Our mission at Narratively is to publish untold human stories that surprise, delight and captivate readers. The stories we publish are defined not by topic but by style: immersive, cinematic storytelling that takes readers inside another world, another life, through vivid scenes, colorful details, and compelling narrative arcs.
The best way to get a clear sense of what makes a Narratively story is to read several pieces on our site, particularly from our Greatest Hits section.
(NOTE: We've refined what types of stories we publish in recent years, so if you've submitted to, or even written for, Narratively in the past, we request that you read these full guidelines plus review some of the stories in the link above before submitting.)
There are a few key factors that every Narratively story has:
-It’s untold. The topic is original, fresh, and not already covered in other major publications, books or movies. Think offbeat, unusual, beyond the news cycle. It should make the majority of readers say, "Wow, I've never heard about this before."
-It’s human. Every Narratively story follows one central character or a small group of characters. We explore big ideas and topics, but always through the lens of human experience.
-It’s narrative. As you may have guessed from our name, we like stories with a narrative arc. That means that each Narratively story has a concrete beginning, middle and end that unfolds like a movie, taking the readers on a wild ride as they see, feel and hear the events through your writing.
We pay for all stories. In addition to publishing on Narratively.com, we also develop TV, film and podcast projects inspired by the stories that run on our site, generating additional creative and financial opportunities for contributors.
The first call we have below is for our 2023 Profile Prize, followed by two specific themes we're looking for pitches on. However, we're always looking for pitches outside those themes as well. To pitch a story not on one of these themes, scroll down to Reported Stories, Hidden History or First-Person Stories below.
Please note that we only publish narrative nonfiction. We don't publish fiction, poetry or opinion pieces.
We’ve all met or heard of someone who is truly exceptional. There’s something about their personality, backstory, profession or passion that tugs at us, as if daring us to learn more. If you know of a fascinating person or community whose story you’ve always wanted to tell, or even if you want to challenge yourself to go out and find that amazing story from scratch, you’ve come to the right place. From February 14, 2023 through April 14, 2023, Narratively is accepting entries for our 2023 Profile Prize. We’re seeking surprising and awe-inspiring stories about one-of-a-kind people or groups. The winning stories will receive cash prizes, prominent publication on Narratively and a lot more — including the chance to connect with our incredible lineup of enormously accomplished guest judges (who also happen to be among the Narratively team’s storytelling heroes! More on them below!).
Who is Narratively? We’re a storytelling platform and production company that supports indie journalists and storytellers and celebrates humanity through true, authentic and diverse character-driven content. We publish our original stories on Narratively.com and often with top publishing partners across the globe, and we adapt our favorites into TV, film and podcasts with leading partners from Amazon Studios to Peacock to Warner Bros. Television. We’re immensely proud and excited to do the same with our Profile Prize winners! (You can learn more about Narratively’s mission and business model here.)
Who’s judging my story? Entries will be judged on a rolling basis in four rounds: the first three by experienced Narratively readers and staff, and the final by our very generous guest judges. We are beyond excited to have three absolute rock stars of the literary world judging this year’s Prize:
- Gay Talese: A legendary profile writer for The New York Times, Esquire and many other top outlets, Gay Talese is a pioneer of the New Journalism literary movement and bestselling author of 14 books across his remarkable writing career.
- Lisa Lucas: A groundbreaking book publisher who is currently senior vice president and publisher at Pantheon and Schocken Books at Penguin Random House, Lisa Lucas formerly served as executive director of the National Book Foundation, publisher at Guernica and director of education at the Tribeca Film Institute.
- Rebecca Traister: The New York Times-bestselling author of All the Single Ladies and Good and Mad, Rebecca Traister is a National Magazine Award-winning profile writer and journalist who has contributed to The New Republic, Salon, The Nation, The New York Observer, The New York Times and The Washington Post. She is currently a writer-at-large for New York magazine and its website The Cut.
So, what do I win?! In addition to publishing your work on Narratively.com and including it in a special Narratively 2023 Profile Prize Digital Collection, we’ll award the top three writers the following cash prizes:
- Grand Prize: US$3,000
- Finalist: US$1,000
- Finalist: US$1,000
…but wait, there’s more! A large part of our mission is developing TV series, films and podcasts inspired by Narratively’s unique stories. This creates new pathways, both creatively and financially, for Narratively and our contributors, and enables us to provide a platform for your work. We’ll support our Grand Prize Winner and Finalists by working to adapt their stories into larger projects. Beyond this, our Grand Prize Winner will join Narratively for a series of three exclusive and collaborative video conversations, one with each of our guest judges, to discuss exciting ways to build on their story and how to take the next step in their writing career.
(Psst! Please keep scrolling for more Prize info, but if you’re not yet ready to enter, we’ve got you covered: sign up for our Prizes newsletter to receive helpful reminders about Prize deadlines, updates and announcements, and news about future Narratively Prizes on a variety of topics.)
What are we looking for, exactly? Narratively profiles tell the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We want each of these stories to be a riveting, in-depth look at a person or community that is doing something surprising, inspiring or groundbreaking. We’re also drawn to stories that offer a window into an unexplored world or way of life. Your story can profile just one person or a group of people, and it can be about anyone, whether they’re living, recently deceased or lived long ago. The important thing is that they have an incredible story and you’re offering a new perspective or angle on their life. Across everything we do, Narratively’s absolute focus is on spotlighting untold stories and supporting underrepresented voices, so we prefer profiles of people whose stories have not already been widely told elsewhere; but we’re open to profiles of well-known people if you’re sharing something new and unexpected about them. In short, think of the most interesting person or community you’ve ever heard of, and write about them!
Here are a few examples of Narratively profiles we love:
- Meet the Paranormal Moms Society
- Inspired by Black Lives Matter, This Masked Man Patrols Under the Cover of Darkness
- The First Family of Counterfeit Hunting
- The Man Who Got America High
- The Obsessive Life and Mysterious Death of the Fisherman Who Discovered The Loch Ness Monster
- America’s Most Flamboyant Private Eye and the 8,000-Mile Manhunt
- Revolución on the Cookie Factory Floor
- America’s Next Top Male Model Wears Size XXXXL
- The Deep South’s Dames of Dildos
- Meet Ladybeard, the Crown Prince of Japan’s Strangest Music Scene
So, how does this work? Our competition period opens at 9 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on February 14, 2023, and closes at 9 p.m. EDT on April 14, 2023. Enter your eligible piece by uploading your submission below and paying a US$20 entry fee within the prize submission period. We expect to announce our final decision on or around June 15, 2023.
Why do we charge a fee? Your entry fee will allow us to compensate the people who are helping us effectively and fairly evaluate every single Prize submission — from our freelance readers to our Prize editors, copyeditors, fact-checkers, visual editors and producers.
What should my entry look like? As with all Narratively stories, submissions should be composed of vivid, active scenes, unique characters and an engaging narrative arc. We have a few rules to follow, but encourage maximum creativity within these guidelines. The best way to get a sense of what we’re looking for is to read the stories on the list of examples we love above.
Your piece should be:
- Ready to publish — no pitches accepted
- In the 1,500-7,000-word range
- Original and previously unpublished as a written work
- Written in English, although translations are acceptable
You should be:
- Eighteen years of age or older on or before 9 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on April 14, 2023
- Not employed by, related to or sharing living quarters with Narratively staff or our guest judges
To answer your questions:
- We will accept simultaneous submissions (meaning you also can submit your entry to other outlets during our open Prize window), but writers must notify us if their piece is accepted elsewhere.
- We will accept multiple submissions from a single author, but each story must be submitted and paid for individually.
- We will permit adaptations from other media (podcasts, scripts, etc.) with disclosure.
- This competition is open to anyone, including past and current Narratively contributors. (Current and former Narratively editors, however, are ineligible.)
- The Grand Prize Winner and Finalists will be required to sign our standard Contributor Agreement, an overview of which can be found here.
- These are a few of the key points in our agreement:
- You retain print publication rights, should you pursue a book version of your story now or in the future.
- Narratively has the right to pursue TV and film projects based on the work. These projects could be either unscripted/documentary or fictional (inspired by your story).
- Revenue from any TV or film projects is shared with contributors.
- We publish Narratively Out Loud, which features read-aloud audio versions of all Narratively stories, so the contract also gives us the rights to produce those.
- Take a look at our FAQ page here.
For full Prize eligibility and rules, click here. Still have questions? Email us at email@example.com. Also, sign up for our Prizes newsletter to receive helpful reminders about deadlines, Prize updates and announcements, and news about future prizes on a variety of topics.
We can’t wait to be invited into your world. Best of luck!
Through wartime and peace, boom and bust, through every major event that shakes our world, television journalists are among the most influential people who shape how we view that world. And throughout the medium’s history, most of those people have been white. But not all of them. We’re looking for inspiring and dramatic stories that celebrate Black broadcast journalists who have broken down barriers and blazed their own trails, and we’re not shying away from the ugliness they confronted along the way, or continue to face today.
Whether at major networks; tiny, unexpected affiliates; or social media startups, we’re seeking articles that put the spotlight on Black journalists — anchors on screen or people behind the scenes — with fascinating stories to share. These stories can be first-person essays or reported articles; stories that are still unfolding today or retrospectives, though we are most interested in stories set in the 1980s or later.
The most important thing is that they profile a person or group of people doing something truly unexpected, and that they are filled with cinematic drama, tension and excitement, making the story feel like a Black-centric version of THE NEWSROOM or THE MORNING SHOW.
For our Super Subcultures collection, Narratively is looking for true crime pitches that center around underrepresented communities and expand to say something bigger about a lack of opportunity, equity or representation for these groups. With these stories, we’re aiming to show how crime in these communities can often be overlooked by official authorities, to the extent that people in the communities have to stand up for themselves. Think: An Eqyptian drag queen who uncovers a money-laundering scheme that stretches to the highest levels of government; a group of imams going up against a biker gang terrorizing their town; a nonbinary ketamine ring promoting gender abolition in the underground drug world; a teacher exposing human trafficking at a school for the blind; a Taiwanese grandma taking down a mafia boss.
As always, we’re looking for gripping stories full of drama and intrigue that grab readers, and we always want an impactful takeaway that shows us how the story has progressed and why it’s relevant right now.
Here are a few stories from Narratively and elsewhere that capture what we’re looking for:
- The Million-Dollar Scammer and His Many Mormon Marks: How an audacious con man with fake ties to the pinnacles of the church ran an epic scheme and swindled those who trust.
- The Delay: After an 11-year-old Navajo girl was kidnapped, her family and friends sprang into action to find her. Why did it take so long for law enforcement to join them?
- Jannie Duncan: “Beautiful Human” or Fugitive Killer? She was imprisoned for murdering her husband, then escaped and assumed a new identity. Her adoring friends and employers had no idea.
- The Counterfeit Queen of Soul: A strange and bittersweet ballad of kidnapping, stolen identity and unlikely stardom.
These can be first-person pieces about your own experience or reported stories.
Submissions and pitches for extraordinary reported stories. We want the incredible, the unusual, the unheard of. We want in-depth reporting on worlds that readers might not otherwise have access to, with strong central characters and active, dramatic scenes.
Most of our stories fit into one of our main verticals:
Renegades: Profiles of fearless rebels who are doing things their own way — and changing the world while they’re at it.
Super Subcultures: Meet the people who build their lives around weird and wonderful obsessions.
Secret Lives: Stories that lift the veil on surprising and secretive jobs, pursuits and lives.
For Hidden History stories, Narratively looks for larger-than-life characters who never made it into the history books, and deeply reported pieces that share their stories in full, vivid color.
The key to these pieces is that they haven’t been widely told elsewhere, and that you can uncover enough detail in your reporting to make your story just as vivid and active as the present-day stories that our reporters are watching in real time. Rather than encyclopedia entries that tell us about a person's accomplishments, we want narrative stories that show us the most incredible moments from their lives.
We are particularly interested in pieces about groundbreaking women, people of color, and anyone else whose incredible story has been unfairly obscured by history.
Some examples we love:
How Kenny Washington Broke the NFL’s Color Barrier…And Why You’ve Never Heard of Him
The Obsessive Life and Mysterious Death of the Fisherman Who Discovered The Loch Ness Monster
The Curious Case of the Socialite Who Sterilized Her Daughter
Narratively publishes first-person pieces in both our Memoir and Secret Lives sections.
Secret Lives stories spotlight surprising and secretive jobs, pursuits and activities. Memoir stories offer intimate takes on one-of-a-kind personal experiences. In both sections, we want an honest glimpse into your life, and through that, into a world we’d never have access to otherwise.
As with all Narratively stories, first-person submissions should be made up of compelling, vivid, active scenes. These scenes should be dramatic, exciting moments of you interacting with others. If most of your story is internal -- thinking, feeling, reflecting -- instead of moments where you are actively doing things and interacting with others, then it's not the right fit for us.
Some examples of first-person pieces we love:
My Childhood in an Apocalyptic Cult
I Was Taught to Hate My Lesbian Neighbors. They Took Me In Anyway.
My Secret Life Tracking Down Debtors