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Narrative Summary- When to Use?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Mindfire, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    So, my hero narrowly evades execution and escapes from the city with the help of his cousin. But after the main action of the escape itself has passed, all that really happens is a lot of rooftop running, guard dodging, wall climbing, and more running, until they get to the forest where they're hiding out. I don't really feel like describing this. While it is technically "action", it strikes me as being boring and repetitive to describe on the page, especially if it follows a scene containing invisible arrows, exploding light arrows, and magical fire. It's also similar to a scene earlier on. Could I just cut to the next chapter and say "they escaped" to skip all that running and dodging stuff? Or would that be a cop out?
     
  2. Rikilamaro

    Rikilamaro Inkling

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    I'd say, yes, it's a cop out. Sorry.

    You need something more than, "They escaped." It may not need to be as in depth as your earlier scene, but you should give the readers something to transition. :)
     
  3. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    You could describe it in one sentence: 'they escaped, dodging their pursuers in a mad race over the rooftops, until they reached the safety of the woods.'

    No cop out. You can't very well describe every action, if you've many of these.
     
    Jabrosky likes this.
  4. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I didn't mean that literally... >_> It would be a brief transition obviously. Maybe two sentences to a paragraph.
     
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    This ties in neatly with a discussion on a different thread regarding when to show and when to tell. The problem with answering the question at hand is that we don't have enough information. How is the novel paced? Is there a big build up to this escape? How important is this escape in the overall scope of the novel?

    All these questions lead to considerations about whether you need to describe the scene or just summarize.

    If you twisted my arm and told me that I had to answer, I'd say that you want to add some description here. Do a 1000 to 2000 word scene showing their escape attempts. Emphasize their desire to escape, the consequences of not escaping, and the strength of the soldiers (or whoever) chasing them. At the end of the scene, summarize the rest of the escape in a sentence or two.

    Again, though, take the advice above with a grain of salt since I have no idea about the factors I referenced above.

    Hope this helps!
     
  6. My typical way of knowing when to tell something is that when I'm trying to write it I find I'm bored with it. Can you summarize it, yes. You can briefly mention any close calls or other semi notable events in the escape, but if you just left a high action scene, and this is dull, then a summary would be better. It's also a good point for some internal thoughts or for considerations on where the character will go next.
     
  7. Rikilamaro

    Rikilamaro Inkling

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    In that case it'd be fine.
     
  8. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I don't know about pacing. I probably wont until I finish the draft. As for how important this escape is, I'd say not very. It happens very early on and serves as (part of) the inciting event.
     
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    You're probably okay summarizing if it's not important in the grand scheme of things.

    Just a few considerations, though:

    Is your novel action/adventure based? If so, it sounds like you're missing a great opportunity.
    Can you reveal character through the escape? If you want to make your character heroic or smart or strong, this sounds like a great opportunity.
    Can you reveal important plot or setting details through the escape?

    The point is that an action sequence is usually a good thing for a fantasy novel to have, but it's not good to throw it in just for the purpose of having it. If you can use it to reveal character and advance the plot, then it's probably worth the effort to keep it. If not, I'd leave it out.
     
  10. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    My gut is telling me that you can probably leave it out. BUT since this is your first draft and you haven't gotten through the big picture yet, I'd say give it whirl. Write it and see if, as BW said, there aren't any opportunities for other things to emerge. Sometimes when you're in that moment, things about the characters, the world, etc. pop out of thin air and give you something meaty to work with. To me, it's easier to edit something like this down than to try and build it up once you're a little removed from that moment and the head space of it.
     
  11. Aosto

    Aosto Sage

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    As the reader. I don't think I would want to read 2k+ words of an escape scene. It would appear repetitive if it didn't lend to the story any. I'm mostly in agreement with summing it up in a few short paragraphs and moving on.
     
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