There was a movie a while back with Adam Sandler – really bad, really depressing – I think it was called Clicker. About a man who could pause, start, skip pieces of his life with a remote. I think summaries are a lot like that, quite similar to a remote.
They can pause or skip over action, either taking the time to delve into details or diving past a scene that would be too boring to write.
I think this is a good example of the second type of summary: Clicker on fast forward.
“I’m worried that I erased too much,” I say before I can stop myself. Then Frita, one of the two proprietor/cook/designers wanders over, and we’re lost for a while in praise of his latest creations, and of course we have to sample the fruits of the first production run and make an elaborate business of reviewing them while Erci stands by strumming his mandolin and looking proud.
“Erased too much,” Kay prods me.
“Yes.” I push my plate away. “I don’t know for sure…” (Stross 27)
Here, Kay and Robin (main character) are talking over lunch. And while this is the action within the chapter, the main purpose of this chapter is not to explore the scene, but to explore their reflections through conversation. They’re both in similar predicaments, with their memories having just been erased, and they want the verification of did they or did they not make the right decision. It’s hard to know without knowing what they erased.
Because this is its purpose, we as the reader and writer, don’t want to spend time over a pointless scene, where they’re talking about food, talking to a chef, and even though the writer could do a beautiful job of explaining what happens, without having a purpose behind it, there’s no reason to show it, which is why we can skip it with summary. Shown above.
This is a good learning lesson for many, including myself.
I like to write according to time, letting time direct most of my books – even though it should be as flexible as perspective – but having said that, I like to see all scenes, every scene, which can drag a book’s pace until it’s as slow as running through water.
And no one likes to read that.
When you read, you should be immersed. You should be pulled, dragged along the ground, until you’re running to try and keep up. You should be excited, engaged, and I read for entertainment, whether I’m engaged in the conflict or thought-experiment.
Either way, if I’m not engaged, I’m not entertained – same for learning, which is why summaries must be used in conjunction with scenes. You just have to decide as the writer, what is the purpose of this segment, and if it has none, cut it, skip it. Summarize it.
But please don’t bop it!
Stross, C. Glasshouse. New York, NY: Ace, 2006. Print.