🚫 Don't Summarize

Let your scenes play out.

Today’s Writing Tip:

Don’t summarize your scenes. Let the scene play out from start to finish.

Explanation:

Beginner and intermediate writers will often begin a scene with a summary. When you summarize a scene, you prevent the reader from engaging with the story on his/her own terms.

There are two types of summaries:

  • Spoil the action: You tell the reader what is going to happen before you show them. (e.g. Megan and Bill had a huge fight. Bill came home from work to find…)

  • Spoil the conclusion: You tell the reader what their takeaway should be. (e.g. This was a terrible turn of events. What began as a beautiful morning…)

We summarize because we don’t trust our own storytelling skills. We think we need to gently remind the reader what the scene is about. But we don’t. The reader can figure it out for herself.

As you become a more experienced storyteller, you’ll become more confident in your ability to paint pictures with your words.

Examples:

Here is an example of a summary. Notice how, by telling the reader “Bobby was nervous”, you tell the reader what they should conclude.

  • Summarized:Bobby was nervous for the performance. He clutched his guitar tightly as he sat in the sweltering spotlight. His ears were ringing. A thousand eyes judged him.”

  • Not summarized: “Bobby clutched his guitar tightly as he sat in the sweltering spotlight. His ears were ringing. A thousand eyes judged him.”

Look for statements at the beginning and end of your paragraphs and chapters. There, you’ll find the summaries.

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