How do you write a song that tells a story

How do you write a song that tells a story?

This is a question people have been asking for ages.
The lyrics (words) to a song can cover any subject matter, ranging from the virtues of a rock-and-roll lifestyle to social and political issues.
Songs like Michael Martin Murphey's "Wildfire" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot are timeless examples of how a song can tell a story.
Songs that tell stories engage listeners and are sometimes remembered for decades.
Come up with a strong title.
There are no right or wrong titles, but a title that hints at the story of a song is a good idea.
Some composers debate over whether short titles or long titles are better.
This is subjective.
"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is a long title that fits the song.
"Sundown," the title of a song also by Gordon Lightfoot, doesn't reveal what the song is about, but it does refer to the chorus and fits the song well.
Write the verses as if they were scenes in a movie.
Use descriptive words.
Get a thesaurus and look for words you don't typically hear in song lyrics.
Develop each line of every verse to deliver a crucial piece of the story.
Like writing a poem, telling a story in song requires concise language with no filler whatsoever.
You have minimal space to get your full story told.
Listen to a number of songs that tell stories.
You'll notice that they all have one thing in common: The verses of the song are cohesive and build on each other, creating a unified theme and ending with a climax that completes a story line.
Develop a chorus that reiterates the key theme or message of the song.
Since the chorus of the song is typically sung several times, this is the perfect opportunity to deliver important story information.
Add a "bridge" to emphasize drastic changes to the story line.
The bridge is often a lyric structured slightly differently from the chorus and is ideal for a shift in the song's message.
For instance, a song that has verses and a chorus about a man losing the love of his life might have a bridge telling how she came back to him when he least expected it and needed her most.
Develop the progression of the lyrics as you would a short story or novel.
Your song should have a beginning, middle and end.
The ending can be happy or sad, but the story will ideally resolve.
Write a song about something you've seen in the news or make up a story.
Your lyrics could tell a story about a boy who gets lost and a pony that finds him and brings him home.
You can write about a historical event like the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or try something supernatural, like a ghost truck that picks up hitchhikers.
There's no limit to the type of story you can tell in a song.
More to read about this subject:
maybe that helps

Follow the three act form of drama.
If it's a verse chorus song the chorus will be the main statement, or what the song is about.
The verses should move in chronological order.
For instance the old, "boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy get's girl back".

Here's an example of one I've written.
It's called "
It's about two young lovers escaping into the night together (also see "She's Leaving Home" by the Beatles which is similar but from the parents point of view).
The chorus is "Before the sun comes up we'll be 1,000 miles away.
We don't have a reason to stay", etc.
So the first verse is about them sneaking out and leaving town.
The second is them on the road facing their new life.
Then a bridge at the end stating that they will be ok if they just make it through the night.
So it moves in chronological order, but the chorus still works for the whole story, which is the tricky part of a story song.

Here's another story song I wrote that has the same type of storytelling:
The song does a great job of telling a complicated story and you can learn a lot about how the words create scenes that you can imagine in your head.

For instance, here's the first line from Brick: 6am/day after Christmas/ I throw some clothes on in the dark
It's just a few simple words, but we know our protagonist is the songwriter, at some point in the past he had to get up super early on a day most people were sleeping in and then he chooses to get dressed in the dark, so he may not want people to know where he's going.

So right there in one line you are thrown into the middle of a story that we can all relate to and hopefully you are hooked and want to hear the rest.
He doesn't get too specific because he doesn't need to.
  If your lyrics are too specific to your life events then nobody else will be able to put themselves into the song.

Song writing is not much different than story writing, you're just using fewer words to tell the story.
You don't have to map it all out if you don't want to.
Just starting with one catchy line and building on that may work best for you.
Recently I recorded a song about a breakup which is a story that has been done to death.
If you want to map it out you can do this.

Take my song for instance:
1.
What is my song about?  A break up.

2.
What significant thing happened? I wanted to fix the relationship and my significant other didn't.
(This is my main idea and will end up in the chorus.
Note that this is a really boring story for a song because it's been done to death, BUT it's also extremely relatable for anyone who hears it, you just have to tell your story in an original way)
3.
Theme.
This is where it gets interesting.
Having an overarching theme to the song makes it much easier to pull ideas and relatable metaphors from what you know about that theme.

My theme for this song turned out to be boxing.
I didn't set out to write a song like that, but the first line I came up with was "we're going down without a fight" then I built on that line with "tell me what it pays to take a dive" then "we might be too far gone to save this thing" now I need a rhyme to wrap things up and since boxing/fighting is the theme I started creating in the first few lines the last line becomes "but love, couldn't you just take a swing?"
So you know that the songwriter is going through a break up and the other person isn't fighting for the relationship.
You also know that the song writer is starting to believe it's already over and just wishes the other person would TRY to save the relationship.

The thing to note is that the story of a couple breaking up is being told without using those exact words and the theme gives me more ideas I can use to tell my story in an original way.
I'm not a boxer by any means; but I know sometimes boxers take dives.

From there it's just stringing things together until you find the words to tell your story without writing it like a letter or novel.
If you use the right words then your listeners mind will fill in the blanks.
Also remember that lyrics are actually the last thing MOST people pay attention to in a song so do not neglect music theory and make the tune catchy.

You can check out a website called Hook Theory for some more great info on theory.

Hope that helps.
 

In Songs that tell stories engage listeners and are sometimes remembered for decades.
Come up with a strong title.
There are no right or wrong titles, but a title that hints at the story of a song is a good idea.
Some composers debate over whether short titles or long titles are better.
This is subjective.
"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is a long title that fits the song.
"Sundown," the title of a song also by Gordon Lightfoot, doesn't reveal what the song is about, but it does refer to the chorus and fits the song well.
Write the verses as if they were scenes in a movie.
Use descriptive words.
Get a thesaurus and look for words you don't typically hear in song lyrics.
Develop each line of every verse to deliver a crucial piece of the story.
Like writing a poem, telling a story in song requires concise language with no filler whatsoever.
You have minimal space to get your full story told.
Listen to a number of songs that tell stories.
You'll notice that they all have one thing in common: The verses of the song are cohesive and build on each other, creating a unified theme and ending with a climax that completes a story line.
Develop a chorus that reiterates the key theme or message of the song.
Since the chorus of the song is typically sung several times, this is the perfect opportunity to deliver important story information.
Add a "bridge" to emphasize drastic changes to the story line.
The bridge is often a lyric structured slightly differently from the chorus and is ideal for a shift in the song's message.
For instance, a song that has verses and a chorus about a man losing the love of his life might have a bridge telling how she came back to him when he least expected it and needed her most.
Develop the progression of the lyrics as you would a short story or novel.
Your song should have a beginning, middle and end.
The ending can be happy or sad, but the story will ideally resolve.
Write a song about something you've seen in the news or make up a story.
Your lyrics could tell a story about a boy who gets lost and a pony that finds him and brings him home.
You can write about a historical event like the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or try something supernatural, like a ghost truck that picks up hitchhikers.
There's no limit to the type of story you can tell in a song.
More to read about this subject:
maybe that helps

Follow the three act form of drama.
If it's a verse chorus song the chorus will be the main statement, or what the song is about.
The verses should move in chronological order.
For instance the old, "boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy get's girl back".

Here's an example of one I've written.
It's called "
It's about two young lovers escaping into the night together (also see "She's Leaving Home" by the Beatles which is similar but from the parents point of view).
The chorus is "Before the sun comes up we'll be 1,000 miles away.
We don't have a reason to stay", etc.
So the first verse is about them sneaking out and leaving town.
The second is them on the road facing their new life.
Then a bridge at the end stating that they will be ok if they just make it through the night.
So it moves in chronological order, but the chorus still works for the whole story, which is the tricky part of a story song.

Here's another story song I wrote that has the same type of storytelling:
The song does a great job of telling a complicated story and you can learn a lot about how the words create scenes that you can imagine in your head.

For instance, here's the first line from Brick: 6am/day after Christmas/ I throw some clothes on in the dark
It's just a few simple words, but we know our protagonist is the songwriter, at some point in the past he had to get up super early on a day most people were sleeping in and then he chooses to get dressed in the dark, so he may not want people to know where he's going.

So right there in one line you are thrown into the middle of a story that we can all relate to and hopefully you are hooked and want to hear the rest.
He doesn't get too specific because he doesn't need to.
  If your lyrics are too specific to your life events then nobody else will be able to put themselves into the song.

Song writing is not much different than story writing, you're just using fewer words to tell the story.
You don't have to map it all out if you don't want to.
Just starting with one catchy line and building on that may work best for you.
Recently I recorded a song about a breakup which is a story that has been done to death.
If you want to map it out you can do this.

Take my song for instance:
1.
What is my song about?  A break up.

2.
What significant thing happened? I wanted to fix the relationship and my significant other didn't.
(This is my main idea and will end up in the chorus.
Note that this is a really boring story for a song because it's been done to death, BUT it's also extremely relatable for anyone who hears it, you just have to tell your story in an original way)
3.
Theme.
This is where it gets interesting.
Having an overarching theme to the song makes it much easier to pull ideas and relatable metaphors from what you know about that theme.

My theme for this song turned out to be boxing.
I didn't set out to write a song like that, but the first line I came up with was "we're going down without a fight" then I built on that line with "tell me what it pays to take a dive" then "we might be too far gone to save this thing" now I need a rhyme to wrap things up and since boxing/fighting is the theme I started creating in the first few lines the last line becomes "but love, couldn't you just take a swing?"
So you know that the songwriter is going through a break up and the other person isn't fighting for the relationship.
You also know that the song writer is starting to believe it's already over and just wishes the other person would TRY to save the relationship.

The thing to note is that the story of a couple breaking up is being told without using those exact words and the theme gives me more ideas I can use to tell my story in an original way.
I'm not a boxer by any means; but I know sometimes boxers take dives.

From there it's just stringing things together until you find the words to tell your story without writing it like a letter or novel.
If you use the right words then your listeners mind will fill in the blanks.
Also remember that lyrics are actually the last thing MOST people pay attention to in a song so do not neglect music theory and make the tune catchy.

You can check out a website called Hook Theory for some more great info on theory.

Hope that helps.
 

In What song makes you cry What is it about this song that affects you that way Maybe it speaks to something in your life a time or a person that was important

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