To write a narrative essay, you’ll need to tell a story (usually about something that happened to you) in such a way that he audience learns a lesson or gains insight.
To write a descriptive essay, you’ll need to describe a person, object, or event so vividly that the reader feels like he/she could reach out and touch it.
Tips for writing effective narrative and descriptive essays:
- Tell a story about a moment or event that means a lot to you--it will make it easier for you to tell the story in an interesting way!
- Get right to the action! Avoid long introductions and lengthy descriptions--especially at the beginning of your narrative.
- Make sure your story has a point! Describe what you learned from this experience.
- Use all five of your senses to describe the setting, characters, and the plot of your story. Don't be afraid to tell the story in your own voice. Nobody wants to read a story that sounds like a textbook!
How to Write Vivid Descriptions
Having trouble describing a person, object, or event for your narrative or descriptive essay? Try filling out this chart:
What do you smell?
What do you taste?
What do you see?
What do you hear?
What might you touch or feel?
Remember: Avoid simply telling us what something looks like--tell us how it tastes, smells, sounds, or feels!
- Virginia rain smells different from a California drizzle.
- A mountain breeze feels different from a sea breeze.
- We hear different things in one spot, depending on the time of day.
- You can “taste” things you’ve never eaten: how would sunscreen taste?
Using Concrete Details for Narratives
Effective narrative essays allow readers to visualize everything that's happening, in their minds. One way to make sure that this occurs is to use concrete, rather than abstract, details.
…makes the story or image seem clearer and more real to us.
...makes the story or image difficult to visualize.
…gives us information that we can easily grasp and perhaps empathize with.
…leaves your reader feeling empty, disconnected, and possibly confused.
The word “abstract” might remind you of modern art. An abstract painting, for example, does not normally contain recognizable objects. In other words, we can't look at the painting and immediately say "that's a house" or "that's a bowl of fruit." To the untrained eye, abstract art looks a bit like a child's finger-painting--just brightly colored splotches on a canvas.
Avoid abstract language—it won’t help the reader understand what you're trying to say!
Abstract: It was a nice day.
Concrete: The sun was shining and a slight breeze blew across my face.
Abstract: I liked writing poems, not essays.
Concrete: I liked writing short, rhythmic poems and hated rambling on about my thoughts in those four-page essays.
Abstract: Mr. Smith was a great teacher.
Concrete: Mr. Smith really knew how to help us turn our thoughts into good stories and essays.
Sample Papers - Narration
Sample Papers - Descriptive
Personal Narrative Genre
Personal narratives are a form of writing in which the writer relates one event, incident, or experience from his/her life. Personal narratives allow you, the writer, to share your life with others, vicariously experiencing the things you describe. Your job as a writer is to put the readers in the midst of the action, letting them live through an event, incident, or experience. Personal narratives also incorporate vivid descriptive details, as well as the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of the writer.
A good personal narrative, like a good story, creates a dramatic effect, makes us laugh, gives us pleasurable fright, and/or gets us on the edge of our seats. Although personal narratives capture true events, sometimes writers embellish or use hyperbole to illustrate a point or for dramatic effect. A personal narrative has done its job effectively if the readers can say, “Yes, that captures what living with my mother feels like,” or “Yes, that’s what it felt like to lose the championship game.”
Note: A memoir is a specific type of personal narrative, one that examines the meaning of the writer’s life during a specific moment in time.
Students, use the job chart below to guide you in your personal narrative writing.
Write a Personal Narrative that
Click here to see these:
Sample Personal Narratives.
Our Personal Narratives, 1-10.
Our Personal Narratives, 11-21.
Our Personal Narratives, 22-32.
One Planning Sheet.
Another Planning Sheet.
The Highlighting Guide.
The Teaching Rubric.
The Scoring Rubric.