How to Summarize a Short Story’s Plot

When summarizing the majority or entire plot of a story, oftentimes appearing in the introduction of a literary analysis, it’s not necessary to include parenthetical documentation after each sentence. Instead, one should reference the author name and story title early in the paragraph, and then reference the author name a few more times during the summary. That ensures that readers are keenly aware that the writer is using a summary of the stated story written by the stated author.

Here’s a link to the IVCC Stylebook page that further explains MLA style summary and paraphrase citations.

Some aspects of the below example are misrepresented in order to provide a better example for the scenario of an ENG 1002 essay.

Plot Summary Example (no parenthetical documentation:

Written by Jennifer Lee, “Frozen is a short story about two sisters struggling to connect despite a childhood secret that is keeping them apart. Lee creates a symbolic setting for the sisters, a castle where both are isolated from loving connection, but only Elsa understands the true reason for their isolation. Ana eventually helps Elsa learn that love is more powerful than magical power, and Ana is rewarded with the sisterly connection she had been seeking for so long. Lee’s characters are royals in a magical, fairy-tale world, but their emotional disconnect from each other can be a stand-in for the emotional barrier social media places between the social interactions of modern individuals.

Notice how continued use of the author name keeps this summary from being considered plagiarism. And with a full plot-summary, most instructors don’t expect you to include the page numbers. If, however, you’re summarizing a short section, pages number may be necessary.

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