Writing Tutorials: Personal Narratives and Essays, How to Write a Story
What is a personal narrative?
A personal narrative typically elaborates on an experience that changed you.
What is the purpose of a personal narrative? You are sharing your experiences with interested readers. A reader might learn from your experience or empathize due to similar circumstances.
A personal narrative tells a story from your point of view. Perhaps it was a memorable experience, a challenge defeated or an impressive accomplishment. A personal narrative should illustrate the journey as well as the physical and/or emotional change it created.
All writers have a particular writing style. I for one am a freestyle writer. I choose a topic and let my fingers flow. After I am done it is time to tailor with editing and revising techniques. I literally brow beat myself with constant tweaking. It's madness! Traditionally, my freestyle model would obviously be considered incorrect and is not a textbook model. There is actually a structure and model that is to be followed for any skill. However, free writing is the best way to get started when developing a personal narrative.
Let's look at the model for writing a personal narrative and apply whatever suits your personal writing style. Remember, in the end you are the one writing, editing and publishing. As you develop your portfolio you will find what works for you. The main thing is to not get your genres crossed and leave your readers confused or doubtful of your skills.
Creative Writing Prompts for Kids and Teenagers: Resources for Elementary, Middle and High School Teachers
This hub provides a variety of writing prompts for kids, teens and adults. Prompts can inspire creative writing, a personal narrative or even a poem.
Prewriting: Writing Prompts for Personal Narratives
First you have to CHOOSE a topic. What event in your life is worth retelling? You need to have enough information to be able to create a well-balanced narrative. If you are stuck on developing a topic you'll need to apply a few brainstorming techniques. Things to ponder...
What has been my greatest accomplishment?
What has been the most destructive error I made?
What is an event in my life that my acquaintances would be surprised to know?
When did I feel truly betrayed?
What event in my childhood has created the greatest impact in my adult life?
When choosing a topic think of the standard PLOT model. And choose a topic that can provide value to each stage of Plot -
- Rising action
- Falling action
If you look at your personal narrative as a short story with a plot it will help you choose a topic with depth and a natural storyline. Your storyline. Think of the elders in your family that are great storytellers. They are great at sharing descriptive events in their respective lives. They carry you through the story with imagery and sensory details. You'll want to be THAT person, but in print.
Free-writing your personal narrative
Yes, you read right - FREE-WRITING. This is YOUR story and you already know the events. Take about five minutes and write non-stop about your event. Tell your story through your words without thinking of conventions. The goal here is to develop your chronological order, jiggle your memory and to prompt your story-line.
After you finish your free-writing draft you'll want to number your key events. Just start at the beginning and place a 1 at the first event and work your way down. After you are done numbering you will want to do a second read through and underline the main idea of each event.
Including Tone and Voice in your pre-writing
Number a paper in list form from one to your last numbered event.
Tone & Mood - Read the numbered events from your free-writing draft. On your blank list write one or two words that describe your mood or attitude during that particular event. Example; I was sad or confused. I was angry or bewildered. Work your way down the list.
Sensory Details - Think of your five senses - sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Work your way down your list and try to add a sensory detail for each event. For example; The house smelled of cinnamon as Grandmother prepared an apple pie for the reunion. These events and sensory details may seem unnecessary to some, but sensory details will provide depth and imagery for your readers.
Descriptive and Figurative Language - Be creative! Descriptive and figurative language will add depth and imagery.
Need resources on how to be descriptive? If you have not read the previous tutorials you might want to look at Describing a Character or Describing Setting. I offer a guide of what to consider when developing descriptive language. I also include a variety of examples. Again, just because your narrative is non-fiction it doesn't mean it can't include imagery through descriptive language.
Take a look at your free writing and at your list and begin writing and organizing your personal narrative. Keep chronological order in mind and be vigilant of providing an evocative personal narrative for your reader. Apply your tone and mood words where relevant and lace in a few sensory details. I like to tell my students. Not only do I want to read your narrative I want to see it.
Editing and Revising your personal narrative
The standard model for evaluating your narratives should include the following five traits
- Focus and Coherence
- Development and Progression of Ideas
- Tone & Voice
Analysis of your writing
As I have said before, if you are writing a personal narrative you need to help your reader connect with your life and experiences through your descriptive writing style.
Let's use the five-trait model as I guide you through things to consider,
• Focus and Coherence - Is the main idea clear and supported with text and supporting details? Did you apply effective use of sensory details, characterization and setting?
• Organization - Is the order of your text logical? Can the reader follow your flashbacks, foreshadowing and events?
• Progression of Ideas - Are your literary devices helpful or hindering? Does the reader understand the changes you experienced?
• Voice & Tone - Is your tone appropriate? Does the reader understand your perspective?
• Conventions - Do you have any grammatical errors, formatting issues or spelling mistakes? Are pronouns used excessively? Are verbs used in the appropriate tense?
All MissOlive hubs are authored by, marisa hammond olivares - copyright 2011
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