Friday, April 07, 2006

Narrative Writing Center Reflection

Narrative Writing Center Reflection
or An Abundance of Absurd Analogies

My primary concern going into the Writing Center was whether or not my Personal Narrative was indeed a personal narrative. The feedback I’d received from my peer reviews was mostly complimentary, and the major question raised in that was whether or not my paper was truly on topic. Later, during the spot-welding discussion-time during class on Wednesday, I found that a lot of my peers were confused as to the actual nature of the personal narrative. Without a single structure to follow, we all felt a little adrift in the sea of the personal narrative. While the example narratives were constellations in the night sky, none of us knew which one, exactly, pointed home, so to speak.
Thus, my question to the Writing Center consultant was simply “Is this a personal narrative?” To my delight, she answered “yes.” She said that my structure was a tad on the unusual side, but some of the stylistic things I’d done helped to clarify. Specifically, I’d broken my narrative down into paragraphs, paragraphs that each represented a different carriage in the massive train of thought that was my paper. Given that, for the most part, my narrative could be described as a conscious stream, I tried my best to separate it, break it apart so that it could be more easily understood by a reader. I used two tactics for this, one being the separation of thoughts into paragraphs, and also using single words as breaks between the paragraphs. The Writing Center tutor commented on this, remarking that they served almost like chapter headers, each marking off the main idea of the following paragraph.
One portion of my paper that seemed to require a bit of explanation on my part was the portion in which I changed tenses. In order to illustrate a level of immersion in the game, I instituted a shift in person towards the end of the narrative. While essay had begun with a personal “I” distinct from any other entity, I wanted to show a blur and eventual assumption of a fictional identity in the form of the video-game character. In order to do this, I let the lens go out of focus, so to speak on the tone of the narrative. There was a switch from “I”-me to a third-person “one,” then to a second-person “you,” finally arriving back at “I” but this time referring to the video-game character. I had to explain that this was an intentional mistake; a purposeful shift. I’m not trying to sound too proud here, but my group really liked that part and they said that they didn’t even notice the shift until after it had happened. Maybe they were just being nice, but it felt good to know that my intentional error was not in vain.
Other than that, there was little to my Writing Center visit. I went in with a simple question, and having had it answered, I left, feeling much more confident about my paper. I had a few questions about structure and style in a narrative essay, but as it turns out, the structure and style of a narrative essay are protean elements, depending greatly on the writer for individual definition. Thus, continuing with the tradition of ridiculous metaphors in this reflection, I arrived at the understanding that a personal narrative is like the writer’s thumbprint left on a sheet of paper. Every writer will leave a completely unique mark, and while one can attempt to generalize the shape and form[1] there’s not one way to write a personal narrative. It’s sort of like eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup in that regard.
[1] Roundish, made of lines, and with swirly bits in the middle.

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