Elements of a Narrative Essay

By Carolyn Green
The narrative essay, the viewpoint, the author
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The narrative essay tells a story, usually written from the viewpoint of one person, often the writer, in the first person singular. However, the narrative essay can also include third person pronouns such as he and she. The focus of the narrative essay is the plot, told with enough information to build to a climax. Like all genres, the narrative essay has a predictable pattern found in any story.


The narrative essay should be built around a main idea that can be explained and supported. The main idea is the thesis of the story, and it conveys a message that emphasizes the significance of a person, object or event.

Point of View

Once a topic is selected, the writer should decide on a point of view. Most narrative essays are written in the first person, but they can also be written in the third person. If you are writing a fictional narrative essay, you can choose either point of view. However, if your essay is nonfiction, you must write in the first person.


Because the narrative essay is about a story, it also has the conventions found in any story. This includes the plot, which tells the reader what is happening, usually in a chronological order; the characters and setting; the climax, which is an important realization that relates to the thesis; and the ending, which explains how some matter has been solved.

Conflict Element

The narrative essay includes some type of conflict that the main character, also known as the protagonist, is forced to acknowledge and deal with. It can be an external conflict between two people, or it can be an internal struggle affecting the protagonist.

Details and Development

Details should be incorporated in the narrative essay that not only tell the story but engage the reader as well. The narrative essay should have concrete and specific details that support the thesis and add color and depth. This is done through the use of the scene and summary methods. The scene method uses evocative and very detailed descriptions of a situation, which are reserved for the one or two key scenes in the narrative essay. The summary method gives a brief synopsis of events and is used in the rest of the story.

About the Author

Carolyn Green has been a freelance writer since 1989. She has written for BETweekend, Good Old Days, Baby's World and more. A teacher from New York, she also taught in Seoul, where she wrote for a Korean publication. Her passions include world travel, nutritional research and alternative medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from State University of New York, Old Westbury.