What Writers Can Learn from Songs

I was chatting with an old friend via email this morning, and we were discussing song lyrics. It’s a favorite topic of mine, because I’ve always wanted to write them. After all, they’re just a hugely abbreviated form of writing. Mini Flash Fiction, with poetry thrown in. Extreme write tight!

If they can do this with less than a page, what should I be able to do with 365 of them?! No excuses. Lyrics inspire me to write better.

I love how songwriters can capture a mood or a situation with one stanza. As an author, I’m held captive by the words. Taking something old, and through brilliant writing, making it over in a new way. The lyrics to Carly Simon’s song, Jesse, inspired my book, The Last True Cowboy.

Music styles change (a huge amount, in just my lifetime!), but for me, the lyrics are the magic. If the notes can hold a candle to the lyrics, you’ve got a hit. It’s funny; I don’t really care for country music for the most part, but I find the lyrics very strong.

Here are a few snippets that I’ve loved for years:


We had no cameras
to shoot the landscape
we passed the hash pipe
and played our Doors tapes
and it was dark
so dark at night
and we held onto each other
like brother to brother
we promised our mothers we’d write
and we would all go down together

             Billy Joel – Goodnight Saigon




So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Sting – Fields of Gold



How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy
There is no monopoly in common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

Sting – Russians



And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance

Garth Brooks – The Dance


I’m gonna love you forever
Forever and ever, amen
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather
As long as old women sit and talk about old men
If you wonder how long I’ll be faithful
I’ll be happy to tell you again
I’m gonna love you
Forever and ever
Forever and ever, amen

Randy Travis – Forever and Ever, Amen


Fat man sitting on a little stool Takes the money from my hand while his eyes take a walk all over you
Hands me the ticket smiles and whispers good luck
Cuddle up angel cuddle up my little dove
Well ride down baby into this tunnel of love

I can feel the soft silk of your blouse
And them soft thrills in our little fun house
Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us
You me and all that stuff were so scared of
Gotta ride down baby into this tunnel of love

               Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love

I swear I’m going to try writing some!


Are you captivated by lyrics? Share your faves!

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