Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Telling Your Story: Personal Narrative

By Sarah Sansolo

What is the hardest topic you’ve ever had to write about? We all have areas and ideas that we have a difficult time approaching on paper. The biggest challenge, however, is usually writing about yourself.

Personal narrative assignments (which pop up frequently in College Writing classes and on applications) are deceptively difficult to write. Sure, you’re the expert on your own life, but translating that into words can be tricky. How do you write about yourself in a way that’s interesting and unique?

1. Show, Don’t Tell. It’s a cliché for a reason. Use specific experiences to back up your claims. Details can really make a difference.

Telling: I’m a really good writer. One time I wrote an awesome personal narrative.
Showing: I wrote a personal narrative about the first time I went fly-fishing. My professor told me that it demonstrated my command of imagery, and the whole classroom stood up to applaud me.

2. Think Small. When you have limited room, you can’t tell your whole life story. Think about a particular moment that is an example of what you’re trying to say.

Big: I went on family vacations every summer and they made me close with my brother.
Small: During my family vacation at Disney World, my brother and I lost our parents in the line for Space Mountain and had to work together to find them.

Personal narratives might seem totally different than your other writing assignments, but keep in mind a few key things that are important for all writing: organization, support, and clarity.


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