English 102 (ONL10)
Essay #1 (Memoir) Prompt
For your first essay, you will be composing a memoir, or non-fiction narrative, of 900-1,200 words (Stay within this word limit.) (12-Point, Times New Roman font), for this first assignment. To be honest, I am having you create memoirs because I want to see how you write, how you approach a writing situation that does not have a pre-set structure, and how you tap into the creative resources of your intellect. The assignment, moreover, grants you the opportunity to see what writers do in order to tell a story. Since this version of English 102 utilizes the short story as its subject matter for the third essay, writing a memoir thereby serves as an ideal opportunity to better understand the craft of writing.
You have two options for this assignment (Choose one):
• (Preferred) Since these are extraordinary times we are living in (and due to the fact that many of you will be waiting for your textbooks for at least a week), you can compose a memoir of your experience of living in quarantine (and/or working) during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
• Alternatively, you can write a memoir about a relationship you have had with someone who had a significant influence upon your life. This person could be a family member, friend (or rival), coworker, boss, teacher, coach, pet, you get the idea…
Preferably, the shorter the span in which your memoir takes place, the tighter your story will read. Also, your memoir can be funny, sad, angry, mysterious, suspenseful, or adventurous. The approach rests in your writer’s hands. The only major rule for this essay rests in the fact that the story you tell must be a true event, because, after all, life is intriguingly stranger than fiction.
To aid your storytelling, the following literary elements must show up in your memoir:
• The setting of your narrative – at some point in the story.
• At least one exchange of dialogue, which you will preferably indent. For an example, see any short story that indents dialogue and includes speaker tags for a visual cue. For example, a two-person exchange can look like this:
“Hi, grandma!” I exclaimed to the woman I had not seen in five years.
“Oh, it’s you,” she weakly replied in the same tone that she always applied whenever she saw me when I was a child.
“So what have you been up to?” I nervously asked her.
• A consistent tense, either the past or present.
• Vivid details that apply the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
• Descriptive details: If you ate at a restaurant, what is its name? What did you eat? What is your friend or date’s name? What was he or she wearing? What mood was he or she in during that evening?
You may also consider employing the following techniques:
• Using contractions for your storytelling and dialogue. (Yes, we will not use contractions for Essay #2 and Essay #3, but, after all, they are more traditional college essays.)
• Applying flash-forward or flashback to your narrative.
• Writing a nonlinear, or backwards, narrative.
• Indenting certain lines in the narrative that are meaningful to you.
• Being your own narrator, meaning you refer to yourself in the third person (spoken of). With this technique, you may be able to take a more objective storytelling approach.
• As for a thesis statement, if you need one as it is optional for this assignment, place it at the bottom of your first paragraph. For a quick review of how to compose a thesis statement, watch my Prezi: https://prezi.com/frdwmufaa59a/writing-a-strong-thesis-statement/
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