Don’t you just love to lose yourself in a true story, whether it features romance, mystery, or humor? Reading how other people live life can enrich yours.
People like to read about four kinds of personal experiences:
- those that are universal,
- those that show a person overcoming obstacles or recovering from tragedy,
- those that awaken nostalgia, and
- those that are unique.
If you are reading this article, you undoubtedly have experiences you want to share. How do you write them so they resonate with your readers?
It all starts with a story.
The anecdote you want to share has an arc consisting of a beginning, a middle, and an end; one or more characters; a particular setting; a theme; an action or thought process that resulted in a change; possibly some dialogue. You will need to develop all of these as you would in a novel, though economically if you’re writing a short piece. And, your story must have a point.
To make a point, the story must do at least one of these three things:
- present a solution to a problem,
- make the reader laugh, and/or
- remind the reader of what we once took for granted but have lost.
In order to be effective, the personal narrative must be well-crafted.
Observe the conventions of good spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Use precise words that are descriptive, active, and visceral. Engage the senses and emotions. Vary sentence structure.
Reflect on how your experience impacted you. What did you learn from it? What takeaway can you offer?
Most of my own personal experience pieces have been published on my critique group’s website, Doing Life Together. Here are some of my favorites:
- My First Job.
- Not by the Hair of my Chinny Chin Chin.
- Don’t Rain on my Parade.
- My Journal, September 14, 2001.
- The Day Milo Went AWOL.
Every individual on this planet has experienced something worth sharing. Even an ordinary encounter can inform and entertain when you put your unique spin on it. Someone somewhere can learn from your mistakes and triumphs. You have the potential to change a life for the better, even if it’s only a momentary diversion. Don’t hold back; go for it!
Now it’s your turn to join the discussion. Have you written personal experience pieces? What incidents in your life would you like to share in the form of a personal essay? What do you think makes a strong personal narrative? Feel free to share a link in the comments below.
Guest post contributed by ARHuelsenbeck. Former elementary general music teacher ARHuelsenbeck blogs about the arts and the creative process at ARHtistic License. She is currently writing a YA mystical fantasy and a Bible study guide, and submitting a poetry chapbook, with mystery and MG drafts waiting in the wings. You can see some of her artwork, photography, and quilts on Instagram.
I like to work with others who have stories they are unable to write or put together themselves. The two I have commercially published are little-known historical records of boots-on-the-ground survival, military and civilian. They were not something that could be done in novel form. I had to write/edit as short stories allowing readers to feel they were there. I did not want to tell readers what to think and feel, rather wrote so they could experience and come to their own understanding how war is hell for everyone. Happy to say both books have enlightened many and have great reviews. I encourage everyone to write their stories, especially for their families. I’m sharing this post!
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What wonderful projects! I like what you said about not telling readers what to think or feel.
For me, I have difficulty in making myself vulnerable. People can be harsh and can judge cruelly, and I have not necessarily walked the straight and narrow in my life. So, for me, writing about personal experiences is both risky and tricky and makes me feel exceptionally vulnerable. I have found that the way around that is to write the personal experience in story form using metaphor and/or allegory throughout, and writing it in third person adds one more step of removal between my naked self and the story I know is worth sharing.
Recently, I did this very thing for a college course publication. I tried writing it in normal fashion first – you know, writing what actually happened in a regular, non-creative-story form – and found that I felt entirely naked in the midst of invisible spears that might come from any direction. So I rewrote the piece using the creative writing form and metaphor. My story was about how the abuse I suffered in childhood flung me off the Path and forced me to walk a Tightrope for most of my life, and how, when I encountered the Path again, I didn’t get on it, afraid to leave my Tightrope – but how a turning point came where I made a choice, and my story told why I made the choice to get on the Path and sever my Tightrope.
The link is here: https://thefairytalegarden.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/the-tightrope-and-the-path-a-story-about-one-womans-journey/
PS – I have imported this article from the original publication article to my own personal blog, because in about a week, the course publication project will end and the site with the articles will probably be taken down after that. This way, the article will stay up for anyone who might go there from here.
Reblogged this on Kim's Author Support Blog.
Some of my blog posts have been about my experiences with raising an autistic son. I want to bring awareness and acceptance to autism. I feel that my experience can help do so.
I often use my experiences in my fiction as well, but I make changes. 🙂
I do believe that every person has something amazing to share with the world. True stories and based upon true stories are my favorite books to read and movies to watch. I find them emotional even if it was not intended to be that way. People are incredible in every way. People are strong creatures. It’s impressive how people handle the challenges that they are dealt in their lives.
Most of my blogs have been about my everyday life.
Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
Check out this post from A Writer’s Path blog on the topic of Writing Personal Experience.
I am a fan of writing personal experience because it’s I think it’s my way of expressing myself. I am quite a sentimental person and values experiences of every individual. I am always a look out for stories with values and personal touch! Thanks for this post 😀 Totally relate.
I wrote a story about my surgery. I’m never ashamed to tell my story