Project #15841 - essay

3.4: Personal Narrative

Compose an interesting personal narrative based on an incident from your life.

Personal Narrative Writing Assignment

Narrative is another word for story. In this writing assignment, you will be choosing a story from your life and telling it in an interesting way. You may choose one of the autobiographical prompts from your Autobiography Writing Assignment. Or, you may choose to write about a completely different story from your life. Pick a story you feel strongly about telling. It could be a funny story or something very serious. You can write about something that happened when you were a child or something that happened last week. Your assignment needs to be one to two pages in length, so make sure you have plenty to write about.

Beginning your Narrative: The Hook

The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.

–William Zinsser, On Writing Well

The beginning of your narrative must capture the reader’s attention immediately and entice him or her to continue reading. Often, writers call the first sentences they write their “hook.” If you’ve ever been fishing, you’ll know how important it is to hook your fish with appealing bait. Once a fish takes a bite of what you’re offering, all you have to do is start reeling! In a similar way, you want the opening sentences in your writing compositions to “hook” your reader or get the reader curious enough to keep on reading. There are many ways to do this as you write your personal narrative. Here is a list of ideas to help you get started:

Personal Narrative Hooks

  1. Start in the middle of things. Pull the reader right into the action – maybe even into the climax of your story. Then go back and explain how you got there.
  2. Begin with dialogue. Everyone likes to listen in on a good conversation.
  3. Start with a metaphor. (You can find information about metaphors in Lesson 5.)
  4. Start with a surprising statement.
  5. Introduce a theme or main message from your story.

While there are many other great ways to get your reader hooked into your story, there are a few things you will want to avoid in your introduction.

Introductions to Avoid

  1. Apologies. There is no need for you to start off telling the reader that you don’t have a good memory or there is nothing interesting about your life. Don’t make excuses; just tell your story!
  2. Lallygagging. This might be a word my mom made up. It means taking a really long time to get something done. Don’t spend the first two paragraphs brainstorming about possibilities for your story. Brainstorming is great, but once you decide on your story just start telling it.
  3. Announcing your intentions. Rather than start off by saying, “I’m going to write about the time when I stuck a penny in an outlet,” just get right to the task of telling that story. Announcing what you’re going to do often takes the surprise and fun out of the story.

Other Personal Narrative Writing Tips

Here are a few more writing tips that will help you write an effective personal narrative:

  1. Try to show, rather than just tell. If the day was hot and humid, don’t tell me, “It was a hot and humid day.” Why not show me? “Sticky sweat glued my T-shirt to my back.”
  2. Bring your story to life with vivid imagery. Try to recreate the sights, sounds, smells, etc. with specific detail.
  3. Use figurative language. Often a very effective way to describe a moment is by using similes, metaphors, personification, etc. (These terms are defined in Lesson 5.)
  4. Be honest and sincere, and tell the story like it really happened.
  5. Remember that your ending is just as important as your introduction. Try to leave your reader with something to think about.
  6. Cut out any dead wood. If the detail isn’t important to your story, take it out. You also need to make sure you aren’t repeating yourself. Saying it once is enough.

Personal Narrative: Rough Draft and Mentor Feedback

Go ahead and write your personal narrative. Once you like your story, you will be taking this draft to a mentor or person who can give you valuable feedback on your writing. This could be a family member, friend, teacher, or other mentor. Try to choose someone who will be honest and help you make your story even better.

Sit down with this person and have him or her read through your narrative. You might want to show him or her the grading rubric I will be using. Ask your mentor to find three things he or she likes about your narrative and to give you three suggestions for making it better. Please type the mentor’s name and who he or she is at the end of your rough draft. Then type three positive comments they made about your rough draft and three suggestions for improvement they made. Label your assignment “Personal Narrative Rough Draft and Mentor Feedback.” Your rough draft and mentor feedback are worth 15 points.

When you are finished with this rough draft and mentor feedback, you should open the “Personal Narrative Rough Draft” assignment in the First Portfolio Submission folder. Upload and save the assignment, but do not click the submit button until you have completed all of the assignments in the First Portfolio Submission folder.

Personal Narrative

Sample Rough Draft

It was summertime and I was going to be late for piano lessons. I pedaled faster and faster on my bike. Suddenly my right foot slipped and got caught in the spokes of the back wheel. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the sidewalk all tangled up in my bike in front of the town bowling alley. I wondered how long I would lie there before someone would help me out. Thank heavens for the little old couple living next to the bowling alley nearby. I don’t even remember their names, but the man helped cut my foot out of the spokes, and the lady called my home and explained the accident to my mom. That’s when I noticed my right arm (that I had used to brace my fall) really ached!

Soon I was at the hospital getting X-rays and a cast for my broken right arm. When I got home, I began thinking maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad summer after all. Since I was right-handed, I couldn’t possibly be expected to do the regular summer chores. I began imagining my younger brothers and sisters doing all my work while I sat back sipping something cold, reading a book, and waiting for sympathy presents from my friends. I sat on my bed, studying the cast on my arm. That’s when my dad came to the entrance to my room, carrying something behind his back, and asked if he could come in.

I couldn’t wait to see my first get-well gift. He sat on the edge of my bed and began telling a story. He said that when I had been just a little girl, he had broken his arm too. He was a butcher at the time, and one day a big bull ran into him and pinned his right arm against a fence, immediately breaking it. He said that it was such bad timing. He was going to school and working in order to support his wife and two babies. He said that even though I had a broken arm, I couldn’t just give up. I still had one good arm and I could learn how to use it.

It was then he pulled out his gift for me from behind his back. It was an apple and a knife. He went on. “There are a lot of things you can still do with one hand.” Then, to my amazement, he put his right arm behind his back and peeled and cored the apple with his left hand. Needless to say, that summer I learned how to cook, write, and play the piano with my left hand.

Sample Mentor Feedback

I asked Jenny Jarvis to read over my rough draft and give me comments. Jenny is an English major and taught eighth grade English for many years.

Positive Comments

  1. You use wonderful details and include all the important events.
  2. Your grammar and punctuation are correct and make it easy to read.
  3. You chose a great topic. It teaches an important lesson in life and will hopefully inspire readers.

Suggestions for Improvement

  1. Some of the phrases are repetitive. Vary them more. For example, in the third paragraph, five sentences begin with “He said,” or “He did.”
  2. Describing each event exactly as it happened is thorough, but replacing some of the details with similes and metaphors would add excitement and emotion to the story.
  3. Your story begins and ends too abruptly. Try to use a more creative introduction and better resolution in the conclusion.

Personal Narrative Final Draft

If you agree with your mentor’s suggestions, go ahead and implement them into your narrative. Remember it’s your piece of writing and you don’t have to use your mentor’s suggestions if you don’t agree with them. However, make sure your essay is strong in all six areas of the Six-Part Writing Assessment Model. Look over my grading rubric to see how your writing will be graded.

Instructor Grading Rubric for the Personal Narrative

Here is the rubric I will be using to grade your essay. I will be using all the assessment areas from the Six-part Writing Assessment model you learned about in Lesson 1. Read through this grading scale and see how your personal narrative measures up.

Photo Essay Rubric (cont.)











Personal Narrative Instructor Grading Rubric











Ideas and Content

Ideas are fresh and original. The story holds the reader’s attention. Relevant, telling, quality details give the reader important information that goes beyond the obvious or predictable

Ideas are reasonably clear, though they may not be detailed, personalized, or expanded enough. Some details in the paragraphs are specific, others pretty general

Writer is still in search of a topic. Information in the paragraphs is limited or unclear.


The narrative has an inviting introduction that draws the reader in; a satisfying conclusion leaves the reader with a sense of resolution. Details fit where they are placed. Transitions show how ideas connect.

The organization in the narrative is strong enough to move the reader through the story without a lot of confusion. Some ideas don’t fit where they are placed. The introduction doesn’t create a strong sense of anticipation in the reader.

The narrative lacks a clear sense of direction. Connections between ideas are confusing or missing. It’s hard for the reader to get a grip on the story line.


The narrative has a lot of personality. It is honest, appealing, and written from the heart.

Writer is sincere, but not fully engaged or involved. Voice may emerge strongly then retreat behind dispassionate language.

The writing communicates on a functional level, but does not move or involve the reader. It’s hard to sense the writer behind the words.

Word Choice

Words are specific and accurate; it’s easy to understand the narrative. Lively verbs energize the writing. Precise nouns and modifiers create pictures in the reader’s mind. Striking words or phrases often catch the reader’s eye and linger in the reader’s mind.

Words are correct and adequate, but lack flair. Familiar words and phrases communicate, but rarely capture the reader’s imagination. Energetic verbs or picturesque phrases liven things up now and then; the reader longs for more

The writer struggles with a limited vocabulary, searching for words to convey meaning. The writing has more than one of these problems: vague language, redundancy, and words used incorrectly.

Sentence Fluency

The narrative has an easy flow and rhythm when read aloud. Sentences are well built, with strong and varied structure that invites expressive oral reading. Sentences vary in length as well as structure.

Sentences get the job done, but are not artfully crafted. There is some variation in sentence length and structure. Some paragraphs invite expressive oral reading; others need more work.

Many sentences begin the same way and may follow the same patterns. Sentences are choppy, incomplete, rambling, or awkward.

Writing Conventions

The writer demonstrates a good grasp of standard writing conventions (grammar, capitalization, punctuation, usage, spelling, paragraphing). Errors tend to be few and so minor that the reader can easily overlook them unless hunting for them specifically.

The writer shows reasonable control over a limited range of standard writing conventions. Conventions are sometimes handled well; at other times are distracting and make the description hard to read.

Errors in spelling, punctuation, usage and grammar, capitalization, or paragraphing repeatedly distract the reader and make the narrative difficult to read.

Once you feel your narrative is polished and perfected, title it “Personal Narrative Final Draft.” Your narrative is worth 45 points. Please include the instructor rubric as a page in your document when you submit it.

NOTE: You will be turning in the final draft of your personal narrative at the end of this lesson as part of your Lesson 3 Writing Portfolio.

Personal Narrative

This final draft is worth 45 points. When you are ready to submit your final narrative, open the Personal Narrative Final Draft assignment in the First Portfolio Submission folder. Upload your assignment and save, but do not click submit until you have completed all of the assignments in the First Portfolio Submission folder.

You will be turning in the final draft of your personal narrative at the end of this lesson as part of your Lesson 3 Writing Portfolio.

Sample Final Draft

As I lay in a heap on the sidewalk, my foot twisted into my bicycle spokes, I never would have guessed that one day I’d be thankful for this crazy accident. I tried not to cry as I wondered how long it would be before someone would notice my helpless state. I had landed in front of Springville’s bowling alley, the “Closed” sign glaring in the sun’s bright morning light. I tried to move, but I was trapped in a web of metal.

I closed my eyes and flashed back to the moment before my fall. I had been rushing, my legs doing crazy circles pushing my bike to its limits. If I hurried, maybe I’d convince my bike to fly the six blocks delivering me to my piano lesson on time. But in my great haste my left foot slipped off the pedal and was seized by spokes of the spinning back wheel. The bike stopped suddenly, but my body continued in a forward motion, headfirst over the handlebars. My tangled foot stopped me from flying through the air.

“Do you need some help, young lady?” I sighed with relief as I saw a white-haired gentleman heading toward me, surveying my predicament. “I’ll be back,” he said as he noticed my trapped foot; his footsteps quickened toward his house. Soon he was back with wire cutters, freeing my twisted foot. As I stood up and walked with him toward his house, I noticed that it wasn’t my foot that hurt the most – it was my right arm. I hadn’t noticed the deep ache until now, but it was a pain I had never known before. It was this arm that had slammed into the sidewalk, in order to save my face from contact with the concrete.

After a phone call, I found myself heading with my mom to the hospital and it was there I learned what this sharp pain meant. I had broken my radius bone (one of the bones that attaches to the wrist) in the arm I used the most!

That afternoon, I lay on my bed, looking at the white, thick cast on my arm. It was then that an idea flooded my head. “Hey, this might not be such a bad summer deal after all,” I mused. You see, summers at my house could have been called work camps! I spent most of my summer days cooking, cleaning, practicing the piano, pulling weeds, picking beans, or peeling peaches to bottle for the winter. Now that only one arm worked, how could I be expected to do any of those things? I imagined curling up on my bed every day with good books, good videos, and a lot of sympathy from my family and friends.

“Lorena?” My dad’s voice pulled me out of my fantasy. He was standing in the entrance with his hands behind his back. What get-well gift was he bringing to me? Flowers? A good book? I motioned for him to come in.

He walked in and sat on the edge of my bed. “Did you know I also broke my right arm once?”

I didn’t.

And so he began his story. Back in the days when he was a butcher, he had been trying to corner an unhappy heifer when she charged him. He moved just in time for her to miss his body, but she rammed into his arm, pinning him to a railroad tie cemented in the middle of the pen. Dad said he heard a loud snap and immediately felt like he was going to faint. Soon he was in the hospital getting a cast on his right arm, trying to figure out how he was going to support his family. He knew he couldn’t just give up and lie in bed all day – he had to keep working on his college degree and supporting a pregnant wife and two little girls. So, he resolved to make his one good arm do the work of two for a while. And, that’s exactly what he did.

“Now,” he said, looking at my arm in white plaster, “You too still have one good arm, and I know you can learn how to use it.”

Then he pulled from behind his back a very strange gift. It was an apple and a paring knife. I looked at his odd presents with eyebrows raised.

He went on. “There are a lot of things you can still do with one hand.”

Then, to my amazement, he tucked his right arm behind his back and peeled and cored the apple, using only his left hand.

As I look back over my life, I’d have to say that my dad’s gift of an apple peeled with one hand is one of my most treasured memories. No, I didn’t enjoy a summer of leisure and relaxation. Instead, I tapped into an inner strength I must have inherited from my dad. I worked doubly hard learning to write, play the piano, pull weeds, and even cook with my left arm. I learned that a little determination goes a long way and that obstacles in life can turn into great blessings. And, yes, I even learned how to peel and apple with one hand.

Subject English
Due By (Pacific Time) 11/01/2013 12:00 am
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