Brevity=Wit Entry #11

February 1st, 2010 by Wordsman

In a previous edition of Brevity=Wit I lamented the disappearance of prologues, implying that they have all but vanished since Shakespeare, but there are some modern works that take the time to set the scene with a few choice words.  Some of the best-known examples from the latter half of the twentieth century are the “opening crawls” from the Star Wars trilogy.  George Lucas was a man who knew how to get the audience up to speed quickly, beginning the first of his most famous creations thusly:

“It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Galactic Empire.


Zzzzzz . . .

Okay, you have to admit, those yellow letters moving slowly past a black backdrop are strangely hypnotic.  They could put people to sleep even without going on and on, which is why I think we should make sure that this introduction is no longer than it needs to be.

It’s not a bad start, really.  He sets up the whole “Rebellion vs. Empire” situation pretty effectively, but the point could easily still be made while conserving a few valuable characters.  A couple tips: one, do rebels have anything but hidden bases?  I can’t imagine they’d last very long operating out in the open.  Cut that phrase.  Second, do you honestly think anyone could believe that an organization called the “Galactic Empire” is not evil?  You save an easy five characters by removing that unnecessary classifier.

On the other hand, looking at this piece more harshly, we can see that many key elements are missing: the stolen plans, Princess Leia, the DEATH STAR for crying out loud!  Sure, you’ve established that there’s a war on, but I kind of already figured that, given the title, “Star Wars.”  How are we supposed to know why the big white spaceship is attacking the little gray one, or why the lady with the sticky-bun haircut is messing with that little robot, or what the heck that giant thing that looks like a moon but is actually a space station is?  Do you expect audiences to figure these things out for themselves?

Then at the very end the prologue appears to switch to German, but let’s not go into that.

Don’t worry, though.  This thing is salvageable, with a judicial application of brevity:

“Rebels stole plans for the Empire’s Death Star, which can blow up planets. Princess Leia got them, but she’s being chased. What can she do?”

There.  Now we the audience can sit back and watch spaceships shoot lasers at each other without having to think about a plot and other silly things like that.

Posted in Brevity=Wit | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Gramma F Says:

    The sticky-bun hairdo was popular during World War I (my mother told me those excrescences were called “cootie garages”). Don’t know why Lucas thought it worthy of revival in the Time-to-come. Did he foresee they would be perhaps the most memorable features of the plot?
    As for intro, he did create TV’s most famous split infinitive.
    Anyway, I think you had real fun with this Brevity effort.

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