Think about all the biographical and autobiographical stories you’ve looked at. Many of them are short, yet are still memorable, because they offer us significant insight into human experience. You’ve already written a biography based on an oral history. Now, you are going to write your own autobiographical incident.

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You’ve done a great deal of thinking this semester about what causes you believe in. You’ve read a play which celebrates a man who “hears a different drummer.” You’ve looked at stories which reveal how an average person’s life is remarkable and unique.

The autobiographical incident that you write should take you on a process of discovery about the significance of your own experiences. The author Roger Dean Kiser, whose short autobiographical stories you just read, shows how a writer can create a profound story out of a very simple moment, like meeting an old friend or getting a haircut. Keeping his stories in mind, you will choose a simple moment from your own past and turn it into a story which shows your own epiphany about life (remember from semester one, epiphany means “sudden understanding”). If you can’t think of anything right away, talk with your family about you as a child, look at old scrapbooks, photo albums and yearbooks, and watch family videos to trigger your memory.

One way to choose an incident to use is to create a timeline for your own life. On paper, mark out the years of your life and go back as far as you can to fill in memories from those years. You can play around with various graphic organizers, but you might try something like this for each year:

Try to find an incident in your life in which you had an important experience. Did you learn something? Did someone else learn something? Did you or someone else have an experience that made you see the world or someone in it differently?

Show, don’t tell.
Remember to show what happened, don’t tell what happened. If there is a lesson to be learned, we should see it for ourselves from your vivid description.

Written Assignment:

Autobiography. Work on your autobiography, then hand it in as instructed. There is no specific length requirement, but you should have at least 600 words to meet the minimum requirement. As you write, remember a few things especially:

  • Recreating dialogue makes writing more exciting.
  • Imagery makes your reader feel part of the action.
  • Show, Don’t tell!


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