What is Narrative Writing? Learn How to Teach It to Your Students

April 27, 2022

Jeannette Tuionetoa

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Can you imagine a world without fairy tales, movies, or the art of storytelling? These are all exactly what narrative writing is. Explore narrative writing and how to teach it to your homeschool students in a simple, easy way with these tips. 

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Narrative Writing

What is narrative writing? Narrative writing is basically story writing. Narrative writing can be fiction or nonfiction. It is a piece of writing that will tell the reader a good story. Simple enough, right. Well, to a writer, it’s so much more. Students should be able to write good paragraphs before branching off into other forms of writing. 

Narratives are one of four classical rhetorical means of presenting the information. The other forms of writing are exposition, where one would explain or analyze an idea, argument, where one attempts to persuade a point of view, and description, a visual depiction of a personal experience.

Basic Characteristics of Narrative Writing

Every type of writing has its characteristics that help people to write and recognize various writing styles. Narrative writing also has characteristics, and below you will find a few.

Descriptive language

Narrative writing has a flow that dictates and guides the reader through emotions and points of view. The descriptive language usually includes similes, metaphors, personification, and even onomatopoeia.


There wouldn’t be a subject to drive the plot through its course without different characters. Whether the characters are human or fictional – like aliens or inanimate things, every narrative has characters.


The plot is comprised of the events that make up a story. All the events combined lead up to the plot’s theme and the summary of what the narrative is about.

What are the five rules of narrative writing?

The narrative story structure is the consistency of flow in a story. Specifically, in a narrative piece of work, there is a beginning, middle, and end.

Narratives have five rules or five elements to them.

The five rules of narrative writing or five basic elements of narrative writing include:

  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Characters
  • Conflict
  • Theme

We mentioned what plot and characters were above when discussing the characteristics of a narrative story. The setting is where the story takes place. Conflict is the fight or struggles the characters must go through and overcome (or not) in a narrative. Finally,  the theme is the central meaning of a story’s narrative. Every narrative story has these five elements to them.

What is an example of narrative writing?

An example of a narrative story can come in many different forms that we experience today. Since a narrative is just a form of storytelling, the means by which we receive stories come in all shapes and sizes.

The narrative form of writing and telling can come in personal essays, fairy tales, movies, jokes, books, short stories, and more. There is a big distinction between these forms, yet each one is a piece of narrative writing or a narrative story.

Recommended Resource: Creative Writing Story Steps

Using the templates in Creative Writing Story Steps, students will have access to brainstorming pages for 12 different writing genres.

Story Steps and Templates for 12 Writing Genres

Steps for Writing a Narrative Story

Teaching your students how to follow the basic steps in writing will not only help them with narrative writing, but all types of writing assignments too!

Do your research.

Understand what the assignment is. Consider the topic and start contemplating ideas of what point needs to be made.

Make the first draft.

Now take those ideas that you brainstormed and start jotting them down. Begin creating a storyline for the elements of the assignment.

Think of the structure and supporting information.

Establish a point of view and start gathering information to support the plot and point of view. Weed through all the details, keep what is pertinent, and leave out what doesn’t add value.

Complete your writing and put it together.

Once you have the idea of what you are writing for (the plot), you have made your draft, and have considered the structure and supporting information, it is time to put it all together for the final draft.

Proofread and edit.

Once the narrative is written and put together, it is time to dissect the raw narrative through proofreading and editing. Is the text coherent? Use a grammar check tool, but then go through the text yourself line by line. Even do this the next day, since a fresh eye will catch more than a tired one.

What are the types of narrative writing?

You might be surprised to learn that there are different types of narrative writing. There are linear narratives, nonlinear narratives, viewpoint narratives, and descriptive narratives. Let’s explore them!

Linear Narrative

A linear narrative follows a story’s sequence of events in chronological order. This is the way most books, movies, and pieces of media are usually formatted. One scene goes after another in a sequence.

Nonlinear Narrative

Unlike linear narratives, nonlinear narratives do not follow the chronological order timing of events. In this type of narrative, a writer can include events like memories, emotions, and perspectives that won’t usually fit into a timeline of events.

Viewpoint Narrative

A narrator’s perspective becomes the focus when writing a viewpoint narrative. Instead of events being the focal point of this type of narrative, a viewpoint narrative is designed to share the main character’s different points of view and personal experiences in a story. Therefore, the narrative is most likely subjective vice objective storytelling.

Descriptive Narrative

One can find the focus of how a story’s setting, character, and objects look and feel in a descriptive narrative.

In fact, the descriptive essay narrative is like a conversation between the writer and the reader. This type of writing includes vivid imagery, description of objects, and ideas written often through personification and similes.

How to Write a Narrative Essay

Writers use narrator style, chronological order, a point of view, and other strategies to tell a narrative story. In addition to these, a writer should ensure the narrative has a beginning middle, and end.

Students find themselves writing loads of essays before their secondary schooling is over. Whether students are reading a narrative story or writing one, there are some basics about how a narrative essay should be written.

Guidelines for Writing a Narrative Essay

These guidelines will help your students be successful in their narrative writing assignments.

Read instructions thoroughly.

Knowing fully what an assignment calls for is essential in getting the most out of what is expected from the narrative writing task. Take notes and point out what is expected to form the assignment before moving on.


Think and brainstorm for ideas about what the essay might be about. Explore possible locations, characters, and events you want to capture in the essay. Here is where you can ultimately decide what good narrative essay topic to choose.

Graphic organizers are an effective tool for brainstorming story elements. This tool is a great starting point for gathering ideas and capturing the story structure.

Think about how to capture the reader’s attention.

A great way to start a narrative essay is by thinking up a robust provoking statement or thesis statement that draws the reader’s attention. It begins to set the stage for a compelling story for the reader. 

Develop a starting sentence that makes the reader want to read more or start the essay off with a question that gets the reader thinking about a point of view on your topic.

Make an Outline.

Formatting an essay is important in how the essay reads. Think about how you would like to portray the beginning, middle, and end of the narrative story. Break up your outline into categories that include an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Within the body, there can be varying topics of discussion. From these discussion topics, supporting items can include points that need to be made, descriptive words and adjectives to use, information to support the ideas and topics, and characters to introduce.

Write the Conclusion.

Explore the different ways you can wrap up the ideas of the narrative story told. Think of how the narrative essay can be wrapped up. The moral of the narrative story or lessons learned can be placed here.

Narrative stories sometimes have cliffhangers or endings which make a reader think or question but nevertheless, the writer’s purpose is wrapped up here.

Why is narrative writing important?

Not all children will become writers or great storytellers. So, why do they need to learn how to tell stories through narratives? Narrative writing is important because it improves a student’s, specific skills in Language Arts and more below.

Narrative writing improves reading skills.

Narrative books are all around us, whether they be non-fiction books, chapter books, etc. When students learn about narrative stories they can understand how storytelling goes no matter in what format it comes in.

Narrative writing promotes creativity.

From the time a child is young, they are tasked to tell stories via dictation or drawing. Students begin to write the stories and use descriptive language and more details to build on their storytelling skills. From this time we are asking them to use narrative styles to create and use their imagination.

Narrative writing helps the understanding of literature.

Narrative styles of writing appear in other styles in writing and texts. When students are taught about narrative writing they are being prepared for reading more challenging literature in the future.

From folk tales told through generations to the movies we watch today, the narrative form of writing has been around since the beginning of civilizations.

In Summary

Narrative storytelling occurred long before humans could even write. Now, our students can write a story and document it for a lifetime. Teaching narratives is also teaching your children about the craft that has captured the histories of people and nations across the globe. Using these tips will help you teach your student all about narrative writing. Incorporating graphic organizers or writing templates for brainstorming can prove helpful. 

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