Narrative Essay

English 131

Descriptive Personal Narrative Essay

For your first graded essay, you need to cover two of the different writing techniques.  You need to not only write a personal narrative, but it must also be descriptive.  

-A personal narrative is a story that involves you.  You might be the main person involved or merely an observer.  Either way, this particular essay should be written in first person.    

-It is a short story because it should only describe one event that takes place over the period of a day.  

– This paper should be written in first person point of view.  

-Since this is a descriptive narrative, your paper must have strong, vivid, sensory details.  This means your story must include visual, audio and other senses that draw in your reader so that he or she can experience the story and not just be told about the events.  


__The story must take place over a short period of time.  A full day, unless all the events are related together, is a bit much.  We will go over several short stories.  Not all the suggestions in the narrative chapter work for this assignment.  I want something focused on a single event, not your life story or even a story that takes place over a longer period of time.  

__An interesting title (not descriptive narrative or essay 1).

__The introduction must have a thesis statement.  This is the single sentence is usually the last sentence of the introduction.  There are some traps that you must avoid in order to write a strong thesis statement, though.   Make sure your introduction properly sets up the story.  For a narrative essay, you usually use background on WHY you are that this certain point (background).

__Each body paragraph must have a clear topic sentence, preferably at the start of the paragraph.  Think of the outline of a narrative and its five points. 

__Each body paragraph should have about 7 sentences.  

_Your concluding paragraph, which for this first essay can be slightly under five sentences, needs to neatly wrap up your point.  The thesis statement should be restated but in different words.

__Use not only suggested readings from Norton for guidance and additional tips, in the Seagull handbook, I suggest reading sections W1-W4 as well as W-10 (on personal narratives) for more guidance.  Dont simply write five generic paragraphs.  

-You will be rewarded for writing a very descriptive essay with a strong, clear point.  If you simply do a standard job, you can expect a standard grade (which might fall in the C range).    

__You must write at least full sentences but try to avoid errors if you do use combination or coordination. You can use dialogue that might result in fragments, intentionally poor grammar and injections.

_Use past tense verbs that convey clear actions (unless making a point about the present in the introduction or conclusion) and make attempts to vary word choice throughout.  Also, avoid using you as there is no need to directly address the reader.

Remember that you will be graded not only for the content of your work along with meeting the requirements that this sheet makes clear, but also you are also expected to have very few sentence structure mistakes.  You must write in complete sentences.  While I will be somewhat lenient on these issues, you will you need to make improvements as the semester progresses.  

Due Dates (see Canvas website)

-Full Rough Draft for Peer Review

This should be typed but dont worry about MLA conventions.  It should be the entire essay

                      -Final Copy

Double spaced in 12 Times New Roman, formatted in MLA

Fish Cheeks 

Amy Tan 


            I fell in love with the minister’s son the winter I turned fourteen.  He was not Chinese, but as white as Mary in the manger.  For Christmas I prayed for this blond-haired boy, Robert, and a slim new American nose. 

            When I found out that my parents had invited the minister’s family over for Christmas Eve dinner, 

I cried.  What would Robert think of our shabby Chinese Christmas?  What would he think of our noisy Chinese relatives who lacked proper American manners?  What terrible disappoint-ment would he feel upon seeing not a roasted turkey and sweet potatoes but Chinese food? 

            On Christmas Eve I saw that my mother had outdone herself in creating a strange menu.  She was pulling black veins out of the backs of fleshy prawns.  The kitchen was littered with appalling mounds of raw food:  A slimy rock cod with bulging eyes that pleaded not to be thrown into a pan of hot oil.  Tofu, which looked like stacked wedges of rubbery white sponges.  A bowl soaking dried fungus back to life.  

A plate of squid, their backs crisscrossed with knife markings so they resembled bicycle tires.    

And then they arrived the minister’s family and all my relatives in a clamor of doorbells and rumpled Christmas packages.  Robert grunted hello, and I pretended he was not worthy of existence.     Dinner threw me deeper into despair.  My relatives licked the ends of their chopsticks and reached across the table, dipping them into the dozen or so plates of food.  Robert and his family waited patiently for platters to be passed to them.  My relatives murmured with pleasure when my mother brought out the whole steamed fish.  Robert grimaced.  Then my father poked his chopsticks just below the fish eye and plucked out the soft meat.  “Amy, your favorite,” he said, offering me the tender fish cheek.  I wanted to disappear. 

            At the end of the meal my father leaned back and belched loudly, thanking my mother for her fine cooking.  “It’s a polite Chinese custom to show you are satisfied,” explained my father to our astonished guests.  Robert was looking down at his plate with a reddened face.  The minister managed to muster up a quiet burp.  I was stunned into silence for the rest of the night. 

            After everyone had gone, my mother said to me, “You want to be the same as American girls on the outside.”  She handed me an early gift.  It was a miniskirt in beige tweed.  “But inside you must always be Chinese.  You must be proud you are different.  Your only shame is to have shame.” 

            And even though I didn’t agree with her then, I knew that she understood how much I had suffered during the evening’s dinner.  It wasn’t until many year later long after I had gotten over my crush on Robert that I was able to fully appreciate her lesson and the true purpose behind our particular menu.  

For Christmas Eve that year, she had chosen all my favorite foods. 

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