Experiment two: How to write a personal narrative

Summary of origin piece:

My origin piece is something that I wrote in English 125.  It was a deeply personal narrative, but I felt like a lot of the things that I discussed–family history, self-esteem, and confidence–were universal themes.  My plan for my experiment is to change this origin piece into a work of creative nonfiction that reflects how these feelings are universal, and shows the extent that we change who we are.  I’m not crazy about writing a personal narrative as it’s a genre that I feel like I’ve explored a lot before. I’m not sure exactly what moment from my life I really want to explore, but I’m sure something will come to me. For the second experiment I would really like to return to writing more. I mentioned this in my reflection, but I think that my final project was very far from what I wanted my project to look like, and I hope this personal narrative corrects that. I want to continue to explore the idea of how we have so many ways that we can choose to present ourselves, and it’s hard to know which of these versions is “real.” So here it is, my return to writing and my return to how-tos:

How to write a personal narrative:

According to Webspiration, there are some essential tips to writing a good personal narrative. Good personal narratives should keep these things in mind:

  • Write in the first person. Since it’s your story, use “I” to start your sentences.
  • Include vivid imagery and lots of sensory details. You want the reader to experience the event with you.
  • Try to use dialogue, which can help you to engage the reader and add realism.
  • Weave your emotions into your narrative. The reader should know how you felt as the events unfolded.

Frankly I agree with all of these points, but I think it’s much simpler to say than do. I like what this outline promotes, but I don’t know if this advice would really help me write a better narrative.  The second source that I checked was  slightly more helpful.  According to wikihow, to write a personal narrative one should:

  1. focus on a memorable event or moment in your life
  2. expand on an important conflict in your life
  3. think about a particular theme or idea
  4. read examples of personal narratives

I think these are all much better point as they provide general guidelines about how to improve your writing. The other sources I looked at seemed to say similar things, so I took a slightly different route while looking for inspiration.

I take a lot of my tips for writing personal narratives from movies. Movies are like personal narratives as they both tell a story and are meant to make the audience feel something. This is a bit of me going off on a tangent (shocking right?), but I saw a movie trailer this morning that really interested me.

I’m not a big Amy Schumer fan, but the first 30 seconds I felt myself interested as Amy Schumer is a white, blonde, straight, maybe slightly overweight, American woman who continues to push a narrative that she’s horribly unattractive and feels isolated by society, and frankly in her quest to come across as “real” it verges into offensive territory.  The beginning starts feeling so honest, but the rest of the movie feels like Schumer showing people how great her life is, and it felt exactly like my first experiment—it even used music that I tried for my video which was an unbelievable weird coincidence.  I’m not sure exactly how this relates…but I don’t want my narrative to be like that. Personal narratives should be honest at their very core. Faux honesty is the only thing I want to avoid.. So replicating Schumer’s honesty and storytelling ability but shifting the focus is what I want ot do with my personal narrative.  I’m still looking for more sources of inspiration, but I think this is good guidance to know what direction I’m trying to avoid.

One thought to “Experiment two: How to write a personal narrative”

  1. Grace, I really enjoy how you make the distinction between honesty and faux honesty. I’m also surprised by how useful I think the wikihow suggestions are. And even the first list provides us with things we may take for granted, bringing writers back to a baseline to work from. I think writing is one of the easiest ways to be honest but also one of the easiest ways to present tailored versions of ourselves. My project is based in poetry and is purely personal. One of the things I’ve been grappling with (and what my poetry’s theme is) is anger and empathy. I often try my best to make my narrative self as pure as can be without fault. But that’s not a completely accurate portrayal. So I’m attempting to write in a way that includes all of my thoughts to an extent, all of the right and wrong questions and answers. In what ways are you writing and altering your narrative to move toward pure honesty and away from faux honesty?

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