Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why Write a Narrative Essay?


To Narrate is to Tell a Story.  
All essay writing is divided into four types, or "modes." These four modes of writing are expository, argumentative, descriptive, and narrative. What distinguishes one mode from another is its purpose, or the purpose of the writer.

An expository essay is an essay that informs a reader. An argumentative essay is an essay that convinces a reader. A descriptive essay gives visceral details to a reader. A narrative essay tells a story to a reader. Of the four modes, the narrative essay offers the writer a chance to be the most personal, to share with the reader a moment of personal insight.

The personal narrative offers readers and writers a chance to get to know one another better and share an insight about the human condition.

A Chance to be Personal

The narrative essay is my favorite type of essay to both read and write because of the chance for the writer and his or her intended audience to get to know one another better. It's the essay in which the writer can be the most personal.

The key to finding the right level of personal language, tone, voice, and style in a narrative essay is for the writer to clearly define the intended audience. For example, a narrative essay written for a child will not be written in the same way a person would write an essay for his or her mother or grandfather. An essay written for a close friend will not be written the same way as an essay written for a professor or acquaintance. Yet, the intent remains the same: The writer has a chance to demonstrate his or her personality in the telling of a story that holds personal significance. The writer get to know the reader better by carefully thinking about what that person already knows and needs to know in order to understand the story being told. The reader has the benefit by learning about the writer by reading the essay. No matter how well the writer already knows the reader, there's always the possibility, in a narrative essay, to get to know one another better.


A Chance to Share a Moment of Insight

In addition to getting to know one another better, the narrative offers both the writer and the reader a chance to learn something about the universal human condition.

Writers and readers might share a moment of insight about the motivations of individuals, how people do or do not adapt to changing circumstances, how one might persevere to achieve a goal or bounce back after a series of failures. There are numerous types of lessons to be learned, and the writer has a chance to "frame" the lesson in a way encapsulates a personal moment. The implication in this is that in order to construct the frame for the narrative, literally meaning within the introduction and conclusion of the essay, the writer has a chance to learn from the memory he or she is sharing in the body paragraphs of the essay. Of course, the writer may have already had an idea about the importance of the moment, but the dual layer of introspection makes the lesson all the richer for both the reader and the writer.

Because of the chance to share a moment of personal insight with a reader, I find that the narrative essay assignments I receive from students are by far the strongest and most well-written essays I receive. The most convincing reason to choose the narrative essay over the other modes is in the opportunity to learn from one another and our uniquely individual life experiences.

Want to read more about narrative essays?





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Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

1 comment:

  1. For me, narrative essays are the classics of essay writing in general, and college paper writing, in particular. Thank you for such an informative article!

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