Hello and welcome, everyone, this is Kieper again,
Today we are going to talk about how to tell a story the way we want it to be told. To be more precise we will talk about storylines. And it really is an essential part I am talking about a lot on my blog as well.
I mean, you all have had the experience of reading books. There is always an introduction, the main part and the closure when everything falls neatly into place. And it must not be in any other way. Else it would be a garbled kind of nonsensical writing by a schizophrenic, and even if we were able to follow some of it, the picture, in the end, would be highly confusing. It just wouldn’t add up to the story we have been expecting.
Take, for example, Harry Potter, which is a highly regarded sequel of plots that beautifully portrays the story of this young wizard and his friends. You could read it as an adolescence-novel, and behind all the magical items and enemy wizards, the core remains to be a story of growing up children and the coming of age. Everything else around it makes it so exciting to us. However, the power lies within the boundary the novels find themselves confined in.
So the first thing we find to be indelible to a good storyline is the kind of style we want to write about. And there are various genres out there! I mean just grab a book from your shelves and search for its characteristics. Maybe it even inspired you to write about this particular story, it is no crime to take inspiration from a good book. These characteristics define the starting point for our characters, for our plot and the entire picture we want to convey.
Think of it as a building. The first thing you do, after having the idea and planning on building it, is making the foundation for your skyscraper or whatever. Then you can start outlining the building by adding the different floors and basically create a skeleton. After this, you can call the electrician and interior designers to add windows, light, toilets and whatever you want to have in your house. If this is all done, you go in yourself and add your personal touch to it, paint the walls yourself perhaps and then, move in. If something goes wrong along the way and your foundation is not good enough, you need to start all over again. So plan your steps correctly and as an architect would do. This saves a lot of time and eventually, money.
So let’s say we have an idea for a song about homeless people. What we are going to do first is to find the proper building material we are going to need for this. And last time we talked about this in detail. Synonyms and related words. They are essential in our toolbox to find the right words we can use in a song. And sometimes, they even dictate some sort of arrangement and twists in the plot. Just like building material on a construction site would, we should know what we want to build with it before we put our hands on it. So first find some inspiring words and related phrases and pictures to the situation you want to portray. Perhaps even go and have a chat with some homeless people about their lives if that helps you find inspiration and stories that are close to reality – nothing is better than reality. It is more honest, more relatable, and so beautifully rough that it grabs the attention of a later audience.
Once you have done this, it is time to get to the drawing board. Draw the outline of your story, just like an author would, because that is what you are. However, while an author has thousand of pages to get to a point, as a songwriter, you only have about a minute in modern music to get to the chorus and then further portray the story in the second or third verse. You need to get to the point quickly and get to the core immediately to grab the attention, else the audience will continue drinking and cheering.
So let us say you have got a perfect outline, an ideal starting point for your story, what are we going to do next? Well now is the time to form a thread for the listener to follow along. It does not help to spoil the end in the beginning before anyone knows the protagonist or give vital information too early in the plot. So you need to structure the storyline.
Your homeless buddy told you about his life, and he did so in chronological order perhaps. Presenting a story chronologically is the dominant kind of telling a story. And right it is because that is a good way for the listener to follow the plot. It makes sense for him to know about the situations sequentially, and not in a garbled order. This is maybe a universal rule of writing plots. Even though various writers break with this tradition, in a song, this rule is highly essential. We only have little time to get the attention of the audience with our lyrics. Most people listen to the words of the first verse more than to the second ones. So we need to be precise and get to a deep level immediately.
So the point is that you are going to spend most of the time constructing an outline, getting to a thread and then furniture your song to get to a deeper level. And only in rare cases, it is your first synopsis that makes it to the final lyrics. It is the final expose, the thing you get when you are done with painting, creating and finding the right lighting that you are going to show to an audience at a move-in party. And while the plotting might be easier for you, you need to find more precise phrases for some of the situations for that homeless guy’s life. Something brutal. And you do so by finding utterances in colloquial thesauruses and language register corpora, that collected all the words you need. All the words are out there for you to find online. For writers, there is no better time to find the right words than now.
On your way, you might get frustrated perhaps with building the heating and the kitchen of your building; however, you can always call your songwriter friends that are good with this stuff and ask them for help. I mean as a builder, you would only occasionally have a go for interior design, that is not your expertise yet, so let someone else have a look and let them help you. There are so many people working at a construction site, so why would you go there on your own? Unless you are the head of the construction firm perhaps.
So anyway, here comes another trick from the building industry. By the way, I don’t have any relations with anyone in the building industry, I just happened to have watched a documentary on the discovery channel about an hour ago, and still, it is stuck in my brain. Find a song or book or film about your starting point and then find the different stages the story has. Perhaps Harry Potter inspires you to write a song about a young wizard, and you just need to find the right way to write your plot. Or words to use that are more magical perhaps. You could even find inspiration in social media posts and your favourite series, there is so much out there.
The easiest way to start is by finding a song with the same topic or any relatable starting point, and you just tell the story a little different. With a different point of view, some changes in vocabulary and your unique style. I bet a million songs were created by copying and interpreting other writers, but the key is to make it yours and not to fake it.
Now go ahead already, find your favourite song at the moment and interpret it your way. Analyse the storyline and strip it down only to build it up again from the core. There is not only so much fun behind it, but a lot to be learned.
I wish you the best of luck and hope you are doing great so far.
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Thank you very much again for staying tuned and see you next week.
Stories shape the way we see the world from the day we are born.
But how do we tell a story in a song and what words are we going to use?
How are we going to find a coherent thread for the listener to follow along?
These are the questions we are going to discuss and discover today and how you can find the right words for your audience to understand. We are also going to talk a lot about construction sites and providing furniture for a good song.
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Cheers in your Corona quarantine and have a wonderful week.