Songwriting has much in common with script writing: the impact of dialect, the pacing of story evolution, the search for relatable story and character elements, the desired emotional responses from the audience. The difference – songwriters distill only a single moment into a song.
Consider a scene from your favourite movie in which one character bursts into monologue, expressing him/herself to another, finally saying how they feel after keeping it inside for too long. This character could be expressing undying love, fiery anger, blinding confusion, unbearable sadness, or one of a multitude of other emotions. Take a close look at the wording of that monologue. It will describe a list of observations – events/experiences that have led to this moment – that contribute to a single emotional response from the speaker. And although the monologue will eventually describe the emotion which has overcome the speaker, it probably doesn’t even need to do so, because as a member of the audience, you’re very likely already feeling that same emotion. It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the character’s “right” to feel the way they do; what matters is that you understand the emotion.
That moment, that emotional response to a series of events, is the reason we choose to write a song, and we could learn a lot by approaching the song in the exact way we might write that movie monologue:
- We want to communicate how we feel to another human being, in a convincing argument
- In order to do that, we must list the important reasons for feeling this way
- We want to keep entirely within this one emotion
- We want the audience to relate to us, to feel the emotion from their own experience
Keep these ideas in mind when you write your next song. Use observations that will resonate with your audience. Tell a story of how this moment came into existence. Seek a single, describable, emotional response from your audience. When you’re done, examine your song to see if it delivers in the same way as your favourite movie monologue.
I’ll bring the popcorn!