Narrative Essay Vs Descriptive Essay

posted by Laura Callisen 29 May 2015
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It is really easy to confuse the narrative and the descriptive essay, because they are so often intertwined.  Think of the last novel or short story you read. There was a plot – that was the narrative. Then, there were passages that provided descriptions of people, places, things, or events that appealed to our senses and gave us good “pictures” in our minds. Those passages were descriptive but did not add specific plot details.

When you are given assignments that involve writing personal narrative essays or writing descriptive essays, the focus must be on the operative word – narrative or descriptive, and the purpose of each of these terms.

Purpose Determines Focus

Each of these types of essays has a purpose. The purpose of a descriptive essay, for example, is to provide a vivid “picture” of a place, a person, a thing or an idea (these are nouns, get it?). The writer is required to paint this picture through the use of figurative language and appeals to as many senses as possible. Thus, you might be asked to write a descriptive essay of bustling market in a village. You will focus on the sights, the sounds, and the smells of that market place.

On the other hand, if the essay is a narrative, and you are in that same bustling market in a village, you will be focusing on your experiences, and the events that occurred as you experienced that market. You would speak to your interactions with vendors, things you bought, etc.

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The Lines Can Get Blurred

Sometimes you cannot think in terms of the narrative vs. descriptive essay, for they often mesh. If you are writing a personal essay, for example, you may very well need to describe other people and events that make your story “real.” Thus, you engage in descriptive writing. If, as well, you are writing a descriptive essay and it involves you (e.g., describing a favorite vacation spot), you cannot help but place yourself in a narrative writing mode. So, stop thinking always of descriptive vs. narrative essay and start thinking about the primary focus of the essay itself. Yes, the lines will blur, but the focus must be either narrative or descriptive dependent upon the assignment given. If it is complicated for you, GrabMyEssay will help writing college papers for you.

Write Your Essay According to the Assigned Type

When children write their first narrative essay, they are purely telling a story. There will be almost no description in that essay whatsoever. This is to be expected, and the narratives are pretty boring, for the most part. As students progress through school, they may be given great narrative essay prompts that will allow them to write about things from personal perspectives but, as well, begin to add descriptive passages that make their narratives “come alive.” For example, a narrative essay prompt may be given to recall an incident in which one had true fear. A student who chooses being caught in a snow storm would not be able to write a compelling narrative without vivid descriptions of that storm. On the other hand, if a descriptive essay were the assignment, then the student would of course spend more time describing the snowstorm but could not leave out being in it! The point is this: personal narratives will require descriptive features in order to be interesting and/or entertaining; descriptive essays may need to involve personal involvement as well. So long as you write your essay and keep the focus on its type, you can add elements from the other in order to make your essay more appealing to the reader. If you are describing a funeral or a wedding that involves people close to you, how could you not address your feelings? Your essay would lack any personalization and some very necessary elements!

Read also: Where to find a reliable admission essay service for applicants?

It is Never a Bad Idea to Seek Assistance

Some students are great essay writers as long as they are able to focus on certain types – expository, explanatory, definition, compare and contrast – because they have a left-brain dominance. When it comes to personal narratives and descriptive essays, however, they struggle, for these types involves more “right-brain” activity – the need to be creative and somewhat unique in presentation. If this sounds like you, don’t stress about it. Everyone has specific skill sets and talents as well as areas of challenge. If you are not “into” writing personal narratives or descriptions, order essay online at GrabMyEssay. Also we can rewrite essays for you. We have lots of creative writers who engage their “right brains” every day!

Laura Callisen

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay


Hello there! I am Laura Callisen, and I fancy myself to be a modern “Renaissance person.” I suppose my 30-something self began my incredible journey after having been born in Stavanger, Norway and then immigrating to the U.S. (Utah, actually) at the age of 5. I am certain that this change was more of a cultural “shock” for my parents than for me, because I quickly mastered the language and was clever enough to “play the game” of public education in America. After graduating from Skyline High School, where I spent two years as the school newspaper editor, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from the University of Utah was a natural culmination of my love for writing.

My inclination to be socially conscious led me to lots of community outreach and volunteering during my college years, especially in the areas of educational and housing improvement for the poor and a number of environmental crusades. My passion for philosophy and travel have now taken over, and I am enthralled with the widely varied value systems of all cultures in which I can immerse myself, if only temporarily. My life as a freelance writer allows a freedom I never want to sacrifice for a stuffy office!

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