Personal Narrative Assignment

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Personal Narrative Assignment

WR 121, MWF, Spring term

Instructor: Nathan Buck

Paper Requirements:



*One-inch margins

*12 pt. standard font—Times New Roman
We’ve all had something exciting, creepy, sad, or nerve-racking—heck, all of the above—happen to us in the course of our lives. Remember that time your best friend dared you to go inside that haunted house? What about that time you were swimming in the ocean—and realized you were swimming right next to a shark?!?! Maybe you were a witness to a bank robbery—what was this experience like for you? Some of the events we remember most in our lives are painful and hard for us to relive. You may have lost a parent or grandparent, brother or sister, friend or lover. Maybe you lived through something traumatic in your past—an illness, your parents’ divorce, being part of a gang.

I’d like you to pick something from your past and write about it. It may be an event that occurred in a single day, or it may be something that occurred over a period of time. I do not want you to think of this assignment as homework. I want, instead, for you to dig deep inside and find that part of yourself that might make you cry, or may make you smile because you realized how much certain people mean to you. I will not be grading this essay in the same fashion I have the others, because this is an opportunity for you to open up and explore—through words—something that you might not have had the chance, or the notion, to write on before.

I do ask that you take this assignment seriously, and for that reason I’m not allowing people to write something that would traditionally be considered “comedic.” I love comedy just as much as the next person (you all know I have a bizarre sense of humor!), but too often I’ve seen people use this as an excuse to avoid taking chances with themselves. Don’t be afraid of opening up here. I am the only one who will be reading your personal narrative.

Consider this as a journal entry/short story hybrid—in other words, creative non-fiction. There are a few things I will be looking for in the structure of your personal essay, as I look for in all your work: proper punctuation and grammar, coherence of thought, etc. There are some differences in this essay. You may choose to incorporate dialogue, for instance. Also, I will allow fragments but only if they are used for pacing purposes—and only if you do not overuse them. Finally, even though you’re not writing specific theses, conclusions, or topic sentences, telling a tale is still an art form that requires organization. You still want to pull your reader in right off the bat, you want to make sure your ideas flow smoothly as you move between scenes, themes, etc., and you want to end your personal narrative in a way that leaves a reader remembering your work—you want to tie all the “narrative threads” together.

Be brave with your personal narrative. As long as you follow the above needs of the essay, you are free to write on whatever has made you cry, shudder, or sigh.
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