Stories. Some writers can draw a reader in with just a short novella. Others require a saga. I’m pretty much in the full novel category. I like multiple plot lines woven through my books, and depth in my characters, so it takes me about 90,000 words to craft a novel.
But some people can draw you into a story in less than two minutes. Songwriters.
It occurred to me when I heard Harry Chapin’s song Taxi while driving in my car that some amazing stories can be told in a very short amount of time.
While I considered that, I also realized that I’ve always been drawn to songs with a story. I listen to lyrics. I love Bruce Springsteen. He’s a master story singer. Think My Home Town, Brilliant Disguise and The River. Deep, emotional and poignant tales that resonate and stick with me – and lots of other people, obviously.
The song Taxi is a classic example. That song says so much, but it’s not short on detail. Not only do we clearly understand where both Harry and Sue are in the present, we know Sue’s address, what she was wearing, and their backstory! Chapin did it again and again with songs like Cat’s in the Cradle and Sequel to Taxi. In fact, every song on his Greatest Hits CD tells a story.
One of my all-time favorite songs is Faithfully by Journey. It’s a snippet, just a quick glimpse into a couple’s lives. Somehow, in just a few lines, the music and the words combine to draw me in and evoke an emotional response. Other stories-as-songs that come to mind are The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot, Lyin’ Eyes by the Eagles, The Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams, and It’s All Coming Back to Me Now by Celine Dion. I know, I’m showing my age here. A newer one that comes to mind is Nickelback’s Photograph. It paints such a vivid picture in just a few lines. Don’t you want to know what the hell is on Joey’s head?!
Of course songs have the benefit of additional elements – musical instruments, repetition and rhyme to engage us. Books have only words to build interest and evoke emotion. Not sure whether stories as songs can offer any tips or wisdom to novel writers, but it’s something to think about, especially when it comes time to craft that back blurb or elevator pitch.
I know there are hundreds of others. Too many to list. But I’d love to know some of your favorite stories as songs. Please share!