I was in the car with my husband the other day and Carrie Underwood’s latest song came on the radio, Blown Away. Now I’ve got to confess right here in front of everyone, “I don’t listen to music much.” As a matter of fact, it’s a joke in my family. One day while in the car I asked, “Who is Lady Antebellum? Is she new?” My poor husband just shook his head and sighed. Yeah, I know now, it’s a group. So you’ll understand my revelation that country music is a great template for the emotion in a synopsis.
In just 252 words—not including the chorus—Carrie Underwood tells the whole emotional story.
Dry lightning cracks across the skies (This sets the mood. You know something bad is going to happen.)
Those storm clouds gather in her eyes (You know things aren’t going well for her.)
Her daddy was a mean old mister (She doesn’t get along with Daddy.)
Mama was an angel in the ground (Ah, poor kid is stuck in a house with a nasty man and no mother to help her. And it begs the question? Did Daddy have something to do with putting her in the ground?)
The weather-man called for a twister (trouble is on the way.)
She prayed blow it down (She wants out of there.)
Great Opening. The tone is set, the characters are introduced, and we know something is going to happen. It’s just a matter of boiling it down to its very essence.
Shatter every window ’til it’s all blown away, (Now we know how much she wants her life to change. She’s willing to give up her home. That’s huge. No matter how bad it is, people hesitate to give up home.)
Every brick, every board, every slamming door blown away
’til there’s nothing left standing, ((She not only wants out. She wants her past gone for good and ever.)
Nothing left of yesterday (This hints back to Mama. What happened to her?)
Every tear-soaked whiskey memory blown away, (Now we know why things were so bad.)
The plot thickens and the atmosphere of the story is set. We have more of an insight into her life and how bad it was.
There’s not enough rain in Oklahoma,
To wash the sins out of that house,
There’s not enough wind in Oklahoma, (These three lines deepen the inner need to get away.)
To rip the nails out of the past (Now I’m really wondering not only what happened to Mama, but what else went on that turned her away from her father and home.)
Shatter every window ’til it’s all blown away (Okay, this is a song so we’re going to let her repeat a little, but it also ups the emotion.)
Every brick, every board, every slamming door blown away (This shows the turmoil she went through.)
’til there’s nothing left standing, (She not only wants him gone, but all the memories and reminders of him and her life after her mother’s death.)
Nothing left of yesterday (Things were so bad she wants it ripped from Oklahoma and her life.)
Every tear-soaked whiskey memory blown away, (This give us a hint of part of the reason for the strife.)
I know you also need character names and the actual plot in the synopsis, but take a look at country songs for ways to insert emotion and conflict. After all, they are the driving force behind a story. And isn’t that why we listen to music? To feel good, sad, happy, patriotic, or seasonally motivated.
Do you have a template or system to writing a synopsis?