How do I retell a work in my own words?How do I retell a work in my own words?

Expert Answers
dlj21260 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good questions because you want to avoid plagiarism at all costs. Plagiarism is telling the story exactly as the storyteller did, using their words and word-for-word sentences from the story.

In order to retell the story you have to tell me about what you read or saw, but make it much shorter, and explain it so that I will feel as though I read or saw the story myself. As the others stated you will want to describe the characters, tell the plot and how it was all brought together.

As and example I would like to tell you the story of Itsy Bitsy Spider and the original story is as follows:

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout, out came the rain and washed the spider out, out came the sun and dried up all the rain, and the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.

Now I am going to retell you the story of Itsy Bitsy Spider:

This story was about a tiny spider and his trials during a normal day. He made an attempt to climb the water spout until it started raining and he was knocked off. However, the rain did not last and the sun came out later that day allowing the spider to complete his trip to the top of the spout.


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many ways to approach this.  One way to retell a book in both writing and speaking could lie in a plot summary.  This would involve in discussing the exposition, or elements that begin the narrative.  The next step would be to discuss the conflicts that are present in the story and how this conflict rises in the course of the work.  Perhaps, there is some type of critical point or climax where this conflict is most evident.  Finally, discussion of how this climax was resolved could be a part of this retelling.   Another way to retell a story would be to discuss characters and how they were depicted in the course of the story.  What were some of the characters' traits or primary motivations?  Where could some change in how characters were depicted or acted be discussed?

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to retell a story, you need to know the story well. After you think you have a good handle on the story, then write the main points only. In short, how does it begin, what happens to create tension in the middle and how does it all resolve. That is a basic structure of most stories. Also the easiest way to accomplish this is to go in chronological order.

After you have done this, it would be helpful, if you analyze the story. What did you like and what did you not like. Also be sure to include reasons of why you liked something or disliked something.

You can also talk about things like character development, if you like, or literary techniques the author has employed.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In writing a summary of a literary work, be very careful to use your own words.  When you wish to support your descriptions or topic sentences, you can cite passages or lines from the work under consideration.

In addition to the suggestions, you can center your summary around the theme of the work, mentioning what plot action, character and setting have in developing this theme.  But, be careful not to inject your opinion into the summary as it is meant to be objective, for you are simply retelling the main points of the narrative.

Some excellent aids are given in the enotes "how-to" topics.  You may wish to read these suggestions at the sites listed below.


ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When you ask, "How do I retell a story in my own words," is asking about paraphrasing. When you summarize a story, you tell what the author has written, but you  make it shorter and tighter. When you paraphrase you retell in your own words. It will be similar in length. Riverside Publishing company, who helps produce many state mandated tests makes this distinction clear.

That being said there are some great suggestions here. I think somebody might have addressed it, but if you read the story several times, you should know it well enough to retell the ideas from the story in your own language.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    First, research your topic or story thoroughly. Read as much information as possible until you have a strong understanding and can retell most of the facts and story without outside assistance. If you are retelling a story and not a research topic, reread the story several--even many--times until it is totally familiar. Then, tell the story in your own words. If you have a thorough understanding of it, you won't be as tempted to "borrow" others' words.

tey | Student

In order to write any summary of a book or subject we first need to have a grasp of words. Reading is essential to grow our knowledge on this aspect of writing. As a teacher I have read lots of students writing that seems forced and stagnant. Based on my research and experience, it is based on the lack of reading. The best summaries come from students who have found their own voice. I suggest to students to keep a journal. Write every day...Yes, everyday. If you can, write more than once a day. Find your own voice. Dig deep within while expanding your own vocabulary. Please don't write in shorthand, or text speak, as that is not ones own voice, it is the way of the technology shift. It seems brainless and empty. Read. Even if you don't like the book, scan through sections and look for the author's style. Do they create images in your mind? Does the author touch your heart memories? Are they technical and dry? Your style will be close to what moves you in those you read. So, get a journal, get a good book and find a comfortable place to be outside of the technical world, if even for a short hour a day.

dseals3 | Student


I started teaching language arts at the height of the whole language movement.

The supervisor in my district had removed the old scope and

sequence, drill and kill–based curriculum in favor of a far more open curriculum

that allowed teachers to plan their own lessons and make their

own judgments. “But I have no judgment!” I remember wailing to my

mother, also a teacher. “How do you think I learned what to do?” she

asked, and showed me her bookshelf, which was covered with stacks and

stacks of professional books. I got the message. I couldn’t expect to make

it through a career of teaching with only the knowledge I had picked up

in a handful of undergraduate courses. If I were going to be successful, I

needed to read. And read. And read.

During the next few years, I amassed my own collection of books.

When I came to a thorny patch in my instruction—for example, how to

get students to apply grammar skills to their writing—I would look

through the books for ideas and solutions. If I didn’t find the answer in

my own books, I would borrow from my mother’s bookshelf or the reading

specialist’s. I knew that I couldn’t become comfortable with every

aspect of teaching reading and writing in one year, so I slowly built on my

knowledge base and developed my own judgment.