Narrative Essay

Rationale: Narration is storytelling, whether we are relating a single experience or several related ones. Through narration, we convey a main idea by relating in detail something that has happened to us. Details of the story are usually presented in the order in which they happened (chronological), although writers often use flashforwards and flashbacks (i.e., insertion of a future or past scene or event) to provide needed context, maintain reader interest, and/or move the story along. Keep in mind that narrative writing is not just describing a memory. To achieve your goal of conveying to your audience a central lesson through that memory, you will need to carefully choose your details, omitting or emphasizing where appropriate.

Directions: Think of a life lesson to teach your readers. This lesson ought to be aimed at transforming your readers into better versions of themselves and be broad enough for most people to learn, regardless of circumstances. (For example, lessons about relationships, confidence, honesty, hard work, patience, sacrifice, imagination, etc., aim at making us better people no matter our station in life — as we all have relationships, we all possess fears, we all experience setbacks, and we all are jaded in some fashion. On the other hand, narrowly-focused lessons on using turn signals, avoiding a certain restaurant, or choosing a college would be irrelevant to readers who do not drive, live across the world, or occupy a different stage of life. Rather, choose a lesson that casts a wide net and focuses on improving one’s character or widening/correcting one’s perspective.) Examine the examples elsewhere in this folder for guidance.
To ensure you have a lesson or thesis, answer this question: What do you intend for readers to learn about themselves and how they need to grow after reading your narrative? Your response would be your lesson or thesis.
Your chosen lesson also needs to be one that you are learning or have learned as a result of a particular incident(s). (You can consider the lesson as the main idea or thesis of your narrative.) Once you’ve identified the lesson and incident(s), tell a story of how you came to that lesson through experiencing that incident(s), and more importantly, help move your audience toward learning and accepting that same lesson.
Organization: Follow the O.C.A.R. scheme. There should be an identifiable OPENING (“O”) that moves into the incident(s) in the middle section — an incident(s) that offers a central CHALLENGE or conflict (“C”). This should be followed by a recounting of the main character’s ACTIONS (“A”) toward that challenge or conflict and a RESOLUTION (“R”) of that challenge — the lesson learned or realization made. (In narratives, the lesson you learned and want readers to learn is considered the thesis statement, and this usually appears at the end.)
Writing one paragraph for each phase/stage might give you a good skeleton to work from. You can always add an extra paragraph somewhere if expansion is called for. A possible scheme:
Paragraph #1: Set up your narrative by establishing your theme, relating to readers, introducing a prior you — someone in need of the upcoming lesson, and hinting at that lesson to be learned.
Paragraph #2: Move into describing the one incident that challenged a belief or worldview, opening your eyes to something previously unrevealed.
Paragraph #3: Detail your response to that incident. (This can be an immediate response and/or a response that takes days, months, or years.)
Paragraph #4: Demonstrate how responding to that incident helped you grow in character, learn a lesson, and become a better version of yourself. Inspire readers to do the same.
Give readers a good sense of what each paragraph will be about by continuing to use topic sentences.
On Your Chosen Incident(s): Your chosen incident should generate conflict or tension. The conflict doesn’t need to be overly dramatic, and can, in fact, be humorous, quiet, or internal. Furthermore, the incident you choose should be confined within a limited time frame and not drag on indefinitely or be unable to be adequately covered in a short essay.
Possible Strategies: From the narratives shared in class, we find that there are common techniques among texts in this genre. Many have shifts in time (moments of looking back and recounting, then moving forward and commenting on the past), and many use comparisons in intriguing ways. There’s usually a carefully constructed narrator’s voice, one that the reader finds likeable and relatable. The story is told visually, with details deliberately chosen to appeal to an audience. Sometimes, the author talks to the audience directly through commentary and direct reflection, showing how s/he grew from the story and thereby showing—subtly—the reader that new perspective.
Consider you and your readers as partners on a journey toward that lesson you yourself learned. Your role is that of a traveling companion. To be a sensitive and informative travel companion, ask: What do your audiences need to know about you to understand your incident(s)? What preconceptions do they already have about your topic? Build connections to what we know (or think we know) while nudging us toward a new perspective. Through reading your narrative, your readers should be able to learn something new about an element of our world or see an old topic in a fresh way.
Length: 750-850 words (Stick to this and other guidelines: Your instructor may choose to penalize submissions that are too long or too short. Submissions that greatly exceed this parameter may not be fully read. Good writing involves distinguishing important and relevant ideas from those less important and relevant and making the difficult choice of deleting the latter.)
Format: Use APA formatting. An APA style guide can be found through the
Ensure that your typed document has 1) a title page, 2) pagination in the top-right corner, 3) double-spacing, 4) 1″ margins, and 5) a legible 10-point to 12-point font. The title page should contain the title of the paper in bold, your name, institution name, course number and title (801-136: English Composition I), instructor name, and assignment due date.

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