You read that right. I learned a writing lesson from Weird Al.

I hate to write synopses. I hate it. The first time I had to write one, I looked at my husband and said, "They want me to condense a hundred thousand words into five hundred. There's no way." (That was before I learned about the elevator pitch, which has to be about forty or so words.) My first synopsis was a breeze to write largely because I did it wrong.


As is usual for me, my iPod spoke to me a couple of weeks ago. We were driving home from North Carolina (Yes, again. 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 at me. My husband, who likes order in his world, hates to listen to the iPod with me.

Anyway, random songs were firing at me when a forgotten 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 started to skip it, but then I started listening. It was "The Saga Begins." For those of you who don't know, he took the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie" and told the story of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. (Classic line: "My, my this here Anakin guy may be Vader someday later, now he's just a small fry.")

What did the good Professor Yankovic teach me? Summary. Synopsis. How to take a two hour and thirteen minute movie and tell the entire story in five minutes. 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. It's his style, his voice.

That is what a good synopsis should do. It should take your 100,000 (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. Let me know if he missed anything.

2 Responses
  1. kadavisu Says:

    I'm sure Al would be touched to know he helped you in your writing career. I think Weird Al is a good choice for iTunes. Everybody needs some comic relief. I like "King of Suede" (take off of "King of Pain" by the Police). I don't think I've learned anything from it, but it makes me smile and that's good enough.

    And who doesn't listen to their iPod on shuffle? – though I don't recommend it for audio books. :-)

  2. very cute post! now I need to go listen to the song! good thought about the lesson you learned... there are lessons everywhere if we only learn to look.