Anatomy of a Summary (NaNoWriMo Prep Part 4)

Remember that literary plot we used to learn about all the time in elementary school? You know, we’d read a book in class and then we’d have to do some sort of project or essay about it. It often included summarizing what you read.

Well, apparently that’s more useful than we ever imagined. Who knew that we’d actually be using something we learned in school later on in life?

Anatomy of a Summary: NaNoWriMo 2016 prep

There are five parts of a novel:

1. Exposition
2. Rising action
3. Climax
4. Falling action
5. Resolution

Normally, we would summarize our novelsย after we’ve written them. That would make the most sense. But, if you’re a planner, this is a decent start.

Even if you’re a pantser, this is something good to have before or after you write your novel. It’s the bare minimum of details and it goes a long way when summarizing your novel.

What is the exposition?

The exposition is the beginning of the novel. Introduce the novel including the main characters, setting, and conflict.

What is the rising action?

The rising action is your protagonist attempting to solve the problem at hand. In most cases, they fail the first time or so.

What is the climax?

The climax is the turning point of the story. It’s the most suspenseful, it makes or breaks whatever your protagonist is going through.

What is the falling action?

Just like the rising action, the falling action is actions that happen after the climax. The rising action and falling action just help us get from point A to point B.

What is the resolution?

The resolution of the story is the conclusion. The problems are solved, everyone lives happily ever after… Or rocks fall and everyone dies. Do with that what you will.

As I stated earlier, this is something that you would typically do after your novel is complete. However, if you’re trying to outline and get a feel for what you want to happen, I think this is a great starting point.

If you’re a pantser, try this out anyway. You may have more information figured out than you realize. And that can help drive you from one point to the other when you start writing.

I remember I hated writing summaries when I was in school. I understand this literary plot to a point, but in the end it was always homework to me. Now that I’m older and I’m using it for my own creative writing, I’ve realized how helpful (and easy) it is.

How do you typically summarize your novels?

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26 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Summary (NaNoWriMo Prep Part 4)

  1. It’s funny how I already think like this subconsciously and now when you explain it like that it makes even more sense. It’s almost logical you know. Introduction. Middle. Conclusion. I’m actually not going to pants this NaNo so I’m taking in as much advice as I can and this has been useful. Thanks Rache!

    • I always thought this was a school thing and then when I was looking up summaries, this kept popping up. Apparently, I did learn something in school!
      Thanks, I’m glad this is useful for you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I started with a log-line this year, a recommendation I read from another blogger. It really helped me boil down the plot to its simplest terms. I like the idea of writing a summary as well though, the nail down the main beats of the story.

  3. Love it! I wrote a blog about this earlier in the year and how it helped me with putting together an entry for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge: it really is a useful tool for figuring out your plot, especially when you’ve only got limited words and you have to apportion them out. Great post ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I remember using these in school and absolutely hating them because what I saw as different points of the novels we worked on were not the correct ones. It’s harder to pinpoint exact ones in novels if there’s more than a single plot line (subplots throw the whole thing off depending on the reader’s interpretation of what’s important, or what they are pulling from the story).

    I think the only one I ever got right was “Rikki Tikki Tavi” and I’m not certain why I got that one right when I got so many others wrong. Single plotline helped.

    These days, I wouldn’t ever try to plot out my novels that way. There’s usually more than one plotline going on, and I can’t always pinpoint the most important one because they all intertwine so much. Things going on with one plotline effect the others. However, if I ever found someone that loved analyzing that way, I wouldn’t mind seeing how they interpret my works.

    • That’s just it, though. We all read books in a different perspective and we all have different opinions on them. I don’t think your teachers should have said you were “wrong” because you saw the books in a different way.
      With that being said, I hated these too. Mainly because they were associated with school. But I do find it helpful now.

  5. I remember teaching this to seventh graders, not as writers, but as readers analyzing a short story. As obtuse as seventh graders can be (sorry), even they got it. Ha!

Let me know your thoughts!

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