Concrete Narrative Assignment

Prof. Howe

Concrete Narrative

Summon up a particularly vivid moment in your past, a moment that you can clearly remember. You should not choose a “moment of realization” or a time when you learned something significant. Instead, choose a brief moment in time that you look back on fondly, or angrily, or with frustration. You might want to select a moment in which an object figured significantly—for instance, when your grandmother gave you her favorite pair of earrings, or when your father showed you how to change the oil in your car, or when you first saw your mother cry. Your moment should be just that—a moment, no more than a few minutes.

Take that moment and describe it as fully as possible, using all your senses—sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste. Sanders' “The Inheritance of Tools” is a model of this kind of writing. To do this assignment effectively, you will need to “stretch” your moment out with all the products of your senses—your essay should be 4-5 pages in length. You may intersperse this description with memory, or what you thought at the moment, or with general observations, but it should be primarily a concrete description of that significant moment. The best essays will avoid clichés in favor of innovative and unexpectedly evocative concrete description. This is an exercise in showing rather than telling, using mimetic rather than diegetic language. You are being asked to put words together in a suggestive, sophisticated manner that conveys a strong picture of your history, rather than construct a simple personal memoir that tells about a moment in time.

Grading Rubrics:

Minimum Requirements include:

  • 4-5 pages in length, MLA formatting throughout;
  • a concrete and descriptive title that focuses your reader's attention from the start;
  • concrete descriptive language exploring all five senses that develops your authorial voice mimetically rather than diegetically;
  • attention to sentence structure, paragraph division, grammar, punctuation, and syntax; and
  • attention to organization and transitions between paragraphs and/or images, including a sense of beginning, middle, and end.

An “A” essay fulfills all the minimum requirements exceptionally well, in an original, innovative way. This essay:

  • takes risks and succeeds;
  • focuses the entire essay through the experience of a single, concrete moment in time;
  • uses concrete language in an unexpected and effective manner, avoiding cliché expressions;
  • conveys a strong sense of authorial voice;
  • is exceptionally well-organized, using strong transitions to move the reader through the description;
  • conveys a sense of beginning, middle, and end;
  • suggests or shows the significance of the event without telling the reader what to think; and
  • is exceptionally well written, with varied sentence structure and excellent paragraph division; this essay is correct in its grammar, punctuation, and syntax

A “B” essay fulfills all the minimum requirements well, in a relatively original way. This essay:

  • takes some risks, but may not succeed at all of them;
  • focuses the essay through the experience of a single moment in time, but may take up too broad or expansive a moment to exceptionally complete the assignment;
  • uses concrete language effectively, but perhaps not as originally and unexpectedly as an exceptional essay; or, it may not effectively use all five senses in its description;
  • clearly attempts to avoid cliché expression, but may not completely succeed;
  • conveys some sense of the author's unique voice;
  • is well organized, with strong transitions that move the reader through the description;
  • attempts to convey a sense of beginning, middle, and end, but may do so in a manner that tells moreso than shows;
  • suggests significance by both showing and telling, but is more invested in telling; and/or
  • is generally well written, with varied sentence structure and good paragraph division; this essay is mostly correct in its grammar, punctuation, and syntax, and any errors do not affect the reading of the essay

A “C” essay fulfills the minimum requirements in an average manner, taking no visible risks. “C” essays come in a variety of shapes, but may include essays that:

  • attempt to use concrete language, but may do so intermittently, incompletely, or in an unoriginal manner; such essays may fall into cliché;
  • do not use all five senses, or overwhelmingly focus on one to the detriment of the others;
  • attempts to focus through the experience of a single moment in time, but may miss the mark by choosing a topic that is too broad;
  • do not effectively convey a sense of individual voice;
  • are organized in a relatively disconnected manner, or move from point to point in a list-like fashion without effective and logical transitions between the descriptions;
  • convey a sense of beginning, middle, and end, but do so in a more diegetic manner, telling much more than showing;
  • tell the reader the significance of the moment, rather than by showing through effective concrete description; and/or
  • are competently written and understandable, but may lack varied sentence structure, effective paragraph division, or concerted attention to grammar, punctuation, and/or syntax

A “D” essay fulfills some of the minimum requirements in an average manner, but not all. A “D” essay may be:

  • lacking in concrete language or reliant upon cliché expression; it may use only one or two of the senses, and those in a cursory manner;
  • focused on a topic that is ill suited to the assignment;
  • solely list-like in its organization, or disorganized to the extent that it does not present a unified narrative; it may not have a sense of beginning, middle, and end;
  • heavily reliant upon telling, rather than showing; and/or
  • poorly written, with excessive errors in grammar, punctuation, and syntax

An “F” essay fulfills few of the minimum requirements. An “F” essay may be:

  • plagiarized;
  • written in such a manner that its sense cannot be understood; and/or
  • not addressed to the goals of the assignment.
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