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Narrative Writing vs. Descriptive Writing

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  • Last week, I told you we would be looking at narrative writing as well, while we develop our descriptive writing. In truth, they can be seen as two different kinds of writing.


    In narrative writing, one tells a story that often begins with background information that describes the setting and main character.  Many writers prefer to skip this step and include these details in the story as they describe the action. A story has a character, real or fictional, facing a conflict or obstacle in their path, fighting against it, and either beating it or being beaten by it at the peak of excitement, the climax.  After the climax, the falling action ties up the loose ends, showing the main character (sometimes called the protagonist or hero) living in the new conditions the conflict's resolution created.  Here's a short example of a story plot: 

    Exposition:  Johnny was walking through Wal-mart, noticing falling prices.
    Conflict:  He wants the big red ball at the top of the big ball bin in the toy department, but it's out of his reach.
    Rising Action:  Johnny begins climbing the metal cage of the big ball bin.
    Climax:  He lets go to grab the big red ball and begins teetering back and forth. Johnny falls.
    Falling Action:  He lands hard, snapping three of his vertebrae, but he has the big red ball.
    Resolution:  Johnny lies in his hospital bed, holding his big red ball, but with a broken wrist and arm.

    That is a very brief example of a narrative.  Obviously, in this case the story is a piece of fiction. Narrative writing does not necessarily need to have a lot of detail. It just needs to tell a story.


    Descriptive writing vividly portrays a person, place, or thing in such a way that the reader can visualize the topic and enter into the writer’s experience. In descriptive writing alone, you don't need to tell a story. You just need to portray a person, place, or thing so the reader can experience or visualize it.

    Descriptive Narrative


    Most novels that you read will actually be a descriptive narrative: vividly portraying characters and events, while telling a story as well.

    Let's look at the Lord of the Rings. The way J.R.R. Tolkien describes a hobbit is very descriptive, and someone could argue the reason the movies were so successful was not only because the story was told correctly (the book being narrative writing also), but because the readers did not have to come up with their own imagination of a hobbit (or other figures, places, and such). They were described in detail, giving everybody a very precise framework of imagination to work from. Therefore everybody could relate to and agree upon the characters and the make-up of the artists.


    Works cited:

    Croden. "Descriptive Narrative". Lebanon High School. 14 April 2014.