Sometimes the aim of the story-teller is simply to entertain, to how to do a narrative essay a moment of escape from the business of the day or the horrors of the night, but sometimes the aim of the story-teller is to instruct, to help others in their understanding of something. The skills needed to narrate a story well are not entirely the same as the skills needed to write a good essay.
Some wonderful short fiction writers are not particularly good essayists and vice versa. Still, it is useful to look at those elements that make up a good narrative and know how to apply what we learn toward making our essays as dramatic as possible whenever that is appropriate. Review, also, the elements of the Personal Essay, as the personal essay and the narrative essay have much in common. Descriptive Elements The ability to describe something convincingly will serve a writer well in any kind of essay situation. The most important thing to remember is that your job as writer is to show, not tell. If you say that the tree is beautiful, your readers are put on the defensive: “Wait a minute,” they think. We’ll be the judge of that!
Show us a beautiful tree and we’ll believe. Do not rely, then, on adjectives that attempt to characterize a thing’s attributes. Let nouns and verbs do the work of description for you. In the following paragraph, taken from George Orwell’s famous anti-imperialist essay, “Shooting an Elephant,” see how the act of shooting the elephant delivers immense emotional impact. What adjectives would you expect to find in a paragraph about an elephant? I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd.
In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. Do not forget that the business of the essay is to make a point. In his essay, Orwell succeeds in portraying the horrors of an imperialist state, showing how the relationship between the oppressed Burmese and the British oppressor is dehumanizing to both. When writing a narrative, it is easy to get caught up in the telling of the story and forget that, eventually, our reader is going to ask So What? Take note of the rich detailing of the forest, the caretaker, and the minister from the city and try to describe how the details lend themselves toward the purpose of the article. The driver steered his moped down the corrugated red mud road outside of the Nigerian town of Oshogbo, north of Lagos, with me bouncing along on the back seat.
In front of a wooden gate he wobbled to a halt. I got off, paid him, and entered. The Sacred Grove of Oshogbo was one place I had been looking forward to visiting in Nigeria. Christianity brought by European slavers and colonialists has taken root and pushed most of these religions out of mainstream life. As I passed through the gates I heard a squeaky voice. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae’d stubs of teeth.