True Narrative Essay


A true narrative essay, remember is a story, based on actual events.  You are required to compose a true narrative essay about an incident that you experienced or observed.  The form of the true narrative is undefined; the purpose in telling the story is to express a point or observation.  You are responsible for developing one or more of the nonfiction terms that appeared on the recent exam (analogy, satire, hyperbole, metaphor, rhetoric, foreshadow) in your composition.  Ideally the inclusion of the developed terms will be natural rather than appear awkwardly like a nose on a duck.  The nebulous nature of the narrative form may be imposing to those of you who require order, thus I thought the explanation provided by a colleague to her class might enlighten you further.  Your essay must be computer printed, display the MLA standards for compositions and is due on DAY 7 of the syllabus.


The True Narrative Essay – Essay Writing

The typical prompt or assignment for the narrative essay will ask you to describe an event that affected or changed your life. In other words, in the narrative essay prompt, you are being asked to tell a story. Because of the basic structure of this assignment, students are often fooled into thinking that the stories that take place in a narrative essay have to be true, which often becomes a source of anxiety. “How can I write about myself in a way that will interest my professor?” you might find yourself asking. “After all, nothing interesting has happened to me. And even if something interesting has happened to me, I’m not sure I want my prof. to know about it.”

The best way to address this concern and start writing a narrative essay is to forget about telling “the truth” or “the facts” of a story unless you already think those truths and facts are interesting. Along with telling a story, after all, you’re also being asked in the narrative essay to write vivid descriptions of persons and events. What if you don’t remember what one of your characters was wearing or looked like or smelled like on that fateful day when you decided to skip school, run away from home or sneak out of the house to meet up with a coterie of friends on an unforgettable evening; embellishment becomes a necessary disguise of the truth.   You are, after all, telling a story, and stories – even autobiographical ones – are embellished with made up details, characters, and events all the time.

Usually, by the time you reach the point in class where you’re asked to write a narrative essay you will have already been exposed to at least one well-known narrative essay writer, such as Amy Tan or James Thurber. There are numerous others, but the important thing to keep in mind about all of them is that they are not necessarily writing the truth, at least not the objective truth. The reason these writers are taught in literature classes is that they have vivid imaginations, which is just another way of saying that they are good at making things up. They usually have a purpose as well – whether to defend nature (in the case of Henry David Thoreau) or to paint a sympathetic picture of first and second-generation Asian American immigrant experience (as in the case of Amy Tan) – and this purpose is often the very point of the narrative essay. The purpose (or thesis) of the narrative essay, then, should be your first concern.

Once you know the point you want to prove, you just need to provide supporting details, whether real or imaginary, that make that point stand out. If these details are believable and related to your narrative essay’s purpose, it simply doesn’t matter whether they actually happened. English class isn’t a court of law, after all, it’s a chance for you to extend your command of the English language. As long as that’s happening, you can feel secure in almost any story you decide to write.

The following compositions are examples of a true narrative essay.  You can also view the essays on the assigned essays link which include several true narrative essays among which are James Thurber’s The Scotty Who Knew Too Much and Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

A Happy Day Turned Bad

  It was a beautiful day.  The sun cast it’s radiant rays upon a little small village in China.  Little dust of ivory clouds navigated itself around the sky.  On that day a naive girl of four years-old sat in her concise house of only one room., no bigger than a mini garage.  An average size twin bed faced the wall, a bed that three people shared every night.  A cheap old fashioned stove adjacent to the bed, and a cabinet where three utensils, three plates, and three pairs of clothes lay.  I sat on the cold stone floor wearing my pink little summer dress while playing with my rusty train set.  All days were the same for me.  My parents both worked from when the sun rose to when the sun set, only coming home to make dinner.  Life for me was quite lonely.  I ran free through the village like a wild child, for no one cared.  I became independent the day I could walk.

As I sat there, playing, the door suddenly banged open. My mom stood there anxiously with fear in her chocolaty eyes.   I knew something tragic had occurred for she never came home early.  She grabbed my forearms and pulled me up with a jolt and snatched a plastic bag from the corner and stuffed what little clothes and toys I had in it.  My own brown eyes were filled with tears, but I didn’t let them fall.  She dragged me along as she moved and on her way out, she shut the door with a thunderous bang.  Who would have thought that that was the last day I would ever see that little one room garage house again.

As we moved along the unfamiliar dusty streets, I was quiet as a four year-old could be.  Unasked questions swirled in my head.  What’s happening?  What was happening?  Where am I going?  Why is my mom so upset?  Where is my dad?

We got on a crowded blue bus.  There was the terrible smell of cigarette, body odor, and car gas.  I clung to my mother’s pant leg for I didn’t want to be separated from her.  I buried my face into her pant leg, not wanting to draw attentions to myself.  My mom never looked at me through this whole trip.  The bus flew through towns and towns, making the outside world a blur.  Eventually we sat down. I curled myself around her, sucking my thumb.  I must have fallen asleep for the next thing I was a town not quite so dusty and poor looking.

We got off the bus and got on a motorcycle.  I hung on for dear life as we zoomed across town to town.  We got off and got on a taxi. Our last transportation vehicle before my mom reached her destination.  I had never been out of my village before.  This was my first time. Finally we ended up at a park.  She picked me up and carried me to a wooden bench.  The trees swayed back and forth as if the wind might knock its life out of them.  Casting black silhouettes that clung to the enormous buildings.

“Stay here and wait for me.  I will be right back. I’m only going to go see a friend,” said my mom in Chinese, and with that, she left after dropping the bag of my things on the ground next to me.  Not a goodbye.  Not a hug.  Never even a last glimpse at the little girl she gave birth to four years ago.  I watched her go.  When she disappeared, I sat on the bench with my little head bent down, counting the tiles,


I watched the people pass me by. Hoping soon, one of the faces would be my mom.  I waited, and waited, but she never came back. My hands started to sweat.  I felt shivers running down my spine.  I wanted to get up and go look for her, but I didn’t because I thought she would be back.  She was just late.  If I left, she would never be able to find me in this vast place.  I knew she was going to come back for me. Right?

Finally, it was night.  I wasn’t so sure anymore.  I got scared.  I cried silent tears. I was alone in this vast world.  Without a mother, or a father.  Just alone.

A stranger walking by with her family saw me and persuaded me to go back home with her. I did and while I was there, she called the police and the police came and brought me to the police station.  For three days the police searched for my mom but they never found her for they did not know my name.  I must have been a nameless child for I didn’t even know my name.  I didn’t talk for two weeks. Four days later, the police bought me to an orphanage in Guangzhou, China.  By then, I believed my biological family had abandoned me.  I was an orphan now.  The orphanage gave all they had for me to feel the gift of a family, but I didn’t in the first couple of years.  I remained timid and to myself for a month but eventually, I warmed up to them.  They searched for a family they knew could offer me something more that they couldn’t, but no family wanted me.

Four years later, they had found an American family that wanted me.  This family gave me a name; Alana.  Maybe I don’t know why my biological family gave me away, but I do know that some where in their heart, they wonder the same thing. I realized by then that even though I had lost my first family, another family was waiting. Everything occurred for a reason.

Where I’m From
I am from a new beginning,
From dictatorial China and free America,
I am from fragile cherry blossoms,
Rosy pink petals gliding on the breeze,
I am from the swing in the backyard,
Surrounded by luxurious grass,
Grown green with joyful times.

I am from Chinese noodles and Cinderella’s castle,
From complete terror of the dark
to the soft sweet sound of my mother’s voice.
I’m from storytellers
Bursting with magical and terrifying tales
Of enchantment,
Fairies, and ghostly monsters.

I’m from saying tearful goodbyes at the orphanage
To saying hello to a new family.
I’m from Alma and Pierre,
From knitting colorful sweaters
To saving lives.
I’m from ” Christmas Vacation” and 12 birthday parties,
From frigid snowball fights and the piano notes of Fur Elise.
I’m from dusty streets with thunderous noise where
My mother left me to be reborn,
And from Santa’s North Pole,
Over which i had to cross
To get the gift of a new family.

In my mother’s office
Is a folder which holds
The first pages of the book of my life.
In my dreams, memories waltz back to me.
Yesterday intertwines with today,
Making my two family trees

The Gift

“It’s snowing Daddy, it’s snowing!”

“I told you we’d have a white Christmas Son,” the father explained as he made his third circulation through the packed parking lot alerted to any red tail lights that promised a desired parking space.  Ahead an elderly woman loaded her packages into her car.  The father waited impatiently surveying, in his rear-view mirror, the growing line of vehicles with their drivers.  Had he not been programed by a senseless authority that placed duty ahead of consideration the father might have wondered if any of the awaiting motorists too had their spirit singed by the flame of expectation, but he was oblivious to that consideration as well.  Although the woman only took a few moments to close the trunk, amble to the driver’s seat and situate herself in the Buick before starting the engine and cautiously backing out of her enviable parking space, the father could not ignore the echoing agitation from the intruding stranger within him who silently cursed the elderly woman for her delay.  When had Christmas changed; when had the bitter transformation occurred that altered  the sweet palate of his youth?


When the father was young, growing up in the same area, holidays were great celebrations where the consumption of seemingly endless trays of food and the visits with family were orchestrated under the guiding hand of prayer.  Christmas, naturally, was the height of excitement.  The father came from a large family, everyone it seemed did, with four older brothers and a younger sister.  Christmas morning always resembled a mismanaged zoo where all the animals are let out of their cages at once.  The opening of gifts accentuated the portrait of chaotic festivity.  An amazing union of order and calamity was forged  much like a bellowing wind choosing fire as a dance partner and he recalled that the movement was amazingly lithe according to an imaginary baton that ebbed and flowed conducting the song of the family.


As the father parked the car he paused, recalling that while he often envied his older brothers and the gifts that they received on those long ago holidays, he was aware, for the first time, that he was always happy for them.  He now desperately desired to bestow upon his child the same charm that marked his youth.

From their individual automobiles the shoppers preceded like fallen leaves in streams that eventually converge into a river whose supreme current determines the journey of its willing, yet helpless travelers.   The store in its magnificent holiday attire engulfed father and son along with the countless other shoppers.  The father held his son’s small hand, smiling at his child as the youngster’s splendid chocolate eyes were captivated by the expertly arranged displays adorned with New England holiday themes.  The son regarded a gigantic moose head whose colossal antlers spread far beyond the width of any man’s shoulders, mounted on the wall ahead of them.  He redirected, as best he could, his father’s course fearful of walking beneath the creature, sensing that if the animal could, he would trample any child who crossed his domain.

As they climbed the stairs the son and father spotted other stuffed wildlife:  a black bear searching for food, a brilliantly marked pheasant, a bobcat ready-to-pounce from an en-cove, and a fisher whose razor teeth appeared, to the boy, to be knowingly grinning at him.  “What’s that animal Daddy?” the boy questioned squeezing his father’s hand.

“That’s a fisher son.  They are quite vicious.”

“Mrs. Tomkins said that Noah’s cat was eaten by a fisher.  Is that true Daddy?”

The father hesitated in order to conceal his disapproval of Betsy Tomkin’s indiscretion,”Could be, but we don’t have to worry about them where we live.”

“Because they won’t get Smoky, right Daddy?”

“That’s right Son, Smoky is safe and sound.”

Father and son reached the children’s section where a swarm of parents had assembled.  Despite the relentless effort by the courteous staff decked in forest green company shirts, the trail that these shoppers left behind resembled a path worn by a migrating herd of bison.   Sweaters were flung aside without consideration, books were discarded as one publication laid desecrated on the floor by an unassuming woman who peered over her bifocals scanning the picture books on the upper-most shelf.  Her damp designer boots ruined the cover of Robert McCloskey’s classic Make Way for Ducklings  insensibly underfoot.

The father scanned the mayhem spying the area where the winter coats were displayed and forcibly led his son by the hand as the air, a cauldron of ill-mannered desire, boiled above infecting the shoppers like a toxic potpourri.   The son’s anticipation, by now, had been conquered by an obstinate tide that grew deeper with the realization that despite the immensity of this empire of products there was little to interest a four year old hoping to find mutant action figures, Star Wars Legos, or a remote control jeep to satisfy his anticipation.  The father instantly read the disappointment on his son’s face and glared disapprovingly into the boy’s dark eyes, another ill-tempered ingredient added to the stewing cauldron.

For an instant the father took his attention from his son to check his list for the size of the jacket that swayed his attention.  Naturally the desired common size was out-of-stock and the rising flame of frustration continued to expand.  The taunting  chorus played in his head with increasing urgency,  Find the boy the gift, find the boy the gift, find the boy–

Instinctively the father returned his awareness to the child.  Instead of seeing the disappointed boy, he was staring at woolen leggings adorned with holiday ornaments.  His eyes ran up to the countenance of the woman who was outfitted in the stockings while she greeted his delirious gaze with a forced smile.  He looked beyond the perplexed woman only to spot another mother and child.  Commanded by a reflex, the father  knelt to  gain the vantage point of his son, overwhelmed with what he saw–shelves stuffed with clothing and slow heavy overcoats meandering to some imaginary waltz as their inhabitants laconically gazed at the merchandise with their dangling tags.  The father searched around the surrounding cubicles hoping that his son was playing a sinister game of hide-and-seek.  When his attention returned to his previous location only a few feet away, the woman looked at him discerningly as the father’s face bared an anguish expression recognizable only by another parent who is so tortured.

A maddening reflex commanded the father to recall the recent heinous details of an unspeakable crime in Dorchester, Massachusetts where a young boy had been kidnapped, molested and killed by two malefactors who drove to Maine to dump his broken body in the Piscataqua River.  The father naturally attempted to extinguish the inferno of misery raising within by affirming the knowledge that his son had simply strayed off a short distance, distracted by one of the decorative displays , but the distressed father’s faith was breaking up like a winter’s icepack scalded by the  heightening flames of desperation.

The father, failed in his attempt to conceal his anxiety from the woman, “If my son returns–he’s four years old and has blond hair with brown eyes, he’s wearing a navy blue parka with a green and red knitted hat–keep him here and I’ll be quick to return,” before the startled woman could acknowledge the frantic command the father took off sprinting to the main entrance determined to reach the security desk before anyone could leave with his child!

The father could not avoid bumping shoulders with an elderly man who had stepped back into the walk-way to regard a half-torso manikin sporting a charcoal cashmere sweater.  While the jostled man awaited for an apology, the father darted on in the direction of the expansive staircase.  He reached the stairs pausing momentarily to survey the procession of shoppers headed in the direction of the entrance.  He skipped stairs in his stride and in a blur he landed on the polished granite floor and headed to the security desk.  The father’s frantic pursuit suddenly halted.

The compass of a parent’s love directed the father’s attention to the trout pond, a man-made attraction that wrapped around the staircase.  His son sat on a large flat stone staring into the tranquil water, mesmerized by the cautious movement of a fish whose speckled markings precisely applied by the patient brush of evolution had stolen his sense of judgement while polishing the jewel of innocence.  From the agonized abyss of his soul the father sighed and in the flickering realm of consideration his despair was extinguished.  He prepared to ascend upon his unsuspecting son to reveal a measured part of the torment that the child’s disobedience had stirred.  The laughter of his own childhood restrained him and as he studied his son’s visage he was thankful, “Oh God, oh dear, dear God.”

The boy’s curiosity was a portrait of beauty, his remoteness and wonder affirmed, for the father, all in life that is divine.  The child’s worries were foreign to him as incomprehensible as the innumerable planets that occupy the universe.  In that moment he envied his son while he loved him even more.

The son’s fascination could not remain impervious to the responsibility that besieged his lovely freedom.  His father, the captivated spectator, witnessed the boy’s discomfort by an agitated tic of awareness.  The son was no longer secured in his cloak of serenity; he instinctively raised his bowed head alerted by an instinctive alarm.  His instantly moist eyes withheld a sheet of tears while he searched the parameter of the pond until his own growing anguish sprouted from his desperate inspection was spared.  He met his father’s stare with a syrupy shame that dripped over his naked innocence.  The father, however, had found the gift.  He smiled at his child as he walked to the stone and sat admiring the pond as he would have years before.  He held his son perhaps forever in that hour and they were content to follow the movement of the trout as the oblivious band of shoppers hurried about them.