When To Use Summaries In Novels

Writing a novel isn’t always about depicting each scene in detail.  Sometimes, you’ll have to use summaries to fast-forward into the action, too.    There are several instances in a novel where a summarized, rather than detailed, description is useful.

Repetitive Events

Summaries are useful when informing the reader of events that happen regularly, such as a couple meeting illicitly every Tuesday night before opening up the next scene on their latest tryst.

Jumping From One Major Scene To Another

In between significant events in a novel, there may be multiple other occurrences that explain some things that happen in the next event.  A summarized description will work better in that case than boring the reader with the blow-by-blow of an insignificant scene.

Summarize Things That Happen Over A Long Period

If the reader needs to be informed of something that happened over the last five years, it’s usually best summarized.  Detailing something that’s secondary to the plot just isn’t a good use of limited space — plus, it’s going to be ridiculously long.

To Focus On Emotion

Summaries are a great way to shine attention on your character’s emotions, rather than the different actions that happen.   Keep it short to maintain a healthy pace, though — you don’t want to waste half the chapter discussing the protagonists’ feelings.