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
In your online classes, you facilitator may ask you to write an essay in "APA narrative format." Here are a few tips:
Point of View
APA writing is from the first person perspective, such as “I researched…”, or the third person perspective, like “Survey results showed…” If you are trying to decide between first and third person, use whichever one helps you to communicate or whichever one your professor prefers.
Whether you use the first or third person perspective, the active voice is best. The active voice is simple and direct. A sentence in the active voice is “I researched information literacy.” This is the opposite of the passive voice which can sound wordy. An example of a passive voice sentence is “It is concluded that research has been performed.”
A Scholarly Tone of Voice
When you’re writing for school it’s important to use the appropriate tone of voice. Your tone of voice can be heard in the words that you choose. Carefully pick the words you use, just like how you would carefully choose what you wear to a formal event. A good example of a scholarly tone can be found in your textbook or journal articles. You will notice that it doesn’t sound like the way you talk with friends. For example, a scholarly tone doesn’t use contractions, such as “didn’t,” or slang, such as “her ideas were weird.”
A scholarly tone has clear sentences that explain your point. You can hear the tone of your writing by reading it out loud. After you read it, ask yourself: when my teacher reads my Complete assignment or paper will she know what I mean?
Clear and Concise
As you write and edit, work to create sentences that are clear and concise. Keep these tips in mind:
• Avoid saying too much in one sentence. You can shorten long sentences by deleting unnecessary words and repetitive phrases.
• Be specific instead of vague in your descriptions. For example, instead of writing “with reference to the fact” you could simply say “concerning.”
• Be sure to use accurate and balanced language when you consider a variety of perspectives. As you choose words be particularly aware of racial, ethnic, gender, or religious bias.
For more details on how to find and use information in your essays, visit this tutorial.