Are personal essays and narrative essays the same?I have to write a personal essay on any subject of my choice, and I have chosen self-inflicted pain since I have a history with it.  I let a...

Are personal essays and narrative essays the same?

I have to write a personal essay on any subject of my choice, and I have chosen self-inflicted pain since I have a history with it.  I let a couple of people proof read it, and they stated that it sounds more like a story then an essay.  I want to make sure that I'm writing the right type of essay here.  Any help is appreciated.

Here is the first part of my essay:

As a young child I often dreamed of being a princess in a big white fairy tale wedding. I could close my eyes and see the green fields that went on for miles and miles beneath my bare feet. There was a baby blue sky above that seemed to never end, and the gentle breeze felt like a gift from God himself. These were the moments that I lived for, the moments that took me away from the pain of reality, the moments that gave me hope. And upon waking up one morning I suddenly realized that all dreams will eventually fade, and sometimes hope just isn’t enough to get you by anymore. And at that very moment my obsession with dreams and hopes quickly faded over to an addiction with pain.


Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a difference between a personal essay and a narrative.  A narrative is a story, whereas a personal essay is a formal essay, written on a topic of your choice, that tends to be a bit more personalized than a typcial report or essay.

I thought that your paragraph was beautifully written; the feedback from others was probably accurate though.  I would save what you have written, because it is worth saving, and might work better for a narrative that a teacher will no doubt assign later in your schooling career.  Then, to write the personal essay, state your opinion on the topic of self-inflicted pain, then evidence to support your opinion.  I don't know what your opinion on it is, but just to use an example, you could say, "My experiences with self-inflicted pain have taught me....(fill in the blanks)."  That would make the topic more formal.  Then as you give examples, you can use yourself as the topic, and briefly mention an experience here or there, as long as you don't go into a lot of detail.  Be more summarizing, and to the main point, whatever that turns out being, depending on what you decide.

Does that help clarify it a bit?  I hope so!  Good luck!  It sounds like a good choice of topic for you, and that you will be able to bring a lot of sincerity and wisdom to the paper.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A personal essay usually focuses on something that is personal to you...some event in your life...which pinpoints or illustrates a lesson learned or a pivotal moment when a decision was made.  These are often asked for by colleges and universities to get a sense of who you are on paper and as a writer, and also what your purpose is for applying to a particular campus.

Narrative essays tell a story, and they may or may not have a moral or a specific purpose.  In a narrative, the description and the time frame is typically the focus to help your reader "see" the events as they unfold and experience them for themselves. 

copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A personal essay shares an opinion on a personal topic or personal experience. If that essay also retells the experience, it is sometimes called a personal narrative. In any case, the personal essay or personal narrative is based on fact and real-life.

A generic narrative, on the other hand, might be based on a real-life experience or an imagined experience or some type of "based on a true story" hybrid of the two.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A narrative essay just tells a story in essay form.  It can be personal, but it is not always.  Anything can be a narrative essay.  A personal essay focuses on a person's experience.  This might be autobiographical, but focus on one incident.