Six Easy Steps to Writing Plot Summaries

Have you been tasked to write a plot summary but don’t know where to start? Maybe you’re left wondering, How do I write a plot summary? Well, this article is here to help you out. We’ve laid out some simple steps to help you write a comprehensive and exciting summary.

A plot summary should briefly summarize the story’s main elements, including the main characters, setting, and conflict. It should also include an overview of the plot, focusing on main events and leaving out non-essential details.

It doesn’t need to be all that complicated. Follow the few easy-to-remember steps in this article to outline your plot in a way that keeps your reader engaged.

A keyboard placed next to a notebook and some glasses.
Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

Main Elements of a Plot Summary


The plot summary starts with a summary explaining the story’s premise. This is where the protagonist and other main characters are briefly introduced. The setting and the central conflict are also briefly introduced at this point.


Make a list of the major characters that will be a part of your story. Consider their backstories, physical descriptions, motivations, relationships with other characters, and the role they will play in the story. You don’t need to make this for every minor character unless they have a substantial role in the plot.


Note where and when your story is going to take place. You can even create a list of critical locations complete with their descriptions.

Scene-by-Scene Breakdown

Your plot summary is determined mainly by what will happen in your story. This will provide you with a valuable overview of your narrative. And it will allow you to plan the drafting process and spot any inconsistencies.

How Do I Write a Plot Summary

Now it’s time to answer that question that’s been bugging you: How do I write a plot summary?

The summary of your plot needs to cover all the main points in the storyline. Here are six simple steps that you can follow when making a summary of your plot.

1. Thoroughly Review the Material.

Whether it’s your story or another author’s, review it thoroughly. You must understand the plot, the characters, their motivations, and the overall message that the author attempts to convey. This will make it easier to summarize the story.

2. Make a List of the Critical Points.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when summarizing a long story. The best solution to this is to make a list of all the critical points. Once you’ve created your list, review it to ensure you haven’t missed anything.

Concentrate on the main points. You can use short phrases or bullet points to fill in details of the content that you know is essential to understanding the plot.

3. Summarize the Exposition

The exposition refers to the first few parts of the story. You can consider it as an introduction, setting the stage for what’s about to happen.

In this part, the protagonist meets their problem, their central struggle. There’s a lot of information in the prologue and the first chapter, and it’s essential to showcase the protagonist’s struggle in your summary. The elements of the exposition should support the protagonist.

4. Define the Inciting Incident

After a summary of the exposition, shift focus to the inciting incident that changes the story’s direction. An incident like this kicks off the story and brings about the central conflict within the novel. This leads to rising tension that continues to build the story.

Eventually, it will come to a point where the main character may have to take drastic action — or miss an opportunity. A comprehensive plot summary describes the inciting incident briefly and outlines the events that lead to the highest point of action.

5. Discuss the Climax

The climax of the story is a significant turning point in the plot. It could be a major setback or challenge that the protagonist needs to overcome. This event changes how a story plays out, for better or worse. In your summary, try to discuss the climax and cite how it affects the overall plot.

6. Tie It up With a Conclusion

The conclusion is where the protagonist’s journey comes to an end. Your conclusion won’t always be the happy-ever-after ending that many readers expect and hope for. Instead, it is more of a finale, which causes the fate of a plot to be determined.

The protagonist usually comes to a new understanding or realization that they did not have at the start of the novel. Make sure to highlight the lessons they learned in your summary.


It is essential to discuss the events in the story and demonstrate how the characters are interrelated and driven by the events.

Consider the main points of the narrative arc when summarizing events in a story. Follow these six easy steps, and you’ll be well on your way to an excellent plot summary.

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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