What Songs Could Be Novels?

I’m sure all of us creative people have listened to a song and thought it had the makings of a great story. Of course many songs tell stories set to music. But I’m writing about songs that would inspire you to expand on the story outlined in the lyrics. What songs could be novels?

Murder Ballads

I have listened to many songs over the years that fall into my writing genre, crime. A lot of them are country or folk songs. I didn’t realize that these types of songs had their own subgenre, murder ballads. I learned this when I read the book accompanying Ken Burns’s PBS documentary on country music. Murder ballads are songs that outline crimes, usually murder, and usually, they don’t have happy endings. I think these ballads came from songs sung in the British Isles. A local Celtic band performs a song “The Cobbler’s Daughter”, a traditional Irish song, about how a girl’s mother is in prison for accidentally killing her boyfriend, who had sneaked into their house.

I also think the “Dying Teen” songs of the fifties and sixties are a kind of offshoot of the murder ballad. Most of the time, crime isn’t involved. These songs deal with teens dying or getting injured, usually a car accident. Songs likes these are “Leader of the Pack”, “Dead Man’s Curve,” and “Last Kiss”. Any of these songs could inspire a longer story.

My Choices

Here are some songs I think could be developed into novels in any number of ways.

“The Long Black Veil” by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin. I first heard this murder ballad sung by Mick Jagger on the Chieftains album The Long Black Veil.

“The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia” by Bobby Russell, sung by Vicki Lawrence. Definitely a murder ballad.

“Lyin’ Eyes” by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, sung by the Eagles. This isn’t a murder ballad but it certainly sets up the situation for one. In a small town, young wife of older husband has young boyfriend. Any one of them could get bumped off if someone used this story as its premise.

“Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul, and Mary based on a poem by Leonard Lipton. I know that either in the 70’s or 80’s a animated version of this song was made. I always hated this song as a kid because I felt so sorry for Puff and thought Jackie Paper was a total jerk. This could be a fun or very touching middle grade novel.

For more for music prompts, click here.

What songs could be a novels?

Add Music and Poetry to Prose

Guest blogging for me today is author Bettie Boswell, advising why and how to add music and poetry to prose. She’s published in many genres, including children’s nonfiction, romance, and her latest effort, releasing in July, is a time-slip novel. Thank you, Bettie, for coming back to visit us!

March was Music in Our Schools Month and now April is National Poetry Month. What’s a writer to do? Write something musical or poetic, of course. When I taught music, students were encouraged to create their own music or rhythmic speech by using the natural rhythms provided by rhythmic word flashcards. The cards helped them to come up with phrases, which flowed into a musical or poetic piece: Peaches, pear, popcorn, plum. Did you catch both the rhythm (short short, long, short, short, long) and the alliteration (same beginning sound) devices in that little phrase? A catchy title for your next suspense novel might use that pattern: Some Saints Sing, Some Souls Scream (or maybe not, but you get the idea.)

I think that title is fantastic. Or you can split it into two fantastic titles for two books in a series. I’m terrible at titles. I should consult you.

Did I hear you say you have no musical or poetic talents?

Whether you realize it or not, as a writer you can make use of music and poetic devices to improve your prose writing. You might even want to be really brave and add the words of a song or poem into your latest work-in-progress. My novel coming out in July will have several poems included as part of the story. You might even feel the call to try writing a Novel-in-Verse, which has become a very popular genre in the last few years. So, what can you do with your two left feet or should I say two broken pencils and warped word processors as you start adding a musical or poetic touch to your words? 

Let’s start with something simple–take a rest. In music a rest is when you don’t sing or play your instrument, you take a break to ready yourself for what will come next. In poetry the rest is white space between stanzas or line breaks between phases to give the reader time to savor the words. In prose, think about making use of white space. Use it between conversations. Break into long monologues with questions or action or reactions so the reader has time to contemplate what will come next and look forward with anticipation, instead of being lulled to sleep.

I never thought about the white space on the page like this. Great advice!

When the action gets tough for your characters, use a little staccato or accents. I. Told. You. To. Stop. Tap. Tap. Tap. The preceding onomatopoeic (sounds like what it is) tapping words also use another poetic device called repetition, which works well in the music and poetry worlds for refrains. I’m sure you can sing the chorus of many songs, even if you don’t know all the verses. If you’re writing for young children, they love that repeated phrase they can say along with the adult who is reading to them. As you write your prose, there may be something that needs heard more than once, or if you’re marketing your book you will need to repeat yourself many times before someone says, “I didn’t realize you wrote a book!”

Poetry, music and prose have many forms.

From a Beethoven symphony to a pop song, music enjoyment comes in multiple forms. New forms of poetry are invented all the time (see the link below.) You don’t have to have perfect rhythm or rhyme abilities to write a haiku, acrostic, or a list poem. Prose writing has forms like picturebooks, nonfiction, romance, suspense, mystery, allegory, and sci-fi, to name a few.  What if one of your characters speaks in poetry or riddles or writes about their pets in haiku? Explore the possibility of spicing up your story with a poem or song lyrics (you don’t even have to write the music notes for your song.) Maybe your hero or heroine has a catch phrase or manner of speaking that involves some poetic elements. You could even preface the character’s words as being bad poetry and get away with murder, that is, if you’re writing a mystery.

The use of poetic and musical tones can help establish a character’s voice. In my novel, Free to Love (July 2022-is the repetition working for you yet) one character records the past and establishes an important part of her personality through writing poetry about pre-Civil-War events that lead her to free someone in slavery and help them escape to the north. Tone or voice is also important in prose and music when it comes to establishing whether your piece will be happy, sad, yearning, or hopeless. 

So, don’t feel hopeless when it comes to your writing. Make it sing. Make it reach into your soul like a poem. Pour your emotions and heart into all that you do. Happy writing!

For more on poetic forms, click here.

So many good tips, Bettie! You’ve made me realize more than ever that prose isn’t so different from music and poetry. To read Bettie’s previous guest blogs, click here.

*****

When a college sweetheart used Ginny Cline’s dreams for his own glory, he stole her joy of composing music and her trust in men. Years later, encouraged by prayer and a chance to help the local museum, she dares to share her talents again. Unfortunately a financial backer forces her to place her music and trust into the hands of another man.

Theater professor Scott Hallmark’s summer camp benefactor coerces him into becoming the director of Ginny’s musical. The last thing he needs is another woman who uses him to get what they want, especially an amateur who has no idea what they are doing.

As Ginny’s interest in Scott grows, her confusion arises over Honey, a member of Scott’s praise band. Mix in a couple of dogs and quirky cast members for fun and frustration as the couple work together to discover that forgiveness and trust produce perfect harmony.

Note-I hope you can read On Cue soon since the prequel Free to Love will be available July 1, 2022.

*****

Bettie Boswell has always loved to read and create stories. That interest helped her create musicals for both church and school and eventually she decided to write and illustrate stories to share with the world. Her first experience with Christian romance started when she spent a summer with her grandmother during her early teen years and read a Grace Livingston Hill novel. Now she reads a Christian novel every week and sometimes more than one. Her writing interests extend from children’s to adult fiction and non-fiction. Her first romance novel, On Cue, debuted November 2020. The prequel to that novel, called Free to Love will be available from Mt. Zion Ridge Press in July 2022.  Here other books and stories are “Fred’s Gift” in From the Lake to the River, Sidetracked, and Skateboarding. Before that she contributed to educational works, magazine articles, and devotional and short story anthologies. She has two grown sons, three grandchildren, and a busy minister husband. Follow her on her website, Bettie Boswell, Author/Illustrator.

Haiku That’s Not Based on Nature

The form of poetry called haiku is a three-line poem with a strict syllable structure. The first line is five syllables, the second line is seven, and the third line is five. I love haiku because it forces me to choose my words with great care. Haiku usually uses some aspect of nature as its topic. To play with it a bit, my prompt is to write a haiku that’s not based on nature. Here’s my inspiration:

The alarms erupts.

It’s still night, but I stagger

Into the school sprint.

JPC Allen

I’d love to read your inspiration for a haiku that’s not based on nature in the comments.

For more haiku prompts, click here.

Using Poetic Devices in Prose

Have you ever thought of using poetic devices in prose? I got to thinking about this concept after reading  this post on Almost an Author by Darlo Gemeinhardt. Prose writers can use these techniques as long as we don’t overuse them. Alliteration, consonance, and assonance bring a rhythm to prose that, hopefully, make it memorable.

Alliteration — “the repetition of initial consonant sounds”. From Alliteration: The Sound of Poetry I

I love alliteration, but I’m always afraid of using it too much, making my writing look amateurish. So I’ll ask your opinion. Which do you think is better?

“I glued my gaze to the gun.”

“I fastened my gaze to the gun.”

I went with the second, buy maybe the first was better.

Another thing I’ve noticed with alliteration is that superheroes seemed to have alliterative names: Bruce Banner, Clark Kent, and Peter Parker. If you are thinking of creating a superhero, an alliterative name is something to consider.

I had alliteration in mind when I created the name of the main character of my YA mystery series. I wanted something memorable, something catchy. Using an alliterative names seemed the easiest way to accomplish that. I chose “Rae” because I liked the idea of a male-sounding name for a female but not a really unusual one. So I came up with “Rae Riley”.

Consonance — the repetition of the same consonant sound within words that are contained in the same line or sentence. From Consonance: The Sound of Poetry II.

Consonance reminded me of a writing exercise in my college creative writing class. The professor asked us to think of words that sounded a certain way, such as words that sound cold. I came up with “incisive.” The long “I” and “s” signaled cold to me. When the professor asked for words that sounded fat, I suggested “triumphant.”

So when trying to set the mood of a scene, I keep in mind how the words sound. For a scene where a character is sneaking through the night, I might use words that have a lot of “s” sounds. “N” also sounds soft. I would use “night” more often than “dark”, which has a harder sound.

But a fight scene could use harsher sounds, like “k”, “d’, and “t”.

Assonance — the repetition of vowel sounds anywhere within a group of words. From The Music of Poetry by Darlo Gemeinhardt

Assonance can give rhythm to names. When I wrote the short story, “Debt to Pay”, I needed to create a name for a character who is a millionaire. Since he isn’t one of those arrogant, trampling-the-masses kind of millionaire. I decided the name couldn’t be too strong. Names ending in “ton” sound wealthy and powerful, like “Kensington”. or  “Covington”. I decided on “Everett”. Not too imposing, but it sounded like the family could be from old money. I chose “Adam” as the first name because it’s fairly traditional, suitable for a member of an old-money family, but not as boring Richard or Robert.

When I put “Adam Everett” together, I really liked the rhythm and now I know why. The assonance of the short “a” in “Adam” and the short “e” in Everett give the name a dash of poetry.

For more posts on poetry, click here.

Have you considered using poetic devices in prose? What stories have you read that are poetic and written in prose?

Prompt for a Spring Poem

New month, new theme! April is national poetry month. I decided to combine music and poetry as my theme since aspects of the two arts overlap. I was going to have a prompt for a spring haiku today, but then a poem came to me that was strictly modern, so I settled on a prompt for a spring poem–any style. Hope you enjoy it! Please write your spring poem in the comments. Click here for more poetry prompts.

Spring creeps in.

Not like its cousin Fall,

Who bursts onto the scene

In a blaze of glory.

Spring sneaks and slides,

A bud here, a blade there.

And then you wake up one morning

And green has wrapped the world

In a serene hug.

JPC Allen

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑