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How to impress an examiner with your narrative essay

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

What's a narrative essay? A narrative essay is a text that is used to tell a story. These essays are often anecdotal, experiential, and personal. Most importantly, you are allowed to express your inner creativity! However, it's quite hard to write an essay with a time limit during an exam, let alone to be impressive! Don't worry, we've got you covered.


Step 1: Understand the basics

Before trying to impress, it's important to understand the basics of narrative essay writing.

It's like pizza. No matter how many delicious toppings you'll add, it will taste horrible if the base sauce is not prepared correctly!

What should a narrative essay consist of?

A narrative essay must include :

1. An introduction - Set the scene and introduce your characters. Prepare them for the journey ahead.

My friends and I are on our way back home after a sumptuous dinner at a restaurant by the seaside. All of us are a little tipsy as we might have drunk a little bit more beer than recommended. Even the driver is not completely sober, but that isn't a problem nowadays. In 2093, the majority of cars are self-driving. A car accident is the least of our worries as the last one happened years ago. We are relaxing while listening to a music playlist chosen by artificial intelligence, that is specially generated to fit all of our different music tastes.

2. A plot - In this part, things start to happen. You (or your characters) encounter conflict, set out on a journey and meet people.

Suddenly, the car in front of us, an expensive two-wheeled Lamborghini, screeches to a stop and changes direction to the opposite lane. That never happens normally. In a flash, the car gets out of the road and heads at full speed straight towards a random building.

3. A climax - This is the peak of the action, the main showdown, the central event toward which your story has been building.

I am horrified when I see the car brutally hit a young girl before crashing into the building. The girl's body lays lifeless on the street. Her splendid immaculate white dress lays now in a pool of blood. I will never forget this gruesome sight. The Lamborghini is blaring with wild flames, I doubt that there are any surviving passengers. The acrid scent of petroleum wafts in the air. I now notice that our car and all the cars in proximity have stopped simultaneously. The doors have been automatically locked, I cannot get out. A chill runs down my spine. My friends sit silently in shock.

4. A falling action- Now things start to wind down. You (or your characters) come away from the climactic experience changed

Thankfully, we soon hear the siren of an ambulance. In 20 minutes, the police, the firefighters, as well as a group of news reporters, are deployed here. I can even hear the buzzing sound of helicopters above me. A small crowd of curious onlookers gathers at the scene. They are immediately dispersed by the police. I learn by eavesdropping the reporters that the Lamborghini's owner is a very important and wealthy man, whose self-driving car had been hacked and controlled by computer hackers. Someone obviously wanted his head.

5. A conclusion - This is where all the loose ends get tied up.

Abruptly, all the cars start to move again. I am glad to leave this ghastly scene. This day will probably stay rooted in my mind for my entire life. The journey home will be quiet.

What are the basic requirements of a good essay?

  • The essay should be written from a clear point of view

  • The same tense should be the same throughout the essay

  • Spelling and grammar should be accurate

  • The essay should be the right number of words, this is specified in the exam paper


Step 2: Start to impress

Now that the basics of a narrative essay are covered, it is finally time to impress!

Here are the building blocks of an impressive essay.

1. An engaging opening and a convincing close

The first paragraph should hook the reader and grab their attention. This can be done by

  • Describing the setting and giving specific detail

  • Setting the tone for the rest of the story

  • Starting the essay with a dialogue

  • Dropping your reader directly into action

Aim to finish your writing in a convincing way, providing a realistic and believable ending to the narrative. Try to resolve the story and leave your reader feeling satisfied with the way the story ends.

2. A structured essay

It would be a waste to write a compelling and unique essay only to present it in a big block of paragraphs.

  • Break your essay into similar sized paragraphs

  • Make sure each paragraph is coherent with the other

A good presentation will invite the reader to read your essay in a single flow, without getting bored.

3. Vocabulary and expressions

Having a good vocabulary is definitely an advantage. However, don't try to impress the reader by putting a difficult word somewhere, if you do not understand what the word means or how to spell it!

Example-The word 'flabbergasted' means to be greatly surprised or astonished. Write: "the news has left me flabbergasted" Do not write: ''the news was flabbergasted'' Do not misspell the word: "the news has left me totally flabgasted"

The simplest way to acquire a good vocabulary is by reading books or articles. Each time you come across an interesting word or expression, note it and look up the definition.

4. A clear story

Think of a storyline that is both original and easy to understand. Make a plan for your essay before diving into writing it. Make sure the story is well sequenced. However, do not let the reader drown in overly complex details.

5. A vivid description of emotions and places

Describe exactly how the character in your story feels.

Which sentence sounds better? '' I cannot get out. A chill runs down my spine'' '' I cannot get out. I'm scared''

Describing the surroundings of where your story is taking place helps the reader to create a mental image of your story.

The turned out to be a shabby-old house in the middle of a vast countryside. There were no other inhabitants in proximity... The interior of the house was massive. It was furnished in 19th-century style furniture, all taking dust. I assumed the furniture must be worth a fortune at today's market price. We came across a rat in the living room. Gabriel made himself comfortable on the antique sofa.

6. A Little Spice

What a narrative without a zest! Dilute your smooth passages with a detail that will turn everything around. This can be done by including

  • creative characters

Readers should instantly get an impression of your characters from this single sentence description: -You don’t want to mess with this guy -She’s a heartbreaker that doesn’t know she’s a heartbreaker -He has secrets that no one will ever know -She’s stronger and more determined than anyone in the room
  • an unpredictable twist

  • an embarrassing ending

  • funny jokes and coincidences

7. Good punctuation and sentence structure

Last but not least, sentence structures! DO NOT WRITE TOO LONG SENTENCES. The reader might get lost in a long sentence. Punctuations play a big role in making a story more interesting and understanding.

Which sounds better? 'I crouched in the corner of my comfy sofa, tightly wrapping a thick blanket around me. My parents were stuck at work, unable to return home yet, as a thunderstorm was ravaging outside and the roads were flooded. I was alone. I decided it was a perfect night for a horror movie marathon.' or 'I crouched in the corner of my comfy sofa, tightly wrapping a thick blanket around me because my parents were stuck at work, unable to return home yet, as a thunderstorm was ravaging outside. The roads were flooded and I was alone so I decided it was a perfect night for a horror movie marathon.'

Happy with this article? Check our collection of model narrative essays here


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