<Write this like you are talking, telling a story.> I’ve been thinking; you know, sometimes one thing happens to change your life, how you look at things, how you look at yourself. I remember one particular event. It was <When? Approximate year>, <a long time ago | not so long ago>. Anyway, I had been <Describe what you were doing that put you in the time, place and situation in this story.> It was <What time was it when the story starts and what holiday did it happen near to?>. <Describe what you needed to do at that time and place.> <Introduce other characters in the story. Say whey they enter the scene, what they look like, what they are doing, who might be with them.>

Anyway, at <Introduce a new place or setting as your story continues> I saw <What did you see someone in this story preparing to do? And why did this matter to you? What were you thinking about at this point in the story? What questions were you asking yourself? What did you want to do?>

<A personal quality (e.g. courtesy, respect, kindness, fairness, listening, making connections, accepting difference, cheerfulness, shyness…) that the actions in the previous paragraph show that you possess.> is important to us <a word that describes part of your identity (race, religion, gender, age, music…) >. And here I was, <Bring your reader back to the story by saying when it is taking place again and saying what the other characters are doing now.>.

I remember thinking: <What were the wildest possible things that were going through your head at the time? Exaggerate your memories. Write fast, following any possibility that you can think of as you write. List possible scenarios, and say how each of the characters might have responded if any one of them came true.>. <In one short sentence say what you did because of all of these things you were imagining.> And then <Describe all of details of who did what, where, when, and why in this story. Explain how you felt by the end.>.

Perhaps <one of the characters> was not <consider how your opinions of someone  else in you story might have changed over time>.  <Write to a person who was in this story, and tell him | her what you think now about what you did back then>.

So, here is the promise I made to myself back then: <What did you learn from this experience? What will you never do again / always be sure of / rethink next time.> Then I will have my <personal quality mentioned in the third paragraph above> with me again.

We encourage students to break out of these overly-structured “sentence starters” and create your own story structures. However, we do ask you to keep in mind the following guidelines:

  1. Write about this memory like your are talking on paper.
  2. Re-imagine the scened from your memory, and feel free to exagerate and add details.
  3. In the third paragraph (or so), identify a quality about yourself that you think is typical of people like you.
  4. Say why you were thinking about yourself and about the others in your story.
  5. End by explaining how this experience changed you, and how you would act differently now.


Youth Voices is an open publishing platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


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