Speed up story by curtailing dramatic narration

Sometimes events in a story must be summed up, that is told rather than shown. When doing so, the author makes use of dramatic narration. Typically, the dramatic narration (aka summary narration) compresses time between scenes.

The following passage is an example of dramatic narration:

The two men remained silent as they plodded toward the heart of Miletus, sea waves crashing at the cliff beneath them.

Rather than show them plodding step by step and relating which buildings they passed, their small talk, and so on, the author merely relays in a quick sentence that they moved from one spot to another. Noting that they’ve made this shift in location is vital so the reader can more easily follow the storyline. Describing everything they did during this shift usually doesn’t move the story forward, however, and so is superfluous.

To keep your story from sounding flat because of dramatic narration, do the following:
• Tighten the dramatic narration – It usually can be given in a single phrase, clause or sentence. This typically means simply stating that the character is moving to a new location.
• Don’t overuse dramatic narration – Sometimes a blank line can be placed between scenes showing that the location and time has changed; so long as the reader can quickly infer the actual location and time of the new scene, the dramatic narration can be deleted.
• Cloak the dramatic narration with details that help set the mood or describe the setting – In the above example, we learn that the characters are in deep thought and that waves are crashing against the cliff they walk upon, metaphorically suggesting they face some dire problem that could cause their fall.

Ideally, no dramatic narration would occur at all in a story. Still, most readers find it an acceptable shortcut so long as it keeps the plot flowing.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.