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.