English 305 Prof loverman Essay #1: Personal Narrative

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English 305 Prof LOverman

Essay #1: Personal Narrative

\During the first weeks of the semester we read personal narratives by Helen Keller, Malcom X. Christine Marin, and Maxine Hong Kingston describing their personal experiences with language. Each of these authors recollects a moment in which they realized the power of language in their lives. The transcript of Sojourners Truth’s speech also allows us to hear the powerful words of a remarkable woman.
Writing Task: Write about a defining moment in your life when you felt the power of language. This moment may involve any form of talking, listening, reading or writing.
Due Dates/Tasks: see schedule
Please Note: Writing is a process of revision. Therefore, drafts are not optional and must be submitted for peer review. Final drafts must include evidence of considerable revision or suffer a significant grade penalty. For full credit, don’t miss the final deadline!
Consider Your Audience:

Since you will be writing for an academic audience, avoid using slang, biased language and colloquial expressions. Explain the background of your experience in the introduction. Although personal narratives do not require an explicitly stated thesis, your essay should convey a main, unifying point. Use figurative language such as similes and metaphors to bring your story to life and help the reader to “see” the images through your words.


Essays must be 4 to 5 typed pages using Times New Roman, 12 point font. Double-space the entire essay with a one-inch margin all around. Follow the MLA guidelines outlined in Keys For Writers (166-238). Although not required, any reference to outside material must be documented in MLA format. See sample essay in KW (226).


Before writing your first draft, generate ideas by freewriting, brainstorming, making lists or any other technique that works best for you. Then write a “discovery draft” in which you do not correct your work but attempt to shape your essay and discover more material, or a new angle or even a whole different topic. When drafts are due, bring three copies to class. You will work in groups of three or four to read at least two or three other essays and offer suggestions verbally and in writing.

After completing each workshop, you must consider where you are going from here with your paper. How are you going to approach your final draft now? Specifically what you are going to do. Are you going to work with what you have? How? Are you going to rip it up & start over? Reflect on your peer group experience. Was it worthwhile? Did they tell you what you already knew? Was it helpful or not? Why? Any problems? You will then revise your essay, using those suggestions from the group that make sense to you and correcting any problems that you noticed while reading the essay aloud.

See notes on narrative writing.

Narrative Writing
A narrative is simply a story, and narration involves telling a story. People use narrative in both everyday speech and writing because stories, especially those about personal experiences, provide convincing examples.

Histories, biographies, and autobiographies follow a narrative form, as do personal letters, diaries, and journals. Narration is the dominant writing pattern found in many works of fiction and poetry, and it is an essential part of casual conversation.

Structuring a Narrative Essay

Like other essays, narratives have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. It is not necessary to have a thesis statement in a narrative; often the main point of a narrative essay is implied. If a narrative does have a thesis statement (and this essay should have one), it is usually found in the introduction--it may be either direct or indirect.

Organizing and Developing a Narrative

Because a narrative recounts an event or an experience, a writer can simply arrange the details in chronological order. Sometimes, a flashback is effective. The writer must decide whether a jump back in the past is useful to his/her narrative or a distraction from the main purpose of the narrative. The writer must keep his/her purpose firmly in mind.

Creating an outline before beginning a narrative, or straightening out details during revision, will help to eliminate any dull, unnecessary or repetitious material. Narratives, like other types of writing, need rich, specific details if they are to be convincing. The process of deciding which details to include or exclude is critical to successful narrative writing.

As in all good writing, the narrative essay makes a point of some sort. However, the essay does not have to contain a moral at the end story or make any weighty revelations about the meaning of life or the human experience. The purpose of the narrative is to tell the story; the writer must allow the reader to come to his/her own conclusions.

Using Accurate Verb Tenses and Transitions

Verb tense is extremely important in writing that recounts events in a fixed order because tenses indicate temporal (time) relationships--earlier, simultaneous, later. The writer must avoid unwarranted shifts in verb tense that will make a narrative confusing.

Transitions--connecting words or phrases--help link events in time, enabling narratives to flow smoothly. Without them, narratives would lack coherence, and readers would be unsure of the correct sequence of events. Transitions can indicate the order in which events occur, and they also signal shifts in time. In narrative writing, the transitions commonly used for these purposes include first, second, next, then, later, at the same time, meanwhile, immediately, soon, before, earlier, after, afterward, now and finally. In addition to these transitions, specific time markers--such as three years later, 1997, after two hours, and on January 3--indicate how much time has passed between events.

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