ASSIGNMENT: Write a narrative essay using the techniques and elements of narrative writing that you have learned in this unit. Your essay must be approximately 500-800 words long.
Sample Narrative Essay
Choose a topic that enables you to tell a short, interesting personal story. Your story can be funny, suspenseful, meaningful, or exciting, but it must focus on one event. For example, if you decide to write about traveling to Denmark, you should not write about the entire trip. Choose one event — for example, an afternoon you spent bicycling on an island, or your first taste of smoked herring, or visiting the childhood home of Hans Christian Anderson — and tell a detailed story that focuses on that event.
In order to foster learning and growth, all essays you submit must be newly written specifically for this course. Any recycled work will be sent back with a 0, and you will be given one attempt to redo the touchstone.
Following are some ideas that can help you to select a topic for your story:
Firsts — Think of a “first” in your life and describe that moment in detail.
Proud Moment — Choose a moment when you felt proud about an accomplishment.
Adversity — Describe a time when you had to think or act quickly to overcome a challenge.
Traveling — Recall a memorable experience you had while traveling.
B. Think About Your Writing
Below your completed narrative, include answers to all of the following reflection questions:
1. Which narrative techniques did you use to bring your story to life? (2-3 sentences) Sophia says: Did you use vivid description, sensory details, and/or dialogue to engage readers? Provide two examples from your essay in which you “show” readers rather than “tell” them. EXAMPLE: A sentence such as “I glanced at the clock, grabbed my briefcase, and sprinted for the elevator” uses more descriptive language than simply saying “I was running late for the meeting.”
2. How did your purpose and audience shape the way in which you wrote your narrative? (3-4 sentences) Sophia says: Your hypothetical audience extends beyond the people who will evaluate your narrative. Which individuals or groups were you addressing when you wrote your narrative, and how did consideration of your audience and your purpose influence the way in which you wrote it?
3. Provide a concrete example from your narrative that shows how you have written specifically for this audience and purpose. (3-5 sentences) Sophia says: Consider including a quotation from your essay and explaining how it was written to appeal to your audience, and to accomplish your purpose. Alternatively, you might describe a theme, tone, or narrative technique that you used and explain how it was intended to appeal to your audience, and to achieve your purpose.
C. Narrative Guidelines
DIRECTIONS: Refer to the checklist below throughout the writing process. Do not submit your Touchstone until your essay meets all of the guidelines. Print this checklist!
Narrative Focus and Flow
❒ Are all of the details in your story relevant to your purpose?
❒ Are the events presented in a logical order that is easy to follow?
❒ Is your story 500-800 words in length? If not, which details do you need to add or subtract?
❒ Is there an opening paragraph that introduces the setting, characters, and situation?
❒ Are there middle paragraphs that describe the progression of events?
❒ Is there a closing paragraph that provides a thorough resolution to the story?
Narrative Language and Techniques
❒ Have you incorporated narrative language and techniques (e.g., figurative language, sensory details, dialogue, and vivid description)?
❒ Can examples of narrative language and techniques be found throughout your story, or are they only evident in some places?
❒ Have you double-checked for correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, formatting, and capitalization?
❒ Have you proofread to find and correct typos?
Narrative Essay Example to use
Why I Believe in Sharing Good Food
I believe in sharing meals with loved ones. Food is obviously an important component in keeping us alive, but in America today we have lost the importance of food in connecting with those around us. We’re all just grasping for the next Big Mac or soda and moving on with our day. I used to think that food was just something delicious or filling, but then I learned how good food can be at connecting people.
My mom has always been a great cook. When I was a kid, we had a home-cooked dinner almost every night. She calls herself a “peasant cook” because what she makes is not usually fancy. But still I remember crispy fried chicken alongside creamy mashed potatoes smothered in rich gravy or pots of spaghetti sauce that filled the house with an herby, tomato smell as they bubbled throughout the day.
Our house was often full of my parents’ friends, particularly after church on Sunday afternoon. “It’s a sin to not have enough food for people,” my mother would say, only half joking, so peasant food or not, there was always a lot of it. In hindsight, I see the importance in these meals and a house full of friends and family, but at the time I just thought it was a part of normal life.
Everything changed when my grandfather died. I was only 20 years old. He had always been very healthy but then cancer struck and he died far too soon, at the age of 67. I drove with my mom, brother, and sister from Utah to Oregon where all my extended family was gathering for his funeral.
“I can’t believe he’s actually gone,” said my brother, Samuel.
“Yeah, I can’t believe that when we get to this end of this trip we’re not going to hear Grandpa telling a bunch of crazy stories or teasing jokes,” my mom replied.
Our drive seemed dotted with memories as much as with trees, hills, and semi-trucks. All of us were quiet with our own memories of spending time with Grandpa. My grandpa was only the second significant death in my life and it felt very strange to lose that important link in my family chain. At his funeral, everyone talked about him with love and laughed over his terrible puns, but I was too sad to laugh.
A couple of days later, most of the extended family had gone home and my grandparents’ house, which had been crammed to capacity, started to have more breathing room. We were down to just my immediate family, my uncle Joe and his son, Luke, and my grandmother.
During this period, our huge clan had not given much thought to eating, and we had just been eating out or snacking as we were all so busy and stricken with grief. But on this last night, my uncle offered to make a big, home-cooked dinner. As I sat down at my grandparents’ family-sized table, I heard the ocean crashing softly outside the open window.
I then noticed the crisp green salad, loaded with fresh lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, green onions, and olives. Then I saw the crusty bread with white butter and the fluffy mashed potatoes, whipped with butter, salt, and pepper. I felt my mouth fill with saliva almost immediately. And then there was the fish. We were on the coast, after all, so my uncle baked halibut filets that were lightly crispy and perfectly flaky. They smelled of rich butter and just a bit of the Pacific and almost melted in my mouth when I took a bite.
After my first bite of fish I couldn’t help groaning. “This is so, so good.”
“Mmm hmm,” said others, diving in from places around the table.
“You know your grandfather loved fresh fish,” my grandmother added. “It was one of his favorite things about living here.”
Unlike the memories at the funeral, this comment felt like it was both true to my grandfather’s memory and a recognition of the greatness we had lost.
But the thing I remember even more than the food was the connection I felt to my family. I looked around the table and saw people that I loved, my uncle Joe, Luke, my mom, my little brother and sister, and, most importantly, my grandmother, who had just lost the love of her life. Even though we had just suffered a huge loss, the meal felt like it was healing us and connecting us.
I remember so strongly how the meal, the “breaking of bread” as they say, seemed like the perfect ending to this hard experience. This is a lesson that I have never forgotten and now I love to share meals with friends and family in times of happiness and sadness. This is why I believe in sharing meals with loved ones.
Think About Your Writing:
1. What narrative techniques did you use to bring your story to life? (2-3 sentences) Sophia says: Did you use vivid description, sensory details, and/or dialogue to pull the reader in? Provide two examples from your essay in which you “show” the reader rather than “tell” the reader.
EXAMPLE: I was running late for the meeting vs. I glanced at the clock, grabbed my briefcase, and sprinted for the elevator. I really enjoy the fact that narrative writing uses figurative language and sensory details to make a point. It allows me to feel more creative in my writing and allows me to have fun with the words and phrases I use to paint a picture for the reader.
For example, I used sensory details and vivid language in this passage to describe some of the food: “Then I saw the crusty bread with white butter and the fluffy mashed potatoes, whipped with butter, salt, and pepper. I felt my mouth fill with saliva almost immediately.” I also used figurative language in the following sentence to bring it to life: “Our drive seemed dotted with memories as much as with trees, hills, and semi-trucks.”
2. How did your purpose and audience shape the way in which you wrote your narrative? (3-4 sentences) Sophia says: The hypothetical audience goes beyond the individuals evaluating your composition. What groups or individuals did you have in mind when you wrote your narrative and how did consideration of your audience and purpose influence the way you wrote? Because of my purpose, which was to tell about how I learned to value sharing food with loved ones, I tried to make sure I made the food sound delicious because that would draw the audience in.
I also wanted to tell a story that was meaningful to me, not only in that it involved the loss of my grandfather, who I loved, but also an important realization for me about the power of food. When I was writing this narrative, I imagined my audience as young adults who have probably experienced the loss of a grandparent as well.
3. Provide a concrete example from your narrative that shows how you have directed your writing towards this audience and purpose. (3-5 sentences) Sophia says: Consider including a quotation from your essay and explaining how it is intended to appeal to your audience and purpose. Alternatively, you may want to describe a theme, tone, or narrative technique that you used and explain how it is intended to appeal to your audience and purpose.
One concrete thing I did to appeal to this audience was to mention my age when this happened, which was 20, which is probably close to the same age as my ideal audience. I also included related details from when I was a child to show how I developed from my experiences then with the events of the narrative up to now.
I also appealed to my broader audience by telling an experience that was important but also common so that probably a lot of people can relate. “And then there was the fish. We were on the coast, after all, so my uncle baked halibut fillets that were lightly crispy and perfectly flaky.
They smelled of rich butter and just a bit of the Pacific and almost melted in my mouth when I took a bite.” In this example, I wanted my reader to experience the sensations of tasting freshly caught fish served in a traditional way. It reinforces the idea that although we had suffered a major loss that we could still find comfort in food and family.