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Writing a Personal Narrative

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1 Writing a Personal Narrative

2 Writing a Narrative There are a handful of elements that make up a narrative.Some of them must be included in order for the piece to be considered a narrative, while other elements may or may not be used. We’ll cover all of the possible elements in this overview, but you will only be required to incorporate certain ones in your own narrative assignment. IMPORTANT: We’ll be working on the required elements more in-depth over the next several weeks, so don’t worry. Think of the overview as an introduction so that you can begin to understand the “big picture—we’ll come back later and practice the pieces.)

3 Hatching Good Ideas Before we talk about the main elements of narrative, I want to stress the importance to letting your ideas have time to incubate. For that reason, I encourage you to read the narrative assignment carefully as soon as possible, so that you can begin to get your mind working on it, like having a pot of savory spaghetti sauce simmering on the back burner of the stove.

4 What Do I Think Is Important?
Creativity is key. But don’t worry if you think you aren’t creative. You are. I’m talking about using your own unique mind and incorporating your individual experiences and ideas. Using these elements that are completely “you” will make your piece creative. (And the longer your ideas get to simmer, the more savory your sauce.)

5 If you still don’t believe me . . .
Please go back and read the chapter I gave you by Brenda Ueland, “Everyone Is Talented, Creative and Has Something Important to Say.” Maybe seeing it in print, reading someone’s written, published words will make it seem more “official.” Read it again. Then believe it.

6 What is a narrative?

7 A narrative is essentially a story.

8 What can a narrative do?

9 A narrative can: Entertain us Help us understand your experience
Inform us Convince us

10 Like description, narration can:
Easily be combined with other rhetorical modes (methods of essay development). For example, a narrative can be your framework for writing a compare and contrast essay. Or you can insert a short narrative into a cause and effect essay, and this would be called an “anecdote.”

11 Narration is especially helpful:
For illustrating a point. It will include the descriptive details that will make it vivid for your reader, so it’s particularly convincing for arguing your point of view.

12 A narrative “shows” us. Rather than just “telling” us, a narrative shows us the story with a descriptive scene or a series of connected scenes.

13 A narrative usually includes:
The answers to questions of who, what, when, where, why and how (the journalist’s questions).

14 A narrative includes: Descriptive detail. This includes setting description, physical characteristics, clothing, sounds, smells, etc. (Remember, the more you include the other senses besides sight—sound, smell, taste and touch—the stronger, the more “alive” your description will be.)

15 A narrative often includes:
Conversation, or “dialogue.” Remember, the more natural you can make the spoken words sound, the better. Hint: Contractions help.

16 A narrative usually includes:
Action. Movement happens. Someone throws a frisbee to their dog, a train goes by or the sun comes out from behind the clouds.

17 A narrative often includes:
Inner thoughts or feelings. This is called “internal dialogue.”

18 A narrative often includes:
Background information. This is anything the reader needs to know in order to fully and easily understand your story. (Remember, you don’t want them to be trying to figure things out. You want them to have all the information they need so they can stay in your story and not be “bumped out” because something isn’t clear.)

19 A narrative often includes:
Direct commentary on the meaning and significance of your story. This is essentially your thesis. Sometimes a writer will “spell it out” for the reader by directly stating it, and sometimes the narrative itself will illustrate the thesis without the writer addressing it directly.

20 What does the writer gain?
Writing a narrative gives you a chance to explore an experience more fully, finding its depth, its richness, its meaning. It can be a vehicle for learning truths and for healing ourselves, as well.

21 A narrative is often presented:
In chronological order, or as the events took place in time. But you decide your starting point and the sequence that works best for your story. (And remember, you can always move sections around later. You might decide to start your narrative in the middle of your story, or even at the end.)

22 Do I need an introduction?
Formal introductions or conclusions are optional in a narrative. You decide what works best for your story. An introduction is often a good place to provide background information for your reader, and if you want to include commentary about the meaning of your story, the conclusion would be a likely spot.

23 Do I need to state my thesis?
Stating your purpose or your thesis in a narrative is also optional. The important part is that you know what they are and are able to state them clearly. A good rule of thumb is to write them out in full sentences so you can be certain you’ve thought them through completely.

24 Pick a story that matters to you.
Be sure to choose the topic of your narrative with care. This is a chance for you to explore, have fun, learn, heal a hurt or grow in some way. Take advantage of it.

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