As we all often do around here, I've been thinking about song lyrics again this week. The morning radio hacks have gotten a little too much for my husband and I on our 40 minute commute to work, so we've gone back to putting on the iPod and listening to all our old favourites.
This time, what's been occurring to me is how much of a punch a song has to pack in a very, very low number of words. Same as poetry, though I haven't listened to much of that in the car lately.
And in that short number of words, there are really only two approaches you can take to maximise the emotional impact- you can either be very direct, or very subtle.
I've been thinking about both this week, and I thought I'd give a few examples of song lyrics that I think tell a story very well in a few words. These are, to me, so good that I'm not going to say another word myself- I'll just let you read 'em, and I'm sure that like me, you'll finish five or six lines knowing all about that person or situation (or both) almost as well as if you'd read a story about them.
So, while you're not expected to be this brief in fiction, I think it's a great demonstration of how much you can achieve in a short space- imagine how powerful your story would be if you applied this kind of vivid characterisation throughout your novel.
The first one is my favourite- in just three lines, you get a whole world of information. The whole song is brilliant- it's about Kurt Cobain, apparently.
Foo Fighters- Friend of a Friend
He thinks he drinks too much
'Cause when he tells his two best friends, "I think I drink too much."
No-one speaks. No-one speaks.
The Killers- Mr. Brightside
Now I'm falling asleep
And she's calling a cab
While he's having a smoke
And she's taking a drag
Now they're going to bed
And my stomach is sick
And it's all in my head
But she's touching his
Chest now, he takes off her dress now
Let me go.
I just can't look, it's killing me.
Crowded House- Distant Sun
Still so young to travel so far
Old enough to know who you are
Wise enough to carry the scars
Without any blame
There's no-one to blame
Sarah McLachlan- Building a Mystery
You live in a church
Where you sleep with voodoo dolls
And you won't give up the search
For the ghosts in the halls
You wear sandals in the snow
And a smile that won't wash away
Can you look out the window
Without your shadow getting in the way?
Beth Orton- Stolen Car
You walked into my house last night
I couldn't help but notice
A light that was long gone still burning strong.
You were sitting
Your fingers like fuses
Your eyes were cinnamon.
Any favourite stories in songs you'd like to share?