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Humanities Libertexts

6.2: The Structure of a Narrative Essay

  • Page ID
    6257
  • Major narrative events are most often conveyed in chronological order, the order in which events unfold from first to last. Stories typically have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and these events are typically organized by time. Certain transitional words and phrases aid in keeping the reader oriented in the sequencing of a story. Some of these phrases are listed in Table 6.1.

    after/afterward as soon as at last before
    currently during eventually meanwhile
    next now since soon
    finally later still then
    until when/whenever while first, second,third

    The following are the other basic components of a narrative:

    • Plot. The events as they unfold in sequence.
    • Characters. The people who inhabit the story and move it forward. Typically, there are minor characters and main characters. The minor characters generally play supporting roles to the main character, or the protagonist.
    • Conflict. The primary problem or obstacle that unfolds in the plot that the protagonist must solve or overcome by the end of the narrative. The way in which the protagonist resolves the conflict of the plot results in the theme of the narrative.
    • Theme. The ultimate message the narrative is trying to express; it can be either explicit or implicit

    writing at work

    When interviewing candidates for jobs, employers often ask about conflicts or problems a potential employee has had to overcome. They are asking for a compelling personal narrative. To prepare for this question in a job interview, write out a scenario using the narrative mode structure. This will allow you to troubleshoot rough spots, as well as better understand your own personal history. Both processes will make your story better and your self-presentation better, too. 

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