The genres of short prose writing can be very confusing, so it’s important to understand whether you’re writing an essay, short story, memoir, commentary, or mixed genre piece. A short story is a work that the writer holds to be fiction (i.e., historical fiction based on real events, or a story that is entirely fiction).
Its characters may be loosely based on real-life people, and its plot may be inspired by a real-life event; but overall more of the story is “made-up” than real. Short stories may be literary, or they may conform to genre standards (i.e., a romance short story, a science-fiction short story, a horror story, etc.).
Short Story Example two: A writer writes a story based on a made-up explosion, set in a made-up town, and showing the made-up experiences of his characters. In a personal essay, the writer recounts his or her personal experiences or opinions.
In an academic essay, the writer’s personal journey does not typically play a large part in the narrative (or plot line).
It’s all in how you tell it.• Though the word “narrative” might make you think “fiction,” this story should be true. We want your personality to come across.• We also want your writing to be vivid and engaging, so that readers can imagine the scenes you describe, and feel what the narrator is feeling.
Tell us about a meaningful event from your real life.• You’ll need to communicate not only what happened, but why it mattered to you. We hope you’ll edit until you’re happy with every word.• Please also remember, however, to keep your audience in mind.Like that feature, which ran from 1996 to 2017, and included essays on everything from eating ramen to experiencing an emergency plane landing to wearing a monkey suit to work, we’re looking for “short, powerful stories about meaningful life experiences.” We want to hear story, told in your unique voice.Beyond a caution to write no more than 600 words, our rules are fairly open-ended.In fact, over the years there have been columns dedicated to personal narratives on themes from love and family to life on campus, how we relate to animals, living with disabilities and navigating anxiety.For this new contest, our main inspiration is the long-running New York Times Magazine Lives column.Commentary Example: A writer tells the story of a car explosion in his town to illustrate the point that the police are not vigilant enough about people throwing flaming marshmallows out their windows. Mixed genre writing is creative work that does not sit comfortably in any of the above genres.Mixed genre writing blends some elements of fiction with elements of nonfiction in a very deliberate way. If ninety percent of the story is true and ten percent is fiction, then what should the writer call this? If half of the story is made-up, but half is very obviously true, it might be best called mixed genre.Tell us a short, powerful, true story.• Remember: This is not an invitation to give us your opinion on a topic you’re passionate about — we have a contest for that later in the year.Instead, your challenge is to tell a meaningful and interesting story — something with a beginning, middle and end.Sometimes the purpose of a personal essay is simply to entertain.Some personal essays may have a meditative or even dogmatic feel; a personal essay may illustrate a writer’s experiences in order to make an argument for the writer’s opinion.