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A tutorial explaining how to write a personal narrative essay

Writing a personal narrative essay can be an enjoyable, stress free experience so long as a student knows the best strategies to use for doing so. This simple guide will help.

Step One: Prewriting

This is a very important step in the narrative essay writing process. It’s simply a brainstorming stage, but because of the nature of personal narrative is related to the student’s own experiences and memories, it’s also the “research” stage of writing a personal narrative essay. First, consider the theme of the assignment. List things in your life that you’ve experienced that relate to this theme. Then, choose one of these events that you think you would like to expand on. Spend ten minutes or so just free writing about this topic. If you feel you have plenty to explore, this is the topic for your essay. If not, choose another one of your ideas. Keep in mind that a narrative essay needn’t be about a huge experience—a small moment, change of heart, or pivotal time period can be equally good as topics.

Step Two: Outlining

Once you’ve chosen the topic you want to write your personal narrative about, it’s time to make an outline. Consider how you want to tell the story; do you want to start at the beginning, or explain how the experience changed you or its effect before you begin? What events will you include in the essay? What other people, and what inner thoughts are relevant to your narrative? Write down what you want to include in the order you want to include it, and then consider the themes of your essay. Separate your outline into sections by theme; these will be your paragraph breaks.

Step Three: Writing a Rough Draft

Write the rough draft of your essay, focusing on the content, and following your outline. Make sure you include enough background information; when writing about a personal topic, it’s important not to make too many assumptions about how much the reader will already understand about something unfamiliar to them. Focus on describing, and “showing, not telling”—that is, try to use actions, dialogue, and description rather than a detached narrator to get your ideas across.

Step Four: Editing

Once you have your rough draft finished, read it over and edit it. Look for things like awkward sentence construction and rough transitions between ideas.

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