The following are decent examples of Narrative Essays, designed to help you think about the form more deeply. They aren’t “slam dunk” essays that guarantee an “A”. In fact, we’ve given you some perspective on how writing instructors would view these examples. Notice how the grammar doesn’t really play into the analysis of the examples; the writing is competent. It’s the ideas and choices that need work.

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  • My Unusual Vacation
    • The title is blatantly telling the reader to expect something new – which is a large reason for people enjoying reading. So, a good start assuming the author delivers. If the essay ended up being about a trip to the beach, the title would end up hurting the overall effect (and grade).
    • Notice the detail: place names, “the biggest river island in the world,” etc.
    • Some misses:
      • The author claims that Zaporizhzha is “very spiritual” but never digs into what this means, or why they felt this way.
      • The essay has little analysis and basically is a trip journal. Details can’t exist just for the sake of their own existence. How did the trip  change the author? Finishing with, “visit Ukraine!” is weak.
      • 11trees Grade: B/B+
  • Life-Long Best Friends
    • This essay is a great example of “my friend died and therefore you should give me an ‘A’.” We are obviously sympathetic to the author, but what do we learn from this essay? That they were upset their friend died. And that the author is religious. The author tried to do justice to their immense feelings, but ended up with cliches like, “The reality of the situation hit me like a thunderbolt.”
    • 11trees Grade: C+/C
  • Shooting an Elephant
    • This is a famous essay, often assigned in English classes (especially as an example of a Personal Narrative). It’s a bit unfair: Orwell is one of our greatest essayists and writers (1984Animal Farm), and the subject matter of this essay is hard to relate to for modern students. But let’s give the first paragraph or two a read…
    • Evocative detail:

“…but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress.” What? This is far more evocative and intriguing than “picnic on July 4.” Orwell doesn’t bother to define “betel juice,” but we get the gist of it through context. The next sentence relates Orwell being tripped, and the first sentence of the essay talks about how he is “hated.” Pretty clear, pretty evocative, and pretty interesting to most educated and interested readers.

  •  The title is immediately involving. It isn’t, “What I Did Over the Summer.” Rather than just tell the story, Orwell reflects and thinks about the larger meaning of the incident…all great lessons for anyone writing a Personal Narrative.
  • 11trees Grade: A/A+ (depending on audience…and the exact writing prompt. Could be lower!)