A plot summary is a short, concise description of the events of a story. It covers all the main things in the text but doesn’t go into any detail. There’s no analysis or explanation, only an overview.
This might seem simplistic, and you might even wonder what its point is. However, there are many reasons someone might want to read a plot summary, and they can be instrumental. Moreover, you’ve probably read one at some point yourself!
What are plot summaries used for?
There are many different reasons why people might look up the plot summary for something. Check out some of the main reasons below:
- To allow someone to understand a text that is confusing them – sometimes, you might find yourself reading something over your head a bit. For example, maybe the language is compli. Checking a plot summary can help to smooth out these misunderstandings and allow you to enjoy the story more.
- To help someone decide whether they want to read a book – checking out the beginning of a plot summary might help you determine whether a particular book is up your alley. But be careful – if you’re the kind who likes to avoid spoilers, make sure you don’t read the whole thing!
- To allow someone to engage in a discussion – now and again, you might find people sharing their opinions about something you don’t know anything about. A plot summary can help provide contexts for these debates, allowing you to follow the discussion.
- To help someone know what to expect – some people prefer to know exactly what to expect when reading a book or watching a film. It can help them to relax and enjoy the story without worrying about keeping up or what’s going to happen next.
- To compare different versions of a story – sometimes a plot is adapted in other contexts, for example, if a book has been adapted into a film. The plot summary can help you see how the story has changed.
So, how can I write an excellent plot summary?
The key to writing an excellent plot summary is to pull out the most critical information and not give extra details. Before you begin writing, try and find the core of the text. In non-fiction, this might be the main idea, while in fiction, it might be the critical event. Then, use the text’s skeleton to structure your plot summary.
Make sure that you’re not writing anything too long. There’s no point reading a book summary if it’s half the book’s length – you might as well just read the real thing! Ideally, please keep it to one paragraph, but there’s no hard and fast rule for this. Summaries of really long texts may be longer.
Don’t include any judgments or biases in your summary. The point of a plot summary is not to provide analysis or opinion but rather to relay facts. It’s up to the reader to make decisions based on them.
What does a good plot summary look like?
Now you know what to expect from a plot summary and how to write one, check out this example to see it all come together in precisely what it should look like. For example, here’s a plot summary example for the traditional fairy tale ‘Cinderella’:
Cinderella is an orphan made to cook and clean by her wicked stepmother and nasty stepsisters. When the chance to go to a ball at the palace comes along, her stepmother ensures she cannot attend. However, with the help of her fairy godmother, Cinderella attends in a beautiful dress and captures the prince’s attention. After she’s forced to leave in a hurry, the prince finds the unique glass slipper that she was wearing on the steps to the palace. Using the slipper as a guide, he searches the kingdom for her. He finally finds her, and she proves her identity by donning the slipper. They get married and live happily ever after.
So, what makes that so good?
This plot summary example features all the main events of the classic story, providing an overview of the narrative in a short word count. If you read that, you’d understand the level of Cinderella, even if you’d never heard it. However, it cuts out all the description that makes the whole story captivating, just providing the bones of the plot.
What skills do children learn through plot summaries?
We’ve explored why plot summaries are essential and valuable, but the art of practicing summarising has many benefits for children too. Learning how to summarise is an integral part of reading comprehension and can be an excellent activity for you to do with your learners after you’ve read a text. It helps them show how much they’ve understood and can allow you to identify any areas of confusion you need to go over in more detail.
Repeating a summary is also proven to have helped children to remember texts better, which can help them build strong memories. The ability to recall information is an important comprehension skill and can set children up for future success in exams and have lots of real-life applications.