Narrative Summary-Use With Caution

caution-tapeNarrative summary is a great weapon in the writers arsenal. It can be used to speed through scenes that aren’t important, slow things down after an intense scene to allow the reader to catch their breath,  compress time, and to provide exposition(background information).

So what’s the problem?

Narrative summary can sound like lecturing. It’s like somebody broke into the middle of the scene, shared some information, and then stepped back out. Your reader does a double take and then attempts to reenter the story, picking up where she left off before you blind sided her. Resist the urge to explain.

Narrative summary makes the reader unclear whose POV the scene is written in.  Set the scene first so we know whose POV we are in, and then add the narrative summary. Another suggestion is to tie the narrative to the POV character’s thoughts. Narrative summary should always be from the POV’s perspective.

Narrative summary runs the risk of robbing scenes of their power. You can’t summarize everything just to get through the scene. If something important is about to happen- Joanie breaks up with the man of her dreams- you need to take the time to provide details and work the scene. If  Joanie is flying to Rome to meet the man of her dreams, you should probably skip details about the uneventful, boring plane ride, a sentence or two of narrative will do, but be ready for the climatic meeting at the airport. Important scenes can’t be summarized in narrative. Your reader wants to be there when John greets her at the gate, and then gets down on one knee and proposes amidst the hustle and bustle of the airport.

-Jan R




Narrative Summary-Use With Caution

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