Difference Between Storyline And Narrative Essay

Nope... not synonyms.

I’ve been using the two terms ‘Story’ and ‘Narrative’ very frequently on this blog. As I look back, I realize that I may not have done a very good job defining them, or more importantly, the difference between the two.

The goal here is to explain these concepts and how they relate to each other to someone completely unfamiliar with literary theory.


A ‘story’ is, in simplest terms, a sequence of events. So when thinking of a story it is A then B then C then D, the set of relevant events in chronological order.

Let’s go spelling bee and use these two terms in somewhat defining sentences.

The story of Bob’s Monday begins when he wakes up in the morning. He brushes his teeth, gets dressed, gets in his car, drives to work, parks, sits at his desk, goes to lunch, flirts with his coworkers, goes back to his desk, does more work, drives home, eats dinner and then he goes to sleep at night.

Story is the entire sequence of events (though even that paragraph simplifies some).


Plot describes a set of events as they relate to each other. The term is concerned with how to sequence and select the events of a story as a structure for its telling and how that telling can find maximum effect.

The plot usually concerns itself with specific points of the story and the pattern of their relation. If we go with Freytag on this, plot breaks down a story into events dealing with exposition, the rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

The plot of Bob’s Monday begins when he wakes up in the morning. The most interesting part of the day is at lunch, when he flirts with his coworkers. The plot ends when he goes to sleep at night.


The concept of narrative deals more with how the events are told. Narrative is the ordering of events into a consumable format.

If you don’t mind using the previous words in this one’s definition, narrative is the method and means by which you construct the events of a story into a plot. It concerns itself with the sequence of the events, the medium on which they are told and the way these events are put together into one coherent unit. 

Narratives may involve a reordering of the events of a story. The story’s events can be set out of chronological order; be combined with elements from outside of the story to better tell the consumer what is going on; or to build dramatic effect. Sometimes a narrative may draw attention to things or events the story lacks, because the contrast is interesting.

The narrative comes from the events of the story in order to create a dramatic effect through the structure of the plot.

The narrative of Bob’s Monday: Bob wakes up in the morning, skipping breakfast so he can go straight to work. Though most of Bob’s day is boring, he enjoys lunch, when he frequently flirts with his coworkers. After work he goes straight home to get enough sleep to go to work the next day.

If you’ve been confused by how I use these different terms, hopefully this helps you better understand them. If not, please tell me down in the comments and I can elaborate further.

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This article was originally found at Writemyessay4Me, where students can get professional help with their writing assignments.

Essay writing requires that writers examine or sustain their ideas or observations with the aid of descriptions and arguments. Essays writing demand that the author present ideas with direction and clarity to develop the composition using unified theme. The major difference between personal compositions and narrative compositions is that personal essays ask the authors to elucidate what experiences have taught them concerning themselves. By contrast, narrative essays emphasize what experiences have taught the author about other people and the world.

Personal essays need such an operative question: “What my experiences have taught me concerning myself or my abilities?” While, for narrative compositions, it is: “What my experience have taught me regarding human behavior and the world?” Thus, authors of a personal composition typically adopt several approaches of narrative writing (for examples, dialogue, characters, and plot). However, personal composition usually vary from the other type of writing when it comes to writing objective, perspective, self-disclosure and descriptive elements, and structure.

  1. Writing Objective: Even though an author of a personal essay enjoys the freedom to express their opinions without the need to show their experience or thoughts objectively, they need to still somehow show to the readers the objective or aim of his essay. On the contrary, narrative writing in short stories or books is generally composed basically for entertainment usefulness while a personal composition has to convey an intention in combination with entertainment. PNs need to satisfy the subject matter of “now, so what?”
  2. Perspective: The viewpoint in most personal essays is normally first person pronoun or the use of “I” or “me.” On the other hand, narrative writings incorporate also not just the first person, but may also consist of second person and third person, or it may draw on a number of perspectives. By reason of the difference of points-of-view to select from, narrative composition expresses one or more of the character’s way of thinking.
  3. Self-Disclosure and Descriptive Elements: Just like narrative writing, making use of strong nouns and verbs in your own personal essay assists the readers sense the psychological effect of your composition. With real descriptions that include the five senses, it livens and engages the readers even more. PNs, nonetheless, commonly include an element of self-disclosure which is not invariably seen in narrative writing. PNs take advantage of narrative elements like sensory details. However, they should not concentrate entirely on storytelling or description. This ensures that the readers do not lose attention such as why the author created the essay, or regarding the writer’s point of view on the unfolding of events as laid out in the essay.
  4. Structure: The representative format of most PNs follow an intro, and then a story along with an ending. This type of essay responds to the subject laid out in the intro or that sustains the writer’s opening opinion or statement. Contrariwise, NC (such as in short stories and books) is often non-linear, which means that the writer begins the storyline not at the start but down the middle of the process and usually fills the opening parts afterwards with the aid of flashbacks along with additional literary devices.

Essentially, personal compositions focus more on the writer’s opinion and actions in relation to himself while narrative compositions concentrate on the author’s thoughts and actions especially of other individuals. However, personal essay and narrative essay may something overlap in the use of perspective, self-disclosure and descriptive elements, writing objective, and structure.

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Written by Kristin

This essay was presented by one of the Kristin Taavola's students. A couple of years ago, being a scholar of the Cornell's Arts and Sciences and junior board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, I've asked her to write me a personal statement for my next college admission to the University of Colorado.

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