personal narrative 6

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In this essay, you will explore a time when you saw or experienced an injustice–something that perhaps angered, upset, depressed, or confused you. What you experienced might take the form of a single incident, or it could be a series of events enacting the same injustice. Here is a simple example: you saw someone in your family kick your dog once because that person was angry, or you saw that person kick the dog out of anger every day. You could write about either the single or the repeated episodes.

Your essay should include three elements:

  1. A clear description of what happened, including what you did in response (if anything)
  2. A recounting of what you felt and thought at the time of the incident
  3. A reflection on what you feel and think now, as you look back on what happened.

You should clearly demonstrate the connection between the incident and the way it affected you by selecting appropriate evidence from your experience and making that evidence interesting to readers. (The authority in autobiographical writing comes from the care with which you select your material and the richness of the details you present.) It is equally important that your essay provides a rich reflection on how the experience shaped your attitudes and/or beliefs.

Like all of the writing assignments, this one cannot be dashed off in one sitting. It requires that you do the following:

  • work hard to generate materials from your own experience (adding and cutting material as you decide what claim you want to make)
  • look for connections between your experience and your beliefs
  • find a claim or focus for your essay and develop that claim using both narrative and reflection.

A few tips:

  1. Narrative means that you’re telling a story; you will need to include concrete details to make the story come alive for your readers, but not so much detail that they get bogged down in minutiae. Choose details that illustrate your main point.
  2. Reflection means that you are not simply telling what happened, but are also thoughtfully considering how the experience affected you. A good essay will balance the use of narrative and reflection; the best essays interweave the two.

Length: between 1,000 and 1,250 words. Double-space.

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