Balancing Scene and Summary

Anything other than a scene is telling rather than showing, and slows things down. Sometimes, you may want to slow things down; or you may have exposition or description which previous scenes require or without which following events will be bare and sketchy.

If you've had a series of brief and emotionally intense scenes, it's probably time for summary—at least a paragraph or two, or a page or two in long fiction. This overview can come from the story's narrator or, if you're not holding to one strictly limited viewpoint, from you as impersonal, objective author. It may cover the events of a day or two, a week, to bridge the distance from here to there without laboriously following every step in between. It may account briefly for the doings of several different characters, doings that, while important, don't merit full-blown scenes. It may describe present but distant events that have a bearing on the immediate situation.

All such narration stays close to the story, but looks from a broader perspective and a greater distance from the characters' minute-to-minute affairs. It helps readers not only follow what's happening, but understand it, too.

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