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Narrative Essay Assignment

Assignment Summary

Connect. Those who think well make connections between things. An essay begins when two previously unrelated bits in the brain meet and discover a connection. Usually a new stimulus hitches up with an old bit stored long ago in the memory; the incoming billiard ball hits an old one that’s just lying there, and they fly off together. One popular, poisonous image for thinking is the light bulb flashing on over someone’s head - - the notion that ideas spring from within us, caused by nothing. To become good thinkers, we have to replace that image with another; think of ideas as billiard balls set in motion when something collides with them. Ideas are reactions - - we have them in response to other things.

To get something out, put something in.

In your notebooks, respond to the following prompts as “truthfully” as possible:

1. Tell me one thing about yourself so revelatory, personal, or embarrassing that I will never be able to look at you in the same way again.
2. Describe your first kiss.
3. What incident or decisions in your past do you most regret routinely?
4. What do you most regret about your childhood?
5. What do you most regret about your adolescence?
6. What do you most regret about your parents?
7. What is the biggest lie you ever told? Why did you tell it?
8. Write about the most unusual member of your family.
9. Describe something and distort the physical details.
10. Who do you wish you could have been born as? (Celebrities don’t count here. Choose someone you know.) Why?
11. What disgusts you?
12. Write about something or someone you have lost.
13. Describe the sounds that terrify or trouble you.
14. Describe what would be the worst way to die.
15. Write about addiction.
16. Write about a reunion.
17. You are trapped in a well. Write about it. Look over your answers, and circle or highlight in some way the ones that make you the most uncomfortable. Begin an essay that incorporates at least two of your answers.
18. Give me 400 words (to start) and feel free to make it up. Your final draft should be at least 800 words. Choose an original title when you finish your essay.
19. Remember the importance of a catchy intro and a conclusion that lingers long after the essay is over.
20. Include specific details. Concretize and particularize.
21. Avoid the cliched response. Watch out for problems with diction and syntax.
22. Write something you’d love to read (personal, silly, concrete, casual) and you’ll do fine.
23. Write for the right reason- -write to people in order to do something to them.
24. A plain thought warmly and humanly expressed will be more than enough.

Instructor's Comments

genre narrative
course WRT 102
activity type individual writing assignment
skills generative writing, voice, essay planning
duration n/a
handouts: n/a
contributor: Jon Plaisted