Posted by: nancycurteman | December 3, 2015

How to Use Narrative Summary in Fiction

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Narrative summary has a place in fiction writing. Of course, show-don’t-tell is the author’s mantra, but it doesn’t apply in all cases. Narrative summary allows writers to skip the details of unimportant events and lay out facts quickly that might otherwise make scenes too long.

Narrative summary is a much more effective strategy to use when we want to present story segments in a compressed form. For example, to cover passage of time efficiently—summarizing a day, week or year.

Descriptions of scenery over time is better handled using narrative summary. It also is a better way to handle transitions between chapters or scenes.

Use narrative summary to present a character’s interior dialogue. Use it to present what a character is thinking about the current situation not back-story.

While narrative summary should not take up the bulk of the story, it is certainly a tool to employ when events aren’t important enough to be shown as scenes, or if there are too many short scenes in a row.

Narrative summary, when used appropriately, will improve the readability of fiction writing.

More Tips:

Too Much Description, Too Much Explaining
4 Do’s and Don’ts of  ”Show, Don’t Tell.”


  1. Hi Nancy, Have you ever given either a character the job of narrator or given the narrator some character of its own?


    • Hi Linda,
      I haven’t. The closest I’ve come to doing that is using a character as an observer. Someone who is in a position to know a lot about other characters including backstories.


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