|Avoid deeply personal or traumatic experiences, no matter how strong the pull to write about them. If you have experiences that are still emotionally strong, consider keeping a journal or other form of private writing to help you process and understand them more fully.
Avoid travelogues or stringing together multiple experiences or events. All our experiences are linked and woven together in many ways. This makes it challenging to single out a primary event for focus. Nevertheless, as a writer, you will need to sort through the fabric that connects your focus event so that the reader is allowed to stay focused on the main event.
Use descriptive writing strategies. Effective narratives come to life through concrete, sensory details. Don’t TELL the reader about your experience, SHOW the experience by putting the reader into the event with sensory details. Free-writing will be a useful pre-writing strategy to help you identify and uncover fresh and relevant sensory details.
Use pre-writing to recreate and re-experience the event. Write through it as completely as possible. Even though you will probably use the first person pronoun (“I”), try to imagine the experience as if you were observing it in your mind’s eye. This will help you re-see it and re-create it with sensory details for the reader who has never experienced the event.
Consider using dialogue and other “story” techniques so that the reader can have a greater sense of character. While you are not writing a short story or fiction, personal narrative is people (characters) doing things (plot). Try not to invent details, but as you write through the experience, think of it as a story.
As you work through your pre-writings and early drafts, be open to discovering your purpose or point for the story. Often if not most of the time, we have to complete a personal experience narrative in order to discover what meaning or point we want to make in relating our past experience. This is very normal, so take advantage of this process. Allow yourself to write freely through the experience in your initial writings. As you begin to shape the narrative you can determine your point. Once you discover what your purpose will be, you will have a guide for shaping and revising your personal narrative.
Your point or purpose in writing does not have to be a great moral lesson or Truth! Allow your focus and purpose to grow from what you learned from the experience, no matter how small or personal that understanding might be. Life is built in little steps and starts. Not all experiences lead to grand “ah ha” moments. Our best memories and moments usually result in quiet understandings.
Keep your focus narrow. The personal narrative essay will only be about 3-4 pages in length. Choose a small experience that you can relive in detail. Don’t go for the “big moment” that would require too much background and detail.
|Paper Comments||Protagonist – the character that a work of fiction revolves around.
Antagonist – the character that is in direct conflict with the protagonist.
Characterization – the way in which authors reveal information about the protagonist –
Point of view/narrative voice – who is telling the story.
First person narrative is when the protagonist and/or antagonist tell the story.
Nonparticipant narrator/third person narrative – when the story teller is not a part of the
Third-person limited omniscient narrator – has limited knowledge about characters but
does know the interior thoughts.
Third-person omniscient narrator – knows everything about characters lives—past,
present, future—and inner-thoughts and feelings, why characters have made and will
make certain choices.
Dramatic narrator – when a character reveals their inner-thoughts through extensive
Naïve narrator – usually inexperienced, immature, characters (children, women,
immigrants, sheltered individuals)
Unreliable narrator – a narrator who is shady, unscrupulous, known to have a criminal
Elements of storytelling
Plot – the chain of events in a story
Conflict – antagonist, counter-force, an opposing force contrary to the desires of the
Figures of speech—figurative language
Metaphor – to compare two unlike things, ideas, etc. without using “like” and/or “as”
Simile – to compare to unlike things, ideas, etc. using “like” and/or “as”
Tone – is how an author feels about the work of literature.
Mood – how a reader feels about a work of literature.
Flashback – a break from the chronological flow of events to reveal something essential
that happened in the past.
Irony – when the outcome is the opposite of what is expected
Sarcasm – to say one thing but mean the opposite
Satire – to purposely poke fun at an issue, in order to reveal its flaw
Symbol, symbolism – objects in literature that has more than a literal meaning
Thematic subjects – several topics which an author develops within a plot, and then
uses them as vehicles by which to convey a theme.
Theme – a message about life and/or human nature that an author attempts to convey
to an audience.
Avoid deeply personal or traumatic experiences, no matter how strong the pull to write about them. If you have experiences that are still emotionally strong
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