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Biographical Narrative: Writing Resources

Biographical = Containing, consisting of, or relating to the facts or events in a person's life.

Auto = self

Narrative = story


Biographical Narrative = Story relating key facts or events with a person's life

Autobiographical Narrative = Story relating key facts or events within the author's life
(so, yes, in just this case, it's all about you)

(Genres and Their Characteristics):

Students combine the rhetorical strategies of narration, exposition, persuasion, and description to produce texts of at least 1,500 words each. Student writing demonstrates a command of standard American English and the research, organizational, and drafting strategies outlined in Writing Standard 1.0.

2.1 Write biographical or autobiographical narratives or short stories:

a. Relate a sequence of events and communicate the significance of the events to the audience.
b. Locate scenes and incidents in specific places.
c. Describe with concrete sensory details the sights, sounds, and smells of a scene and the specific actions, movements, gestures, and feelings of the characters; use interior monologue to depict the characters’ feelings.
d. Pace the presentation of actions to accommodate changes in time and mood.
e. Make effective use of descriptions of appearance, images, shifting perspectives, and sensory details.


Download standards & objective as handout

OBJECTIVE: The student produces a narrative account (fictional or biographical) that:

Engages the reader by establishing a context, creating a point of view, and otherwise developing reading interest;
Establishes a situation, plot, point of view, setting, and context (and for autobiography, the significance of events);
Creates an organizing structure;
Includes sensory details and concrete language to develop plot and character;
Excludes extraneous details and inconsistencies;
Develops complex characters;
Uses a range of appropriate strategies, such as dialogue and tension or suspense;
Provides a sense of closure to the writing.

The Autobiographical Narrative: The autobiographical narrative is a story about the self. Usually the subject is an important or key event within the writer's childhood or adolescence.

The parts of a good autobiographical narrative are;


  • An engaging opening: start by getting your reader's attention. use an intriguing quotation or a surprising statement, or put your readers in the middle of a dramatic situation
  • Background information: supply background information if it will help your readers understand the context of your narrative
  • Hint of meaning: end the paragraph by providing readers with a hint as to the significance or importance of the experience.


  • First event of experience: begin your narrative with the first event in the sequence of events that makes up you experience
  • People details: describe the appearances of characters in your narrative so that readers can form mental images of those characters
  • Sensory details: use sensory details to allow readers to see, hear, feel, taste and smell characters, scenese, and actions
  • Feelings: reveal your thoughts and feelings about events and characters as you narrate your experience
  • Dialogue: use dialogue--the actual words of the people--to give the characters in your narrative personality
  • Second event (new paragraph/section of the essay): continue to describe events in the order in which they happened
  • Specific action with sensory details: use language that appeals to all five senses to bring people, places, and actions to life
  • Final event: describe the final event in your story. Often, the final events is the climactic event.
  • Specific movements: continue to describe the specific movements and gestures of characters to bring them to life for the readers
  • Dialogue: keep using people's own words to make your story come alive. Try to make the dialogue as real, natural, and truthful as possible.
  • Interior monologue: the conversation you're having in your head as these events unfurl. The interior monologue is an effective way to reveal your thoughts and feelings.


  • A look back from the present: reflect on the experience and consider its meaning
  • Significance of the experience: end the essay by letting your readers know the meaning of the experience--what you learned from it or how it changed you.


Download as a student handout for the autobiographical narrative

Continue on to Biographical Narrative Readings & Prompts

Off-site link to The Holt Elements of Literature webpage (a new browser will open)


materials adapted from Holt's Elements of Literature

Download a Powerpoint on Autobiographical Incident (copyrighted by McDougal Littell)

Download a Peer Editing Guide

Download a Student Model: Writing an Autobiographical Narrative (copyrighted by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston)

Visit the Time Magazine: the Most Important 100 People of the Last Century website for readings


CAHSEE Home | Biographical Narrative | Informational | Persuasive | Business Letter | Analytical/Expository | Response to Literature

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