What is the difference between the plot and summary of a novel?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The summary of a novel is a review of the important events that happened. This includes the events of the story’s plot.  When someone says the “plot” of a novel as opposed to the summary of a novel, it could be that this refers to an explication of the plot, also known as a story grammar. 

A story’s plot consists of five elements. These are the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. These are terms we use for analyzing the structure of the story. They are often plotted on a graphic that looks like a line graph, starting out straight, then going up, coming to a point, going down, and then going flat again. Each section of the graph represents one of these parts of the plot. 

The exposition is the beginning of the story. This is where the story’s characters, setting, and inciting incident are introduced. The events that follow are called the rising action. This is where the story develops. The rising action leads to the climax, which is the turning point of the story and usually the most dramatic part. From the climax to the resolution is the falling action. This is where the story is being wrapped up. The resolution is the story’s ending. 

A summary is used to review the basic events of the plot. It will include the main characters and describe the setting.  The most important events that happen in the story will then be briefly described.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to the Enotes Guide to Literary Terms, a plot is an "arrangement" of events in a novel. Every plot, regardless of who wrote it or what it is about, consists of five stages. The first is the exposition, which is how the author sets the scene and introduces the novel.  Second is the rising action, an event or a number of events which lead to the climax. Thirdly is the climax itself, which is a major turning point in a novel or culmination of the previous events and ideas. Fourthly, with the falling action the author ties up any loose ends in the novel before the fifth stage of the story, which brings the plot to its conclusion.

In contrast, a summary is a brief account of the main points of a novel. Generally, a summary will list the events which make up the five elements of the plot along with any other important information, like the characters and themes.

A summary, then, is like a condensed version of a novel. It is designed to give an overview of the key events.

karst-smith | Student

The plot and the summary of a story may tell the same information.  A summary is a condensed, sometimes simplified, retelling of the story.  The plot relays the events of the story.  The plot usually consists of six sections: the exposition, or the beginning of the story, where the setting and characters are introduced; the rising action, or the beginning of the problem or challenge in the story; the climax, where the challenge or problem is met and faced head on—the most exciting or gripping part of the story; the falling action, where the characters in the story must deal with the results of facing the challenge; and the end of the story, or resolution, where the reader learns about the fate of the characters after the problem is solved or challenge is met.

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