• 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
• 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
• 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?
• 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!
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.
Concrete Language… Abstract Language…
makes the story or image seem clearer makes the story or image difficult to
and more real to us. visualize.
gives us information that we can easily leaves your reader feeling empty,
grasp and perhaps empathize with. 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
• 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
HOW TO WRITE A DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY
Here is a list of important rules to follow as your write this essay.
• Understand the concept
• Do your research
• Outline the paper
• Write the paper
• Re-write the paper
• Edit (outside editors)
Here are some tips to remember when writing your descriptive essay:
• Actually describe something
• Use concrete and abstract images
• Use concrete and abstract ideas
• Do not go overboard with adjectives and adverbs
• Do not go overboard with similes and metaphors
• Give it to someone else to see if your essay actually describes something
What do you want to describe?
As you get started on your descriptive essay, it's
important for you to identify exactly what you want
to describe. Often, a descriptive essay will focus on
portraying one of the following:
• a person
• a Place
• a memory
• an experience
• an object
How should you write your
If there's one thing you should remember as you write your
descriptive essay, it's the famous saying: show don't tell. But
what's the difference between showing and telling?
Consider these two simple examples:
• I grew tired after dinner.
• As I leaned back and rested my head against the top of the
chair, my eyelids began to feel heavy, and the edges of the
empty plate in front of me blurred with the white
The first sentence tells readers that you grew tired after
dinner. The second sentence shows readers that you grew
tired. The most effective descriptive essays are loaded with
such showing because they enable readers to imagine or
experience something for themselves.
As you write your descriptive essay, the best way to create a
vivid experience for your readers is to focus on the five
When you focus your descriptions on the senses, you provide
vivid and specific details that show your readers rather than
tell your readers what you are describing.
Drafting your descriptive essay:
• What sights, sounds, smells, tastes,
and textures are important for
developing your description?
• Which details can you include to
ensure that your readers gain a vivid
impression imbued with your
emotion or perspective?
Revising your descriptive essay:
• Have you provided enough details and descriptions to
enable your readers to gain a complete and vivid
• Have you left out any minor but important details?
• Have you used words that convey your emotion or
• Are there any unnecessary details in your description?
• Does each paragraph of your essay focus on one aspect
of your description?
• Are you paragraphs ordered in the most effective way?
• A scream passing through an open window at the edge of town
rattles the settled sounds of a night tucked in, the filtering
whispers of leaves outside in the breeze interrupted, yielding to
the call of a helpless exater protected by sound walls; only the
nearby creek persists. Call of crickets resign under full moon, and
hill-riding wind halts for a moment following the cry. Slowly, the
leaves begin to whisper again, though slightly muffled, offset by
the impression of a scream when it was the last thing on the
• Like his twisted feathers, his many scars, the reliable old owl
chose the gnarled, weather-beaten, but solid branch often—it
being a companion to the wise alone with the night and the last
branch to creak in the heaviest wind. He oft...
• The next time you get a chance, pick up an apple.
Feel the weight of it in your hand. Examine it for
blemishes. What caused that little black spot? Did
the apple tenaciously hang onto the wind-
whipped tree branch as a storm dashed it into a
neighboring twig? Did a peckish bird sample the
apple for ripeness? Look at the apple again and
feel it as it warms in your hand. Anticipate the
burst of flavor as your teeth crunch through the
rich redness of its thin skin.
The above is a sample of descriptive writing and a
hint of some of the ways you can take an ordinary
object and change it into the extraordinary using
words. Writing a descriptive essay is a chance to
explore your own creativity as you use the senses to
draw a picture in words.
• Could you feel the weight and temperature of the
• Did you see the blemish and visualize the
windstorm or the bird?
• Could you hear the crunch as you bit through the
• Could you taste the explosion of flavor?
Actually, there is more than one way to write a
descriptive essay. Some descriptive essays are written
objectively, using only the facts:
Example: The apple was fully ripe, a fact supported by its
deep red color and the ease with which its dry brown
stem separated from the tree.
• Tip: Keep your essay on topic by applying descriptive
text to your subject only. Notice above that no
description is applied to the tree.
Other descriptive writing, like the first example, is
subjective in that it intends to paint a vivid picture that
elicits sensations or arouses emotion in the reader.
However, in either form, descriptive writing adds strength
to your essay by adding interesting and specific details to
• Although the first example is a descriptive
paragraph, be sure to follow the standard essay
writing format of introduction, body, and
conclusion when writing your descriptive essay.
Use your introduction to both present your
subject and to tell your reader why you found it
• Choose your details carefully. In writing a
descriptive essay, your objective is to leave your
reader with just one impression.
• For instance, if the apple was grass green instead
of rosy red, you might take some “poetic license”
and leave that fact out, selecting only the details
that support your description and convey the
impression or a ripe and juicy apple.
When writing a descriptive essay, start building
your description by brainstorming the facts:
• Red Apple
• Brown Stem
• Small black blemish near the top
• Thin skin
• Heavy and solid
• By the time you finish this process, you’ll probably have
written an objective description and only need to put it
into sentences and insert them into appropriate
paragraphs of your descriptive essay. In writing a
subjective description, you’ll want to build on the facts
by adding adjectives to some of them and using
synonyms that are more descriptive for others. (e.g.
rosy red as opposed to red or weighty as opposed to
• Choose two or three of the descriptions you’ve built
and use them as the focal points of your descriptive
essay body, with supporting information that describes
why they are important to your overall view. (In this
example, the ripeness of the apple.)
• Conclude your descriptive essay with a summary of
your points and restate the impression you meant to
PURPOSE OF DESCRIPTIVE ESSAYS
• The purpose of a descriptive essay is to describe a
person, place, or thing in such vivid detail that
the reader can easily form a precise mental
picture of what is being written about. The
author may accomplish this by using imaginative
language, interesting comparisons, and images
that appeal to the senses.
• Read this sample descriptive essay, and then read
the notes below.
1) The subject of the sample essay is fairly
ordinary—a ride on a Ferris wheel. The author
makes it interesting, however, by comparing the
Ferris wheel to a monstrous creature.
2) The author makes good use of fresh and varied
vocabulary. For example, in the first paragraph
alone, she uses verbs that create excitement like
"fascinate," "amaze," and "terrify." In the second
paragraph she uses a variety of terms to describe
the machine such as "monstrosity," "mythical
beast," "amazing dinosaur," "fire-breathing
3) The author uses her senses to describe the scene—how the
ride looks, sounds, smells, and feels. The ride is "huge, smoky,
noisy" and its engines "drone" like the roar of a dragon. On
the ride, she gets a "rush of adrenaline" and a "lump in her
throat," she feels immobile and then weightless.
4) The essay is well organized. The introduction begins with a
general statement, "I have always been fascinated by carnival
rides," and ends with a more specific statement of what the
essay will be about, "the thrill and excitement of a carnival
ride keeps me coming back for more." The body of the essay is
composed of several paragraphs that describe the Ferris
wheel, the way it seems from the ground and the way it feels
to ride on one. The conclusion restates the main idea of the
essay, that the author continues to find carnival rides thrilling