What is good music? I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard that phrase in my lifetime. Kanye West even named an entire label “GOOD Music” though his newest artists are far from being capable of producing anything that can qualify as good.
Good music has an engaging story and emotional tone. It draws you in and helps you experience the writer’s situation.
Many songs try telling you a story from beginning to end. That’s not the way music works and it shouldn’t be how you write. The most engaging stories let the reader fill in the blank
Let’s get into some examples. To break down a great emotional story, let’s use Paramore’s Only Exception.
When I was younger I saw my daddy cry
and curse at the wind.
He broke his own heart and I watched
as he tried to reassemble it.
Here, the singer, Hayley, is introducing a story in the past. She’s reflecting on a relationships between her mother and father. What’s important is to listen to how weak her voice sounds. Fragile. It’s like recalling the situation makes her weak.
Try to discover a way to give your characters a voice with dialogue. Don’t explain too many of the actions.
The same verse continues to say:
And my momma swore
that she would never let herself forget.
And that was the day that I promised
I’d never sing of love if it does not exist.
Now she’s relating her mother’s experience to the future. It’s a great transition. If the first scene in a movie, I’d imagine that the camera would’ve been on Hayley’s face as she stared at her shoes or avoided eye contact. Then, on the final half of this stanza, she’d look up to confess why she is the way she is.
Instead of telling the reader, “Hayley always treats her boyfriend like shit because of her parents’ relationship,” let them figure it out through context. You could literally begin a story with this stanza and we’d already know so much about your character.
That’s great writing. You can listen to the entire song and discover ways to use Hayley’s change in tone from weak to passionate or check out the video to get ideas of how to turn music into a story.
Observe the video and write a 1000 word story. Write out the video’s events, making sure emphasize emotional moments by using dialogue. Try to condense all of the events into one setting. (You may have to watch it a couple of times).