What Makes a Winning Essay/Personal Narrative?
What is a personal narrative?
A personal narrative is a story about a memory.
What is an essay? An essay IS a personal narrative, or it can be a piece of writing about any topic you choose because you want to find the truth in that experience.
1. Determine if your essay/personal narrative is really nonfiction. Although you may use techniques of fiction, your piece must be your thoughts and experiences. (This is not a “made-up” story. Visit the short story page for more information about fiction.)
Examples of essays are:
Personal narrative—a story that happened to you! How has it changed you in some way?
Opinion Piece—your opinion and why you feel that way.
1. Make sure your essay/personal narrative has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
2. Engage your reader with an intriguing beginning. Introduce your experience with humor, action, or emotion; then take your reader along on a journey of self-discovery.
3. Concentrate on drama. Write scenes. Drop your reader right into what happened! Let your reader experience the event, moment by moment!
4. Use senses (sight, sound, taste, touch) to help readers feel they are in the scene. If you can’t remember the details from the event you’re recreating, imagine what they could have been.
5. Appeal to emotion to influence your readers if you are writing an opinion piece.
6. Use anecdotes to help strengthen your opinion. An anecdote is a short incident that really happened. Use storytelling techniques to make it real.
7. Show a universal truth or an insight you’ve gained from your experience. It doesn’t have to be a major drop-dead event or idea. It can be small but thoughtful. The best essay contains a fresh observation, which often is a surprise or unexpected.
8. Revise your work until you’re satisfied. Pay particular attention to the ending. Does the text build to that conclusion?
9. Write honestly and with passion. If you feel strongly about your topic, chances are so will your readers.