Mar 26, 2012

Summary Is Your Frenemy

As a new writer I take writing advice to heart, probably more than I should. I live by the mantra: Show, don't tell. 

What about the times you should summarize? Like when what you've written is important for plot credibility, but doesn't drive the story.

Getting to know one another conversations, for instance, aren't generally rife with conflict. And even if they are, run-of-the-mill debates about this and that aren't the kind of conflict that drives story. I can grasp this concept, sometimes you need to tell, not show. Summary is your frenemy.

The problem is, I have trouble figuring out what other situations would benefit from remembering there are times to break this rule.When I have anything happening with my two protagonists, I want to show it. I want to show, don't tell, like a good girl!

I like to end my posts with a question, for the sake of gathering more advice(I <3 advice): 
How do you decide when to summarize?


  1. Good question. I tend to do it if the introspection naturally leads to it and there's simply no other way to say it. If you have a lot, breaking it up can help too. Tough question though!

    1. I think this is part of my difficulty picking out the important details to write a synopsis: everything seems important to me!

      I do know I don't do it enough, just not entirely sure how to fix that problem.

      I do feel like maybe the answer has to do with the emotional conflict... like maybe if there's conflict that's only external, or does not advance the romance... I dunno. I want to say it's something like that, but I can't seem to sort my thoughts out about it.

  2. I love something to ponder first thing in the morning. It gets the brain going. I have also heard show don't tell over and over to the point reading backstory irritates me to no end. Since I can't read it, I can't write it without feeling guilt.

    My goal is to show everything and any backstory and summarizing is thrown in thoughts in small amounts sprinkled here and there.

    Am I successful at it? Well, not always.

    1. Hee, that's always my goal too. Show as much as humanly possible, and come up with inventive ways to show if the info I need to convey is telling.

      I can honestly say I don't do it well enough though, and I know there are times to tell... I have seen it in the above example(like getting to know each other conversation).

      Writin iz haRd

  3. It's always a tough call. I find this sometimes conflicts with the 'start in the middle of the action' writing advice - how do you convey what led to that point? I'm always worrying about getting too info-dump-y.

  4. Me too, regarding the possible info-dumpination.

    Here's hoping that it will be easier to tell during edits! I'm just gonna show as much as humanly possible for official draft #1 and hope it shakes out later ...


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