Personal Narrative Why write personal narratives?

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Personal Narrative

Why write personal narratives?

  • Money in scholarships
    • Most scholarship essays ask for a personal experience that connects to the organization that gives the scholarship or to an event that connects to a certain occupation
    • Practicing writing personal narratives allows you to hone those skills for your senior year which will then result in money for college

What is a personal narrative?

  • A personal narrative is a story about yourself and an event that happened in your past
  • Narrative=Story
  • It is the most creative essay and allows you more freedom than other academic essays.

Components of a story

  • Setting=Where the action in a story happens.
  • Thesis Statement=Basic idea or point of the story – what you learned, or how the event is significant to you.
  • Tone=Feeling or atmosphere the author creates for the story.
  • Characters =The people in the story
  • Plot=What happens in the story


  • Describe the background of the story (characters, setting, atmosphere)
  • Prepare the reader on what to expect in the story.
  • Folse (2004) believes that in introductions, you should have an “attention getter/hook” that will grab the reader’s attention, as well as a thesis that organizes the essay.

What is an “attention getter/hook”?

  • The first two or three lines in the introductory paragraph that grabs the readers’ attention.
  • Helps set the stage for the story.
  • Makes readers guess what will happen next in the story.

How to write a good “attention getter/hook”

  • Like a fish getting hooked by a fisherman, you need to “hook” your readers and make them want to read your essay.
  • If it’s a good hook, people would want to read your essay.
  • If it is not a good hook, then no one wants to read your essay.

Some suggestions…

  • Ask a rhetorical question. (How many of you spend hours downloading music to your iPod?)
  • Use an interesting observation (Because of the economy, President Obama is having problems
  • sleeping well these days.)
  • Create a unique scenario. (Traveling at more than
  • 300 km per hour, he traveled to another dimension.)
  • Use a famous quote (“To be or not to be; that is the question.”)
  • Use a statistic (If world temperatures continue to rise, Singapore will be under water by 2050.)

Attention Getters/Hooks-Connecting Information

  • After the attention getter/hook, the writer usually writes three to five sentences that connect it to the topic.
  • Example from Keith Folse:
  • Her daily routine was not glamorous. She did everything from sweeping the floors to cooking the meals. If someone had asked her, “Are there any household chores that you practically hate?”, she probably would have answered, “None.”


  • Write a sample hook for this paragraph:
  • At 16 I worked in the toy department of Sears Department Store, where I learned that I enjoyed helping people. I always went out of my way to help people because I learned that if I worked hard, I would succeed. This is the reason why I want to go to business school and work in business.


  • I had never been more anxious in my life. I had just spent the last three hours trying to get to the airport so that I could travel home.
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you think will happen next?


  • States the main idea of the essay (thesis statement).
  • In narrative essays, they introduce the action that begins in the first paragraph of the essay.


  • Now, as I watched the bus driver set my luggage on the airport, I realized that my frustration has only just begun.
  • I wanted my mother to watch me race down the steep hill, so I called out her name and then nudged my bike forward.
  • Because his pride wouldn’t allow him to apologize, Ken now had to fight the bully, and he was pretty sure that he wouldn’t win.


  • Contains most of the plot-the supporting information.
  • Can be organized in many different ways.
  • One way is chronological, or time, order (where you give more information about the story as it proceeds in time).

Transitional Sentences

  • Have two purposes
  • Signal the end of action in one paragraph
  • Link the next paragraph.
  • Gives your reader an ability to follow what happens and predicts what will happen next.

Concluding Paragraph

  • Can have two functions:
  • Analyze and reflect on the action of the story
  • What the character(s) learned from the experience.
  • Make a prediction about what will happen next based on what happened.


  • Moral: The little boy had finally learned that telling the truth was the most important thing to do.
  • Prediction/Revelation: I can only hope that one day I will be able to do the same for another traveler who is suffering through a terrible journey.

Example Narrative Essay

  • Have you ever had trouble trying to get to someplace very important? Where were you going? Why were you having problems?
  • What is a hero? What do you consider to be a heroic act?

Paragraph Unity

  • Each paragraph of an essay must have unity.
  • A paragraph must have one main idea/topic sentence.
  • Every sentence in the paragraph must be relevant to that main idea.

Paragraph Unity-Example

  • As you manage your time, think about how long certain activities will take. A common mistake is to underestimate the time needed to do something simple. For example, when you are planning to go to the store, there may be a line of people. Last week in line I met a woman I went to high school with, so we chatted. It turns out she has two children just the same age as mine.

Transitions: Connectors and Time Relationship Words

  • Show how events progress.
  • Chronological Order- first (second, third, etc.), next, finally, later, now, then
  • Prepositions- after (a moment), at (1pm), by (Thursday), during (class), until (6:00)
  • Time Words that begin clauses- after, as soon as, before, (two weeks) later, from then on, when, while, whenever, until


  • Using “The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant:
  • Find the elements of narratives for each one:
    • Plot Diagram
      • Does it have all parts?
    • Attention Getter/Hook
      • What type?
    • Thesis Statement
      • Where is it?
    • Transitions: Connectors/Time RelationshipWords
    • - Topic Sentences for each Paragraph
    • Concluding Paragraph
      • What the character(s) learned from the experience.
      • Prediction?

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