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Down and Dirty Tips: Narrative and Descriptive Essays: Narrative Start

Tips for students on writing a Narrative / Descriptive essay. While this guide is not comprehensive, it does provide enough information for to students to follow and pass the assignment. This guide is especially helpful for those who don't have much time.

Getting Started: Narrative Essay

Narrative Essay

Step 1: Narrow the Focus

Step 1: Narrow the Focus Way Down

Select an event that actually happened in real life. The event shouldn’t be too personal or inappropriate for school.



The story you tell in your essay should cover no more than one hour of real life time. That means you won’t be able to tell a story about being pregnant because that takes nine months, but you can tell a story about rushing to the hospital and almost giving birth in a taxi cab—a twenty-minute drive.


  •  A car accident OR A trip to the ER
  • Scoring the winning points in a championship game
  • Catching your first wave on a surfboard

The trick to a good narrative essay is to zoom way down to a narrow focus of less than 1 hour of real-life time; then, fill up the essay with sensory and action details.


Step 2: Draft a Thesis Statement

Step 2: Draft the Thesis Statement

Draft a thesis statement that provides, even subtly, the general time, location, and meaning of the event. For now just get something on paper; you can improve the statement later. This thesis statement won’t be like the list sentence you may be used to.



  • Even though the trip started out great, we had no idea that we would never make it to our destination.
  • After several near drownings and a little bloodshed, I finally got my surfboard to follow my commands.