What can songwriters learn from authors, and vice versa? The idea of learning across different creative mediums isn’t new but the beauty of creation resides not just in one’s particular artistic sphere, but in the ability to draw insights from diverse disciplines.
As songwriters, we need to realise that the art of storytelling isn’t confined to a single medium, rather it can intertwine between various modes of creative expression and in this blog post, we will explore the crossroads where songwriting meets literature and can learn from it.
Whether you’re a songwriter or an author, understanding how to weave narrative and emotion into your work is crucial. Authors can benefit from the songwriters’ knack for packing a punch in a few lines, while songwriters can learn from authors’ expertise in building a narrative.
So, here are five ways songwriters can learn from authors, and five ways authors can learn from songwriters.
Get ready to dive in, because this cross-disciplinary exploration could definitely open your eyes and ears to new directions in your songwriting process.
How Songwriters Can Learn From Authors
- Storytelling: The ability of authors to create captivating stories is a skill that can be highly valuable to songwriters.
Authors are adept at building a narrative arc, progressing through introduction, conflict, climax, and resolution to keep readers engaged. While a song may not have the luxury of lengthy exposition, understanding these principles can help songwriters create more impactful and engaging songs.
The storyline in a song doesn’t have to be complex, but incorporating narrative elements can make a song more engaging. Whether it’s a song about a love story gone wrong or an individual’s journey of self-discovery, narrative techniques can make these themes resonate more deeply with listeners.
By thinking more like authors, songwriters can craft songs that take listeners on a journey, making the listening experience more immersive and emotionally satisfying.
- Character Development: Authors spend a lot of time developing their characters, providing them with backstories, personalities, and growth arcs. This depth helps readers connect with the characters and become more invested in their stories.
Songwriters can learn to bring a similar depth to the characters in their songs, making their songs more relatable and emotionally compelling.
Even within the constraints of a song, it’s possible to give characters depth. It could be through the emotions they express, the experiences they share, or the way they perceive the world.
By creating characters that feel real and relatable, songwriters can create a stronger emotional connection with their listeners, making their songs more impactful and memorable.
- Imagery and Metaphor: Authors often use vivid imagery and metaphor to bring their stories to life and make them more engaging. These techniques allow readers to visualise the story, making it more immersive and emotionally compelling.
Songwriters can learn to use imagery and metaphor to enhance their lyrics, making their songs more evocative and memorable.
By describing emotions and situations in a more visual and metaphorical way, songwriters can make their songs more engaging.
For example, instead of saying “I’m sad,” a songwriter could say “I’m a ship lost at sea.” This not only expresses the emotion but also paints a vivid picture in the listener’s mind, making the song more emotionally engaging.
- Style and Voice: Authors develop a unique style and voice that sets their work apart and makes it recognisable. This unique voice is often what draws readers to their work and keeps them coming back for more.
Songwriters can learn from this, developing their own unique voice and style that sets their songs apart.
This doesn’t just apply to the musical aspects of a song, but also to the lyrics. It’s about the words they choose, the themes they explore, and the way they express emotions. By developing a unique voice and style, songwriters can make their songs more distinctive and memorable, setting them apart from the sea of songs out there.
- Editing: Authors know that writing is rewriting. They often go through several drafts of a work before they’re satisfied, refining and polishing their work until it’s the best it can be.
Songwriters can learn from this approach, understanding that the first draft of a song is just the beginning, and that refining and tweaking a song can make it better.
Whether it’s changing a line of lyrics, tweaking the melody, or even restructuring the song, editing can improve a song. It requires patience and a critical ear, but the payoff is a more polished, more powerful song.
By embracing the editing process, songwriters can elevate their songwriting skills and create better songs.
How Authors Can Learn From Songwriters
- Brevity and Efficiency: Songwriters, due to the nature of their craft, must express complex emotions, tell stories, and evoke imagery in a very limited amount of words and time. They are masters of brevity, delivering a potent message within the constraints of a 3-5 minute song.
Authors can learn from this brevity and efficiency to make their writing more impactful. Learning to distill a narrative or an emotional landscape into its most essential components can lead to stronger, more vivid writing.
Even in a full-length novel, every word counts. By focusing on brevity and efficiency, authors can eliminate unnecessary details and keep their readers engaged. Additionally, understanding the efficiency of songwriting can help authors in scenes where succinctness is key, such as dialogue or moments of high tension.
- Rhythm and Cadence: Songwriters pay close attention to the rhythm and cadence of their lyrics. They know that a song’s flow can impact its mood, meaning, and memorability.
Authors can learn to incorporate a sense of rhythm and cadence into their prose. Paying attention to the flow of sentences, the placement of words, and the rhythm of dialogue can make their writing more engaging and musical.
Consider how certain words sound together, the length of sentences, and the rhythm they create when read aloud.
An author who develops an ear for the musicality of their prose can improve the readability and enjoyment of their work. They can create prose that not only tells a story but does so in a way that’s pleasing to the ear.
- Repetition for Emphasis: Repetition is a key tool in a songwriter’s toolbox, used to create hooks and choruses that stick in the listener’s mind. This technique can also be valuable to authors.
Repetition can be used to emphasise important points, themes, or emotions, making them stand out in the reader’s mind.
When used carefully, repetition can serve to underline significant narrative elements or to create a particular effect, such as building tension or showcasing a character’s mental state. However, like any tool, it should be used sparingly and strategically; too much repetition can lead to a monotonous or heavy-handed narrative.
- Conveying Emotion: Songwriters excel at conveying deep emotions in their songs, often making listeners feel the joy, sadness, or longing expressed in their lyrics. Authors can learn from this ability to communicate emotion effectively.
Instead of telling readers what a character is feeling, authors can learn to show these emotions through a character’s actions, thoughts, and dialogue, making the emotional landscape of their stories more immersive and relatable.
This approach involves more than simply stating what a character is feeling. It’s about expressing emotion through small details, physical sensations, and indirect indications.
For example, instead of writing “She was sad,” an author might write “A lump formed in her throat, and her eyes stung with unshed tears.”
- Engaging the Audience: Songwriters write with their audience in mind, striving to create songs that will resonate with listeners. Authors can learn from this approach by considering their readers throughout the writing process.
By understanding who their readers are and what they want, authors can create stories that captivate and resonate.
Engagement doesn’t end with the writing process, though. Just as songwriters interact with their fans through concerts, social media, and interviews, authors can connect with their readers through book readings, social media, and author’s notes.
This connection can provide valuable feedback and help authors understand what resonates with their readers.
So in summary, it’s pretty clear that these two art forms, while distinct, share more in common than one might think.
Whether it’s the evocative storytelling of an author or the emotive brevity of a songwriter, both professions possess unique techniques that can be used to enrich and inspire the other.
Songwriters can harness the power of narrative arcs, character development, vivid imagery, a unique voice, and the rigorous editing process often seen in the world of literature.
On the flip side, authors can take a leaf from songwriting’s book by incorporating concise and potent messages, rhythm and cadence, repetition for emphasis, direct conveyance of emotion, and a keen focus on audience engagement.
It goes to show that creative expression isn’t limited by the medium. It thrives on innovation, cross-pollination of ideas, and the constant evolution of technique.
After all, art in any form is about telling a story and connecting with an audience, and we have so much to learn from each other in this journey.