Basic Dialogue Format for Narrative
When characters speak, their exact language should be in quotes, and the reader should know who’s speaking, thus these rules:
- Each speaker gets his or her own paragraph; a return and indent. This mimics real conversation, indicating pauses and so forth.
- Attributions (“He said, “She said” and variations) should be used, but not too much, and varied so they’re not repetitious; they can be used at the start of quotes, in the middle, or at the end. When attributions are overused, they get in the way; the key is that the reader should always know who’s speaking.
- Always use a comma after attribution (She said,) when introducing a quote.
When I was eight, my father dragged me into my bedroom after I lit a folded pile of his shirts on fire. I sat on the edge of the bed, not looking up, my hands folded mannerly in my lap.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You lit my shirts on fire, boy? Where’d you learn that?”
“What? Daycare? You learned how to light shirts on fire at daycare?”
I froze and looked up the ceiling, trying to backtrack. I actually learned how to light matches by watching him light his pipe, but I couldn’t tell him that.
“A kid brought matches one day. I told him matches were bad.”
“I’m calling your daycare.”
“No,” I said. Okay, I screamed it, and he scowled at me.
“Tell me the truth, lad.”
I took a deep breath and let is slide out: “I hate your shirts, Dad.”
The Personal Narrative Essay Outline
There are two times when you will write personal narrative essays – for a college admissions essay requirement and as a course assignment in an English com class. Usually such essays will be written in response to some prompt and will entail your depiction of an experience or experiences that in some way have shaped what you now believe or value, or even the person you have become. Some students find this type of essays to be the most difficult one. That’s why we have decided to give you some tips and help with it. Whether for admissions or assignment, the personal narrative essay outline is essentially the same and should at least roughly conform to the following structure.
The Hook: Your first sentence should be compelling and make the reader want to continue. Let’s say you are going to present a tale about your travel abroad, specifically an experience of being “pick-pocketed” in Florence, Italy. You might begin with a startling fact about the number of incidents of this crime in a day in that city or the fact that child gypsies are sent out by their families to pick-pocket as a means of supporting those families. On the other hand you may start with a description of your feelings caused by this accident. It will be an intriguing start, because the reader would like to know what the reason for your fear or despair was.
Set the Scene: Here you want to give the reader the general place and time of the experience(s) you will be relating. Sometimes, the experiences may occur over a period of time (for example, growing up in poverty) or they will relate to a single incident (being in Italy for a week as a part of family vacation). You must always include such information in the introduction. The reader should know from the very beginning where and when the action takes place.
The Thesis Statement: They can be a bit different from the statement you would write for another type of essay. You can actually begin your story, for example, “The morning began like any other, with breakfast and decisions about what we would visit that day, but it certainly ended up differently,” or you can offer a lesson learned, “I now know why travelers are encouraged to protect their valuables with one of those pouches that can go inside their clothing,” or some theme that your story will portray, “Hardships and lack make us all innovators of sorts.” It should also be interesting so that the reader would want to know more and continue reading the essay.
Usually, the body paragraphs will tell the story of the experience. However, this is not always the case. Suppose your essay is about growing up in poverty and you have used the theme that this condition turned you into an innovator (your theme). Each paragraph will then provide the reader with an example of how you became an innovator. Perhaps you learned how to fashion “toys” from objects you found in the neighborhood; perhaps you learned how to mix unlikely combinations of food when there was very little in the cupboard; perhaps you started to design and make clothes when there was no money to buy them.
Remember that every argument should always be followed by examples.
Remember to use good transition sentences between your body paragraphs – they can come either at the end of a paragraph to introduce the next one, or at the beginning of the new paragraph with some reference back to the previous one. All the paragraphs should be connected and the narration should be logical.
The other point is this: you need to “show” the reader your story, not just “tell.” You can do this by injecting actual conversation or by descriptions that paint a picture. Remember that you should avoid direct and dry statements here. Show your story in bright colors and use more description paragraphs.
Reflect on your experience(s) by asking yourself a couple of questions. What have you learned? How has your life been impacted? Would you act differently if you could relive that situation again? It’s very important to understand the lessons that you have received. It will explain your choice to write about this event and show that you are mature enough to learn from your experience, even if it’s bad.
Some Additional Tips
Usually these essays are written in the first person, so you will be using a lot of “I’s.” After you have written the piece, go back and see if you can replace some of those “I’s” by altering sentence structure. You may want to use passive constructions here also. There shouldn’t be many repetitions in the text.
You will obviously move from past to present and back to past tenses in this essay, and that is expected. Try to make it easy for a reader to understand when you give a retrospective and when the narration is in the present time. Don’t mess it up too much.
The Ideas On Writing
Some Personal Narrative Essay Ideas
1. Choose an incident or experience that is a bit “extreme” – extremely frightening, extremely humorous, extremely sad or poignant, or different from the experiences that most people have. This will make your narration far more interesting to the reader. Try to avoid boring and obvious things. But also don’t forget to include the lessons you have learned from this extreme experience, otherwise the story will seem incomplete or even senseless.
2. If you are responding to an essay prompt for college admissions, you will have options. For some students it makes the task easier, while others struggle even more with these given options. Read those options carefully and make a list of what you might write about for each prompt. Then review your lists and choose the one about which you have the most passion and emotions. This will make your writing more interesting as the chosen topic will be the most appealing for you.
3. If you are looking at a college admissions essay, and you have time to generate topic ideas, set up a file on your phone. It is with you every day, and you can enter ideas as they come to you. Some people also prefer using notebooks for all their thoughts. Choose the variant that is more suitable for you and write down all the topics that come to your mind during the day. Then, when you get ready to choose a topic, you will have lots of options. You can also try mind mapping to choose the topic you want to speak about. There are a lot of tips and information about mind mapping on the web, so it’s not difficult to find out more about it.
4. If the assignment is due shortly, and you do not have much time, sit quietly some place, go back to your childhood and move toward the present. What incidents or experiences really stick out in your mind? Which do you remember in great detail? These are your options. Consider using them.
This is a rather simplistic explanation for narrative essay construction, but it should get you started. You can find a great guide "how to write a personal narrative essay" on many college websites, so if you need more details, check those out! Also if you find yourself in a situation where you need professional help with writing your narrative essay – don’t hesitate and contact us! Our expert writers will perform an excellent paper for you no matter how short your deadline is and our support team will help you to place an order. They will also keep you informed of all the details of the ordering process. Thus you may be sure that your narrative essay will be written on time in an interesting and exciting way.
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