14 Forms of Writing for the Older Student: Descriptive Narrative

What is a Descriptive Narrative Essay?

Narrative essays usually tell us how something happened. They are typically written in chronological order and use transition words such as first, before, later, or finally. Narrative essays frequently have a point to make or a moral to convey — a lesson learned. They employ storytelling.

A descriptive essay attempts to create a picture or a convey mood that captures a reader’s interest. It focuses on providing detailed descriptions of objects, actions, and moods — showing instead of telling.

Combine the two and you have a descriptive narrative essay — the type of nonfiction that attempts to entertain, bringing the reader along.

What Are the Elements of a Descriptive Narrative Essay?

A good descriptive narrative essay typically includes the following elements:

  • Describes an event.
  • Imparts a lesson learned or to be learned.
  • Is told from the narrator’s point of view.
  • Is written in chronological order.
  • Employs storytelling.
  • Shows instead of tells.
  • Creates a mental picture.
  • Employs language that appeals to the senses: how something smells, tastes, feels, sounds, or looks.
  • Uses literary devices and figurative language, such as metaphors and similes.

Let’s look at an example:

My Visit to Niagara by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Using the bulleted points in the list above, determine how each point applies to Hawthorne’s essay.


You’ll find helpful resources below.

  • Find other examples of descriptive narrative essays.
  • What did you do yesterday? Write a few sentences describing your day. Use transition words to help the sequence of events more forward.
  • Now, rewrite one or two of your sentences in a descriptive way. Show me with your words what you did. Create a mood. Is there a lesson involved that you can convey?
  • Choose a topic you can use to write a descriptive narrative essay. It might be a memory, a situation, or an event; but be sure you have a lesson learned you can convey to the reader.
  • Imagine the scene. How would you describe it to someone else? Think of the five senses: what do you see, hear, smell, taste, and/or touch?
  • Write your descriptive narrative essay in chronological order and bring the reader along with you. Don’t tell me what happened; show me.

Additional Resources

How to Write A Descriptive Essay
Great help at WriteExpress.com — just use the memory or experience focus.

Descriptive Essays
Online writing help at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab.

Narrative Essay
Outline that can be used (chronological order).

50 Descriptive Essay Topics
Scroll down to memory if you are stuck for ideas!

Enjoy the complete series:
14 Forms of Writing for the Older Student: Complete Series
14 Forms of Writing for the Older Student

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