The Story in the Song, Part II

Did you all enjoy yesterday’s post? I did! It had my two favorite songs in it. Also I got to subtly mention Blade on my writing blog. (did you all catch that? :-)

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Which is: what can studying the story song do for those of us who are not musically inclined and just want to write a good story?

Well, like I said yesterday, the story song = poetry + plot + music. Basically, it is a 5-10 minute lesson in making a coherent and gripping plot as brief and beautiful as possible. It is the ultimate example of the only tip I remember from dear old Strunk and White:

Omit needless words. Omit needless words. And then set to music.

We can just cut music out of the equation and concentrate on poetry and plot. There, isn’t that easier? No?

Of course not. Succinct is hard. That’s why we should study it.

Let’s look at the first verse of Grace’s favorite song ever, introduced yesterday: “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.”

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

That could quite easily be the first 2-3 chapters of a novel. There’d be a quirky sidekick, probably, and a lot of internal dialogue.  (also Mel Gibson. basically it would be the movie Gallipoli…) But look what Bogle does with it! He picks out the key elements, sets them to poetry, and we’re off.

“The gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun.” Oh my goodness me. Gorgeousness.

I’m not going to go through the whole song. You get the point. Let’s be honest, Part II of this series was really just an excuse for me to post some more of my favorite songs. (for you to examine! totally altruistic, here.) So lets have one of those classic country story songs, from Mr. Marty Robbins. There’s a talking head at the front, but not for very long. I give you… “El Paso.”

And let’s end on…hm. Well, you know how yesterday I posted my two favoritest songs in the whole wide world? There’s some competition for number 3, but this one is a close contender. Sorry for the so-so quality, but it had to be the Dwight Yoakam version. The best version, of course, is when he plays it with Flaco Jimenez but I couldn’t find that..

So that’s it! The Story Song, and how it can Help You Become a Better Writer.


Horrifying side note: if you type “lyrics” into google, the autofill thingy turns it into “lyrics to bleeding love” as the first choice. I just want to say, I had to endure that song’s rise to the top in TWO countries. TWO. I HAD TO LISTEN TO IT CONSTANTLY TWICE. Pity me.