Don't tell us that the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream



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Writing a Narrative Essay

"Don't tell us that the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."


-Samuel Clemens

Purpose of a Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is a story written about a personal experience.  Writing a narrative essay provides an opportunity to get to know and understand yourself better.  One of the best ways to reveal who you are is to write about how you became aware of something, gained a new way of seeing the world, a new insight. While such awareness can occur for apparently unexplainable reasons, it most often happens when you encounter new ideas or have experiences that change you in some way.  During the process of writing a narrative, you will learn ways to articulate personal experience to inform and entertain others. Narratives provide human interest, spark our curiosity, and draw us close to the storyteller. In addition, narratives can do the following:



  • Create a sense of shared history, linking people together.

  • Provide entertainment. Most people enjoy a thrilling movie or an intriguing book.

  • Provide psychological healing. Reading or listening to the narrative of someone who faced a life crisis similar to one you are experiencing can help you through the crisis. They can also help the writer deal with the crisis.

  • Provide insight. Narratives can help you discover values, explore options, and examine motives.

Characteristics of the Narrative

Narrative essays describe specific experiences that changed how you felt, thought, or acted.  The form of a narrative is similar to a story in that it describes how your character is feeling by "showing" through his/her actions, rather than by coming right out and "telling" your readers. However, a good narrative isn't just an entertaining story, but has a point to make, a purpose to convey.  In writing a narrative essay, your purpose is not to merely tell an interesting story but to show your readers the importance and influence the experience has had on you. This experience may be used as a springboard for reflection.

A Good Narrative:

  • Involves readers in the story.
    It is much more interesting to actually recreate an incident for readers than to simply tell about it


  • Relates events in sequence.
    The creation of specific scenes set at actual times and in actual places. Show, don't tell. Re-create an event by setting it in a specific time and space.

  • Includes detailed observations of people, places, and events.
    Do you recall sights, sounds, smells, tactile feelings, and tastes? Use actual or re-created dialogue? Give actual names of people and places.

  • Presents important changes, contrasts, or conflicts and creates tension.
    Do you grow from change? Is there a conflict between characters? Is there a contrast between the past and the present?

  • Is told from a point of view--usually the author's point of view.

  • Focuses on connection between past events, people, or places and the present.
    How relevant is the event today? How relevant will it be in your future?

  • Makes a point, communicates a main idea or dominant impression. (So What!)
    Your details, specific scenes, accounts of changes or conflicts, and connections between past and present should point to a single main idea or dominant impression for your paper as a whole. While not stating a flat "moral" of the story, the importance of your memory must be clear to your reader.

READ “1944: The Year I Learned to Love a German” by Mordecai Richler. COMPLETE the questions on the back of this sheet to help you to see how this essay is a model of a good narrative.

1944: The Year I Learned to Love a German” by Mordecai Richler is an example of a good narrative essay. Use these questions to help you see why.



  1. Involves readers in the story - What incident does Richler recreate in the essay?



  1. Makes a point, communicates a main idea or dominant impression (So What!) - What is the importance of this memory?



  1. Relates events in sequence - What is the setting of this narrative? (Time and Place)



  1. Includes detailed observations of people, places, and events - Find a place in the essay where Richler uses detail to engage the reader. Quote the line(s) and explain why you find it effective.



  1. Presents important changes, contrasts, or conflicts and creates tension- How does this experience change Richler?

- What attitude does Richler have toward his younger self?



  1. Focuses on connection between past events, people, or places and the present - Considering that Richler became one of Canada’s most prized novelists, why might he have picked this incident to write about if he was creating a Senior Memory Book?

SMB #3: Narrative Essay

For your third SMB assignment, you are being asked to write a narrative essay. Think about what you have already written about, and what chapters they will fit in. Choose a time in your life and/or an important event, person, or experience to write about that you have not already covered in one of your other assignments. When writing, focus on “showing not telling” – remember that a narrative tells a story.



Planning the Narrative Essay: Use the following chart to help you plan your narrative essay.

Involves readers in the story.
- What incident will you recreate for your readers?




SMB Chapter

- What chapter of your SMB does this fit?






Makes a point, communicates a main idea or dominant impression. (So What!)
- What is the importance of this memory?




Relates events in sequence.
- What is the setting of your narrative (story)? Be as specific as possible with time and place.




Includes detailed observations of people, places, and events.
Do you recall sights, sounds, smells, tactile feelings, and tastes? Use actual or re-created dialogue? Give actual names of people and places.

- What details do you plan on including in your narrative?






Presents important changes, contrasts, or conflicts and creates tension.
Do you grow from change? Is there a conflict between characters? Is there a contrast between the past and the present?

- How will you create this “tension”?






Focuses on connection between past events, people, or places and the present.
-
How relevant is the event today? How relevant will it be in your future?




Please read the rubric on the back of this sheet. Hand in a well-edited and revised polished copy of your essay along with this sheet. If you would like me to read your essay before you hand it in, come see me outside of class time.
(This rubric is based on the Writing Scoring Guide – A general purpose rubric for Academic English adapted from the N.S. exam)


Thought and Detail


  • Have you used clear details to recreate the incident for the reader?

  • Is the importance of the memory clear?(So What?)

  • Does your essay tell an engaging story that includes a setting, characters, and conflict?


10 Points

Organization


  • Is your essay focused and ordered?

  • Does it include the use of transitions and logical paragraphing?

  • Do you have an effective beginning (hook), middle, and end?



10 Points

Matters of Correctness


5 Points

Matters of Choice


  • Does your word choice and sentence structure contribute to the effectiveness of your essay?

  • Do your stylistic choices contribute to the creation of your voice?

  • Do you “show not tell”?



5 Points

Excellent—94-100% Engaging narrative is supported by carefully chosen details. Importance of memory is clear and insightful.

Excellent—94-100%

The controlling topic is sustained and developed in a clear, purposeful manner.  There is a thoughtful and effective beginning, middle, and end.



Excellent—94-100%

The writer demonstrates confident control of correct sentence construction, usage, grammar, and mechanics.  The relative absence of error is impressive considering the complexity of response. 



Excellent—94-100%

Choices contribute to a skilful composition.  Diction is precise and specific.  Syntactical structures are effective and sometimes polished.  Stylistic choices contribute to a fluent and confident composition.



Proficient—80-93%

Engaging narrative is supported by appropriate details. Importance of memory is clear.



Proficient—80-93%

The controlling topic is generally sustained and developed in a clear and coherent manner.  There is an effective beginning, middle, and end.



Proficient—80-93%

The writing demonstrates competent control of correct sentence construction, usage, grammar, and mechanics.  Minor errors are acceptable.



Proficient—80-93%

Choices contribute to a considered composition.  Diction is specific and effective.  Syntactical structures are generally effective.  Stylistic choices contribute to a confident composition.



Satisfactory—65-79%

Engaging narrative is supported by appropriate details. Importance of memory is somewhat clear.



Satisfactory—65-79%

The focus of the controlling topic is clear, but coherence may falter. The beginning, middle, and end is present, but not always effective.



Satisfactory—65-79%

The writing demonstrates control of basic sentence construction, usage, grammar, and mechanics.  There may be occasional lapses in control of sentence construction and usage, and/or minor errors in grammar and mechanics.  However, the communication remains clear.



Satisfactory—65-79%

Choices contribute to a conventional composition.  Diction is adequate but may be lacking in specificity.  Syntactical structures are generally straightforward, but attempts at more complex structure may be awkward.  Stylistic choices contribute to a clear composition.



Limited—50-64%

Narrative is limited by a lack of details. Importance of memory is somewhat clear.



Limited—50-64%

A focused topic is lacking or is not maintained.  The ideas are not clearly developed.  The beginning, middle, and end are not all present and/or effective.



Limited—50-64%

The writing demonstrates faltering control of correct sentence construction, usage, grammar, and mechanics.  The range of sentence construction errors and errors in usage, grammar, and/or mechanics blurs the clarity of the communication.



Limited—50-64%

Diction is imprecise and/or inappropriate.  Syntax is frequently awkward and/or immature.  The writing may be vague, redundant, and/or unclear.  An inadequate repertoire of language choices contribute to a limited composition.



Poor—10-49%

Your essay does not tell a story. The importance of this memory is not clear.



Poor—10-49%

A controlling idea is lacking.  The topic is not developed or is developed incoherently.  The beginning, middle, and end, if present, are either inappropriate or unconnected.



Poor—10-49%

The writing demonstrates lack of control of correct sentence construction, usage, grammar, and mechanics.  The unclear and incorrect sentence construction and jarring errors in usage, grammar, and mechanics make communication impossible.



Poor—10-49%

Diction is overgeneralized and/or inadequate.  Syntax is confusing and uncontrolled.  The writing is unclear.  Lack of language choices contributes to a poor composition.



Insufficient—0%

The marker can discern no attempt to fulfill the assignment as stated.



Insufficient—0%

The marker can discern no attempt to fulfill the assignment as stated.



Insufficient—0%

The marker can find no evidence of an attempt to fulfill the assignment as stated.



Insufficient—0%

The marker can find no evidence of an attempt to fulfill the assignment as stated. 





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