Description Is Different from Narration



I’ve recently posted several ideas for descriptive writing assignments.  Learning to write vivid description is important for any writer. In real-world writing, description is an important part of story-telling, exposition, and even persuasive writing. It’s not common to read anything that seeks only to describe, but we find it is helpful to have students work exclusively on their describing skills because it is such a vital part of writing in general.

Students, however, often have difficulty limiting their purpose to description. We commonly observe students telling stories when they have been asked to simply describe. The story-telling instinct is so strong that they can hardly resist the urge to narrate — fall into it subconsciously. Keeping a descriptive paper descriptive — without slipping into narrative — can be a challenge to many students.

It will help to clearly define what we mean by both narrative and descriptive papers.

Narrative: A paper written with a narrative purpose tells a story. A story has characters and a plot. Events occur in chronological order. In a complete story, a problem of some kind is presented, and events unfold that lead to the solution to that problem.

Descriptive: The best way to think about being descriptive is “painting pictures with words.” If a narrative is like a movie, a descriptive paper is like a photograph. The point of a descriptive paper is not to portray events, but to bring a scene or object to life in the imagination of the reader.

If it were as simple as this, we wouldn’t have a problem, but two factors make it difficult to keep narration and description distinct.

First, narratives almost always contain passages that are descriptive. It’s hard to tell a decent story without describing characters, setting, and objects. Good storytellers weave description into their tales. Description is an important part of narrative writing. This makes writing a paper that is purely descriptive a bit awkward. We are used to seeing description as merely a part of a story.

Second, descriptive passages can contain elements of narratives.  In other words, a description can involve characters. The characters themselves may be described or may appear in a scene that is being described. Good description often also involves action. We’ve said that description is like a photograph, but description doesn’t have to be motionless like a photograph. Many scenes that can be described include meaningful action: clowns juggling at a circus, waves crashing on a rocky coastline, or a pit crew feverishly making adjustments to a race car. Movement is appropriate for many kinds of description.

So the question is: If narratives include descriptions and descriptions contain elements of narrative, how can I tell one from the other?

And the answer is: It’s a matter of overall purpose.  In a narrative, your purpose is to relate the events of a story. In a description, your purpose is make a person, place or thing seem real and alive to the reader.

With this in mind, see if you can identify which of the following examples is narrative and which is descriptive:

 A.       Frog visited Toad late in the afternoon, after rising comfortably late and enjoying the newspaper with his buttered toast and coffee. They agreed that the weather was too fine to remain indoors; so, they packed some binoculars, a blanket, and a generous lunch, and headed out for a bird-watching picnic. Along they way they chased butterflies and tried to remember the words to old songs.

 B.       The sun, dimmed by filmy clouds, radiated a soft, golden light on the meadow. The surrounding trees formed an almost perfect circle, as though arranged by a meticulous engineer. Buttercups and dandelions dotted the long green grass, and tiny wings rose and fell in every direction. From the shadow of the trees came the heavy thump of hooves on soft earth. Then the knight emerged in radiant silver, astride a glistening black steed.

I hope it was obvious. Paragraph A focuses on the events of an unfolding story. It is narrative. Paragraph B, though it involves some action, is primarily descriptive, intending to make the meadow scene vivid and real.

As you write descriptively, restrain the story-teller inside your head. Don’t be afraid to paint a dynamic scene with characters who act and objects that move, but concentrate on the job of description — to help the reader see, hear, and feel what you are describing.


Like this article? Please consider sharing it or subscribing to our weekly email update! Post any comments and questions below. Bloggers love comments.

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. gasista

    I relish, result in I found exactly what I used to be looking for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  2. Itamar Serpa Fernandes
    Itamar Serpa Fernandes03-24-2017

    Hello, Neat post. There is a problem along with your site in internet explorer,
    may test this? IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a good component to other folks will omit your excellent writing
    due to this problem.

  3. Stelzenhaus Test
    Stelzenhaus Test03-24-2017

    This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I ave joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your excellent post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!

  4. photo editor
    photo editor03-24-2017

    This can be a excellent weblog and i would like to take a look at this each and every day with the week

  5. utrustning

    Really informative blog.Really thank you! Fantastic.

  6. car computer exchange
    car computer exchange03-23-2017

    Hello, after reading this awesome post i am as well glad to share my experience here with

  7. Rickey

    whoah this weblog is great i love studying your articles.

    Keep up the great work! You recognize, a lot of persons are hunting round for
    this info, you could aid them greatly.

  8. amazon coupon code
    amazon coupon code03-23-2017

    Your style is really unique compared to other people I ave read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this blog.

  9. adidas varial mid
    adidas varial mid03-23-2017

    saying: ;This business about what position he is.

  10. numbers daily
    numbers daily03-22-2017

    Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate!
    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him.

    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  11. visit website
    visit website03-22-2017

    This web site really has all of the info I wanted about this subject and didnaаАа’б‚Т€ТšаЂаŒаАа’б‚Т€ТžаБТžt know who to ask.

  12. to learn more
    to learn more03-22-2017

    Very good blog article.Really thank you! Great.

  13. Francesco

    What’s up colleagues, how is everything, and what you would like to
    say on the topic of this article, in my view its truly awesome for

  14. sicherheit berlin
    sicherheit berlin03-21-2017

    Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting information.

  15. prestamos online
    prestamos online03-21-2017

    will certainly digg it and in my opinion recommend to

  16. nike air max moire black
    nike air max moire black03-21-2017

    Sanchez has a chance to learn from QB guru Chip Kelly with an eye on reclaiming a starting job somewhere else down the line.

  17. special info
    special info03-20-2017

    wow, awesome blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  18. look at more info
    look at more info03-20-2017

    Major thankies for the blog post.Really thank you!

  19. Una

    I’m curious to find out what blog system you happen to be using?
    I’m experiencing some small security issues with my latest blog and I would like to find something more secure.
    Do you have any solutions?

  20. Itamar Serpa Fernandes
    Itamar Serpa Fernandes03-20-2017

    Good way of describing, and pleasant article to get information about my presentation topic, which i am going to present
    in institution of higher education.

  21. content

    I think this is a real great blog.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

  22. dragon lipstick
    dragon lipstick03-20-2017

    It as nearly impossible to find experienced people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you are talking about! Thanks

  23. Gardening Hydroponics
    Gardening Hydroponics03-20-2017

    to textbooks, as I found this paragraph at this site.

  24. where is the closest weed dispensary
    where is the closest weed dispensary03-19-2017

    That is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate information Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

  25. drones for ultra idiots
    drones for ultra idiots03-19-2017

    read through it all at the moment but I have saved

  26. Bitcoin Mining
    Bitcoin Mining03-19-2017

    You ave made some decent points there. I looked on the net for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.

  27. Blanche

    Hi mates, how is everything, and what you desire to say regarding this piece of writing,
    in my view its truly amazing in support of me.

  28. click for here
    click for here03-17-2017

    Really enjoyed this blog.Really looking forward to read more. Want more.

  29. willard 1971 film
    willard 1971 film03-17-2017

    so much and I am looking forward to touch you. Will you please drop me a mail? my homepage candy crush saga cheats

  30. jav sex tube
    jav sex tube03-17-2017

    I went over this internet site and I believe you have a lot of great information, saved to favorites (:.

  31. turkey search engine market share san francisco, ca
    turkey search engine market share san francisco, ca03-16-2017

    Still, the site is moving off blogger and will join the nfl nike jerseys.

  32. แม่บ้าน

    Im grateful for the article.Much thanks again. Want more.

  33. nanny

    Thank you for your blog article.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

  34. โรงงานผลิตสบู่

    This page certainly has all the info I needed about this subject and didn at know who to ask.

  35. Earn money
    Earn money03-16-2017

    very nice post, i certainly love this web site, keep on it

  36. Augusto de Arruda Botelho
    Augusto de Arruda Botelho03-16-2017

    Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to
    and you’re just too fantastic. I really like what you’ve acquired here, certainly like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it.
    You make it entertaining and you still take care
    of to keep it sensible. I can not wait to read much more from you.
    This is really a terrific site.

  37. play online casino
    play online casino03-16-2017

    I used to be able to find good info from your blog posts.

  38. is it possible to make money blogging
    is it possible to make money blogging03-16-2017

    Thanks a lot for the blog article.Really thank you! Awesome.

  39. WebTipster

    It is really a nice and useful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  40. Exchange Bitcoin to western union
    Exchange Bitcoin to western union03-15-2017

    Some really prize content on this site, saved to bookmarks.

  41. schelder veere
    schelder veere03-14-2017

    SAC LANCEL PAS CHER ??????30????????????????5??????????????? | ????????

  42. vestidos de fiesta largos
    vestidos de fiesta largos03-14-2017

    Very nice post. I absolutely appreciate this website. Keep it up!

  43. dorset boutique hotels
    dorset boutique hotels03-14-2017

    Im obliged for the blog article.Really thank you! Really Cool.

  44. Melbourne Real Estate
    Melbourne Real Estate03-13-2017

    Say, you got a nice blog post.Really thank you! Will read on


    You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the subject and found most people will go along with with your site.

  46. sverige

    Thanks-a-mundo for the post.Really thank you! Fantastic.

  47. DNA test
    DNA test03-12-2017

    It as not that I want to duplicate your web site, but I really like the design. Could you let me know which design are you using? Or was it custom made?

  48. Hotel booking
    Hotel booking03-12-2017

    Usually I do not learn post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to try and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, very great article.

  49. podcasts

    Say, you got a nice blog.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  50. Informatic Engineering
    Informatic Engineering03-10-2017

    wow, awesome blog.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

  51. Events

    it for him lol. So let me reword this. Thanks for the meal!!

  52. pc games full version download
    pc games full version download03-10-2017

    That is a good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate information Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

  53. free global shipping
    free global shipping03-10-2017

    It as not that I want to copy your web page, but I really like the pattern. Could you let me know which theme are you using? Or was it custom made?

  54. Theda

    Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

  55. find more
    find more03-10-2017

    This website certainly has all the info I wanted about this subject and didn at know who to ask.

  56. recover files south jordan
    recover files south jordan03-10-2017

    I think this is a real great post.Really thank you!

  57. Instagram Follower
    Instagram Follower03-10-2017

    This is one awesome post.Really thank you! Much obliged.

  58. check this infos before u order
    check this infos before u order03-10-2017

    Thank you for your post.Thanks Again. Awesome.

  59. Oud oil supplier
    Oud oil supplier03-08-2017

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post and also the rest of the site is also very good.

  60. ar condicionado sp
    ar condicionado sp03-08-2017

    I really liked your blog post. Really Cool. click here

  61. renting an apartment
    renting an apartment03-08-2017

    Its fantastic as your other posts , thank you for putting up.

  62. Android News
    Android News03-08-2017

    Thanks so much for the blog article.Much thanks again. Will read on…

  63. Wholesale toys
    Wholesale toys03-07-2017

    Spot on with this write-up, I really assume this website wants rather more consideration. IaаАа’б‚Т€ТšаЂаŒаАа’б‚Т€ТžаБТžll probably be once more to read far more, thanks for that info.

  64. phuket property sales
    phuket property sales03-07-2017

    I truly appreciate this post. I ave been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thank you again..

  65. lens for Nikon d7100
    lens for Nikon d710003-07-2017

    is excellent but with pics and videos, this website could undeniably be one of

  66. real estate punta cana
    real estate punta cana03-07-2017

    wonderful issues altogether, you simply received a new reader. What might you recommend in regards to your publish that you simply made some days ago? Any sure?

  67. Buy amazon reviews
    Buy amazon reviews03-07-2017

    I truly appreciate this post. I ave been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Google. You have made my day! Thank you again

  68. RPS vs KXIP
    RPS vs KXIP03-07-2017

    Where I am from we don at get enough of this type of thing. Got to search around the entire globe for such relevant stuff. I appreciate your effort. How do I find your other articles?!

  69. Vedic Astrology Reading
    Vedic Astrology Reading03-07-2017

    Wow! This blog looks just like my old one! It as on a totally different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Superb choice of colors!

  70. eroticke pomocky
    eroticke pomocky03-07-2017

    whole lot like mine to understand appreciably extra pertaining to this situation.

  71. house to sell
    house to sell03-07-2017

    It as very straightforward to find out any topic on net as compared to textbooks, as I found this article at this site.

  72. art

    Thanks-a-mundo for the blog article.Thanks Again. Really Great.

  73. login to
    login to gmail.com03-07-2017

    Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Fantastic. I am also an expert in this topic so I can understand your effort.

  74. pop over to these guys
    pop over to these guys03-06-2017

    Major thanks for the blog post.Really thank you! Awesome.

  75. fake

    Wow! This can be one particular of the most beneficial blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Great. I am also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your hard work.

  76. Apple_Iphone

    IaаАа’б‚Т€ТšаЂаŒаАа’б‚Т€ТžаБТžm glad to become a visitor in this pure internet site, regards for this rare info!

  77. replacement windows parts
    replacement windows parts03-06-2017

    Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is wonderful, let alone the content!. Thanks For Your article about sex.

  78. venue finder
    venue finder03-06-2017

    Thanks-a-mundo for the blog post.Really thank you! Much obliged.

  79. mike tyson
    mike tyson03-05-2017

    bkSz8M Your stream posts constantly contain a lot of especially positive to date information. Everyplace achieve you come positive with this? Emphatically stating you are same creative. Recognition again

  80. Shilpi

    Thanks for such clear explanation of narrtive and descriptive styles of writing.

  81. Zach

    I have been fighting the narrative/descriptive battle with my students for some time now. This helps clarify essential points! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

If you like a post, please take a second to click "like," and comment as often as you like.
We promise not to correct your grammar!