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The Narrative Essay
By Brenda B. Covert
1 Don't let the term narrative essay alarm you. A narrative essay is simply a personal story, and we all have at least a few of these to tell. Sometimes plays and movies have a narrator, a person who stands to the side and tells his or her story. The narrator describes actions as well as thoughts and feelings. For the purpose of this lesson, you are the narrator. The story you choose to write will be your narrative essay. One of mine was published in a national magazine in 1999. I wrote about my personal experience with adoption. Many magazines publish personal narratives; readers are interested in other people's lives and how they handled danger, conflict, or uncertainty. Take a moment to jot down three of your own true-life, personal story ideas.
2 Unlike some other essay forms, the narrative essay is usually written from the first-person viewpoint. Because this is your story, you can pepper it with the words "I," "me," "my," and "mine." This is a personal experience piece. While an opinion essay would also be written in first person, it would dwell more on thoughts and ideas than on events. Your narrative essay will be event-driven.
3 For example, take this sentence: "I was never more scared than the day I lost my little sister in a crowded mall." With that opening statement, the reader knows they are about to learn the details of that day, from the moments leading up to the child's disappearance, to your terrified scramble to find her, and finally to your reunion at the security office. You will draw them into the story with your descriptions of your fears and your attempts to locate your sister.
4 Your story will be written in the storytelling style complete with setting, characters, plot, climax, and ending. Let's use my adoption story as an example. It was laid out like this:
5 Setting: the quiet home of a childless couple, the social services office, the wife's office
6 Main Characters: a husband and wife and two foster babies
7 Plot: Will this couple ever have children? Will the babies ever have parents?
8 Climax: the birth parents choose to give up the babies for adoption
Paragraphs 9 to 18:
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