Let us first define what a narrative essay is and how it is different from other types of essays.
There are four major types of essays: a descriptive essay (painting a picture), an expository essay (focus on facts), a persuasive essay (convincing the reader), and a narrative essay (story-telling).
A narrative essay is a type of essay that focuses on telling someone’s real-life story. In most cases they are written in the first person, so the story is about the author himself/herself. A narrative essay is about personal experiences and by nature, it needs to be vivid and engaging. Description of the author’s feelings and emotions is always a part of this narrative. The goal that the author should be after is to make the reader a part of a story, to involve and inspire.
Now, what is a thesis statement in a narrative essay? It is the headline of your story. You may call it a title, a preface, or the like, but the key point is that by stating your thesis you let your reader know what to expect when reading further, what it is going to be about. A good statement is crucially important for a narrative essay as all the other types of essays are more concrete and fact-based (explicitly descriptive). A story will be much easier to follow if a reader can correlate it with something already familiar to him/her. This is rooted in how our brains work, as we all learn by memorizing multiple patterns in our lives, from simple (like letters and numbers) to more complex (like certain ideas, concepts, sense of humor, irony, sarcasm in various situations, etc.).
Let us illustrate this by example. Your essay’s thesis statement can be: “When I was in Spain on vacation, this is what happened to me”, or “I saw something very strange the other day when I was star gazing late at night”, “The way people behave under stress is very wired, like once my friend happened to be attached by a dog”. And after that, your story goes and whoever is listening to it knows how to react, whether to be afraid or to laugh. Your reader can then reflect on the story as it fits certain patterns (examples) from his/her personal life experience.
Formulating the right thesis statement is similar to crafting your entire essay from a methodological point of view. Here are some further tips on how to approach the thesis statement:
- Begin by brainstorming your ideas, find the best topic: both for you and your reader (it must be important for both, something personal and touching). Search your memory for an event that was truly significant and meaningful for you or someone close to you. Browse your photos, your social media archives, etc., use modern communications as your assistant.
- Try to recall all the subtle details about that event or experience. Neuroscientists advise using all of our senses, like trying to recall what we saw, what we smelled or heard, what did we feel at that very moment when the vent occurred? Apart from triggering other hidden memories of the event in our brain, such a technique can make our essay more colorful and interesting.
- Draft a rough idea or an outline of your thesis statement. It might be too short at first, or too long, but that’s OK as a starting point.
- Refine your thesis statement. Check the language and grammar, remove any repetitive words or expressions.