Difference Between Descriptive and Narrative Writing

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Understanding the Difference Between Descriptive and Narrative Writing

Nowadays, every second student is confused about what is descriptive and narrative writing? And what is the difference between these two. Therefore, in this guide, we will talk about the purpose of descriptive and narrative writing along with their differences.

[ Related: Characteristics of Academic Writing ]

Main Purpose of Descriptive Writing

If we are writing a descriptive essay, then keep in mind that it is based on sensory information. The term sensory information means that sound, taste, smell, sight and touch. In simple words, an incident or event you have encountered personally or have seen it happening. In descriptive writing, we develop three-dimensional portrayal of place, feelings, thoughts, object and person. The objective of descriptive writing is to provide the reader enough information about something as much as you can.

Example of Descriptive Writing

Let’s take an example of the renowned novel written by John Kennedy named “A Confederacy of Dunces”. In this novel, the writer begins with the following description:

“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles……”

Basically, through the words, we can clearly get the image in our mind. This is the ideal technique of descriptive writing that through your use of words, you can create that image in the reader’s mind.

Techniques of Descriptive Writing

Let’s talk about the techniques and tricks of descriptive writing:

  • In descriptive piece of writing or essays, we use illustrative organization to develop the logical picture of the specific subject.
  • Use of directional signal words assist readers to create the images in their mind. In case, you are writing something abstract then you can utilize figurative language. It will make your writing unique and interesting for the reader.
  • Use of similes and metaphors facilitate readers to imagine the situation in their mind easily.
  • You can also use sound devices in your writing for a vivid idea.

Main Purpose of Narrative Writing

In comparison to descriptive writing, writer tells the story in narrative writing. In the narrative writing, authors normally use different pictures to provide the clear idea to his/her reader. Narrative writing includes point of view (It can be first person or third person point of view). In narrative writing, there are different elements like characters, plots, incidents, setting, time, climax, rising action, exposition, falling action, catastrophe or resolution.

Narrative writing also includes a theme or moral lesson for its readers.

Techniques of Narrative Writing

Let’s have a look on some of the techniques used by writers in narrative writing:

  • In narrative writing, time and chronological order is usually used to highlight any event.
  • Authors generally use sequence signal words to make a reader understand the story.
  • Use of flashback technique is very common in narrative writing. This technique is used to jump through on any event any time.
  • Use of dialogue is very common in narrative writing that helps the reader to get idea about actions and characters personality.
  • Lastly, narrative writing includes complete information. In short, author needs to highlight something logical.

Similarities Between Descriptive and Narrative Writing

  • If we talk about similarities between descriptive and narrative writing, then they both follow the same essay format.
  • In both descriptive and narrative writing, you have to start from an introductory paragraph and ending will be took place with a proper conclusion.
  • In the end of the introductory paragraph, you will place a thesis. In short, a sentence explaining the purpose of your overall writing! You have to provide a reason; need to explain why a specific incident, person, object and place are important for you. Why did you write about it?
  • Moreover, this thesis will also explain that you have learned something from things, you are talking about.
  • In both descriptive and narrative writing, make sure to add specific information in the paragraphs to support your ideas.

[Related: Difference Between Autobiography and Narrative ]

Difference Between Descriptive and Narrative Writing

Just like few similarities, descriptive and narrative writing has difference too. Let’s talk about it below.


In descriptive writing, the introduction is all about what the subject to be discussed in your writing. The reader can easily guess what is going to be the next. On the other hand, the narrative writing is based on suspense and writer does not reveal the story all of a sudden. In order to end up the mystery, the reader has to go through from the paper.

Point of View

Narrative writing is written with first person perspective. On the other hand, descriptive writing has third person point of view in it. Moreover, descriptive writing includes place, person and object. On the other hand, in narrative writing, the writer talks about his/her personal experience.

Paragraph Structure

In narrative writing, you can write two sentences in one paragraph. However, in descriptive one, you can write long paragraphs. The use of dialogues is quite common in descriptive writing in comparison to narrative writing.


The ending part in narrative writing can be short and to the point. However, in descriptive essay the conclusion portion can be long and detailed one.

Overall Technique and Structure

If we talk about descriptive writing or essay, then the events use to represent in the chronological form. There is a time frame in it. The writer uses the time feature to show different incidents to create a clear idea in reader’s mind. On the other hand, in narrative writing, you are not bound to follow a strict time frame to talk about any incident.