Before you understand the meaning of the word ‘essay’, you should know the differences between essay and text. In general, an essay is also a text. As Hornby (1995: 1234) stated “Text is any form of written material.” However, a text is not always an essay. An essay must be a text. Therefore, knowing this thing is really matter for you before you begin writing a narrative essay.
The Narrative Essay
Question 1: What is narrative essay?
Narrative is defined as a spoken or written account of events or the telling of a story (Hornby, 1995: 772). So, narrative essay means an essay which is written in order to tell a story. The form and layout of a narrative essay is still the same as essay in general. What makes them different is only the content and purpose of the essay.
Question 2: What are the characteristics of narrative essay?
According to Evans:
A narrative presents a connected series of events, either imaginary or based on your own experience, in vivid descriptive essay. It may be written in the first person (I/we) or third person (he/she, etc), and often includes the thoughts, reactions, etc of the main character(s), describing the action as it would be seen through their eyes.
A good narrative essay should consist of:
(a) An introduction which sets the scene (place, time, character(s), etc), creates an interesting mood/atmosphere to make the reader want to continue reading, and/or begins dramatically to capture the readers’ attention;
(b) A main body which develops the series of events clearly, gives vivid description of the people/places involved, etc; and
(c) A conclusion which completes the story, perhaps in an unexpected way, and may describe people’s feelings/reactions, the consequences of what happened, etc.
Question 3: What should we do in writing a narrative essay?
- Before you start writing, you must first think of a suitable story outline, then you should decide on a detailed plot, including how the story will begin, who the characters will be, where the story will happen, the events in the order you will present them, and how the story will end.
- Writing techniques include the use of vivid description of people, places, objects, etc, especially to set the scene at the beginning of the story; description of feelings and actions, suggesting a certain mood/atmosphere; the use of direct speech and a variety of adjectives, adverbs, etc. This will make your writing more interesting.
- Narratives are normally set in the past, and therefore use a variety of past tenses. For example, Past Continuous is often used to set the scene (e.g. The wind was howling..); Past Simple is used for the main events (e.g. He entered the room, looked around, and…); Past Perfect is used to describe an event before the main event(s) (e.g. She had set out in the morning, full of hope, but now she felt…)
- The sequence of event is important; therefore you must use time words such as: before, after, then, in the beginning, later, in the end, until, while, during, finally, etc
The system of the narrative essay
- Introduction à set the scene (who/what/when/where)
- Main Body à Paragraph 2, 3, and 4 for developing the story (describe incidents lead up to the main event and the event itself in detail, describe people/place/emotions/actions/etc)
- Conclusion à Final Paragraph – end the story (complete the plot; describe feelings/reactions; explain the consequences)
Writing a narrative essay is almost the same as writing a short story. However, the main difference between these two kinds of writing is in the way how they are written. Narrative essay tends to be formal and has specific form. Short story tends to be free and has a wider scope of how the story is presented.
- Evans, Virginia. Successful Writing Proficiency. Berkshire; Express Publishing. 2000.
- Hornby, AS. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. International Students’ Edition. Oxford; Oxford University Press. 1995.
Example of a Narrative Essay
That Three Words
Written by Syayid Sandi Sukandi
It was late in the night when I woke up from my bed. I looked out from a window and saw the street in front of my house. There was that kid again. He was standing like a small creature, freezing like an ice, and sometimes, walking back and forth like someone who was in a confusing mind. Unlike the other nights, I went out from my house and got close into where the kid stood. When I was quite close with him in distance, I saw a boy with that cold face. His body was not so big but I could see the way he looked at me. That eyes! I knew that eyes!
“Hi, kid. What are you doing around here? It’s late at night,” I said. He didn’t say anything. What he did was just walking back and forth without saying anything.
“I saw you every night in front of my house since last week. Well, if you have anything to eat or something, you can come to my house,” I offered him food for I could see how his body was trembling by the snow. And the way his hands tounched his stomach showed how hungry he was. The weather outside was very bad. I even felt that my body was going to be trembling too, so, I got back to my house. When I wanted to open the door of my house, that kid touched my coat. He said something that was barely difficult to hear. But, I let him in.
In that house, I stayed lonely. I was still a young person there, at least, not very young. Now, there was a kid in my house. At that time, I felt that the night was going to be longer than I expected, but, in fact, it wasn’t. I gave him a glass of hot chocolate and a French bread that I made by my own hand. I looked at that kid while he was eating those foods. He was so hungry. So, what I did was a right thing I thought.
Usually, if the time was at 2 o’clock, I would probably be sleeping in that full-of-rose bed. My husband was still there. Sleeping. This night, I felt little bit different. It was because of the kid. Days and days passed. But, my husband never knew that the kid and I were always laughing in the kitchen, even until 3 or 4 in the morning. We ate foods and sometimes, I told him a story of the fairy tales. Once my husband was awake and he said, “Laura, I hear you talk with someone. Who is that?” I never care for what my husband said. He kept saying that he couldn’t see the kid. And I kept saying that the kid was there with me. I though that the kid was afraid of seeing my husband.
In one night, he never showed up again. That kid was like missing or going somewhere. I didn’t know. That happened since my pregnancy. I always missed that kid. He had come to my house and had dinner with me together almost for a month. Again, for this one, my husband didn’t know that. Until I had to bear a baby, I was totally amazed for what I could see in the face of my baby. He was a miracle.
My baby grew up as a boy. His face was exactly the same as the face of the boy who had come to my house in that wonderful night. He said, “Thank you, mom.” He always said that three words. Everytime he wanted to sleep, he said that words again. I asked him for why he said that words again and again every night before he went to the bed. My boy said, “You were always there when I needed you.” There was only a guessing in my mind and I don’t know why he said that.
I felt happy for what my boy said. But, things were different when I tried to think of it. A five year old boy would never say that unless he was taught to do so. I wondered about a weird thing, so I took a walk around the street of my house. Suddenly, after I passed five corners of the street, I saw a picture sticked into a wall of a house and something written down on it. “Gilbert, 5 years old, was found dead in this street because of accident.” I was crying. My mind brought me back to that boy and I never realize how weird this life was.