The Personal Persuasive Paper
I value narratives, especially personal narratives. You have a unique access to your reader when you use a narrative form. They want to follow your story, to see where it leads them, and they are willing to consider ideas when wrapped in narrative they might have rejected if presented in other ways. You can win a reader over to your side with a narrative, get them to listen to your ideas, to think about the events that you are describing and your interpretation of those events. This persuasive power is only more potent when the narrative is not a fictitious account but a retelling of actual experiences. What I’m getting at is that the personal narrative isn’t just a story telling form, but it can be used to frame arguments and persuade your reader.
Now don’t get me wrong—you can’t get through college only knowing how to write personal narratives. On the totem-pole of academic forms, the personal narrative is somewhere near the bottom, with the academic research paper resting comfortably on top. Still, what you will find in the best persuasive writing is traditional academic research and expert opinion mixed with anecdotes—personal stories that the author uses to hammer in their point. This essay is your chance to hone that skill, your chance to learn to select and focus relevant personal information as a means of persuasion.
In this essay, which I will call the Personal Persuasive paper, your goal is to tell a compelling story with persuasive intent. The narrative needs to be structured around one or more events from your own life that you are using to present an argument to the reader—to try and get them to make a change, to adopt an idea, or to consider another side of an issue.
You can use any common features of the narrative to make your point (detailed descriptions, sensory details,dialogue, flashbacks, personal interpretation of events, humor, etc.), but you must make a persuasive move on your reader. I am not concerned with the scale of the problem you take up in your paper. Maybe you are passionate about the justice issues of our time, or maybe you just have a great story about jogging through the park and stepping on a dozen fresh dog turds in your new $100 running shoes, and you want to use it to argue that people with dogs should carry poo-poo bags to the park or be fined. Have at it. Knock yourself out. Just argue a point, and use your personal story/stories as tools in the persuasive process.
Three page minimum. Typed, double-spaced, MLA format. First draft due 2/20/13.