How Can Your Personal Narrative/Essay Be A Winner?

What Makes a Winning Essay/Personal Narrative?



What is a personal narrative?

A personal narrative is a story about a memory.



What is an essay? An essay IS a personal narrative, or it can be a piece of writing about any topic you choose because you want to find the truth in that experience.


1.      Determine if your essay/personal narrative is really nonfiction. Although you

       may use techniques of fiction, your piece must be your thoughts and

       experiences. (This is not a “made-up” story. Visit the short story page for

       more information about fiction.) Examples of essays are:

       Personal narrative—a story that happened to you! How has it changed you

        in some way?

        Opinion Piece—your opinion and why you feel that way.

2.      Make sure your essay/personal narrative has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

3.      Engage your reader with an intriguing beginning.  Introduce your experience

      with humor, action, or emotion; then take your reader along on a journey of


4.      Concentrate on drama.  Write scenes. Drop your reader right into what

       happened! Let your reader experience the event, moment by moment!

5.      Use senses (sight, sound, taste, touch) to help readers feel they are in the     scene. If you can’t remember the details from the event you’re recreating, imagine what they could have been.

6.      Appeal to emotion to influence your readers if you are writing an opinion piece.

7.      Use anecdotes to help strengthen your opinion. An anecdote is a short incident that really happened. Use storytelling techniques to make it real.

8.      Show a universal truth or an insight you’ve gained from your experience. It doesn’t have to be a major drop-dead event or idea. It can be small but thoughtful. The best essay contains a fresh observation, which often is a surprise or unexpected.

9.      Revise your work until you’re satisfied. Pay particular attention to the ending. Does the text build to that conclusion?

10.  Write honestly and with passion. If you feel strongly about your topic, chances are so will your readers.


No Responses to “How Can Your Personal Narrative/Essay Be A Winner?”

  1. Fatima says:

    When you gave out the guidelines for the writing contest at least two years ago, you said that students could send in essays. But when you received some essays they were boring and not like you were expecting. Just out of curiosity, what were you expecting and are they different from personal narratives and short stories? If so, how?

  2. Emily says:

    is there a way that i could enter my essay in your website. i wrote a personal narrative about my grandpa and alot of people have told me that i should enter it in a contest.
    Just let me know,

    • lizbooks says:

      Hi Emily – We don’t take essays on this site. You also don’t want to publish them here, because you want to keep your words private except for a few trusted friends and teachers. You can share it with them for words of advice. Read our guidelines over carefully and read your essay out loud to see where you can improve it. Then send it in to the address listed on our guidelines. And you can enter as many times as you like! It won’t cost you anything except the postage. You can put them all in the same envelope or in separate ones as you write them. You can enter in different categories too! (poetry and short story) Just make sure they each follow the guidelines and have a separate guideline form with them. The guidelines can be found on the right side of my blog. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them here. Have fun writing!

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