Writing an engaging personal narrative essay requires you to focus on both the key points of information to be conveyed as well as the many details which make the narrative essay interesting.
Writing an Impactful Personal Narrative Essay
A personal narrative essay is about a personal experience, so it is usually written in the first person. To maximize its impact, the essay should:
- Be written to have an emotional impact on the reader
- Include a lot of references to sensory perceptions and emotions
- Use vivid details and imagery
Structure of the Essay
- The opening of the essay needs to let the reader know the essence of what you will be describing and your point of view.
- The body of the story needs to give the reader a very clear idea of what happened and how you (the author) feel about that. The story can be told chronologically or the facts may be grouped by importance or type.
- The final paragraph needs to wrap up and state the point of the story, whether it is a lesson, an idea, or just a learning experience.
Writing the Essay
Writing a good narrative essay requires you to include interesting information in an engaging way. Here are some tips:
- Record yourself telling the story. That will help your organize your story and make the writing flow.
- Include anecdotes and dialogue in the essay.
- Use transitory words to connect sentences like: therefore, however, or for example.
- Vary the structure of your sentences to make the writing more interesting. Try adding some compound, complex, or interrogative sentences.
- Make the words lively, descriptive, exciting, active, emotional, and precise.
Example of Narrative Writing
Here is an example of writing used in a personal narrative essay. Notice the tone and words that set the mood. You can almost feel the heat and humidity.
“It was the middle of springtime and across from my house where the incident took place. There was a lake there in which my brother and I loved to explore from time to time. The humidity and water drops where reminiscent of a fully functional sauna. The onslaught of heat and burning glow of the sun was relentless.”
Types of Essays
An essay is a short piece of writing which is either analytical or speculative. Most essays are written from the author’s point of view.
The word “essay” began to be used in 1588 when Michel de Montaigne published a book called Essais and the word represents a short work written on a particular subject.
There are many kinds of essays, and following is a short explanation of a few of them.
Persuasive or Argumentative Essay
The persuasive or argumentative essay picks a certain viewpoint and offers support of it with data, statistics, and other evidence. Its purpose is to make the reader agree with the proofs and conclusions. In other words, the reader should share the viewpoint of the writer.
Persuasive essays need to have logical and clear reasoning supported by facts and arguments.
A comparison essay will compare two things and point out their similarities and differences. The writer needs to find as many similarities and differences as possible so he will need to do some research.
It does not matter in what order the facts are presented, as long as they are easy to understand by the reader.
Descriptive essays answer the questions: how, what, why, when, and where. They can be written about any subject; a place, person, animal, event, thing, or memory. The writer will share with the reader what he feels and perceives.
The tone should be sensory in nature so the reader can almost see, smell, taste, hear, and feel what the author experienced.
A narrative essay tells a story that has a point to be made. The reader may receive an idea or a lesson from the essay. The story is told using sensory details and emotional language.
A narrative essay usually reflects something of a personal nature so many times it becomes a personal narrative essay.
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Tips for Writing a Personal Narrative Essay
By YourDictionaryWriting an engaging personal narrative essay requires you to focus on both the key points of information to be conveyed as well as the many details which make the narrative essay interesting.
Journalists fear the "I" word, maybe even more than a libel suit. Writing about yourself is often difficult for reporters and editors whose work lives focus on others. But writing about yourself, honestly, even painfully, will make you a better reporter and editor: more empathetic, more skilled, better able to spot the universal truth in the individual story. Personal writing also generates enormous reader response. (And who knows, you might even be able to make some money!)
I. Finding Your Subject - How do I decide what to write about?
Writers in search of a subject might ask themselves these questions suggested by Boston Globe columnist and writing coach Don Murray:
- What are you thinking about when you're not thinking?
- What makes you mad?
- What makes you happy?
- What past events were turning points in your life that you'd like to understand?
- What do you know you should write about but have been afraid to?
II. Discovering Your Story: How do I get started?
As you think about topics and begin to write, consider these comments from two deft personal essayists:
"You can't write a personal column without going to some very deep place inside yourself, even if it's only for four hours. It's almost like psychotherapy, except you're doing it on your own. You have to pull something out of yourself and give away some important part of yourself...It's a gift you have to give to the reader, even if it's the most light-hearted piece in the world."
Jennifer Allen, The New York Times
"Feeling is at the basis of everything. When I was asked to consider becoming a full-time columnist, part of my hesitation was that I knew I could not pretend to be this dispassionate, all-knowing, authoritarian voice on high. I couldn't do that. That would be a lie....For me, it's like The Godfather. Everything is personal."
Donna Britt, The Washington Post
- Write every day.
Writing is a process of discovery. You will discover what you want to say and how to say it in just one way: by writing. "You don't know the story until you've written it," Murray says.
Begin, as Cynthia Gorney described the beginnings of her powerful pieces for The Washington Post, with babble. Surprise yourself, as she does, by discovering the story you want to write halfway down the page.
- Lower your standards.
Ignore the voice that says "This stinks" - The first step to producing copy
on deadline in time for revision that storytelling demands.
The first draft contains the promise of the final one.
"You write to discover what you want to say," Murray says. "You rewrite to discover what you have said and then rewrite to make it clear to other people."
- Don't give up
The Last Word
The personal essay assignment demands the critical thinking, communication, and collaborative skills required of today's journalist. This is not about therapy; it's about craft. Memoir, the writer Patricia Hampl says, is about exploration, not revelation. Like all good journalism, that requires solid reporting, critical thinking, careful editing, the skills we all hope to improve.