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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
A lot of students are assigned personal essays at one point or another. But, before putting pen to paper and composing your personal story, you should figure out:
Even though these three commonly come under the same umbrella, we should distinguish between:
The purpose of the personal essay alters with regards to its goal.
If you are a beginning writer, use a straightforward organizational structure:
The body of the personal essay, be it a narrative, a personal opinion piece or a personal statement, should include at least three paragraphs that will tell your story in a clear manner:
In all three types of a personal essay, the conclusion or ending should answer the question: Why on Earth is your personal experience relevant to the reader?
If you haven’t been provided with a prompt by your tutor, begin with a hook that will fire the imagination of your readers. It needs to be a life-changing experience or a turning point in your life that taught you a valuable lesson. In the end, your personal struggle will accommodate the problems of your readers and help them retain the story in a way that works for them. It will make your reader feeling wiser just from having read your piece. Remember, your narrative essay needs to have a point. Ask yourself:
Think of an action that embodies the change you have gone through and turn the old you into new you thanks to the lesson you’ve learned. It can be a trauma or a triumph. It’s up to you.
“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser”(John W. Gardner)
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes” (Oscar Wilde)
“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forwards.” (Soren Kierkegaard)
You can also start in the middle of the tension of the story you want to tell. Find the highest tension moment and start your essay there. This rule can be applied to a wide range of topics.
If you are writing about being continuously bullied by your fellow students, put the reader right there from the first line:
“They kicked me in the stomach as I lay on the ground. I thought they will beat me to death. I lost consciousness twice.”
Now, the reader will be curious about what happens next. This action portion shouldn’t be longer than a paragraph. Here are more ideas to make this paragraph impressive:
“It was my first day at a new school. Even though I knew making friends would be hard, I was still optimistic since I was a good soccer player. So, as they were approaching me, I thought they would ask me to join their team and then all of a sudden…..”
The reader is now familiar with what came before the action.
The development part should contain at least three events or scenes that will let the reader grasp the rest of your story. You can go back in time to explain your horrified reaction to the chain of events you were facing so far:
“Even before arriving on campus, I was aware how desperately lonely and isolated I was after my parents’ death. There was no one to talk to either in my family or outside of it. I applied to university with the expectation that I would escape from real life hardships and find new friends whom I can confide in….”
So, you should choose very specific and sensory details from the distant past.
You may also take a different approach, and instead of reflecting the scenes by flashbacks, you can go forward in time from your action. Your development details will thus be placed in a future tense.
Whatever approach you take, stick to the specifics, people, scenes and even dialogue.
The climax is a life lesson. A significant revelation/realization moment – a moment when you learned something about life through the experience:
Actually, you are pointing out:
If you want to stand out from thousands of essays written every day either for school or publication, you need to end your essay with a vivid illustration. Because readers want to know whether you are actually turning your words into action by enacting this new realization:
“However, two weeks later I still felt as if I were living in a nightmare. Night after night I woke up crying. I was overwhelmed with feelings of fear, inferiority, and sadness. I finally decided to accept the student newspaper editor proposal and write an essay on bullying in school. After I wrote the very last line, I finally felt nothing but relief…”
And this should be a strong ending. That image of a boy resolute to write an essay and get it published at the very school where he experienced harsh times of bullying shows his acceptance. It tells us that a life lesson was really learned and that he gained the greatest possible advantage out of his atrocity.