Remembering a Person Essay Assignment
3-5 typed pages (8-12 paragraphs).† I encourage you to devise an original title.
In this assignment, I am asking you to write about someone you once knew well and no longer know in the same way.†
In the narrative assignment, I spelled out a fairly specific strategy that I hoped you would follow: work quickly to a climax and then explore one critical instant from several perspectives.† Here, I wonít be as specific, but I will encourage you to think about using a single, specific anecdote as the heart of your essay.† You might build up to that anecdote or you might start off with it but, either way, it will probably be the part of your essay that reveals the most individual qualities of your person.
If you do focus on an anecdote, that leaves you with the rest of the essay to describe your person in more general terms.† Think of yourself as having three different elements you will use in whatever way you think most strategic: your anecdote, your overview, and some end (usually an end both to the essay and to the relationship as you once knew it).† I want you to think about various possibilities so that you can then focus on the one that you think will be the most effective.
Think about the people you have known well.† It may be some childhood friend, or perhaps someone you knew in high school who has now left town.† It might also be a relative who has moved away or passed away.
You do not need to find someone who was an inseparable part of your life.† You might find that you are able to write a thoughtful essay about someone you knew well enough to take for granted, a neighbor or a teacher, for instance.
A good subject for this is someone about whom you know several stories and for whom you feel a lot of emotion.
Beware of writing about someone you find that you did not know all that well.† It may be that you loved a grandparent very much when you were a child, but that does not necessarily mean that you knew him or her as a person.† An essay like this will probably not work if you write about someone with whom you have no clear and specific memories.† You should be able to describe at least 2-3 specific stories that involve you and that person.
Look out also for any essay that never gets particularly specific.† Stories that stay only at a general level donít usually have the power to evoke strong reactions of any kind.† Think about what makes your person memorable and then try to find a single story that shows him or her in that particular light.
Take the idea of anecdote carefully.† Be sure to focus on a specific event and not a repeated or general series of events.† If you and your friend did a particular thing all the time, then it isnít memorable in the way the best (or weirdest, or wildest) example of that thing is.†
Features of the best essays:
I think the best of these essays manage, first, to reveal another person in an interesting and original light.† After I read a remembering person essay, I like to close my eyes and imagine how the person looks.† The best essays make me feel as if I would recognize the person if he or she came walking down the street.
More than that, though, the very best are also about you, the writer, as much as they are about the person.† We are who we are in large part through our relationships with other people.† When you reflect on someone you now know differently, you might find that you know yourself differently as well.