Writing a Personal Narrative

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A narrative is a story. In writing a narrative essay, you share with the reader some personal experience of your own in order to make a point or convey a message. You may choose to tell how your grandfather influenced your desire to become an orthodontist, or perhaps you’ll relate the story of the time you didn’t make the cut for the basketball team. Whatever story you tell, your purpose is to share with others some experience that has taught you something or changed you somehow.

Remember that narration is more than just description. Your essay should be descriptive, but it should also emphasize the significance of a particular event, object, or person.

There are several components of an effective narrative. The following are some things to keep in mind when writing your essay:

Focus Narrative effect is the main point of your story—the moral, the message, the insight you offer. Without a specific narrative effect, your essay is merely a series of unconnected events. If you are unsure what your main point is, you might ask yourself, “Why am I telling this story? Why should someone else be interested in reading about my experience?” In addition, you must decide whether to reveal your point explicitly (stated directly) or implicitly (suggested but not stated).

Development

Details add depth and color to your narrative. If your essay consists merely of dry facts, readers quickly grow uninterested. You can describe things through the methods of scene and summary. In the scene method, use very detailed, evocative description to immerse the reader in the situation or place you describe. Your goal is to make the scene come alive for the reader. Usually narratives are based on one or two key scenes. Reserve in-depth detail for these key scenes, and fill in the rest of the story using the method of summary (giving a brief synopsis of events).

Organization and Coherence

The narrative consists of three basic parts: The orientation, at the beginning of the essay, establishes the

setting, characters, and other essential elements of the story. The complication involves rising conflict

that leads up to the climax (the point of highest action in the story). Then, in the resolution, the conflict is

resolved and the narrative effect is revealed or suggested.

Your narrative also needs a time structure. You must decide whether chronological time or psychological

time best suits your story. In chronological time, events are described in the order in which they
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