor to your rapid tale.
In an exam on paper you can’t make any improvements to what you have written, so try to get it right as you go. Don’t be depressed. The other students have the same trouble with the clock as you do.
With a computer you can now go over and move things about. Highlight what you want to move, then either drag it to the new position, or use Ctrl+X to remove it onto the scratchpad then paste it into the new position.
When everything is in roughly the right order, you can do your introduction and conclusions. These are the most important parts of your narrative essays, and the easiest to make boring. Make a special effort to make them as exciting as the climax of the story.
Now read through your essay again, looking for ways in which you can improve your choice of words. Avoid overuse of words. You can even cut down on the use of “I” if you structure your tale accordingly, but don’t lose the drive and vitality of active sentences. Avoid clichés, but don’t be fanatical about it.
It is a good idea usually to use the conversation of your characters to tell the story instead of you saying everything.
Tape record your narrative essays
If you have time, wait till a day after writing your essay on the computer, then read it onto a tape or digital recorder.. Play it back. Every time that you hesitated over a word, it was not the word that you expected or it was ambiguous. It is even better if you can get someone else to read onto the tape. Once you have altered it to avoid sentences that go on and on, and changed any bits that caused hesitation, you can print your final version and present it.
Narrative essay conclusions
Look in the college essay section to see what else you can find to help you
with conclusions for narrative essays.
In an exam it helps to plan the opening and the conclusion before you start writing your narrative essays, because you can’t change anything once you write it in the paper.
Reading for pleasure is study too! Get some storybooks from the library. Read the first paragraph and decide how the author managed to grab your attention in those few words. What? Your mind is still wandering at the end of that paragraph? Throw the book aside and try another!
One 15 year old schoolgirl is making tons of money by writing story essays on her web pages. Read them and try to work out what she has done to make you want to keep reading more.
You can read her essay about her success. Sorry, it’s not on my website so I can’t control any changes made there. If you are lucky, my link will take you to the right place to click to read her article. Otherwise just do a find (Hold down Ctrl and press F) on NORI, which is the name of the schoolgirl. Her success story is just one of many on this page.
Once you have used the ideas in my eBook you might even like to write an eBook. If you are a parent, you might like to encourage your student to write an eBook and ease your financial burden or better still, you could use the techniques that you will learn from my free book to write an eBook yourself. Don’t think that it is impossible. It has been done before. Teenagers have made enough from their writing to pay their way through University.
You can get many more ideas for writing exciting essays, and other exam techniques
by clicking here.