Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stories through Music

Sometimes, because I am such a huge dork, I ravage YouTube and play a bunch of sappy songs just to make myself cry. Do you ever do that? Of course you do. I mean, you may not purposely search out songs to make you cry, but when you’re in a certain mood, you seek out things to improve upon that mood. In our day and age, we often turn to music. And why is that?

Last night was one of those nights. I just needed a good cry. No particular reason (well, I guess you could probably blame pregnancy hormones if you wanted to). I found just about every song I knew would make me cry. Songs like Skin and What Hurts the Most by Rascal Flats, I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith, Letters from War by Mark Schultz, even the song we played at our wedding, I Will Be Here by Stephen Curtis Chapman. I could name several more, but you can tell what a sap I am from that small sampling.

It occurred to me as I went to bed, later than usual thanks to all that music, that I really admire song writers. Novelists have it easy.

A songwriter has less than five minutes to tell a story or evoke an emotion. They have only so many words to get that across, and often those words are repeated throughout the song. We complain about condensing our story down to a couple of pages for a synopsis, but their lyrics often don’t even take up a page. We moan and complain about having to expand on setting, characters, plot lines, songwriters rely on structure of music to help portray the meaning or emotion behind a story being told in less time than it takes to zap a Hot Pocket in the microwave.

This got me thinking about the type of music and the artists that I listen to when I’m in certain moods. For instance, when I need to clean the house, I often pop in a Shania Twain CD. Why? Because I know all the words and can dance around the house, which makes cleaning so much more fun. I also know that just about anything by Rascal Flats or Mark Schultz will make me cry. If I’m in the car, a good 80’s rock CD or Christian worship CD will have me singing at the top of my lungs (with the windows down if it’s not allergy season).

These artists, and the songwriters behind their music, keep me coming back again and again. I relate to their stories. I submit to their emotions. I am revived or renewed or encouraged. And isn’t that what we want readers to feel when they read our novels? Don’t we want to evoke emotion and tell compelling stories that they relate to so they come back again and again? I think we could take a lesson from songwriters, indeed.


  1. You know that's so true! Songs only have a few minutes to instill emotion--much shorter than the time an author has!

  2. I so do that! I think b/c I'm a mom somewhere along the way the valve to my tear ducts got shut off and I feel like I can't cry. I used to be a talented crier. So now I have to play tricks on myself to get the tears flowing. Music is one of the ways to open the dam.

    ~ Wendy

  3. Definitely!! that's why when I write, I often find music to fit the scene (like a movie) so it evokes my own emotion so I can then transfer that onto paper. Works for me typically :)

  4. Jennifer--Reminds us that it is possible to do it in not so many words, doesn't it?

    Wendy--I've always been the type to wear my heart on my sleeve, so crying is not too unsuual for me. Though I used to be more able to cry on cue than I do now. hehehe... Shhh...don't tell anyone!

    I wish I could write to music, Jaime, but I just can't. I'm too easily distracted. lol...

  5. The melody also helps set the mood. If we could add background music to our novels to show tension or sadness, we may be able to use less words to express that emotion. Hey, maybe in the future, as technology develops, we can have e-books with background music. That would be cool!

  6. Oh yeah, I love listening to love-gone-wrong songs. Don't ask me why! I just love them!

  7. I think that's why Taylor Swift is so popular, she gets the emotion across in her five minutes and lots of people can relate to it. Good post! :O)

  8. Well put, my friend. Creative people resort to different tricks for inspiration--it's how we're wired, I think.


Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts/opinions.