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The Autobiographical Narrative Essay

June 17, 2015 - Posted to Writing

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You have probably figured out that an autobiographical narrative is a story you will be telling about yourself. There are two instances in which you will be required to write one of these, as follows:

  1. An assignment in an English comp course that requires an essay on something like, “My most frightening experience,” or “Describe a time in your life when you felt you made a difference.”
  2. A personal narrative essay for college or grad school admissions or a scholarship competition.

When the Stakes are High

While the personal narrative you write for an English course will probably result in only one grade of many you will receive, the stakes are much higher when you write one or more for admissions or scholarships. So, if you want to produce a “killer” essay that will definitely get you noticed, here are the “rules.”

  1. Read the friggin’ prompt carefully. These narrative essay prompts aren’t just suggestions – they are precise explanations of exactly what you are to address if you choose a particular option. If you get off topic, you’re “done.”
  2. Know the difference between a narrative essay vs. a descriptive essay. Yes, you are going to describe events, circumstances, and perhaps other people, but all of this description has to incorporate you personally – your responses, your feelings – everything has to be from your perspective. If you don’t “get” this, read some sample personal narrative essays – they are all over the Internet.
  3. Organizing the Essay: You don’t have to put together a formal outline unless you happen to like doing that. The narrative will be chronological and sequential in nature, so if you just get down on paper each step in your story and leave some space in between steps to make note of some detail, you will have all the structure you need.
  4. Descriptions: When you do describe something or someone, do so with lots of sense involvement, preferably yours. Consider the following two examples:

"I saw the man raising up his cane and knew he was going to hit the dog with it, so I rushed over and grabbed the cane from him." - accurate but boring. 

"There stood the man with his cane raised and poised over the cowering dog’s back. My jaw dropped in shock. Adrenaline pumped through my veins, my heart began to pound, and in an instant I knew what had to be done. With fire in my eyes, and a scream emanating from my mouth, I rushed the guy, yanking the cane from his grip." -  Now you have a scene that the reader and see, hear, and feel and you are the prominent figure in it.

  1. All eyes on the introduction. If you don’t hook the reader with the first sentence of the introduction, you are already on your way to the discard pile. Start with a short shocking or humorous statement. Make that reader want to read on! You may not be really good with creative openings, but you can find someone who is to help. All upon a friend who always has those quick, snappy “comebacks” – chance are s/he can come up with a great opening line.
  2. Grammar please! When you write your autobiographical narrative essay, never consider yourself finished until someone who is a master in sentence structure, transitions, grammar and punctuation has reviewed it and approved. You can’t afford these kinds of mistakes.

 

When You Get to Choose

Sometimes prompts may be very general, such as, “Describe an event or experience that changed you or contributed to who you are today.” The field is thus wide open. So sit back, reach into your past, and come up with the www.grabmyessay.com/blog/narrative-essay-ideas you can. Here are some clues:

  1. Think about a really painful time in your life (or joyful, if you are the perennial optimist)
  2. Think about a really important accomplishment you achieved
  3. Think about a time when you had to make a really difficult choice
  4. Think about a time when you “rebelled” against conventional wisdom and/or tradition
  5. Think about the worst “break-up” you ever had

Pick one in which your emotions really ran high – you will write a better essay if you do!

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