What is a narrative? Gaining an understanding before your write
What is a narrative? The most important thing to know about a narrative essay is that it tells a story. Most times the story will be personal—told from your unique perspective and point of view. The story you may choose to tell can be about almost anything you would like to share with your readers—school, family, work, relationships, travel, growing up, tragedies, triumphs, etc. A narrative can be told in words (as is often the case) or in other mediums, such as photos, film, songs, cartoons, etc.
Tell a story It is important to remember that in a narrative something always HAPPENS. It can be a single important moment and what lead up to that moment. Or, it can be a series of important events that serve a greater purpose.
Make a point! But, you MUST have an overall point, or purpose, for your story. What are you trying to get across to your readers? Are you teaching them a lesson? Are you revealing an important insight about life, or the human condition? Are you simply amusing or entertaining them? Once you determine your writing purpose, it will be necessary that you only choose people/places/events that serve that purpose. Avoid rambling!
Details, Details, Details What makes a narrative interesting, what makes a narrative memorable are the details. Make sure to pay close attention to the colors, shapes, textures, sounds, and smells that you would like to bring to life for your reader.
Choosing a subject Obviously, you are writing about yourself in a narrative, but how do you narrow down what people/events would work best for your essay? Your paper will be more successful if you do not choose events that are obviously life-changing (deaths, graduations, weddings, etc.). While these are certainly important, you will find some of the most interesting material in the subtle moments of life (e.g. conversations, dates, trips, etc.).
Pacing and structure Early on in the essay you may want to add more details to introduce characters/setting/situations (exposition); however, as the narrative progresses, so should the action (leading to the climax). Usually, the structure of a narrative closely resembles that of a traditional plot. Climax Conflict Resolution Exposition
Plot structure Cont. You do not have to stick to this structure exactly, but it may help you when planning out what events you will describe and what order they will take. Your other option for structure is a simple sequence of events in chronological order. Event 1 Person 1 Event 2 Person 2 Event 3 Person 3 Event 4 Person 4
Style and Design tips Use the first person “I” Use figures of speech, such as similes, metaphors, and analogies. (These are where the song lyrics will come into the essay.) Use strong, active verbs. She is celebrating. vs. She celebrates. Use powerful and precise modifiers. (The more powerful the adjective, the better.) Ex: freezing vs. very cold Use dialogue when appropriate to give life to your characters and situations. Develop the setting to set the context and mood.
Your assignment MW—Rough Draft Due 9/8; Final Draft 9/13 TR—Rough Draft Due 9/7; Final Draft 9/9
Narrative essay assignment For this essay, you will be asked to create a soundtrack of your life. In the essay, you will discuss four-five important people or events that have had a significant impact on your life. You will structure the paper using songs and song lyrics as metaphors for each of the events/people you discuss. Remember that you must make a point (teach a lesson, reveal an insight, etc.) and that you must structure your essay accordingly.
Narrative Essay Sample Point: Happiness is found in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times. Event 1: Meeting my future best friend in detention. (Find a song that you may use to compare this experience to. You will want to quote the song at some point in the paragraph.) Event 2: Deciding to go on a last-minute shopping trip to the mall with my two best friends and ending up in Key West for a weekend. Event 3 Running into my future husband at a football game. Event 4: Finding my dogs on Pet Finder one night when I was having trouble sleeping. Event 5: Volunteering to tutor adults in reading and being asked to start a volunteering program.
Narrative Essay Sample 2 Point: Everything in life happens for a reason. Exposition: Describe where I’m at in my life right now, including the people/things that are most important to me. Conflict: Go back in time and describe a major event that seemed devastating at the time. Climax: The moment when I was at my lowest and the situation seemed the most bleak. Resolution: How that devastating event led me to where I am today and has helped me achieve the happiness I desired. Lowest Point DevastatingEvent Where I’m at right now Important people/things in my life
Incorporating the song/song lyrics In asking you to use songs/song lyrics as inspiration for the experiences you will write about in your essay, I am challenging you to think about a narrative in a different light. Finding the way to best do this is part of the assignment. I’m not going to tell you exactly how it should be used. This will be up to you to determine. Do try to avoid obvious phrases like “I met my best friend that day, which reminds me of the song ‘Best Friend’ by Brandy.” This statement tells me nothing. What feelings does the song evoke that mimic the feelings you had that day? Is there a phrase or word that brings you back to that moment in time that you are trying to bring to life? Ex: As Brandy states in “Best Friend,” “friends are there through thick and thin” and little did I know it at the time, but Tara would become that one person who was there for me whenever I needed someone most. If/When you quote from a song, make sure to put it in quotation marks (“ ”).
Timeline Activity To help you get started brainstorming, I would like you to take out a blank sheet of paper and turn it sideways. On the left side of the paper, write your date of birth. On the far, right side of the paper, write today’s date. Fill in the space between with key events from your life, including any important people or places. Oct. 21, 1982 Aug. 18, 2010
Timeline Activity Cont. Pick ONE event/experience and begin a new timeline. Think of everything leading up to/from that moment, and trace it along the timeline. Now, under each entry on your timeline, jot down as many adjectives (descriptive words) you can think of that would help bring that experience to life. Concentrate, especially, on those words that help appeal to your senses (touch, taste, hear, smell, sight). Step back and look at your life as a timeline. What insight can your life reveal? What lessons would you like others to learn from your life? What lessons have you learned yourself? These are some questions you can ask to help you come up with your overall point.