Hold on to your hats, everybody. I learned a lesson about writing from Weird Al Yankovic.
I hate to write a synopsis. I hate it. If you’re a writer, you feel my pain. The first time I had to write one, I looked at my husband and said, “They want me to condense ninety thousand words into five hundred. There’s no way.” (That was before I learned about the elevator pitch, which has to be about forty words.) My first synopsis was a breeze to write largely because I did it wrong.
Well, as is usual for me, my iPod spoke to me a couple of years ago. We were driving home from North Carolina to Georgia (for the third time in three months), and my favorite random feature was spinning everything from the Lettermen to TobyMac to Brooks and Dunn to Howie Day.
My husband, who likes order in his world, hates to listen to the iPod with me.
Anyway, we were somewhere on Highway 185 when a Weird Al song began to play. Lest you think there are a million Weird Al songs on my iPod, I can reassure you there are only four. I can’t help it. And one of them is downright theological, but that’s another post.
I almost skipped it, but then I started listening.
What did the good Professor Yankovic teach me? Summary. Synopsis. How to take the two hour and thirteen minute Star Wars: The Phantom Menace movie and tell the entire story in a five minute song. And how to do it in your own voice. The entire movie is right there laid out in music and lyrics from opening to closing credits. You hear that song, you know everything that happened. To boot, you can never deny that the person behind it was Weird Al Yankovic. It’s his style, his voice.
That is what a good synopsis should do. It should take your 90,000 (or less) words and put it to 250. It should tell the whole story. And it should do it in some semblance of your voice.
The next time you think that’s impossible, go and watch The Phantom Menace then go google up Weird Al. It can be done, and you don’t even have to have The Force to do it.