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Difference Between Narrative Essay Descriptive Essay

Narrative vs Descriptive Essay

Narrative and Descriptive essay are two different types of essay writing, where a clear difference between them can be highlighted in terms of the writer’s objective in compiling the essay. A narrative is usually where a person tells his or her experiences to the reader. This highlights that a narrative allows the reader to immerse in a story that is composed of a sequence of events. But a descriptive essay is quite different from a narrative essay, mainly because it does not engage in relating a story but merely on providing a descriptive account of something or someone to the reader. This is the main difference between a narrative and a descriptive essay. Through this article let us examine the differences between these two types of writing.

What is a Narrative?

A narrative or a narrative essay can be defined as an account of an individual experience. This explains a personal experience that had a significant impact on the individual’s life. It can be of a journey, a special day such as the first day in school, one’s marriage, an unforgettable day, etc. This highlights that through a narrative the individual can express and share something special with the reader. A narrative entails a sequence of events that are often related in chronological order. A narrative can be presented in the first person narration that uses words such as I, myself, me, etc. However, a narrative can be in the third person as well when relating stories. This will have various characters and a specific plot surrounding that story will be built.

A narrative allows the reader to comprehend the point of view, attitudes, perspectives and construction of reality of the narrator. It allows the reader not only to be a part of the experience but also understand the personality of the narrator. In Social Sciences, narratives are usually used as empirical evidence for research purposes as they allow the researcher to understand the subjective experiences of people and also their interpretations of events.

Narrative is an account of individual experience

What is a Descriptive Essay?

Unlike a narrative essay, a descriptive essay is used for explaining or describing a place, a person, or even an emotion. A writer can use sensory information such as the sight, the sound, touch, smell, and taste of a particular object in order to fully describe something. The diction used for these essays is very extensive and highly descriptive. In some cases, descriptive essays fail to present this totality of sensory information and only confine the description to one or two dimensions. A well-written descriptive essay usually has the potential for building a connection with the reader as it allows the reader to immerse in the described ambiance.

Descriptive essay describes or explains a place, a person or even an emotion

What is the difference between Narrative and Descriptive Essay?

• Definition:

• A narrative can be defined as an account of an individual personal experience.

• A descriptive essay can be defined as an account that provides a detailed description of a place, a person, or even an emotion.

• Content:

• A Narrative usually relates a story.

• A descriptive essay merely describes something or someone. It does not have a story, but only a highly descriptive account.

• Point of View:

• A narrative mostly uses the first person narration.

• A descriptive essay does not mostly use the first person narration. It functions with the objective of presenting an image of something.

• Action:

• A narrative is full of action as it relates a story. It consists of a sequence of event.

• However, this quality cannot be seen in a descriptive essay.

• Order:

• A narrative follows a logical order since it relates an event or story it goes in a chronological order.

• However, in the case of a descriptive essay, the writer can deviate from this pattern.

• Plot and Characters:

• A narrative has a plot, a number of characters who revolve around this plot and take part in the events of the story.

• In a descriptive essay, there is no plot or characters as in a narrative.


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  1. Writing Letter via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. Carpathian mountains by AnnetteK (CC BY-SA 3.0)
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"Difference Between Narrative and Descriptive Essay." DifferenceBetween.Com. March 23, 2015. < http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-narrative-and-vs-descriptive-essay/ >

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Main Difference – Narrative vs Descriptive Essay

Though there is a difference between narrative and descriptive essay, these two types of essays are often confused to be the same. Both narrative and descriptive essay can be written by any age group, as they do not contain many facts or information. They are usually used in creative writing activities for students. The main difference between narrative and descriptive essay is that a descriptive essay describes a certain person, an object or a scene while a narrative essay narrates a story.

What is a Descriptive Essay

Descriptive essay is a piece of writing that includes lot of descriptions. A descriptive essay can be about a person, a place, an object, or a feeling. In this type of essay, we can describe sensory details (sights, smells, sound, taste, touch). A good descriptive essay writer can describe his subject in such a way that vivid images are created in readers’ mind. Common descriptive essay topics include my pet, my family, my favorite place, my best friend, etc.

Extract from a Descriptive Essay:

“My best friend is my own cousin. Her name is Lily Adams and, she is in the same age as me. She is a pretty, tall girl with long black hair. Her deep green eyes like emeralds. Lily is a very talkative girl and she loves to help poor people. She often carries extra food in her bag to give to the poor people she meets on the road……”


What is a Narrative Essay

Narrative Essay is a piece of writing that narrates a story. A narrative essay can describe a writer’s personal experience or an imaginary incident. A good narrative essay writer can make the readers feel that he is writing about a true incident. First point of view is generally used in this type of an essay. A narrative essay also contains a plot, setting, and characters. Some narrative essay writers use dialogues as well. Some examples for narrative essays topics are an unforgettable day, my first day at school, an experience that changed, A day at the beach etc.

Extract from a Narrative Essay:

“….As I started to swim in the warm ocean, jumping over waves, I left others behind. I was still wearing my long back skirt which was quite heavy in the water, but my feet was touching the ocean floor, so I was not worried. But at one instant, I felt my feet could not touch the ocean floor anymore and I was  plunged into the water, weighed down by my clothing. Giant  waves kept coming and I was getting sucked into the depths every time they came. I tried to call out to my friends, but no sound came out my mouth……”


How to Write a Narrative Essay

Difference Between Narrative and Descriptive Essay

As described above, the main difference between narrative and descriptive essay is their purpose. A narrative essay is written to narrate a certain incident or experience while a descriptive essay is written in order to describe a person, a thing, or a place. In a narrative essay, first person point of view is generally used and both first and third points of views are used in a descriptive essay. A narrative essay uses a logical, more often a chronological order, but a descriptive essay does not take time factor into account. Another significant difference between narrative and descriptive essay is that a narrative essay has a plot, setting and characters as it tells a story. In addition, a narrative essay can also contain dialogues.

Image Courtesy:
“trialsanderrors” by Konen Uehara: Waves, ca. 1910 (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

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