Personal Narrative Essay English 101 Write a 750 – 1,000 word story made up of three specific moments, including relevant physical descriptions, that together illustrate a significant change in you. Stories are usually made up of smaller stories—little incidents, one after another, that show the reader exactly what it was like, who said what, how they behaved, all of which adds up to a picture of change. This essay should do that by presenting three specific incidents in your life that together add up to a change you underwent. One incident or moment should show the reader what you were like before you changed. Another should show the reader the process of change—a key moment when you were transforming from the old person into the new. And one should show what you were like after you changed, whether it was what you expected or something different. In all cases it is essential to show the reader how you acted—what you physically did and said. Actions, whether small actions like holding a door for a stranger or large actions like jumping from a sinking ship, are the essence of storytelling. They are one of the most effective ways to convey your thoughts and feelings. The change you are describing is the controlling idea of your story. Everything should help to reveal this basic idea. It is like the thesis of your paper—the point you are trying to prove. Showing the reader how you used to act, and how you act now, is the way you prove that you really are a different person. The three incidents are the evidence of change, much like a before- and-after pair of photographs. (In this case there will be a ―during‖ photo too, showing the process of change itself.) Your story should include relevant physical descriptions—things you can see, hear, smell, taste or touch, and that matter for the story. If the incidents, or moments, are evidence of change, the physical description is evidence that you were really there, that it really happened, and that it really felt the way you say it did. This should be a story about how you changed, not just how your circumstances changed. For example, a story that goes, ―First I lived in Tacoma, then I moved, and now I live in Seattle,‖ is not successful because it does not describe a change in you, only in your external circumstances. External circumstances are often the cause of internal change, and they are frequently the best evidence of internal change, but by themselves they do not make a story. A story that goes, ―First I lived in Tacoma, where I was happy, then I moved, and now I live in Seattle, where I am miserable,‖ is more successful. The three incidents can be presented in any order, as long as the order in which they happened is clear. In other words, you may start in the middle or at the end and then go back to tell the beginning. Just be sure the reader understands which is which. (over) Do not feel this has to be a story of improvement. Often people tell a story of how they became better in some way. That’s fine, but not required. You could tell a story of how you experienced some limitation or negative effect in your life. Which type of story you choose to tell is up to you. What does matter is that you prove your thesis (i.e., demonstrate that a significant change really happened) with two kinds of evidence: specific actions and physical descriptions. Please Note: This essay will be read by at least some of your classmates. Some will know who wrote it; some will not. But if there are details you’d prefer that others not see, it would be best not to include them, or choose a different episode, or disguise the circumstances to protect the innocent. (Bending the truth is permitted. This is an exercise in writing, not truth-telling.) Grading Criteria To summarize, the essay should include the following elements or features: A single controlling idea—the change you underwent One specific moment or incident that reveals who or what you were before you changed Specific actions you (and others, when appropriate) took during that incident Relevant physical descriptions from that moment Explanation of how this moment reveals what you were like before you changed. One specific incident that shows the moment or process of change Specific actions you (and others, when appropriate) took during that incident Relevant physical descriptions from that moment Explanation of how this moment reveals what you were like as you changed. One specific moment or incident that reveals who or what you became after you changed Specific actions you (and others, when appropriate) took during that incident Relevant physical descriptions from that moment Explanation of how this moment reveals what you were like after you changed. Appropriate transitions to help the reader understand the sequence and timing of events Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation An ―A‖ paper (3.5 – 4.0) will perform most of these tasks superbly, without flaws. A ―B‖ paper (2.5 – 3.4) will exhibit minor flaws in most areas—for example, physical description that is not especially relevant, one or more moments not clearly described, change in you unclear. A ―C‖ paper (1.5 – 2.4) will exhibit noticeable flaws in most areas—for example, little relevant supporting description, one or more moments barely described, a trivial or incomprehensible change. A ―D‖ paper (0.8 – 1.4) will exhibit significant flaws in most areas—no supporting descriptions, no real moments described, no attempt to explain the larger change. An ―F‖ (0.7 or below) paper will be one that simply does not respond to the assignment. I will assign grades according to these criteria, using my judgment to determine where a paper falls within the boundaries of a given grade—is it, for example, a high C (such as a 2.4, which would be a C+), a median C (around a 2.0) or a C– (such as a 1.7).
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