Writing a narrative essay is an essential talent for field research. Rather than summing things up for your reader, it presents your experience and allows them to draw their own conclusions. The narrative essay makes it point by subtly guiding the reader, rather than battering them the way a rhetorical essay would.
By observing these basic ideas, you can improve your narrative essay.
1. Clarity. Complex words and syntax are a hindrance to clarity and should be
avoided. Ideas should be clearly distributed between sentences and paragraphs.
Example: Although I have never been to the races before, I was very excited to
behold them, yet also somewhat nervous, because of the type of people who go there.
Improved: I'd never been to a horse race. I was excited to go, but also a little
nervous, since I wasn't sure about the people at the track.
2. Don't describe each and every one of your own movements.
Example: As I went in the door, I turned and saw a TV. I looked around and saw
posters on the wall. As I went further in I noticed everyone was watching M*A*S*H.
Improved: I immediately noticed the posters on the wall, though everyone else's
eyes were focused on a TV playing M*A*S*H.
3. Avoid the second-person narrative. An important part of the narrative essay is the
fact that the writer experienced the events described.
Example: As you go in the door, you will turn and see a TV. You look around and
see posters on the wall. As you go further in you notice everyone is watching M*A*S*H.
Writing in the present tense is okay, however.
4. To interest the reader, dynamic word choice is key. Avoid sounding too clinical.
Use the same slang, idiom, and turns of phrase you would use in speech. Avoid passive
Example: I am presented an array of unpleasant photos in which many casualties
are shown after automobile accidents.
Improved: They showed me a book stuffed with gruesome pictures of people who'd
been in car wrecks.
5. Limit reference. MLA format recommends including citations in the text, but in a
narrative essay this is disruptive. If a work was helpful, cite it in a 'Works Consulted' list
after the essay. Explain yourself as you go along, rather than trying to refer your reader
back to a previous statement.
Example: When I first saw the comic book fans jumping up and down, I thought as
they would, "Lord, what fools these mortals be" (Gaiman 1989.) I later learned why they
Improved: The fans jump up and down. When I first saw this, I wondered what they
were doing and my mind conjured a quote from Shakespeare that Neil Gaiman used in his
"Sandman": "Lord, what fools these mortals be." However, I watched a bit longer and
realized the company spokesmodels were throwing free merchandise. The fans wanted to
get the most from their day at the convention.
The narrative essay is a keen rhetorical tool because it allows the readers to draw
their own conclusions, but falling into the traps above deprive it of its effectiveness. By
avoiding these errors, you can subtly guide your reader in your desired direction.
About the Author
Sean Craydim is the author of five books and over twenty essays. Get is book here.
5 TIPS FOR WRITING A GOOD NARRATIVE ESSAY by Sean Craydim
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