I’ve been reading some personal narratives recently, and I’ve noticed one thing in particular: there is no better way to capture my attention than to explode the moment you’re trying to describe.

Cadets often come to the writing center with the bare bones of their personal narrative written – the who, what, where, when, and why, but they often express a desire to have something more than the facts. A common refrain that I heard last year was “How do I keep my personal narrative from being boring and repetitive?” Just because this piece is nonfiction doesn’t mean it can’t be creative, descriptive and interesting to read.  One way to accomplish this is by “exploding the moment”.

What do I mean by explode the moment? Let me explain it to you by showing rather than telling because what kind of Writing Consultant would I be without practicing what I preach.

An unexploded moment:

He threw the cat in the river.

An EXPLODED moment:

Due to its unfortunate penchant for exotic fish swiped from it’s master’s fish tank, Fluffy took an unscheduled dip in the river Thames this afternoon.  With claws extended, Fluffy screeched making a sound akin to a banshee as she sailed through the air, landing in the polluted river with an undignified splash.  Spluttering, fur plastered to her face, she made her way back to the bank looking more like a drowned rat than the regal figure she usually cut.

An exploded moment takes an otherwise unordinary description and, using as many of the five senses as possible, expands on the details of the event being described.

I am, in my heart, a middle school English teacher, so let’s glance at a graphic organizer to help explode our moments.

By adding this level of detail to your writing, your reader will remain engaged throughout your paper.  There is nothing repetitive or boring about an exploded moment.

Students often finish a draft and figure they’ve done the hard part and now they’re done.  What they don’t always realize is how important revision is.  It’s the work we do after the first draft that truly makes those moments explode.