When it comes to musicals, most people tend to either love them or hate them. Regardless of your thoughts on musicals, you’ve probably heard at least one or two songs from them that get stuck in your head. (I’ll note here that I’ve been bopping along to Rewrite the Stars from The Greatest Showman for a couple of days now.)
The entire point of a musical is to intertwine both storytelling and songwriting. While it might seem like the two are worlds apart, the fact is that they share a lot in common. Songs often tell a story.
As an exercise: Create a playlist of songs for your story. Focus specifically on the songs that match your plot points. Whether it’s a cheating spouse, a determined young leader or even learning a new skill to defeat the antagonist, there are thousands of songs out there. Find ones that match your plot points and character arcs. Once you’ve gotten your playlist made, look at what kind of songs you chose. How does that help you identify your tone for each relevant scene? Are these songs reflective of what you want the scene to be?
I’d love to know what sort of songs you chose. Let me know in the comments below!
Music is a universal force. No matter where you go in the world, part of the culture includes songs, instruments and the like. Which is why it should come as no surprise that music can also provide a lot of inspiration.
Music, like literature, breaks down into genres. Folk, R&B, country, classical—genres in music as extensive as genres in literature. Each one is earmarked by content and style differences. Sometimes they can bleed together in unexpected ways—again, something literature does as well. Consider your style and genre. What sort of music fits the way you write?
In many cases, lyrics can also tell a story. Whether it’s rock’n’roll or jazz, the words often tell of a situation, event or even a full-blown story. Try it with some of your favorite songs. What stories do they tell?
One way to help use music to inspire your storytelling and worldbuilding is by creating a playlist for a given story or set of stories.
Character Playlists. Think about what your characters might listen to themselves? What are their favorite songs to sing? Which ones make them dance around when they think no one is watching? Also consider which songs reflect their internal conflicts and personal feelings about a situation. What sort of lullabies would they have heard as children?
Scene Playlists. If you’re having trouble getting a scene to work properly, think about what sort of music you’d want playing in the background during the movie version. For action scenes, it can also help you by giving you something to choreograph the scene too. Listening to those songs as you’re writing can help you set the mood and tone by matching the mood you want for the scene.
Inspiration Playlists. When all else fails, think about what you’d want as the theme song for your characters, the TV-adaptation, or even what sort of music video your characters would make for the song in question.
I’m curious. What songs are on your playlists? Let me know in the comments!
Music is a powerful form of communication. Across languages and cultures, songs hold a prominent place in both history and storytelling. And that’s exactly what we’re tackling today.
As an exercise: Set your music to shuffle and press play. Build a character based around the first song that comes up. Really listen to that song and dig into it. Let the instrumental choices inspire their looks and personality. Examine the lyrics for their internal conflicts and arcs.
Repeat the above exercise for a second character with another random song. Once you have both characters fleshed out, write a scene in which these two characters are going on a first date.