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
“Hey, you’ll never guess what happened to me last night!”
“Dude! You gotta hear this!”
If a friend approaches you with one of these lines, chances are she has a story to tell. And judging by the sounds of it, the story is a good one!
We all know those people who tell great stories about their lives. They choose just the right words, express just the right tone and emotion, and get you to feel that same emotion.
Your goal when writing a narrative essay is to be that friend: the one who tells the perfect story.
I know, it can be a lot easier to tell a story to your friends because you can stop, start, and rely on the feedback of someone else to know whether your story is a hit. In writing, once you’ve written your final draft, that’s essentially your only shot at getting the story right.
Wondering how you can get that story just right and write a compelling narrative? Here are two narrative essay examples that tell fascinating stories (after a quick review of what a narrative essay actually is, of course!).
The Narrative Essay
You’ve been writing the narrative essay for years. In elementary school, your teachers asked you to write about what you did during holiday breaks. In high school and college, you’re often asked to write about your experiences or life as a student.
Sometimes, though, a narrative isn’t about such basic topics. You might write about complex issues, such as struggles, goals, fears, or other life-changing events.
The key with any of these narratives is to engage your readers and make them feel. The narrative can be funny, serious, awe-inspiring, or tear-jerking, but as long as you’re telling your story and making your audience feel what you feel, you’re moving in the right direction.
For more help writing narrative essays, check out these posts:
2 Narrative Essay Examples That Tell Fascinating Stories
To help you see what a well-written narrative essay looks like, here are two examples.
I’ve added comments throughout each narrative essay example to point out key features of the narrative and to illustrate what the writer does well.
And of course, since no essay is perfect, I’ve also provided suggestions for improvement.
Narrative Essay Example #1: When My Mother Left Me
(click images below to enlarge)
Narrative Essay Example #2: The Importance of a Child’s Gift
(click images below to enlarge)
End of Story
As you can see by each narrative essay example, writing a narrative means that you have a purpose to your storytelling. If someone reads your narrative essay and asks, “So what’s the point?” it’s a clear sign you need to revise.
If you’ve already written a draft of your narrative essay and feel like your paper is lacking purpose, don’t leave readers asking “So what?” Let us help! Kibin editors are standing by to offer expert editing.