English 1A
Narrative/Descriptive Essay
5-6 pages (1500-1800 words

Tell me a story.

Your next essay will be a narrative/descriptive essay - in other words, a story that contains some descriptive elements.

Purpose: To practice the principles of narrative technique, practice MLA format, practice the steps in the writing process.

1. Read all the material in Module 6, Narrative. Review the basics for writing a college essay in Module 2. 

2. Choose a topic.  Almost any topic will do for a narrative essay, as long as it's compelling. If you are stuck for ideas, here are a few to get your thoughts flowing:

  • A challenge to the system: Write about a time when you challenged a value or tradition handed down to you by your elders or by an authority figure.  What lesson did it teach you about your society and your place in it?
  • Growing up story:  Did anything ever happen to you that caused you to grow up in a hurry?  Write a coming-of-age story about a time when you went through a rite of passage, or a milestone of maturation, that caused you to see/accept life in your particular community with all its glory and misery.  It might be a story of accepting responsibility, or of losing some aspect of your childhood fantasies, or of seeing your life with a sadder-but-wiser perspective, or of having an experience so transcendent and exhilerating that you suddenly understood the meaning of life.
  • A family story. Is there a story that's been handed down in your family?  What story would you like to tell your own children about your life or the life of one of their ancestors?  What family memories do you want preserved?
  • An eerie story : Have you ever had anything happen to you that you could not explain? What happened, and how did it change the way you viewed the world?
  • A short story.  You don't have to write a story about yourself - you can make up anything you want.  You could consider this to be a creative writing exercise, and write a short story completely from imagination. 
  • Free Choice:  Tell a story with another theme or topic.  You are limited only by your imagination. 

3.  Brainstorm ideas.  Be as specific and detailed as possible. Include descriptive elements liberally.  Think about which narrative choices you'll make.  Who is your main character? Will the story be in first, second or third person?  Who might be the audience for this story? What kind of tone will you use?

4.  Settle on a purpose.  What is the main thing you want your reader to understand about you, or your main character?  What is the larger message you want to impart about human nature?

5.  Organize your ideas.  Think about the chronology of events, and decide which events should take place in scene, and which in summary. How will you transition between events and ideas?  What details will you include to help make the thesis clear.  Will you be using foreshadowing or flashbacks, or following a straight narrative arc? Make sure that all your ideas, dialogue and descriptions work to emphasize your main point.

6. Write a draft.  Make sure you include a title! (And don't just call it "Narrative Essay", please. Surely you can do better than that for a title.)

7. Revise your draft.  You might want to review the reading materials again to make sure you've covered everything.

8.  Save your revision and submit to the Assignments Chamber.

9. Relax  with your favorite beverage. Congratulations!