So while the story of you crowd surfing at Warped Tour '08 may be exciting for you to reflect on, there is not much of a lesson learned. (Unless you learned that crowd surfing comes with the risk of being dropped onto concrete.)
The first step is identifying a story which has impacted you in some way, be it positively or negatively. Perhaps start by compiling a list of experiences and beside them, the lesson you learned from that. Select the one you feel you can provide the most details and description for. It should be one you are passionate about, because that passion will translate into your writing, and then into your reader.
The following is a list of things to keep in mind while writing your paper.
Use of First Person
Since this is a personal narrative, first person (I, me, my) should naturally be used. There should be no second person (you), as this would refer to your reader, who had no involvement in your experience. Third person (people, person) may be used when discussing the lesson learned, because then your reader can apply your lesson to their personal life.
Details and Description
Details and description are like the vascular system for a paper. It gives the paper life. It makes it real to your reader. The more details and description, the better. However, be wary of going off topic. If the details/descriptions do not supplement the main point of your paper, get rid of it. It will just distract the reader from the lesson they are supposed to be learning.
Showing vs. Telling
Many instructors tell their students that for their personal narrative, they need to show, not tell. Then they come to the WRIT Center and say, "I have no idea what they meant by that." Here are some examples to illustrate what they mean:
- Telling: "When I came home, dinner was ready"
- Showing: "As I walked through my wide, burgundy front door, the warm smell of arroz con pollo enveloped my nose. "
- Telling: "The dog was barking and growling a lot."
- Showing: "My ears were stinging from the sharp vocalizations made by the dog. As the beast snarled, spit flung outwards from their mouth. Their upper lip curled, revealing their pointed, plaque-ridden teeth. "
Sensory details are a big deal in personal narratives. They enhance narratives greatly. Sensory detail involves sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. In the above examples of showing vs. telling, I used the sense of smell, sound, and sight to enhance the descriptive qualities of the sentence. When writing your narrative, you want your reader to understand everything from your perspective. If your reader is able to see, smell, and hear the things you did in your experience, then the lesson will ring loud and clear for your reader.
Figurative language is a great way to vary your sentences in your personal narrative. Here are the common ones:
- Simile--contains "like" or "as" for a description; her hair was as golden as a retriever.
- Metaphor--does not contain "like" or "as" but illustrates a similarity between two things; his brillo pad hair did not help him get the girls.
- Personification--gives an inanimate object human traits; my iPhone 6 sang me a sweet lullaby of Twitter and Facebook notifications.
- Analogy--compares two unrelated things through their similarities; reading a science book is a lot like exercising for me: I sweat, cry, and want to give up, but afterwards, I feel accomplished for even trying.
Finally, keep in mind that your body should support your thesis. The same goes for a narrative. Your story must support the lesson you are trying to convey.
Good luck on writing your personal narratives!