The Personal Narrative (or Autobiographical Essay)
YOUR TASK: To choose a significant event from your life and write a narrative essay of approximately 500-1000 words.
The main purpose of this assignment is to give you an opportunity to write about a personal experience in order to get to know and understand yourself better. During the process, you will learn ways to articulate personal experience to inform and entertain others.
Narrative provides human interest, spark our curiosity, and draw us close to the storyteller. In addition, narratives can create a sense of shared history, linking people together. They can provide entertainment as most people enjoy a thrilling movie or an intriguing book. Narratives can also provide psychological healing; reading or listening to the narrative of someone who faced a life crisis similar to one you are experiencing can help you through the crisis, as well as also help the writer deal with the crisis. They can also provide insight -- narratives can help you discover values, explore options, and examine motives.
For this essay you will need to write about one specific experience that changed how you acted, thought, or felt. Use your experience as a springboard for reflection. Your purpose is not to merely tell an interesting story but to show your readers the importance and influence the experience has had on you.
Characteristics of a narrative:
∑ Narratives make a point
∑ Narratives convey action and details
∑ Narratives present a conflict and create tension
∑ Narratives sequence events
∑ Narratives use dialogue
∑ Narratives are told from a point of view
Your essay should include: thi
s paper, you will need to have the following:
- Characters: In the personal essay, your main character is yourself, so try to give your readers a sense of who you are through your voice, actions, level of awareness, and description. The characters in a good story are believable and interesting; they come alive for the readers.
- Voice: Language reveals who you are; choose your words to reflect your theme as well as yourself.
- Actions: Readers learn something about the kind of person you are through your actions.
- Dialogue: Show, donít tell. Include vivid and meaningful dialogue between you and other or with yourself! (No, youíre not crazy.)
- Insight: One of the best ways to reveal who you are is to show yourself becoming aware of something, gaining a new way of seeing the world, a new insight. While such awareness can occur for apparently unexplainable reasons, it most often happens when you encounter new ideas or have experiences that change you in some way.
- Telling Details: Describe yourself and other participants in your story in such a way that the details and facts help tell your story. A telling detail or fact is one that advances your characterization of someone without your having to render an obvious opinion.
- Setting: Experiences happen in some place at some time, and good essays describe these setting. To describe a believable physical setting, you need to re-create on paper the sights, sounds, smells, and physical sensations that allow readers to experience it for themselves. In addition to telling the details that support your plot and/or character development, try to include evocative details, colorful details of setting and characters. The telling details of a setting can reveal something essential about your essay without your explaining them. After all, you can let your reader to do a little work.
- Sequence of Events: In every narrative, events are ordered in some way. While you cannot alter the events that happened in your experience, as a writer, you need to decide which events to portray and in what order to present them. Remember, sequencing of events need not be chronological. Remember "Shame."
Assignment adapted from: http://www2.bc.edu/~poje/fws/essays/narrative.htm
Choosing a Subject: