Our tech take on this idea was to have students research a city (San Francisco or New York City) as if they were planning a trip there. (You can see the websites we built on the Students tab of this blog.) They had to interesting places to see, restaurants, transportation, hotels etc and create a budget. Once they finished researching we had them create a blog, one each day, for the seven days of the trip. At the end of the "trip" we added a fantasy aspect of the trip on day 7 when the zombie apocalypse happened and they had to survive.
You can read the blogs here. If you do, feel free to make comments to the students. Just like everyone, they like getting feedback on their work.
I am currently grading the blogs, and so far I have been very happy with the writing I have seen. It is far and away better than any personal narrative assignment I have had to assign and read. I think by giving students setting, characters (the friends who went with them), and problems (Every day we spun the wheel of problems which was just a random name generator that I had filled with issues like theft, illness and random people) students were free to write an interesting story without having to invent everything or regurgitate the same personal narrative they have written since 4th grade.
This all leads to what might be an exciting addition to this assignment. Google has added a feature to Google Earth which allows people to map and then tell their stories. Here is the link for that video. I have not tried it yet, but I can see it being a great addition to this assignment.