What is a “personal narrative”? • Personal means that you use experience from your own life • Narrative is a story about an event or a series of events Therefore, a personal narrative is a story about the author’s personal experience. The editors of your textbook state that personal narratives “are stories that reveal a writer’s opinions, feelings, and insights about an experience” (49).
Personal Narratives & Literature • Personal narratives/personal essays fall under a genre of literature often called creative nonfiction. In Writing and Grammar, the editors use the term autobiographical narration--“telling a story from your own life” (48). • While personal essays are short, longer personal narratives--those of book-length--are known as memoirs.
Important Terms • Emotion (also pathos)- a personal narrative relies more upon emotion than logic • Experience- the subject matter of a personal narrative is the author’s experience (based in reality) • Event(s)- unique occurrences (one-time only) • Reflection- making sense of the past • “real”- real experience and events usually dominate, yet imagination or conjecture may also be included in a personal narrative
Using “I” • Personal narratives are told from the first-person point of view, the author’s. So, “I” should be used in the text. • While the point of view is first-person, the author of a personal narrative may place him/herself as witness and focus on his/her personal interpretation of events and/or people witnessed.
Structure • Like fictional narratives, personal narratives should have structure involving events and conflict/tension. • Personal narratives may have traditional or experimental structure. • Personal narratives must include a substantial amount of reflection which usually occurs in narrative summary (the opposite of scene). The structure of personal narratives must allow space for both the telling of events (often through scene) and reflection.
Anecdotes and Structure • Anecdotes are “brief, true, and usually humorous stories that contain a definite conclusion” (49). • Anecdotes may interrupt, so to speak, a narrative. • Anecdotes may 1. Simply offer a break from a longer narrative or 2. Add to/comment upon some part of the longer narrative
Flashback • Another editor, Kathleen McWhorter, states, “A flashback returns the reader to events that took place in the past” (206). • Flashbacks are scenes from the past included in a narrative. • Flashbacks may add depth, insight or context to a personal narrative. • When including a flashback, make sure to set it up properly so the reader knows the narrative is going back in time.