Multi-Angle Personal Narrative Assignment Sheet
Stories, the argument goes, are the main way we make sense of things, whether in thinking of our lives as a progression leading somewhere or in telling ourselves what is happening in the world. –Jonathan Culler (Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction 82)
Jonathan Culler argues that stories help us to make sense of things. For this assignment, you will select an important moment from your life and tell it as a story. Your purpose is to write a narrative that reveals something important about you to your audience, and perhaps to yourself as well. This first assignment asks you to reconsider your experience from a variety of angles. Along the way you’ll consider issues of organization, description, detail selection, point of view and audience.
The main research resource for this assignment is yourself. While it may seem daunting to choose and write about just one of many significant moments in your life, the activities you will do in and out of class will help you sift through your history to find a rich story to tell. These activities might include: A short paper about a time in your life when you communicated well A timeline
“Top Ten” lists
Free writes that discuss who you are
Talking with family and friends to gain their perspective on notable memories Reading some examples of narratives written by student authors and professional writers As you narrow your list of possible ideas, you may find some real documents or images— such as emails, journal entries, or postcards—that might enrich the telling of a particular story.
Some authors experiment with headings, genre, and point of view as a way to play with a traditional, linear story while still telling a coherent story.
For instance, think of the different ways writers might tell about their first day on campus. If you wanted to experiment with headings, you might choose a few specific moments from that first day. If you wanted to use different genres to organize the story, you might include a conversation in the car, a map of the campus, a facebook profile of your new roommate, a picture of your dorm room, a diary entry about your emotions about leaving your family and friends at home, an email you wrote to one of your instructors, an AIM conversation with your best friend, a poster you put on your dorm room wall, etc. Perhaps you could think about this same story cinematically, using flashbacks and flash forwards. Yet another organization might be based on how the emphasis of the story shifts if you tell the same story to three very different readers. As this assignment will show, writers make decisions about organization, focus, and development all the time. Your instructor will provide additional suggestions and guidelines.
Make sure you find a way to tell a detailed, interesting, and fact-based story, but also find a way to include some reflection: what new perspective have you gained from this experience? The reflection could all take place at the end, or it might be used as an introductory frame, or you might decide to distribute your reflective comments throughout the story. You might even choose to write a separate piece that reflects on the story you’ve told, which might be written as a reflective journal entry or a letter. Ultimately, the purpose of this reflection is to communicate to your audience why this story is significant in your life, and why you decided to tell it.
We do not write for ourselves alone. Rather, we need to consider our narrative as part of a rhetorical triangle that encompasses the writer, the reader, and the subject matter. Consider what your readers already know about you and what they need to know. How much background information do you need to give to make the most impact? Also, as you write, notice what surprises you. If you, the writer, are surprised and intrigued, chances are that your reader will feel the same way. Beginning to reflect on audience
now, early in the course, will help in later assignments.
You will receive comments rather than a grade on an initial draft and a “final for now” draft. Your instructor will read your “final for now” draft to determine your success at: Choosing a focus among many possibilities
Conveying a personal experience in a way that is interesting and relevant Selecting and using descriptive detail and examples appropriate to your purpose(s) and audience(s) Reflecting on the new perspective you have gained since the experience Developing and practicing flexible strategies for invention, focus, organization, and revision Demonstrating originality and initiative that remain relevant to the assignment Demonstrating genuine progress from draft to draft
Proofreading your work so that it appears neat and professional Meeting the length requirement (about 5-6 pages)