A personal narrative is massive in sentencing judges’ factors to consider.
It gives you a chance to tell the judge about yourself from your point of view. There are not many who can actually do this in a case.
First rule: DONT WRITE A BOOK. Try to keep it to 2-3 pages MAX.
For example, typically there are only 3 sources of information for the judge to consider, the majority are not good for you:
- The United States Attorney summary of your actions – Most of the time the United States will paint you as some horrible villain.
- The Evidence – This is another negative source of information. Essentially, this will have all the details of what you did and how you did it. It will be written mostly by law enforcement, but you will also have things like your PSR inside of it. This is written by the United States Probation Office and typically is not a glowing recommendation or a non-biased view of you or your crime.
- Your Lawyer – This source is actually positive. BUT how influential they actually vary from lawyer to lawyer. One could argue case to case too, depending on how the lawyer feels, how much they like you and what’s going on with them at the time.
By writing a personal narrative you have the power to add a 4th source of information in the judge’s decision, YOU.
Don’t worry writing a personal narrative is not something that requires a master’s degree in literature or English. There are a ton of federal prison consultants out there who will charge you upwards of $10,000 to simply give you examples of their personal narrative and review yours. What’s worse? They brag about this on their own websites. They use this fraud to attempt to sell you a service for $1,000, using their own client’s personal narratives. Don’t fall for it. It’s a total waste of money, you can do it by yourself. I do offer this service for those who cannot do it on their own, and for a price that is much more economical than others at a mere $300.
That said, I do feel that only you can write a personal narrative that best describes yourself – don’t pay an ex-fraudster 5 figures to do this, he IS conning you. Let’s get started:
What is a personal narrative?
Personal tales are about personal development, perspectives, and lessons learned. They’re popular because of their simple format and the fact that humans are empathic animals.
When we are told tales that allow us to experience the world through the eyes of others, we gain a deeper understanding of how others feel and think. 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. A personal narrative is a type of academic paper that conveys a personal, experienced, or anecdotal account.
It enables the author to communicate their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and opinions in a unique way. It might be as short as a few paragraphs or as long as hundreds of pages. You should stick to the former shorter version for your judge’s sake.
Personal narratives are classified as a type of journalism or non-fiction work dubbed “narrative journalism” outside of academia. Personal accounts have sections in even the most famous newspapers, such as the New York Times and Time magazine. The New Yorker is a publication that focuses completely on this genre. Personal tale essay contests are held by the New York Times. The winners were chosen for having a clear narrative arc, a conflict, and a key character that evolved in some way.
They expertly blended the story’s action with the writer’s contemplation on what it meant to him. Reviewing some of these written by professionals will give you an idea of how a pro write a personal narrative, instead of depending on someone who either used to work for the BOP doing prison time as a CO or a guy who stole from his clients and now offers “white collar” prison advice.
To build a strong voice, they took risks such as integrating dialogue or experimenting with punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice. And, probably most importantly, they concentrated on a single event or topic — a discussion, a trip to the mall, a speech competition, a hospital visit – rather than attempting to summarize the writer’s life in 600 words.
In a nutshell, a personal story may cover any pensive and contemplative subject, including rare private values, with a powerful voice and a distinct perspective. It’s written in the first person, and the tale revolves around a certain point in time that deserves to be discussed.
6 Guidelines for Writing Personal Narrative Essays
Objectivity and subjectivity are both required while writing a personal narrative essay. You’ll need to be objective enough to see the significance of an event or circumstance you’re researching and writing about. However, you must be subjective enough to include personal ideas and feelings in order to convey your argument.
You are both the muse and the creator in personal tales, and you have complete control over how your story is portrayed. It does, however, come with guidelines, just like any other sort of writing.
1. Create a story out of your personal narrative.
It must have an introduction, characters, storyline, setting, climax, anti-climax (if any), and conclusion to be considered a tale. Another option is to break it down into sections with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The tone should be set in the introduction, with the body focusing on the main point(s) you wish to convey. The conclusion can inform the reader of the lessons you’ve taken away from the narrative you’ve just recounted.
2. Make a clear purpose for your own personal narrative.
Your personal story essay should express your unique outlook on life. This is a lot more difficult than it appears. Establish your point of view, the main points you want your reader to remember, and your tone of voice. Before you begin writing, it’s a good idea to have a specific goal in mind for the story.
Assume you want to write about how you cope with depression without resorting to medication. This might be accomplished in a variety of ways, but identifying a goal can help you concentrate your writing and pick which tales to convey. Are you advocating for a holistic approach, or would you want to share your emotional experience with others who might be interested?
With this emphasis, you’ll be able to put your own spin on what you did (and didn’t do, if relevant), how you changed, and the lessons you gained along the road.
3. Demonstrate rather than tell
Because it’s a narration, the narrative should demonstrate rather than inform the reader what happened. The author should not only describe the narrative but also behave as one of the characters. Keep this in mind while you write, because the way you frame your perspective may have a significant influence on how your reader perceives your overall storyline. Don’t fall into the trap of just describing what happened because it happened to you. Show your reader what you’re talking about by taking action.
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.
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-centered and redundant.
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 morale of your story shine through without being too preachy.
Examples of Personal Narrative Essays
Narrative and personal narrative journalism are gaining more popularity these days. You can find distinguished personal narratives all over the web. The following will show you some examples.
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.
Tell Your Story
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! Make it interesting and trueful.
Personal Narrative Checklist
- Demonstrate empathy for the crime victim.
- Tell a tale to demonstrate the influences that led to the crime.
- Demonstrate regret in a way that a court will understand.
- Describe what you’ve learned as a result of your experience.
- Demonstrate what you’ve done to make peace with society.
- Make a compelling argument that you will live out the rest of your life as a law-abiding citizen.
- Obtain more forgiving sentencing.