Narrative Essay #1
Write an essay that describes how you discovered something about yourself as a unique and unrepeatable person—perhaps it was when meeting your virtual self.
The Genre: Narrative is a primary mode of human communication. It can explore personal topics (“How did you learn something important about yourself?”) or very public ones. The genre’s key feature is that it tells a story—what happened, how it happened, why it happened. Often narrative is imbedded within other kinds of writing: a company profile might include the “story” of how the company was founded, for example, or a proposal for school funding might describe a typical day at an under-funded school. Other times narrative comprises an entire piece of writing—as in a novel, for example. A narrative essay is a piece of non-fiction writing that uses narrative as the main way of developing the point of the essay. Effective writers of narrative know how to establish and follow a chronological pattern (not always a linear one) and to develop ideas and descriptions as fully as necessary with details and dialogue.
How This Genre Functions in the University: While college students certainly write narratives in creative writing classes, they also write various kinds in many other courses. Journalism students write narrative descriptions of criminal investigations. Social Work students write case-studies of at-risk teenagers. Business students write company profiles. History students write about past political and social events. The degree of development and the nature of the descriptive detail vary according to the discipline and the purpose of the writing, of course, but narrative writing as a general form is quite common.
Assignment: A revelation of who we really are can happen when we least expect it, and often we are not aware that it happened until we reflect on it. John Knight’s “A Lesson in Dignity,” Loyd Webb’s “Eye on the Prize,” and Todd Miedema’s “Going to the Creek” illustrate unexpected lessons that occurred at a precise moment in a convergence of experience and processing. The moment caused a heightened personal awareness. Almost inevitably the moment involves another person. One student, for example, told how a friend’s persistent urging to take an important part in the senior play led him to discover himself as “more than just a jock who played sports,” but rather a person with a singing ability. Another described his father’s death as a painful loss, but one that gave him the ability to see the struggles of others better.
Paper Guidelines: Your essay should be four or five double-spaced pages. Remember that you are not just telling a story; you are using narrative as a way to develop an essay with a particular point to make. You should create some kind of opening that lets the reader know what the focus of your essay is, and organize your essay to highlight your main point. A good way to do this is to frame your narrative.