In my last few blog entries, I challenged my loyal blog readers to write a one-sentence summary of the movie STAR WARS. Many of you responded, and I took some ideas from the best to sharpen my own summary of the movie.
My current favorite one-sentence summary is: “A young farm boy joins a princess in the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire.”
Several of my loyal blog readers have noted that all boys are young, and therefore “young farm boy” is redundant and therefore the sentence should start out, “A farm boy…”
I am going to politely disagree here. “Young” is pulling its own weight here. I have looked at the sentence with and without it, and I think it works better with it. So I’m leaving it in, even if it’s redundant.
But now let’s move on. Perfection is not something we’ll ever achieve. If we’ve got an editor or agent interested in this one-sentence summary, they’ll want to hear more. Not a lot more, but a bit more. My bet is that they’ll want to know the Three-Act Structure for this story. You can learn more about Three-Act Structure in my Fiction 101 and Fiction 201 courses, but I’ll assume you know what this structure is.
I prefer to present the Three Act Structure in a five-sentence summary, as follows:
Act 1: A setup sentence to set the stage, and then a second sentence that tells the first major disaster (which ends Act 1).
Act 2: A sentence that tells the second major disaster (which happens at roughly the midpoint of the second act). Another sentence that tells the third major disaster (which happens at the end of Act 2 and forces the ending.)
Act 3: A final sentence which explains how the story resolves.
There you have it. Three Acts. Five sentences. Three diasters. It’s really not all that complicated.
Now your homework assignment, for those who want to play, is this: Write a one-paragraph summary of STAR WARS. Use five sentences to tell me the setup, the three disasters, and the ending.
I’ll do the same and we’ll compare notes in a day or two.
Post your one-paragraph summary here in a comment.
Hrm. This one is tough. I think I have the acts set up right (unless the deaths of Luke’s aunt and uncle are the first disaster?), but my sentences are awfully long. Perhaps they’re a bit too detailed. Here’s what I’ve got:
Farm boy Luke Skywalker stumbles on a secret message from the Rebel Princess Leia, which contains the plans to the Galactic Empire’s deadly new weapon, the Death Star. When the Empire comes searching for the plans, Luke and his mentor, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, set out to deliver them to the Rebels, only to have their ship captured by an enormous space station–the Death Star itself. Obi-Wan enacts an escape plan, but Luke disobeys his orders and goes in search of Princess Leia, also a captive on the Death Star, and inadvertently causes Obi-Wan’s death at the hands of Darth Vader. Luke and Princess Leia escape the Death Star and deliver the plans to the Rebel’s secret headquarters, but find that the Death Star has followed them there, and is preparing to destroy the entire planet. The Death Star plans reveal a weak point, and Luke and the ragged Rebel forces launch a final, desperate attack on the Death Star.
“Young”, to me, makes Luke sound more inexperienced (which is correct, after all). You could use “naive”, but it doesn’t sound quite right. In case someone doesn’t know star wars, however, young boy might really be thought of as meaning child. How about “Young farm hand” or “young farmer” instead? Anyway – no matter.
Marcus Goodyear says
Sometimes redundancy works to emphasize or clarify. That’s why we can use double negatives and not worry about people misunderstanding us.
I’d really like to do the assignment, but I’m soooo tired right now, I might have to beg out of this one.
By some unique circumstance of fate, young Luke Skywalker comes across a message that leads to the death of his family. With his mentor Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi they seek services of Hon Solo to fly them to another world only to be captured by the Galactic Empires secret weapon the Death Star. Obi-Wan, leaves to free the ship only to have Han and Luke leave to free Prince Leia, which ultimately leads to the death of Obi-Wan at the hands of Darth Vader. With Obi-Wan dead, it is up to Leia, Han and Luke with the rebel forces to embark on crucial attack on the only weakness the Death Star has.
Daniel Smith says
Randy, this was harder than the last one and yet somehow easier since we had the single sentence to go by. Here’s my very rough first attempt.
From “A young farm boy joins a princess in the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire” I got:
(1) In a galaxy far, far away a galactic empire rules with an iron fist.
(2) Young Luke Skywalker, a farm boy, intercepts a cry for help from a princess and must leave the planet to rescue her.
(3) Luke and his allies rescue Princess Leia from a giant Death Star space station only to inadvertently lead the mobile enemy station to the rebel base.
(4) The Death Star prepares to fire on the rebel base as the rebels launch a desperate attack to destroy it.
(5) Thanks to some smuggled secret plans, the station’s weak point is exposed and a perfectly timed shot from Luke saves the day!
Interesting. I know mine is rough, but I think I have the plot in there correctly. I purposely avoided looking at the other comments so my take would be fresh. Still, I think mine lacks many details and the emotional content to make it truly interesting. It’s hard to satisfy every demand and still be only a few words long.
That was so great; I found it compelling.
A young farm boy, who dreams of adventure, lives in a galaxy torn by rebellion and war. He is pushed into the conflict after his aunt and uncle are killed by the Empire for the droids he possesses. After joining a smuggler for cheap transportation, the boy and his mentor are captured by the Empire on their way to rescue a princess and, in the ensuing struggle, the mentor sacrifices himself. The boy and the smuggler save the princess and think they have escaped, only to learn the Empire has followed them to the Rebel base, intending to destroy the planet. Aided by his companions and the last lesson of his fallen mentor, the boy must exploit the hidden weakness of the Empire’s destructive weapon to preserve the Rebellion.
A farm boy Luke Skywalker runs across a robot who delivers a recorded plea for help from a captured Princess Leia asking him to deliver stolen plans of a death star weapon to rebels and realizes it’s serious when he returns home to find his family murdered.
An old master Obi Wan Benobi trains him in the ancient warrior ways called the Force and they set off on their trip but they are stopped by an imperial blockade.
They escape with the help of a rogue pilot Hans Solo but when they reach the rebel planet, they find it destroyed.
They are captured and in an attempt to escape, the old master is killed by the evil tyrant Darth Vader.
Luke tries to destroy the death star in a star fighter but the machine fails and all looks doomed but then he remembers the lessons of the Force and hits the right spot and destroys the death star, leading to triumph.
Sheila Deeth says
In a galaxy far far away, the rebels and the alliance are preparing for war. But Princess Leia, a rebel leader, has been captured, and the vital information she carried is left with a young farm boy. A mystical mentor makes a rescue bid, only to fall in battle. And Leia’s escape only leads to a massive attack launched on the rebel base. In the end, the farm boy’s secrets are the key to salvation, and everyone lives to fight another day… but that’s another movie.
Oops, it should be Obi Wan Kenobi. Not Benobi.
This was a great exercise. Thanks.
Carrie Neuman says
A lot of these are really good. Mine feels horribly choppy by comparison, but it gets the job done.
A young farm boy resolves to save a princess from the Galactic Empire. He and his companions arrive too late to save her homeowrld from destruction. Even her rescue is tained by the death of his mentor. Returning her to the Rebellion starts a race to find the Death Star’s weakness before it arrives to destroy them all. With his mentor’s words ringing in his ears, the farmboy calls on his mystic powers to destroy the weapon and save the Rebellion.
Wow…I can’t remember enough of the movie to write this one. Going to have to take a pass.
I agree with Destiny – it’s been too long.
However, Randy’s Act 1, 2, 3 points above have clarified how I should approach the condensation of my current WIP.
And that is true of so much of what you challenge us to think and write about, Randy. Guess that’s your point.
Avily Jerome says
Great work everyone! My brain is too tired to try today, but I enjoyed reading those!
Andra M. says
Like Lois, instead of tackling the Star Wars summary, I’ll apply your advice to my WIP.
J Ward says
“Young boy” still hurts my teeth a bit. I’m inordinately sensitized to redundancies and tend to think every extraneous word is the end of the world. But “young boy” and “young girl” are pretty bad, especially when they describe someone who’s not at all young for a boy or girl. A boy is a male from, let’s say, 3 or 4 to 14 or 15, and a young boy would be on the younger end of the scale, but you often read about a 17-year-old “young boy.” (How old is Luke when the story begins?) Call him a boy, if you will, and we’ll fight about that, but “young” is indefensible on any planet.