Personal Narrative Essay

How to Ace the Personal Narrative English Assignment

There are assignments in your English class where you will be required to write a personal narrative which is essentially a story illustrating an event, moment (or series of moments), or experience exemplifying gratitude.

In other words, you will be sharing a story about a moment, experience, or event where you experienced gratitude either during the experience itself or after the experience took place.

These types of assignment usually have specific requirements from the instructor such as the length of the narrative (word count), sources or evidence, page formatting style etc. The narrative you will write will be a “personal” narrative.

Thus, the story will be written by you, about you, and in a lot of ways, for you. What makes a personal narrative so interesting is that it’s a story with a point or purpose. In other words, a personal narrative is detailed, descriptive, dialogue-driven, and determined to make a point.

Rhetorical Considerations Purpose: There needs to be a reason, not only for writing the narrative, but also for why the reader should read it. The purpose of the personal narrative is to share a meaningful experience and the lesson learned from the experience. Specifically, the purpose of this essay is to share a story about a time you experienced gratitude.

Target Audience for Your Personal Narrative

In many ways, we write a personal narrative for ourselves to reflect upon an experience, to grow from an event. However, we want you to imagine that your audience is not only you but someone else. The writer needs to know who their audience is and how their needs will affect the way the narrative is composed and presented.

For example, in addition to writing this story as an opportunity for personal reflection, you may also choose a family member or friend group as your real or imagined audience. Selecting a real or imagined audience will help you develop your essay with the right tone.

The tone for a personal narrative can be formal or informal; it really depends on your chosen audience.

Personal Narrative Format

When writing a personal narrative, you need to present it using a story format. It should have a beg‌‌‌‍‍‍‌‌‌‍‍‌‌‌‍‌‍‍‍inning, middle, and end. The story should also be written with a clear introduction paragraph, a body of story-development paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. While a personal narrative is less formal than traditional academic writing. Your personal narrative should have a thesis statement. This allows the reader to truly understand the point of your story.

Features of a Personal Narrative Essay Organization:

  1. The Thesis Statement

The Personal Narrative is organized with a clear beginning, middle, and end. It should read like a story–with an exposition, a rise action, a climax, a falling action and a resolution or denouement. While the Personal Narrative is certainly less formal than other academic essays, the point or moral of the story (i.e., the thesis) should be very clear to the reader.

  1. Transition Words and Phrases

The Personal Narrative utilizes paragraph breaks and transitional words and phrases that help the audience (or reader) flow in and around the story. These words and phrases enable you to present your writing ideas in a way that your audience will easily understand.

In other words, you will be making your complex ideas palatable to your audience by guiding them through the connections being made in your narrative. This makes it easier for readers to understand your narrative’s logic.

It is important to note that these transition words should be used strategically and sparingly in your narrative lest you come out as trying too hard to explain your connections which are rather obvious to readers.

Examples of transition words and phrases to be used in a personal narrative include:

  • Therefore
  • Accordingly
  • As a result
  • Consequently
  • Thus
  • Hence
  • Since
  • For that reason
  • On account of
  • Subsequently
  • In the meantime
  • Additionally
  • In addition
  • Moreover
  • Furthermore
  • Despite
  • Nevertheless
  • Notwithstanding
  • Secondly, thirdly, fourthly, etc.
  1. Character Description

Develop the characters in the story so that the reader has a clear understanding of the people in the story–even if the one person in the story is YOU. Help your reader learn about the characters both by what they say and by what they do.

  1. Sensory Details

Develop a sense of imagery within the story using sensory-driven details. In other words, create a vivid story by helping the reader to see, hear, taste and touch just as the characters in your story do.

Sensory details bring your readers into the story–into the experience you are sharing with them.

  1. Dialogue

Use internal and/or external dialogue to connect the characters and help propel the story forward. Dialogue helps the writer to “show” rather than “tell” the story to the reader.

When using dialogue in a personal narrative essay, your readers are able to get fully engaged since dialogue portrays a scene vividly and brings the best out of your characterization. This helps you to capture the attention of your audience since it gets the reader past the lengthy explanations and enables them to experience first-hand experience of what you are trying to portray.

Dialogue also helps your readers to identify with the characters and provide unconscious information about the relationship between the characters in your narration.

  1. Significance of the event, themes, or morals/lessons from the event.

Your story’s point or purpose should be structured as a thesis statement. In academic essays, the thesis usually appears at the close of the first paragraph; however, in a narrative, there is more flexibility where “the main point of your story appears;” thus, as long as your point of the story is clear (the message/moral of your story), the thesis’ location can vary pending on how you choose to develop your story. Most instructions will require you to underline the thesis statement in your narrative essay.‌‌‌‍‍

Final Word

We all know how tasking it is to consolidate all the information here into an astute personal narrative essay that will wow your instructor. Let’s face it, we may be good at writing but not all of us have the creativity to put our stories in writing without a little help here and there.

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