One of my quiet pleasures, when I was a boy, was to read the TV listings in the daily paper. It was the only way I could find out about shows that came on after I was sent to bed. Later on I graduated to the summaries in TV Guide.
Whoever wrote these, they were brilliant. Here’s a movie description from 1974: “Triple Trouble” (1950). The Bowery Boys are sent up for robbery, try to find the true culprits in prison. Period! The whole movie in just 16 words!
I have to write a cover blurb for my new book, The Wind from Heaven. I’m allowed 150 words in which to encapsulate the story in a way that’s sure to provoke the reader’s interest.. while not giving away the plot. I’ve always found this very difficult.
But what if I had only 16 words? What if it was a movie on TV, and I had to write the listing? Holy moly.
Now, it’s been many years since I scanned TV listings. With a couple hundred channels out there–we had only seven in 1960, and most places outside the New York media market had just two or three–it hardly seems worthwhile to try to write listings for all the hundreds, if not thousands, of programs offered every day.
But imagine if the art of summarization had ever broken out beyond the daily TV listings. Just imagine…