Storyarts six week on-line writing workshop.  Page 10
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Scene and Summary
Now let's  examine what we have been doing.  Writing fiction?  Not quite.
There is  no hurry on that.  Learning to write is a process that should be experienced.  There are and have been writers who never had a formal lesson in their lives, many more than ever did.  However, that does not mean they skipped a learning process.  Be patient, allow your own process to work, and enjoy each step as you pass through it..

If you have done the exercises as I hoped, you  surely have noticed that the various points of view so far discussed lead into differing narrative techniques.  When you wrote in first person/present tense,  and especially when you used this point of view to write the dream, you were writing "in scene."    When you wrote events and images that repeated themselves over a period of time--the yearly trips to Grandma's house, the monthly visits to the orthodontist--you were writing "in summary."

By "in scene" I mean the event is told in chronological order almost exactly as it happens, something akin to a scene in a play or a movie.

By  "in summary"   I mean information gathered over a period of time that has been arranged according to the desires of the author.

And please note, the above definitions are deliberately simplified.

Both techniques have their strong points.  Both contain traps for the beginning writer.  All too often beginners, writing in summary, tend to skim over the material and leave out almost everything that makes a good story.  All too often  beginners, writing in scene, tend to bog down in endless slow moving detail.

This is why I suggest that you, as a beginning writer, experience both,  and experience them consciously that you may consider  how some material is more suitable for one, some more suitable for the other, and sometimes, perhaps most of the time, some material requires you  find a way to combine these techniques.

So, here is a rather famous example of writing "in scene."

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped--
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

And here are several famous examples of writing "in summary."


   IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way -- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

   There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever.

.  .  .

   In England, there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting. Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies, took place in the capital itself every night; families were publicly cautioned not to go out of town without removing their furniture to upholsterers' warehouses for security; the highwayman in the dark was a City  tradesman in the light, and, being recognised and challenged by his fellow-tradesman whom he stopped in his character of "the Captain," gallantly shot him through the head and rode away; the mall was waylaid by seven robbers, and the guard shot three  dead, and then got shot dead himself by the other four, "in consequence of the failure of his ammunition:" after which the mall was robbed in peace; that magnificent potentate, the Lord Mayor of London, was made to stand and deliver on Turnham Green, by one highwayman, who despoiled the illustrious creature in sight of all his retinue; prisoners in London gaols fought  battles with their turnkeys, and the majesty of the law fired blunderbusses in among them, loaded with rounds of shot and ball; thieves snipped off diamond crosses from the necks of noble lords at Court drawing-rooms; musketeers went into St. Giles's, to search for contraband goods, and the mob fired on the musketeers, and the musketeers fired on the mob, and nobody thought any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, the hangman, ever busy and ever worse than useless, was in constant requisition; now, stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now, hanging a housebreaker on Saturday who had been taken on Tuesday; now, burning people in the hand at Newgate by the dozen, and now burning pamphlets at the door of Westminster Hall; to-day, taking the life of an atrocious murderer, and to-morrow of a wretched pilferer who had robbed a farmer's boy of sixpence.

Charles Dickens

Scene and Summary.  Here we have the building blocks of story.   It does no good to preach "show, don't tell," (a dangerously misleading slogan); there is no point in  discussing plot, and character development and "writing for the market" if you are not prepared to understand scene and summary.

Finally, here are links to stories which, like most good stories, combine these techniques..

Little Red Riding Hood
hansel and gretel first version
hansel and gretel second version

Please note, the above examples are (ostensibly) written in the third person.  Then go to  the  next page


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