A personal narrative tells a story about the writer, while a descriptive essay seeks to describe an object, person, place, event or emotion, according to Purdue University's Online Writing Lab. A narrative primarily develops the writer's ideas in the form of a story with a beginning, middle and end. A descriptive essay focuses on leaving a vivid impression in the mind of the reader by providing details that focus on the five senses and on feelings and experiences.
The thesis sentence in a narrative provides the main point of the story. A narrative essay about a lesson learned could begin with the lesson: "I found out it was a bad idea to steal candy when I was 5 years old." Thesis sentences for descriptive essays focus on the primary elements of the events or experience you are describing. A thesis sentence for a holiday descriptive essay could be "Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of the delicious food and the time our family spends together."
Because a narrative tells a story, it is one of the few types of essays that can feature paragraphs that are only one sentence or even only one word long. Telling a story about yourself or others can include dialogue and action paragraphs that are very brief, such as, "Hey!" to present an interjection. Descriptive essays may also contain dialogue, but they typically have longer paragraphs with topic sentences and supporting details that include senses and emotions.
Narratives should be told from the start of the story, and then continue to cover all of the events that are important. Narratives also include a plot, setting and characters according to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. A descriptive essay begins with an introductory paragraph and a thesis and includes supporting paragraphs that focus on specific details that are being described. Each supporting paragraph should include a different detail of the description.
A narrative can conclude with a single sentence. For example, a narrative about how you learned stealing was wrong could conclude with "After my mother took me home from the store, I was so embarrassed that I never stole again." In a descriptive essay, the conclusion should echo the thesis. For example, the concluding sentence of a descriptive essay about Thanksgiving could be "The turkey was the most delicious I've ever had, and it tasted better because our family was together at the table."