Systems and methods are provided for processing a response to essay prompts that request a narrative response. A data structure associated with a narrative essay is accessed. The essay is analyzed to generate an organization subscore, where the organization subscore is generated using a graph metric by identifying content words in each sentence of the essay and populating a data structure with links between related content words in neighboring sentences, wherein the organization subscore is determined based on the links. The essay is analyzed to generate a development subscore, where the development subscore is generated using a transition metric by accessing a transition cue data store and identifying transition words in the essay, wherein the development subscore is based on a number of words in the essay that match words in the transition cue data store. A narrative quality metric is determined based on the organization subscore and the development subscore.