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How to Write About Yourself
Last Updated: July 31, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Lucy Yeh . Lucy Yeh is a Human Resources Director, Recruiter, and Certified Life Coach (CLC) with over 20 years of experience. With a training background with Coaching for Life and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at InsightLA, Lucy has worked with professionals of all levels to improve the quality of their careers, personal/professional relationships, self marketing, and life balance. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 5,608,443 times.
Whether you're writing an essay about yourself for a scholarship, a self-introduction, or a personal bio for a job application, coming up with the right words to capture what makes you unique can feel challenging. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks that can make writing about yourself a breeze. Want some help getting across just how impressive, interesting, and skilled you really are? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about putting yourself into words effectively, complete with examples.
Writing of the Autobiographical Nature
- Who are you?
- What is your background?
- What are your interests?
- What are your talents?
- What are your achievements?
- What challenges have you faced?
- What is your most interesting or unique quality? What word(s) describes you the best? Choose that topic.
- Bad: I like sports.
- Ok: I'm a fan of basketball, football, tennis, and soccer.
- Good: My favorite sport is football, both to watch and to play.
- Better: When I was growing up, I would watch Big Ten football with my dad and brothers every Saturday, before we'd go outside and toss the football around. I've loved it ever since.
- Braggy: I'm the best and most dynamic worker at my company right now, so you should want to hire me for my talents.
- Humble: I was lucky enough to be awarded three employee of the month awards at my current job. Turns out it was a company record.
Writing Personal Essays for School
- Common themes or prompts for autobiographical essays include overcoming obstacles, great successes or spectacular failures, and what you learned about yourself.
- Depending on the assignment, you may need to connect a personal anecdote to a reading or an idea from class. Start brainstorming topics that are connected to that idea, to give yourself a variety of options to choose from.
- Common autobiographical essay cliches include sports stories, mission trips, and dead grandmothers. While these can all make for excellent essays if done well, it is difficult to stand out when telling the story of how your lacrosse team lost a big game, then practiced hard, then won. It has been written before.
- If you want to tell the story of your nasty break-up, start with the break-up, do not start with the star-crossed way you met. You have got to get immediately to the tension in the story.
- When you have an idea of your topic, start writing a "memory list" of specific things that you remember about the event. What was the weather like? What did it smell like? What did your mother say to you?
- Your opening paragraph will set the tone for the rest of the essay. Rather than telling the dull biographical details (your name, your place of birth, your favorite food), find a way to express the essence of the story you are going to tell and the themes you are going to explore in your essay.
Writing a Cover Letter for an Application
- Outline your qualifications and highlight your talents in a cover letter.
- Write about who you are.
- In a cover letter, describe how your education and experience qualifies you for this position.
- Explain how this opportunity will benefit your career goals.
- When in doubt, keep it brief and serious. If you are unsure whether or not telling an amusing anecdote about your friend's bachelor party is appropriate in a cover letter, it is probably best to leave it out.
- "I'm writing to apply for the entry-level position with Company Inc. advertised on your website. I think my experience and training makes me an ideal candidate for this position."
- Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to include your name in the body of the letter: "My name is John Smith and I am applying...." Your name will be included in the signature , as well as the header of a cover letter, so there is no need to put it in the text itself.
- Who you are and where you come from.
- Where you want to go.
- How this opportunity would potentially help you get there.
- Be as specific as possible. It is alright to note that you are "A passionate leader in all walks of life" but it would be much better to write about an example of a time you lead in a surprising way.
- Stay focused on skills and talents that connect specifically to the thing you are applying for. Extracurricular involvement, leadership roles, and other types of outstanding achievement may be important to you personally, but it may be totally extraneous. If you include something, ensure to connect it specifically to the goal of the cover letter.
- Be as specific as possible. If you are writing a university cover letter, it is obvious that you have to have a degree to get a job as a doctor, but how did you come to choose this field? Why did you choose this school? What, specifically, do you want to take away from the experience?
- Be careful about using a cover letter to critique a business. It is not the time to describe the suffering of a particular brand over the previous fiscal quarter, then promising that you will be able to turn it around with your ideas. That might not go over well if you are hired, and then you are unable to live up to the promise.
- Even if it is impressive, a high GPA or class ranking does not belong in a cover letter. Highlight it on your resume, but do not include it in two different places of the application.
- Mailing address
- Telephone and/or fax number
Expert Trick : Save time and effort by creating one generic format that you can use for many different job applications by tweaking the specific content for each one. Start with a general introductory paragraph , then a section or two fleshing out your resume and expertise as it relates to the job, and finish it off with a closing paragraph and a note of thanks.
Writing a Short Biography Note
- Pretend you are writing about someone else. Write your name and start describing that person like a character or a friend: "John Smith is the Executive Vice President of Company Inc..."
- If you are a jack of all trades, say so. Do not be afraid to list "actor, musician, mother, motivational speaker, and professional rock climber" if they all apply equally.
- It is common to list degrees that you have received. Pay particular attention to anything that ties into the work you are writing about. If you have special training, include it here.
- "John Smith is the Executive Vice President of Company Inc., in charge of marketing and overseas acquisitions. He received an MBA with distinction from Harvard and lives in Montauk with his cat Cheeto."
- Do not overshare. It can seem funny to immediately start with "John Smith loves rafting and hates eating Cheetos. He's a total boss" and such bio notes can be appropriate for some venues, however be careful to avoid awkward oversharing. Telling everyone about your killer hangover might be best left for after work talk.
- Stephen King, who is one of the most successful and popular authors in recent history, has a bio note that just lists the name of his family members, his hometown, and his pets. Consider leaving out the self-congratulation entirely.
- Remember that you’re supposed to talk about yourself, it’s the main topic. Don’t talk about your friends or family, even though you may feel tempted to. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- If you are having a difficult time writing about yourself, search online for examples of personal writing, in order to get some ideas and inspiration. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
- Don't think about how others feel about you. Everyone thinks from a different perspective. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/how-to-write-about-yourself
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/brainstorming/
- ↑ https://ohiostate.pressbooks.pub/choosingsources/chapter/narrowing-a-topic/
- ↑ https://www.yourdictionary.com/articles/essay-about-self-writing
- ↑ https://writingcommons.org/article/using-first-person-in-an-academic-essay-when-is-it-okay/
- ↑ https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/6-unconventional-ways-start-cover-letter/
- ↑ https://english.washington.edu/writing-cover-letter
- ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/career-goal-statement-examples
- ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/resume-vs-cover-letter
- ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/whats-the-ideal-cover-letter-length
- ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/how-to-format-a-cover-letter-example
- ↑ https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/first-vs-third-person
- ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/how-to-write-bio/
About This Article
If you have to write an autobiographical description of yourself, write down a list of your talents, interests, and accomplishments. Use this list to help you choose one specific topic for your description, such as your academic achievements or your leadership qualities. Use specific, unique details to support your topic, such as being awarded an academic scholarship or the fact that you were president of the newspaper in high school. You can list bits of your personal life, but be careful not to overshare. If you want to write about yourself a cover letter or personal essay, keep reading the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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When You Write
How To Tell A Short Story About Yourself: Tips And Tricks
We all love to tell a story, say we tell 6 stories a day. That’s 42 stories a week, and 2184 stories a year!
But have you ever been asked to tell a short story about yourself and found yourself lost for words?
Whether it’s for a job interview, a networking event, or a social gathering, telling a short story about yourself can be a powerful tool to connect with others and leave a lasting impression.
But telling a short story about yourself is not just about sharing facts and figures, it’s about conveying a message that resonates with your audience. It’s about making a connection with your listeners and inspiring them to take action
In this article, we will share with you some tips and tricks on how to tell a short story about yourself that is engaging, memorable, and authentic.
- Identifying your message and audience is the first step in crafting a compelling narrative.
- Emphasizing pivotal moments in your life story can engage listeners’ emotions, making your story more relatable and memorable.
- Structure your story in a way that captures your audience’s attention, starting with a hook that draws them in and creating curiosity.
- Deliver the story with confidence, maintaining eye contact, using gestures and body language, and speaking up and projecting the voice to keep listeners engaged.
Identify Your Message and Audience
Now, you need to figure out who you want to reach and what you want to say to them. Crafting a compelling narrative starts with identifying your message and audience.
Who are you speaking to? Is it a group of friends at a party, a potential employer during an interview, or someone you just met on a first date? Knowing your audience will help you tailor your tone and language to effectively communicate your message.
Once you’ve identified your audience, you need to determine your message. What do you want to convey? Is it a personal experience that has shaped who you are today? Is it a lesson you learned that you think others could benefit from? Whatever your message is, make sure it’s clear and concise.
Tailoring your tone to your audience will help you connect with them and make your story more engaging and relatable. Remember, the key to a successful short story about yourself is to keep it interesting and relevant.
Choose the Right Details
When choosing the right details for your story, it’s important to highlight key moments that are relevant to your message and audience. Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture in their minds and make the story come alive.
Avoid irrelevant information that may detract from the main message and focus on what’s important. By following these guidelines, you can create a compelling and engaging story that resonates with your listeners.
Highlight Key Moments
Emphasizing the pivotal moments in your life story can engage listeners’ emotions, making your story more relatable and memorable. These key moments can be anything from a life-changing decision to a significant accomplishment or even a challenging obstacle that you overcame.
It’s important to remember that the emotional impact of these moments is what will resonate with your audience, so be sure to highlight them with detail and emphasis. When highlighting these pivotal moments, pacing is crucial. You don’t want to rush through them, but you also don’t want to dwell on them for too long.
Your story should flow naturally, with each key moment building on the last. It’s also important to maintain authenticity in your storytelling. While selective memory can be useful in crafting a compelling narrative, be sure to stay true to the facts and emotions you experienced during these key moments.
By emphasizing your pivotal moments with emotional impact, pacing, and authenticity, your story is sure to captivate and inspire your audience.
Use Descriptive Language
Using descriptive language can really help your audience imagine the key moments in your story, making it more powerful and engaging. By using sensory details, you can paint a vivid picture in your audience’s mind, allowing them to feel like they’re right there with you.
For example, instead of simply saying “I was nervous,” you could describe the feeling as “my heart was pounding so hard I could feel it in my throat, and my palms were slick with sweat.”This not only engages the emotions of the audience, but it also helps them connect with you on a deeper level.
Another way to use descriptive language is to set the scene. By describing the environment around you, you can transport your audience to that moment in time.
For instance, if you were telling a story about a camping trip, you could describe the smell of the campfire, the sound of the crickets chirping, and the feel of the cool night air on your skin. This level of detail not only makes your story more interesting, but it also helps your audience feel like they’re experiencing the moment with you.
So, don’t be afraid to use descriptive language to bring your story to life!
Avoid Irrelevant Information
To keep your story engaging and focused, it’s crucial to avoid irrelevant information. When you’re telling your story, it’s easy to get sidetracked by tangents that may seem interesting but ultimately take away from the main point.
Instead, make sure to edit your story carefully and eliminate any unnecessary details that don’t contribute to the overall narrative. One way to do this is to ask yourself: ‘Does this detail add to the story or distract from it?’ If it doesn’t contribute to the main plot, it’s best to leave it out.
By doing this, you’ll be able to keep your audience engaged and invested in the story you’re telling. Remember, the importance of editing cannot be overstated when it comes to telling a short story about yourself.
Structure Your Story
When you’re telling a story about yourself, it’s important to structure it in a way that captures your audience’s attention. Start with a hook that draws them in and creates curiosity.
From there, create a clear beginning, middle, and end that takes them on a journey through your story. Use transitions to connect your ideas and make the story flow smoothly.
With a well-structured story, you’ll be able to leave a lasting impression on your audience.
Start with a Hook
Engaging your audience from the start can greatly enhance the impact of your personal story, so why not begin with a compelling hook?
Crafting an engaging opening is key to grabbing your audience’s attention and keeping them invested in your story. One effective way to do this is to use humor. If you can make your audience laugh, you’ve already won half the battle.
Don’t be afraid to be a little unconventional with your opening. You want to stand out from the crowd and make your story memorable. Consider starting with a surprising fact or statistic, a bold statement, or a question that piques your audience’s curiosity. Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s true to your story and sets the tone for the rest of your narrative.
Remember, you only have a few seconds to hook your audience, so make it count!
Create a Clear Beginning, Middle, and End
It’s important to map out a clear beginning, middle, and end for your personal narrative so that your audience can easily follow the flow of your story and understand the deeper meaning behind it.
To create a compelling beginning, try incorporating these tips:
- Start with a question or a surprising statement that’ll pique your audience’s curiosity.
- Set the scene by describing the setting and the characters involved in your story.
- Use sensory details to paint a vivid picture in your audience’s mind.
- Show, don’t tell. Use dialogue and action to draw your audience into the story.
Next, to craft a satisfying ending, consider these tips:
- Tie up loose ends by addressing any unanswered questions or unresolved conflicts from earlier in your story.
- Provide a sense of closure by reflecting on how your story has impacted you and what you’ve learned from it.
- Leave your audience with a lasting impression by ending with a powerful statement or image.
- Consider adding a call to action, encouraging your audience to take action based on the message of your story.
By following these tips, you can create a personal narrative that engages your audience from beginning to end and leaves a lasting impact.
Use Transitions to Connect Ideas
Using transitions to connect ideas is essential in creating a seamless flow within your personal narrative. Without proper transitions, your story can come across as disjointed and confusing.
There are several types of transitions that you can use to connect your ideas, such as chronological, cause and effect, and compare and contrast transitions.
Chronological transitions are useful when you want to tell your story in a linear fashion, moving from one event to the next in a clear and chronological order. Cause and effect transitions can help you explain the reasons for certain events or actions, while compare and contrast transitions can be used to show the differences or similarities between different parts of your story.
By using a combination of these transition types, you can create a smooth and cohesive flow throughout your narrative. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different transition techniques to find the ones that work best for your story.
Practice and Refine
With consistent practice and refinement, you’ll soon be able to tell a story about yourself that truly resonates with your audience. Practicing storytelling doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
Begin by telling your story to friends and family, and ask for their feedback. Self-reflection is also key. Take time to think about what makes your story unique and what emotions you want to convey.
As you continue to practice, pay attention to the pacing of your story. Are there parts that drag on too long or that could be condensed? Are there moments that could be emphasized more? Refine your story by cutting out unnecessary details and adding in more vivid descriptions.
Remember, the goal is to engage and captivate your audience, so focus on making your story both entertaining and meaningful. With enough practice and refinement, you’ll be able to confidently share your story with anyone who’ll listen.
Deliver Your Story with Confidence
When delivering your story, it’s important to maintain eye contact with your audience to establish a connection and keep them engaged.
Using gestures and body language can also enhance your delivery and help convey your emotions and message.
Don’t forget to speak clearly and audibly, so your story can be heard and understood by everyone in the room.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to confidently share your story and leave a lasting impression on your listeners.
Maintain Eye Contact
As you share your story, lock eyes with your listeners like a skilled archer aiming straight at the target. Maintaining eye contact is a powerful tool that can help you connect with your audience and convey the emotion behind your words. It shows that you’re confident, authentic, and fully invested in your story.
When you make eye contact, you create a sense of intimacy and trust that goes beyond words. You invite your listeners into your world and make them feel like they’re part of the experience. It also helps you gauge their reactions and adjust your delivery accordingly.
So, next time you share your story, remember to maintain eye contact and let your emotions shine through. You’ll be amazed at how much impact it can have on your audience.
Use Gestures and Body Language
Using gestures and body language will help you bring your story to life, allowing your audience to visualize the scenes and emotions you’re describing.
Using facial expressions, such as raising your eyebrows or smiling, can help you convey the tone of your story. For example, if you’re telling a funny anecdote, you can use a big smile or a chuckle to emphasize the humorous aspect of the story. On the other hand, if you’re telling a sad story, you can use a more somber expression to convey the emotion.
Incorporating props can also help you tell your story in a more engaging way. For instance, if you’re telling a story about a vacation, you can show pictures of the place you visited or souvenirs you bought. This will allow your audience to better visualize the setting and immerse themselves in the story.
Additionally, using hand gestures can help you emphasize certain points or actions in your story. For example, if you’re describing a car accident, you can use your hands to mimic the sound of the crash or to show how the cars collided.
Overall, using gestures and body language can help you make your story more dynamic and captivating for your audience.
Speak Clearly and Audibly
To truly captivate your audience, it’s crucial to speak clearly and audibly, ensuring every word is heard and understood. When telling a short story about yourself, speaking confidently and projecting your voice is key to keeping your listeners engaged.
Begin by taking a deep breath and centering yourself, then speak with conviction and purpose. Remember that the tone of your voice can convey emotion and help your audience connect with your story. Use inflection to emphasize important points and vary your pitch to add interest.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and project your voice, especially if you’re speaking in a large or noisy setting. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your audience can hear every word of your story and fully engage with your experience.
Remember, identifying your message and audience is key to crafting a successful story. Choose the right details to support your message and engage your audience.
To illustrate how these tips can be applied in real life, consider the following example. Imagine you’re a job candidate interviewing for a position at a nonprofit organization.
During the interview, you’re asked to share a short story about yourself that demonstrates your passion for social justice. You choose to tell a story about your experience volunteering at a local food bank, where you witnessed firsthand the impact of poverty on families in your community.
By using vivid details and sharing your emotional reactions, you’re able to connect with the interviewer and demonstrate your commitment to the organization’s mission.
Remember, crafting a short story about yourself takes time and effort, but the end result is well worth it. By following these tips and practicing your story, you’ll be able to captivate your audience and leave a lasting impression.
Why short stories are important for readers and writers alike, why do authors use short stories the advantages of this genre, why are short stories so hard to write understanding the challenges, what is a novelette exploring the short story genre.
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How to Write a Story About Myself
There's an old adage that there's a book in everyone. True, but not everyone is a natural writer. Writing a story about yourself isn't as easy as telling it, but with a few simple rules and pointers, you can do it. It takes organizing your thoughts, getting an idea of where the story is going and, finally, just writing it.
Talk to a tape or digital recorder and tell your story there first. This allows you to start the process of thinking about the story as a story. It doesn't have to be perfect on the recording. The recording will give you a rough idea of what you want to say and the general flow of the narrative.
Listen to the recording and take notes. You will need an outline for the story before you write it. While some people do this in their heads, creating a written outline allows you to organize your thoughts, determine the story's flow and get started.
Start writing the story using your outline, but don't worry about the opening (the paragraph newspaper people call the lede). The lede is the hook into the story, the paragraph or two that gets the reader interested. Good writers leave the lede until the story is complete because at that point, it tends to write itself.
Simple is best. Don't use big words when they aren't necessary. In fact, don't use any words that aren't necessary. For example, "I said I would go" is better than "I said that I would go". Big words don't impress anyone, and they detract from the narrative flow.
Tell the story in a straight-forward way. Use description sparingly. "I walked into the tiny white kitchen aware something was wrong" is fine. "I walked sluggishly into the gleaming white but very small kitchen sensing something wrong on the wind" is way too much.
Be realistic. This is a story about yourself, not Clark Kent. Don't exaggerate. The real story will be far more interesting and believable if it is true without embellishments. Your story is interesting. Go with it.
Finish the story. Leave it for a month or so. Read it again and start revising. Rarely is a story perfect in the first draft. Don't be afraid to revise the story to make it cleaner, better, crisper. If possible, get a good editor. Friends and family aren't the best for this because they are biased. The best non-professional editor is someone who can write and can be impartial. Listen to this person's advice, but trust your instincts about your own story.
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Shawn M. Tomlinson has been a newspaper and magazine writer for more than 28 years. He has written for a variety of publications, from "MacWEEK" and "Macintosh-Aided Design" to "Boys' Life," "Antique Week" and numerous websites. He attended several colleges, majoring in English, writing and theater, and has taught college classes about writing.
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Telling the Story of Yourself: 6 Steps to Writing Personal Narratives
Table of Contents
Why do we write personal narratives, 6 guidelines for writing personal narrative essays, inspiring personal narratives, examples of personal narrative essays, tell your story.
First off, you might be wondering: what is a personal narrative? In short, personal narratives are stories we tell about ourselves that focus on our growth, lessons learned, and reflections on our experiences.
From stories about inspirational figures we heard as children to any essay, article, or exercise where we're asked to express opinions on a situation, thing, or individual—personal narratives are everywhere.
According to Psychology Today, personal narratives allow authors to feel and release pains, while savouring moments of strength and resilience. Such emotions provide an avenue for both authors and readers to connect while supporting healing in the process.
That all sounds great. But when it comes to putting the words down on paper, we often end up with a list of experiences and no real structure to tie them together.
In this article, we'll discuss what a personal narrative essay is further, learn the 6 steps to writing one, and look at some examples of great personal narratives.
As readers, we're fascinated by memoirs, autobiographies, and long-form personal narrative articles, as they provide a glimpse into the authors' thought processes, ideas, and feelings. But you don't have to be writing your whole life story to create a personal narrative.
You might be a student writing an admissions essay , or be trying to tell your professional story in a cover letter. Regardless of your purpose, your narrative will focus on personal growth, reflections, and lessons.
Personal narratives help us connect with other people's stories due to their easy-to-digest format and because humans are empathising creatures.
We can better understand how others feel and think when we were told stories that allow us to see the world from their perspectives. The author's "I think" and "I feel" instantaneously become ours, as the brain doesn't know whether what we read is real or imaginary.
In her best-selling book Wired for Story, Lisa Cron explains that the human brain craves tales as it's hard-wired through evolution to learn what happens next. Since the brain doesn't know whether what you are reading is actual or not, we can register the moral of the story cognitively and affectively.
In academia, a narrative essay tells a story which is experiential, anecdotal, or personal. It allows the author to creatively express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and opinions. Its length can be anywhere from a few paragraphs to hundreds of pages.
Outside of academia, personal narratives are known as a form of journalism or non-fiction works called "narrative journalism." Even highly prestigious publications like the New York Times and Time magazine have sections dedicated to personal narratives. The New Yorke is a magazine dedicated solely to this genre.
The New York Times holds personal narrative essay contests. The winners are selected because they:
had a clear narrative arc with a conflict and a main character who changed in some way. They artfully balanced the action of the story with reflection on what it meant to the writer. They took risks, like including dialogue or playing with punctuation, sentence structure and word choice to develop a strong voice. And, perhaps most important, they focused on a specific moment or theme – a conversation, a trip to the mall, a speech tournament, a hospital visit – instead of trying to sum up the writer’s life in 600 words.
In a nutshell, a personal narrative can cover any reflective and contemplative subject with a strong voice and a unique perspective, including uncommon private values. It's written in first person and the story encompasses a specific moment in time worthy of a discussion.
Writing a personal narrative essay involves both objectivity and subjectivity. You'll need to be objective enough to recognise the importance of an event or a situation to explore and write about. On the other hand, you must be subjective enough to inject private thoughts and feelings to make your point.
With personal narratives, you are both the muse and the creator – you have control over how your story is told. However, like any other type of writing, it comes with guidelines.
1. Write Your Personal Narrative as a Story
As a story, it must include an introduction, characters, plot, setting, climax, anti-climax (if any), and conclusion. Another way to approach it is by structuring it with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should set the tone, while the body should focus on the key point(s) you want to get across. The conclusion can tell the reader what lessons you have learned from the story you've just told.
2. Give Your Personal Narrative a Clear Purpose
Your narrative essay should reflect your unique perspective on life. This is a lot harder than it sounds. You need to establish your perspective, the key things you want your reader to take away, and your tone of voice. It's a good idea to have a set purpose in mind for the narrative before you start writing.
Let's say you want to write about how you manage depression without taking any medicine. This could go in any number of ways, but isolating a purpose will help you focus your writing and choose which stories to tell. Are you advocating for a holistic approach, or do you want to describe your emotional experience for people thinking of trying it?
Having this focus will allow you to put your own unique take on what you did (and didn't do, if applicable), what changed you, and the lessons learned along the way.
3. Show, Don't Tell
It's a narration, so the narrative should show readers what happened, instead of telling them. As well as being a storyteller, the author should take part as one of the characters. Keep this in mind when writing, as the way you shape your perspective can have a big impact on how your reader sees your overarching plot. Don't slip into just explaining everything that happened because it happened to you. Show your reader with action.
You can check for instances of telling rather than showing with ProWritingAid. For example, instead of:
"You never let me do anything!" I cried disdainfully.
"You never let me do anything!" To this day, my mother swears that the glare I levelled at her as I spat those words out could have soured milk.
Using ProWritingAid will help you find these instances in your manuscript and edit them without spending hours trawling through your work yourself.
4. Use "I," But Don't Overuse It
You, the author, take ownership of the story, so the first person pronoun "I" is used throughout. However, you shouldn't overuse it, as it'd make it sound too self-centred and redundant.
ProWritingAid can also help you here – the Style Report will tell you if you've started too many sentences with "I", and show you how to introduce more variation in your writing.
5. Pay Attention to Tenses
Tense is key to understanding. Personal narratives mostly tell the story of events that happened in the past, so many authors choose to use the past tense. This helps separate out your current, narrating voice and your past self who you are narrating. If you're writing in the present tense, make sure that you keep it consistent throughout.
6. Make Your Conclusion Satisfying
Satisfy your readers by giving them an unforgettable closing scene. The body of the narration should build up the plot to climax. This doesn't have to be something incredible or shocking, just something that helps give an interesting take on your story.
The takeaways or the lessons learned should be written without lecturing. Whenever possible, continue to show rather than tell. Don't say what you learned, narrate what you do differently now. This will help the moral of your story shine through without being too preachy.
GoodReads is a great starting point for selecting read-worthy personal narrative books. Here are five of my favourites.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen, the author of 386 books, wrote this poetic story about a daughter and her father who went owling. Instead of learning about owls, Yolen invites readers to contemplate the meaning of gentleness and hope.
Night by Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. This Holocaust memoir has a strong message that such horrific events should never be repeated.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This classic is a must-read by young and old alike. It's a remarkable diary by a 13-year-old Jewish girl who hid inside a secret annexe of an old building during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1942.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
This is a personal narrative written by a brave author renowned for her clarity, passion, and honesty. Didion shares how in December 2003, she lost her husband of 40 years to a massive heart attack and dealt with the acute illness of her only daughter. She speaks about grief, memories, illness, and hope.
Educated by Tara Westover
Author Tara Westover was raised by survivalist parents. She didn't go to school until 17 years of age, which later took her to Harvard and Cambridge. It's a story about the struggle for quest for knowledge and self-reinvention.
Narrative and personal narrative journalism are gaining more popularity these days. You can find distinguished personal narratives all over the web.
Curating the best of the best of personal narratives and narrative essays from all over the web. Some are award-winning articles.
Long-form writing to celebrate humanity through storytelling. It publishes personal narrative essays written to provoke, inspire, and reflect, touching lesser-known and overlooked subjects.
It publishes non,fiction narratives, poetry, and fiction. Among its contributors is Frank Conroy, the author of Stop-Time , a memoir that has never been out of print since 1967.
Aimed at Generation Z, it publishes personal narrative essays on self-improvement, family, friendship, romance, and others.
Personal narratives will continue to be popular as our brains are wired for stories. We love reading about others and telling stories of ourselves, as they bring satisfaction and a better understanding of the world around us.
Personal narratives make us better humans. Enjoy telling yours!
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Love writing? ProWritingAid will help you improve the style, strength, and clarity of your stories.
Jennifer Xue is an award-winning e-book author with 2,500+ articles and 100+ e-books/reports published under her belt. She also taught 50+ college-level essay and paper writing classes. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, Fortune, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Business.com, Business2Community, Addicted2Success, Good Men Project, and others. Her blog is JenniferXue.com. Follow her on Twitter @jenxuewrites].
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How to Write About Yourself (Without Boring People to Death)
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Grab your free viral personal stories checklist by clicking this link right here . If you don’t get this process right, your personal essays will almost certainly fall flat. Did I mention it’s free?
If you want to learn how to write about yourself, you have to first understand that about 99 percent of the time, writing about yourself is done in a misguided way that will cause no one to want to read your work.
Let me explain…
I’ve talked with many an aspiring writer in my short five-year career. Almost always, the number one mistake I see aspiring writers make is exactly the same.
They don’t want to write for anyone else but themselves . Of course, you should never write about stuff you’re not really into for the sake of clicks , but aspiring writers seem to have this peculiar disease where they think writing what appears to be a personal diary online is the key to writing success.
That’s how human emotions, self-interest, and ego work. As a human being, you have a really hard time thinking about the wants and needs of anyone but yourself. Most aspiring writers don’t lack talent or motivation, they’re selfish.
But what about memoirs and personal essays? There are people who write about themselves quite successfully. What’s the difference between them and the majority of other writers?
There is a way to write about yourself without… writing about yourself.
The Classic Examples You All Strive For
Eat, Pray, Love is one of the most popular memoirs of all time. It’s about the life of Elizabeth Gilbert, a woman who got divorced and traveled the world to find herself. There were plenty of stories about her life in the book, but here’s why the book did so well.
The stories were about concepts people related to, not about herself. Eat, Pray, Love is not a book about Elizabeth Gilbert, it’s a book about every woman who feels trapped in their circumstances and wants to break away and go on an adventure.
The person in the story doesn’t matter. Good stories make people identify with them. The character, protagonist, whatever, is a reflection of you.
Cheryl Strayed created a similar effect in her best-selling memoir, Wild. In short, she writes about her checkered past and going on this dangerous backpacking adventure to escape her life. She learns all sorts of illuminating lessons along the way yada, yada, yada. Again, the story in and of itself isn’t the focus, so much as the story relates to people who feel like escaping from their life.
She also wrote an amazing book called Tiny Beautiful Things , which is a compilation of answers in her Q & A advice column, Dear Sugar . Instead of providing answers to reader’s questions outright, she starts by telling some meandering story about herself that relates to the reader’s question. She tells gut wretching emotional stories — sexual abuse, infidelity, drugs, you name it. But she doesn’t just tell the stories just to tell them. She tells the story to first let the reader know “I’ve been here before,” and then relates it to their life in a way that says, “I came out of it and so can you.”
Authors like Gilbert and Strayed go well above and beyond what I see from the typical aspiring writer — random ramblings about their feelings, what they ate for lunch, some bland story about where they traveled to that’s full of descriptive writing but lacks any sort of theme or relation to the person on the other side of the screen.
So how can you learn how to write about yourself the right way? These strategies will help.
Ask Yourself This Simple Question
You have to be brutally honest about yourself when you answer this question.
Would anyone other than you want to read what you wrote?
You have to be able to remove yourself, as well as your emotional investment, and analyze whether you’ve created a relatable story or a journal entry.
Often, in your bones, you know.
If you’re like the writer I described above who wonders why no one reads their stuff , you know why.
People who write these journal entries fall into three camps:
- The delusional – They genuinely believe people should want to read their random ramblings. They feel like they’re owed success. These people can’t be helped.
- The oblivious – Some people actually don’t see what they’re doing. They can be helped, but it takes repeated lessons like this blog post for them to “get it.”
- The hiders – The majority of people know this style won’t work, but they write it anyway because it’s a way to hide from the truth. “Half-trying,” always gives you an out. These writers fear having to exert real effort and still failing. These people have the best shot at change because they’re aware.
Aside from just looking at your work and asking that simple question, there are some other techniques you can use to write about yourself in a way that works. But you have to quit hiding.
Do you really want to do this? If so, the following can help.
The “Story Hook” Opener
If you really feel compelled to write about yourself, but want to educate, entertain, and inspire at the same time, the story hook opener can tie your life together with the ideas or concepts you want to share.
Here’s how it works:
- Come up with the idea for the post/essay – Use brainstorming and mind mapping to come up with the concept
- Outline – Outline the points you want to make in the essay
- Add story in – Create the structure of the post or essay first, then dig for a story from your life that matches the concepts to tack onto the intro
Read Jame’s Altuchers work. He’s a master at this. He almost always opens up his blog posts with a story.
As an added bonus, he makes a point to really really catchy, interesting, or straight up bizarre first lines to catch your attention .
Here are some examples:
- “I had to get 100 prostitutes to like me in 5 seconds or less” – https://bit.ly/2ESXkiT
- “I am mentally ill. And I’m in a mid-life crisis. I’m dishonest. And I’m a horrible father. And I think with my dick.” – https://bit.ly/2Z7wuey
- “I have one bag of clothes, one backpack with a computer, iPad, and phone. I have zero other possessions.” – https://bit.ly/2WLt7MW
Notice how all the opening lines are about himself but are so damn interesting you feel compelled to read more. This is how you integrate your story with your writing.
Draw From This Unusual Source
Fiction serial author Sean Platt credits an unrelated genre for his success as a fiction writer — copywriting books.
Reading books about copywriting, marketing, and persuasion will help you get out of your head and understand that regardless of what story you write, including stories you write about yourself, you are ultimately writing for other people.
That is if you want to have an audience and career . As Robert Kiyosaki says, “It’s called best selling author, not best writing author.”
Often, when you read great copy in something like a sales page, it will include a story about the creator of the product, but you’ll see that the story connects with the reader.
The classic example, “How I went from dead broke on my mom’s couch to running a million dollar company.” It’s cliche and trite, yet devastatingly effective because it tickles all the human emotions.
If you don’t understand human nature and psychology, you’ll never be a great writer.
Copywriters, advertisers, salespeople, all get a bad rap. They’re some of the greatest storytellers you’ll ever come across. They know more about character development and storytelling than your average pompous MFA grad.
Here are some great resources:
- The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- “The Tale of Two Young Men”
Do This the Next Time You Read a Personal Account
Many authors swear by a technique called marginalia, which is a fancy way to say “take notes on the books you read.”
With marginalia, you highlight important passages, write questions and notes in the margins, and most importantly try to get inside the head of the author.
Some people go so far as to hand copy the words of great storytellers to absorb their powers through osmosis…or something. Either way, trying to understand the motivation of a storyteller can help you tell great stories yourself.
Read autobiographies and take notes on what you read to find out what’s so interesting about this particular person’s story.
Often these are things like:
- They have something you want and you aspire to be like them (this would translate to you writing stories about what you have that people want)
- The stories they tell are downright insane or interesting (as Ryan Holiday suggests, if you want to be a better writer, maybe you should live a little more first )
- Almost always, you see yourself in the author (I’ve hammered this to the point of redundancy, because it’s very important)
You can learn from great storytellers, but you can also become a great storyteller by…not telling stories.
Just Don’t (For a While At Least)
Often, I have to put new students through their paces and teach them traditional blogging techniques like:
- Creating “how-to” posts
- Writing listicles
- Using the word “you” often
- Opener formulas like “problem, agitation, solution”
- Simple 5-section post structure
- Motivational closes
I do this because I want to teach them the foundations they need to become popular online writers with fans, which is what almost all of them really want.
I purposefully get them out of the habit of writing about themselves so that they can do it successfully in the future.
Now, I can weave in stories about my life into posts and essays. I often do. I could write a mediocre memoir at this point in my career, mostly due to the fact that I learned blogging techniques first.
Why? Well, blogging teaches you a few key things:
- You learn how to work – If you want to become a successful blogger, you have to write a lot. Most aspiring writers who want to write about themselves don’t have the stamina to even do it successfully
- You learn about audience – You learn how to cater to, but not pander to an audience. Huge difference.
- Platform means everything – You can build a platform as “just a blogger” and parlay it into more traditional means of publishing, just ask Jeff Goins or Mark Manson.
By first understanding the mechanism of not only the blogosphere but how people interacting with online writing in general, you will reduce your pretentiousness tenfold, which will enable you to write about yourself effectively.
The Bottom Line When it Comes to Learning How to Write About Yourself
Building a successful writing career is all about learning how to get out of your own way.
That’s 90 percent of the battle.
You can’t write about yourself properly because you’re preoccupied with yourself.
Lowering your ego and humbling yourself will all of a sudden make you a much more effective writer.
Lack of success in writing is almost always due to selfishness above everything else.
Remember, if you wanted to write for yourself alone, all you’d need is a journal.
But you want fans. All writers do. If you want to get them, you should, um, think about them .