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Scene and Summary

By Deren Bott

Scene and summary are two methods that writers use when creating their stories. They both have benefits, and it is important to understand the distinction between them so you can write to their strengths.


When writing in scene, the writer writes about events happening in the moment with little to no narrative writing. This often gives the illusion that the events are in real time. While not always, writing in scene often includes dialogue and conversation.


Writing in scene gives the reader a sense of immediacy. It helps the reader feel like they are there experiencing the events with the character. This can also be used to create tension by keeping a fast pace.


Writing in summary is using narrative description to convey information. This is especially useful for conveying background information and creating narrative distance from the characters.


Summary is very useful for getting across important information that the reader wouldn’t get through the immediate events. It is also a very effective strategy for conveying narrative thoughts and flashbacks. Summary is also very effective at blurring time and skipping over unimportant information.

One misconception that many beginning writers make is that they think that they need to write only in scene or in summary. This isn’t true. Writers juggle between the two methods all of the time. The next time you’re writing, pay attention to whether you use scene or summary and ask yourself which is best for that moment in the story.

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