Narrative Essay vs Short Story

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

Hi everyone!

Every now and then when browsing some websites on writing, I run into at least one question regarding the same issue: what’s the difference between narrative essays and short stories? Many students–and teachers as well, to be honest–tend to confuse these two kinds of writing; at best, they think that a narrative essay “is somewhat more academic than creative writing.” The truth is that a narrative essay is not the same as a short story, and writing one has its own rules and peculiarities. Here is the proper way to write a narrative essay:

  1. The main difference between a short story and a narrative essay is that the latter is necessarily a personal experience description. It can be, for example, a story from your educational experience, or a story about how you learned something, and so on. So, if the topic is not defined by your teacher, think of the experiences you might describe in your narrative essay, and make one of them a topic.
  2. Your personal experience is an already ready story; all you need to do is to recall the correct sequence of events. Think of the main idea or conclusion of the story that you will be describing. This idea is going to be your thesis statement, around which the rest of the story revolves. Write down an outline of your narrative essay.
  3. After outlining, it is time to start filling in the details. Your narrative essay should not spread to particularities, and there is no need to explain every little detail. Concentrate on what has happened to you and to the people directly involved in your story. No backstories, no plot offshoots, no cross-references.
  4. Remember that your essay should contain a main event (or should I say The Main Event?). This event will be the turning point, directly connected with the thesis statement; for example, you failed all the exams when enrolling into a college (The Main Event), and this is what made you realize that studying hard is important (thesis statement). Before the main event goes the prehistory, helping to get the reader into the context.
  5. After describing the main event, you should gradually move to the finale of your story, and to the conclusion. In a narrative essay, you don’t sum up the key points from the main body paragraphs (as in typical academic essays), but rather show how what you have described in your essay connects to the thesis statement you made in the beginning.
  6. Double-check the paper, edit when needed. Make sure to include some emotional descriptions–it is allowed in narrative essays; however, remember that it’s still academic writing, so no slang or explicit vocabulary is allowed.

This is it! I hope this small tutorial will help you write a nice narrative essay. Good luck!


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