Studying Famous Narrative Essays

posted by Andy Preisler 10 Aug 2015
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When you are asked to write a personal narrative essay, whether it is as a part of your college admissions package, for scholarship competition, or for an assignment in an English composition class, your first understanding must be that this is not the simplistic essay that you may have written in middle or high school, speaking to your most memorable Christmas or your best vacation, or the scariest moment in your life. These are essays that must relate significant experiences and/or incidents in your life that changed you in some way, which caused you to understand one of life’s “rules” or principles, or that resulted in the development of values or beliefs that you will hold from this point forward.

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Another type of narrative essay assignment you may receive is to tell someone else’s story. While this is often an assignment for journalism classes, it may also appear in an English comp, history, or sociology course as well. These will involve an interview with the subject, of course.

It may be difficult to come up with narrative essay ideas for each one of these types of tasks, but studying famous narrative essays of others can certainly provide not only ideas but methods of presentation that are engaging and compelling for your reader.

Examples of Great Narrative Essays

There are a huge number of published narrative essays all over the Internet, but here are a few examples you may want to study, especially to see how the introductions are written in such a way as to hook the reader’s attention from the first sentence forward.

The first, “After Life,” by Joan Didion, is a personal narrative that describes her reaction to her husband’s sudden and unexpected death.

“Soldiers Face Neglect,” is the story of several returning Iraq and Afgan War veterans and their struggles to secure proper medical treatment through the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C.

Most of us alive today do not remember return soldiers from World War II. Bruce DeSilva, however, recalls life with his father and the emotional war wounds with which his father lived the rest of his life. He tells the narrative of his father in, “A Father’s Deepest War Wound.”

Finally, you should read the 7-part narrative titled “Enrique’s Journey,” by Sonia Nazario, the tale of a teenager’s trek from crime-ridden Honduras to find his mother, an illegal immigrant in the United States. This piece won a Pulitzer Prize.

Each of these narratives tells a compelling story of either a personal experience or that of another – an experience that has impacted their lives forever. While your story may not be as impactful as theirs, you can see how a narrative is developed – how a story is woven into a piece of writing that is impossible for a reader to put down. And that is what you want from your story, especially if you are struggling with how to write a personal narrative for college admissions or a scholarship.

Identifying Your Personal Narrative Topic

If your essay is for admissions or scholarship, you will have options of prompts. Be sure to read them carefully. While each one will want you to focus on something from your personal life, they are all just a bit different. And if you are using the “Common Application” process, you can actually get those prompts online right now and have as long as you want to study them and make your selection. Many students do this, and it is a wise move. Other major universities publish theirs as well, or you can access any college or university and get its application package online. The essay prompt(s) will be included.

Creativity is a Must

Many students groan when they hear the term “creative writing,” but that is much of what a winning personal narrative is all about. If you struggle with creative writing, there are solutions. Once you have identified the story you will tell, write it up as a rough draft. Be careful to include every bit of detail that tells your story completely. At this point, you should seek some help, as most students do. Some have trusted friends or family members who are skilled creative writers; others turn to reliable writing services that have creative writers on staff. These experienced pros know how to put the creative pizazz into your narrative, in order to make it wonderfully engaging and memorable for the readers.

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What Else Should You Know

Often, a narrative can turn into a persuasive or argumentative essay that presents a call to action either within or at the end of the essay. Re-read the essay, “Soldiers Face Neglect.” In it you will find a number of calls for the U.S. Government, and the Veterans Administration in particular, to clean up its act relative to care for veterans in outpatient treatment centers. Present an argument through a narrative is a strong presentation and makes that argument certainly more powerful. If you write a narrative for an English comp class, consider a story that will also become an argument – it will put a great “twist” on that narrative.

Andy Preisler

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay

Andy Preisler


Hey there!

I’m Andy Preisler, and I’m super happy to be joining the blog team at!

While I hail from Fayetteville, Arkansas (I know, not the most progressive state!), I left the Southern life behind me many years ago when I went to college for my first degree. I’ve received it in University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and I’m really proud of this. Since then, I have studied in the U.S., and later on, continued my education in Loughborough University, UK, where I actually my second Bachelor’s Degree along the way.

With my perpetual studies (my parents wonder if it will ever stop), I have become a bit of an expert on college life – academic, social, and financial – and love sharing my experiences and my methods of “circumventing the system” with others.  I will be sharing all of these great tips and strategies with my readers, so stay tuned!

When I am not blogging or enrolling in some new course that interests me, I am backpacking through Europe and staying in hostels, working on my second novel (a riveting murder mystery), and pursuing my interest in music. Yes, I travel with my guitar, and you would be amazed at the amount of cash I can accumulate, just performing on the streets of European cities (they are so much more tolerant of vagabond musicians). 

My other passion is environmental. In my short 27 years of life on this planet, I have witnessed the extinction of species, the destruction of rain forests, and irreparable harm to our oceans. I contribute both time and money to several international environmental organizations, because we all must do our part to save Mother Earth.

But I digress! If you are interested in the “ins and outs” of college life, and want some great tales of navigating through the game of “degree attainment,” as well as tips for easing the pain of those pesky essay and paper assignments, follow my blog!

I would love to hear from you, to give you advice, and to lend a listening ear. You can contact me at [email protected] anytime! And follow my posts – you won’t be disappointed!

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