The purpose of a narrative descriptive essay is to tell a story vividly to appeal to the reader’s senses. The more sensory images, or description, that is used to tell a story, the more interesting it will be to readers. Narrative descriptive essays are commonly assigned in first-year college writing classes, and writing one involves many steps.
- Choose an effective, interesting topic. The story you want to tell should be interesting. While a simple vacation to Florida may have been fun and interesting to you, think about whether it will be to your reader. Choose a topic that includes lots of sensory impressions so that you have lots to describe.
- Make an outline of the basic story you want to tell. Obviously, you need a beginning, middle and end. Having an outline of the story will keep the essay organized and help keep you on track in telling the story.
- Decide on the type of description to include. What images do you want to impress upon the reader?
- Write a statement of purpose. You probably won’t have a traditional thesis statement in a narrative essay, but you should have a clear purpose. What story are you telling, and why are you telling it?
- Write a clear introduction that tells the reader what story will follow. Include the purpose in the introduction. The introduction should hook the reader and make him want to read the story. For this type of essay, use a catchy opening line that is linked to your story.
- Tell the complete story in the body. Clearly tell the story that you have mentioned in the purpose.
- Organize the body chronologically. Because you are telling a story, you obviously want to tell it in order. Choosing a different organizational method may be confusing to the readers.
- Use lots of descriptive language. You want to paint a picture for the reader so she feels she is part of the story. Use description to set the scene. Describe people, events and other things as they come up in the story.
- Describe sounds, appearances, smells and anything else to make the story more interesting and real.
- Describe only what is pertinent to the story and moves the story along. Do not describe something in the essay that really isn’t relevant to the story.
- Write a conclusion that sums up the essay and leaves the reader with a parting word. What do you want readers to take away from the story?
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Narrative essays often read like stories. As a result, conclusion techniques such as a summary paragraph or paraphrasing the first paragraph will probably fall short. The writer must strike the right emotional note, one that evokes meaning and helps the reader to understand why the subject of your essay matters to you, which is what really makes it worth reading. While other essays teach us about issues and events, narrative essays illuminate the human condition.
Project time forward to end a narrative essay. If the narrative took place ten years ago, you might write the conclusion from the perspective of someone who understands more now than you did then. Or you might write from the perspective of someone who is as baffled as ever.
If you take the perspective of one who now understands, be careful not to write a paragraph that sounds as if you are telling the reader what the moral of the story is. If possible, use sensory impressions to connote meaning rather than explain meaning. “Today I live in New York City. I didn’t make time to visit my mother near the end of her life, so she died lonely” explains. But this creates meaning without explaining: “Today I live in New York City. I still remember my mother frantically waving goodbye, both empty hands flailing the air, on the day I left her for the last time.”
Lead the reader into the conclusion with a final scene in real time as an alternative to projecting time forward. Describe a specific physical action or a final verbal exchange or a combination of those.
Avoid telling the reader how to feel. The conclusion of a narrative essay should resonate, not dictate. If you think of a movie about a character who overcomes adversity and emerges in triumph at the end of the narrative, you will notice that nowhere does the screenplay writer or director tell the reader to feel happy at the end. Instead the characters enact the end in a setting; we watch them, and thus we are transported to happiness. The end of a narrative essay can work in the same manner.
Include personal reflection in the conclusion, but avoid the temptation to explain everything. It’s not necessary to answer all the questions a reader might have. Like fiction, a narrative essay may imply meaning rather than prescribe solutions. It’s a sturdy genre that can work from metaphor, symbol and lyric language as well as describe and analyze.
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As a student, your teacher may ask you to analyze a narrative. The very words may seem daunting, but rest assured all your teacher is asking you to do is analyze a story. A narrative is a story that may feature several themes, plots and characters. To analyze it, you need to examine the story focusing on a particular literary device or character that you want to discuss. To do this successfully, you need to have read the text and be able to discuss a certain aspect of the text that interested you.
Interact with the text. If you want to analyze a text, you need to have interacted with it. This can mean annotating your reader responses in the margins, asking questions and making statements. All this will help you understand the text more thoroughly and will enable you to do a better job analyzing it. Look at all the information you have written down. Answer some basic questions: What does all this information mean to me? How does this relate to my text? What conclusions can I draw from this?
Examine the text from a specific point of view based on your questions and your responses. Write down some of your ideas. Make a list of three to five ideas/reactions that you feel comfortable discussing. Identify which idea you can best talk about and start developing another list based on that one idea. Now what do you have to say about this narrowed down topic? This process will enable you to identify your topic.
Make connections and draw conclusions. Avoid summarizing the text because that is not analyzing. You need to now respond to the topic you have identified earlier. Write down what you have to say about your subject. Draw conclusions about your text and see if you can make connections to other parts on the text or to other readings, if relevant.
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