Readers can summarize a story by reading the story thoroughly, determining the main points and messages and presenting them in a concise, succinct manner. Summarizing is an effective way to present material in a shortened form, as well as to demonstrate comprehension of the material.
Prior to summarizing a story, readers should read the story thoroughly, more than once if possible, and develop an understanding of the main themes, motifs, characters and plot points. Some readers find underlining, highlighting or taking notes in the margins to be an effective way to outline important material. This may be simple in shorter stories, but it can be challenging as stories increase in length. An effective summarization relays only the most important and necessary parts of a story without extraneous details.
Formal summaries begin by stating the author's name and the title of the story. Next, individuals should address the six key questions in literature: who, what, when, where, why and how. Once these main concepts are identified, readers can then fill in important details, such as the actions of major characters and the key plot points driving the story. Even though a summary is not an actual story, but rather a shortened synopsis, summaries should still follow the basic narrative arc, complete with an exposition, rising action, a climax, falling action and a resolution.