What is Narrative Writing? The Art of Storytelling

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Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

what is narrative writing

You’ve always loved a good story. The way it draws you in, makes you feel something, and leaves you thinking about it long after it’s over. It’s that special touch that narrative writing brings to life.

But what exactly is narrative writing?

It’s more than just telling a tale. You’re painting with words to make the scene jump off the page for whoever reads it. From crafting heartfelt essays to writing epic sagas, drawing readers in lies on understanding how narrative writing works.

Let’s venture into the world of narrative writing.

Table Of Contents:

What is Narrative Writing?

Narrative writing is all about telling a story. It can be science fiction, fairy tales, or a horror story.

Narrative styles let you, the writer, share an experience, event, or even something made up – as long as it connects with your reader.

The magic of narrative writing is that it transports your audience to another time and place. It’s like you’re right there, painting a picture with your words.

At its core, narrative writing is a subset of creative writing that focuses on storytelling. Whether it’s a personal narrative essay about a life-changing event or a fictional short story with made-up characters, the goal is to draw readers in and keep them hooked.

Types of Narrative Writing

There are a few different flavors of narrative writing:

  • Personal Narratives – These are stories from your own life, like a memorable trip or a challenge you overcame. They’re a chance to share a piece of yourself with your reader.
  • Fictional Narratives – Here’s where you let your imagination run wild, inventing characters and plot from scratch. Think short stories, novellas, or even full-blown novels.
  • Descriptive Narratives – While not always story-based, descriptive essays use vivid language to paint a picture and evoke emotion, much like a narrative.

No matter what form it takes, the key to narrative writing is drawing readers in and making them feel like they’re part of the story.

Key Elements of Narrative Writing

A successful narrative essay includes:

  • An engaging plot that pulls the reader along
  • Vivid, descriptive language to bring scenes and characters to life
  • Dialogue that sounds natural and reveals character
  • A clear theme or message for readers to take away

Plot

This is the backbone of your narrative – the sequence of events that propels your story forward. A compelling plot map has a clear beginning, middle, and end, with rising action, juicy conflict, and a satisfying resolution.

Characters

Memorable character traits are the heart of any good narrative. Reveal their personalities through dialogue, actions, and vivid descriptions. Let readers see the world through your characters’ eyes.

Setting

Where and when your story takes place can be just as important as the characters themselves. Use descriptive language to paint a rich, immersive backdrop that transports readers into your story world.

Point of View

Will you write from the first-person point of view of your main character? Third-person limited? Omniscient? Your point of view shapes how readers experience the story, so choose wisely.

Theme

What’s the deeper message or truth your narrative explores? Your story’s theme is the thread that ties your story together and lingers with readers long after they’ve finished reading.

Conflict and Resolution

Every good story needs juicy conflict to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Will your characters overcome the obstacles in their path? How will they grow and change by the story’s end?

Weaving these elements together is what elevates a simple story into riveting narrative essays. So dive in, get creative, and watch your story come alive on the page.

what is narrative writing

How to Write a Narrative Essay

Ready to craft a narrative essay that captivates your reader from start to finish? Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to spinning an unforgettable story.

Step 1: Choose a Topic

Pick an experience from your life that’s ripe with juicy details and emotions. The best narratives are personal and revealing, so don’t be afraid to dig deep.

what is narrative writing

Step 2: Create a Narrative Structure

Organize your thoughts with a simple outline. Jot down key plot points, character descriptions, and the major themes you want to explore. Having a roadmap will keep you on track as you write.

Step 3: Write The Introduction

Hook your reader from the very first line. Start in the middle of the action, ask a thought-provoking question, or set the stage with vivid descriptions that pull readers into your story world.

Step 4: Develop The Plot

This is where you’ll spend the bulk of your essay. Use step-by-step details to describe the key events and turning points in your story. Remember to show, not tell – let readers experience the story through your eyes.

Step 5: Create Vivid Descriptions

Engage all five senses as you describe your story elements — characters, settings, and pivotal moments. The more specific and concrete your details, the more immersed your reader will become.

Step 6: End with a Satisfying Conclusion

Tie up loose ends and reflect on the deeper meaning of your story. What did you learn from this experience? How did it change you? Leave readers with something to ponder.

Step 7: Revise and Edit

Don’t submit your first draft. Take time to reread, revise, and polish your essay. Cut any unnecessary details, strengthen weak spots, and make sure your theme shines through.

what is narrative writing

Tips for Teaching Narrative Writing

Teachers have the power to inspire students and help them discover their unique storytelling voices. Here are some tips to make teaching narrative writing a breeze.

Start With Writing Prompts

Kick-start your students’ creativity with juicy writing prompts that get their imaginations flowing. Encourage them to draw from their own lives and experiences for inspiration.

Model The Writing Process

Don’t just tell your students how to write – show them. Share your own writing samples and walk them through your process step by step. Seeing narrative writing in action is a powerful learning tool.

Provide Constructive Feedback

Give your students specific, actionable feedback that celebrates their strengths and gently guides them to improve. Sandwich constructive criticism between positive comments to keep them motivated.

Encourage Creativity

Create a classroom environment that values originality and risk-taking. Encourage students to think outside the box, experiment with new techniques, and find their unique writing voices.

Incorporate Peer Review

Teach students to give and receive constructive feedback through peer review sessions. Not only will this improve their writing skills, but it also fosters a supportive classroom community.

Remember, the best way to teach narrative writing is to make it fun, engaging, and relevant to your students’ lives. So get creative, share your passion, and watch your young writers blossom.

Examples of Narrative Writing

Narrative writing encompasses a wide range of forms, including novels, short stories, autobiographies, memoirs, personal essays, and even some types of journalism.

Here are some examples of narrative writing:

Novels

Novels are works of fiction that tell a story through characters, plot, and setting.

Examples:

  • “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  • “1984” by George Orwell
  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Short Stories

Short stories are brief fictional prose narratives that typically focus on a single incident or character.

Examples:

  • “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
  • “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

Autobiographies

Autobiographies are accounts of a person’s life written by that person.

Examples:

  • “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank
  • “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela

Memoirs

Memoirs are personal accounts of specific events or periods in a person’s life.

Examples:

  • “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt
  • “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway

Personal Essays

Personal essays are nonfictional prose pieces that explore a writer’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences.

Examples:

  • “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion
  • “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris

Journalistic Narratives

News articles or features that use narrative techniques to tell a story fall under this category.

Examples include long-form journalism pieces in magazines like The New Yorker or The Atlantic, which often delve deeply into personal stories or societal issues.

Fables and Fairy Tales

These are short narratives, often with moral lessons, that typically feature anthropomorphic animals or fantastical elements.

Examples:

  • “The Tortoise and the Hare”
  • “Cinderella”
  • “The Ugly Duckling”

Poetry

While not always considered narrative writing in the traditional sense, narrative poems tell stories through verse.

Examples:

  • “The Odyssey” by Homer
  • “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

These examples demonstrate the diverse ways in which narrative writing can manifest across genres and forms.

No matter what form it takes, narrative writing has the power to transport, inspire, and connect us through the magic of storytelling.

Share Your Story With Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is like the ultimate storyteller — weaving tales that captivate, inspire, and transport us to different worlds.

Whether it’s the suspense of a mystery novel, the nostalgia of a childhood memory in a personal essay, or the timeless wisdom tucked into a fairy tale, narrative writing invites us to experience life through the eyes of others and, in doing so, helps us better understand ourselves.

So, next time you crack open a book, dive into a short story, or even jot down your reflections in a journal, remember the magic of narrative writing — it’s not just words on a page but a journey waiting to captivate.

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with gratitude,

Julia

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