Personal Narrative assignment

Purpose and Goals:

After reading personal narratives in class, you will write one of your own. You will write about a memory that you find meaningful, beautiful, harrowing, tragic, hilarious, or otherwise interesting. You can write about any experience, whether a childhood memory or something that happened yesterday. As in the pieces by Carver and Sedaris, you will need to use vivid details, plausible dialogue, and rich descriptions. You can choose the extent to which you want to fictionalize this piece: it might be closer to the memoir end of the spectrum, like “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” or it might be closer to the adaptation end of the spectrum, like Flight. It might be realistic or contain fantastical elements. One goal of this assignment is for you to write something very different from typical academic writing, which will allow you to take risks unavailable to you within the constraints of an academic paper. This piece should be about 1,000 words.

Genre Conventions:

  • Purpose
    • Re-create/fictionalize a memory
    • Establish intimacy with the reader by expressing your personal ideas and feelings
    • Convey your internal experience of a particular event
  • Narrative structure
    • What kind of structure best enables you to convey your narrative?
      • Strict chronology
      • Loose chronology
      • Non-linear chronology (i.e. flashbacks)
    • Your structure should be purposeful
      • Each paragraph should fit into your overall structure
      • Clear transitions between paragraphs will help your reader follow your structure
    • Style
      • What tone best fits your narrative?
        • Melancholy? Sardonic? Curious? Wistful? Impassioned? Clinical?
      • What kind of diction and syntax are appropriate to your topic?
        • Terse, staccato sentences vs. long, flowing sentences
        • Monosyllabic, “Germanic” words vs. polysyllabic, “Latinate” language
      • How can you use imagery, simile, and metaphor to enhance your narrative?


Your second draft will comprise 10% of your total grade for the course. You will be graded on these four areas:

  • Purpose—10%
  • Structure—40%
  • Style—40%
  • Grammar and Mechanics—10%

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