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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey Guys, I need some opinions. I'm writing a chapter where my female protagonist (a musician) is singing a song at an open mic night. Part of the back story here is that the male MC meets her before this and they've had conversations about life and their beliefs that come through in the protagonists open mic song. Right before this, the male MC has sort of decided he is intrigued by her, but isnt sure he even wants to try a relationship based on his own issues going on. So I want to convey that as he is watching and listening to her, it really sets in for him that they are kindred souls- it kind of locks in his decision to pursue a relationship with her.

That being said, do you think the actual song and lyrics need to be in the chapter, like a chorus or something, or would it be better to just have it all be his internal thoughts and reactions to the song he's hearing?

Thanks everyone! I've been toying with both ways for a bit and frustrating myself and I just need to write the thing at this point. I do know the lyrics to the song she wrote, I like actually wrote the song and all. I'm just not sure if it needs to be there for the reader or if it was more for me to use in character development.
 

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If the song is emotionally resonant and you own the copyright to it, I say, why not? Chuck it in and enjoy.

I'm in a similar place. I'm working on a novel where a song makes repeat appearances in snippets, like a running theme. It's a lot of fun to weave it in.
 

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It's funny, as I was reading your post it reminded me of the final scene in the movie "La La Land".

But to answer your question, if it were me, I would definitely add the lyrics in. This would be a nice way to show both perspectives and could possibly make the scene a lot more emotional and powerful.

However, I wouldn't just toss the whole lyrics out in a big chunk. It'd be more interesting to go back and forth... a few lines of the songs, followed by some descriptions / thoughts from the MC, then a few more lines, etc. You can build up on the emotions/tension that way a lot more effectively, I think.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It's funny, as I was reading your post it reminded me of the final scene in the movie "La La Land".

But to answer your question, if it were me, I would definitely add the lyrics in. This would be a nice way to show both perspectives and could possibly make the scene a lot more emotional and powerful.

However, I wouldn't just toss the whole lyrics out in a big chunk. It'd be more interesting to go back and forth... a few lines of the songs, followed by some descriptions / thoughts from the MC, then a few more lines, etc. You can build up on the emotions/tension that way a lot more effectively, I think.
That's a good idea! Thank you!
 

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Writing songs for books is interesting. They need to work for the narrative. They need to accomplish some narrative task. In this case, is it him learning something about her? Make sure the song is doing that. Make sure it's something interesting.

Lyrics in books also need to pass. That is, they need to read as if they were written by the character. They style and quality need to be there. It's not easy!

If the song adds to the narrative, add it. If not, hold it. You can always add it later or send it to readers as bonus material.

IME most people enjoy lyrics in books but a vocal minority really don't like it. I loved writing the songs for my first rock star book. I'd love to have another chance to write lyics that needed to do so much narrative work and match such a specific voice. I think the lyrics turned out pretty good, but they are there first to serve the story and second to sound good. That's important to remember.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Writing songs for books is interesting. They need to work for the narrative. They need to accomplish some narrative task. In this case, is it him learning something about her? Make sure the song is doing that. Make sure it's something interesting.

Lyrics in books also need to pass. That is, they need to read as if they were written by the character. They style and quality need to be there. It's not easy!

If the song adds to the narrative, add it. If not, hold it. You can always add it later or send it to readers as bonus material.

IME most people enjoy lyrics in books but a vocal minority really don't like it. I loved writing the songs for my first rock star book. I'd love to have another chance to write lyics that needed to do so much narrative work and match such a specific voice. I think the lyrics turned out pretty good, but they are there first to serve the story and second to sound good. That's important to remember.
Good point. I do feel like at least a portion of the verses will hit home for him and resonate as a shared self doubt that he has in common with her, which will help him through his arc, so maybe not the whole song. I'll have to mull it over when I draft the chapter. Thanks!
 

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Definitely doesn't have to be the whole song. Just use what you need.

I actually did something like this in a novella I finished writing a few days ago. The MC is with a group of soldiers and they're singing a song while they march. I didn't include the whole song, because it would have been overkill, but I did toss in one verse that I felt would add something to the story, both in mood and in plot.
 

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I think it can be done well for sure. If you have a song with powerful lyrics, then for sure, it's all good :) The main problem that I've seen with music in Lit is that you are always telling and not showing. You can't mentally show someone a song that they haven't heard before. At best, it's a guess. But if the lyrics of the song impact the story and plot, a song can add a lot. I've seen one really bad example of music in a book, and maybe it will help.

So, I was reading this book and the main character was supposed to be this great musician. Like he was someone that was so amazing and so unique that the audience fell into an awed hush when he played. The problem is, the only way the author could describe this was to tell how the audience reacted. You are supposed to have this musician who blows everyone away, but for me the reader, I can't hear it, I can't be blown away. And you can't build a strong character just based on how people react. It would be like if your romance main character always just had people around them saying, "You're the best lover ever." It's not the same as describing a love scene, where you can really show you who they are by building an intimate scene for the reader. I think the song just needs to work for the book and the plot, and

Heh, I don't mean anything about your book, to be clear :LOL: I think music in books is wonderful, but it can be hard, and I mostly just wanted to say that I saw it go wrong once, and hopefully that helps maybe.
 

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Hmm, I don't agree. I think telling would be "He's the greatest musician ever" and showing is showing how the audience/MC reacts to the music. But it's still annoying to constantly hear how brilliant a character is without proof. Or even with proof. No one is so brilliant everyone agrees they're brilliant. Someone out there thinks they're annoying or untalented or smug.

By having a non-audio format, you avoid the common narrative problem of proving the brilliant artist is brilliant. I read so many books where one MC is supposedly this amazing artist/writer/whatever, but the way they talk about art is 101 AF. I read a teacher/student book where the expert senior student and the professor were talking about her painting and he's super impressed by how she used contrasting colors to show contrasting emotions. Really? That's fine, but it's not the insight I expect from a freaking professor. Or a senior student. That's baby's first art lesson stuff.

I another book where two econ nerds were talking about how they loved Freakanomics. Don't get me wrong. I love Freakanomics. But I would be shocked if econ nerds love Freakanomics. I would expect most econ nerds roll their eyes at Freakanomics for being so basic. And that hearing "do you like Freakanomics" is the econ equivalent of romance authors hearing "is it like 50SoG."

It's a challenge, because even if you are an expert, the audience probably isn't. You have to talk about art/music/econ/whatever in a way that feels authentic AND translates to your audience. Harder than it sounds.
 

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I think it can be done well for sure. If you have a song with powerful lyrics, then for sure, it's all good :) The main problem that I've seen with music in Lit is that you are always telling and not showing. You can't mentally show someone a song that they haven't heard before. At best, it's a guess. But if the lyrics of the song impact the story and plot, a song can add a lot. I've seen one really bad example of music in a book, and maybe it will help.

So, I was reading this book and the main character was supposed to be this great musician. Like he was someone that was so amazing and so unique that the audience fell into an awed hush when he played. The problem is, the only way the author could describe this was to tell how the audience reacted. You are supposed to have this musician who blows everyone away, but for me the reader, I can't hear it, I can't be blown away. And you can't build a strong character just based on how people react. It would be like if your romance main character always just had people around them saying, "You're the best lover ever." It's not the same as describing a love scene, where you can really show you who they are by building an intimate scene for the reader. I think the song just needs to work for the book and the plot, and

Heh, I don't mean anything about your book, to be clear :LOL: I think music in books is wonderful, but it can be hard, and I mostly just wanted to say that I saw it go wrong once, and hopefully that helps maybe.
That's one thing that film can do better than books. Want to make the audience understand how awesome a singer is? Have him sing on screen. You don't need to SAY he's awesome, you can just have him perform and show how others react.

Though yes, Crystal is correct that taste is all relative, but in a case like that what matters is not so much that the singer IS good (the viewer might not agree), but rather that he is PERCEIVED as good by many, and that you can do really well in film.

You can do it in books too, but it's a lot more tricky.
 

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Writing songs for books is interesting. They need to work for the narrative. They need to accomplish some narrative task. In this case, is it him learning something about her? Make sure the song is doing that. Make sure it's something interesting.

Lyrics in books also need to pass. That is, they need to read as if they were written by the character. They style and quality need to be there. It's not easy!

If the song adds to the narrative, add it. If not, hold it. You can always add it later or send it to readers as bonus material.

IME most people enjoy lyrics in books but a vocal minority really don't like it. I loved writing the songs for my first rock star book. I'd love to have another chance to write lyrics that needed to do so much narrative work and match such a specific voice. I think the lyrics turned out pretty good, but they are there first to serve the story and second to sound good. That's important to remember.
As a musician, I agree with this. I wrote some lyrics for a sinister metal song in my current WIP, and used 2 verses, though I have the whole song penned and chord progression worked out. Using the entire song would have been indulgent. I used the two verses that relate to what is going on in the MCs life and story, with lines that relate to her fear of situations that have occurred. The lyrics were sent to her in a text from an ex-boyfriend/musician who she believes is stalking her. The lyrics also are construed by her to show the ex-boyfriends state of mind as foreshadowing of the story. I guess the lyrics can be either read as lyrics or as a poem as a cry for help, with sinister overtones in this case, so the reader doesn't have to hear the song.
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I think it can be done well for sure. If you have a song with powerful lyrics, then for sure, it's all good :) The main problem that I've seen with music in Lit is that you are always telling and not showing. You can't mentally show someone a song that they haven't heard before. At best, it's a guess. But if the lyrics of the song impact the story and plot, a song can add a lot. I've seen one really bad example of music in a book, and maybe it will help.

So, I was reading this book and the main character was supposed to be this great musician. Like he was someone that was so amazing and so unique that the audience fell into an awed hush when he played. The problem is, the only way the author could describe this was to tell how the audience reacted. You are supposed to have this musician who blows everyone away, but for me the reader, I can't hear it, I can't be blown away. And you can't build a strong character just based on how people react. It would be like if your romance main character always just had people around them saying, "You're the best lover ever." It's not the same as describing a love scene, where you can really show you who they are by building an intimate scene for the reader. I think the song just needs to work for the book and the plot, and

Heh, I don't mean anything about your book, to be clear :LOL: I think music in books is wonderful, but it can be hard, and I mostly just wanted to say that I saw it go wrong once, and hopefully that helps maybe.
Haha no offense taken! That's actually the exactly reason I am on the fence about even adding in the song. Because I have seen it done poorly in other books and cringed, and I would hate for anything to be there that isn't essential and meaningful in some way. I don't want to create a cringey chapter just because the MC is a musician and has a song to sing. I have another chapter I'm pretty proud of where it describes the feel of the music, and I'm hoping I can blend the two for this chapter. A feel of the music and how it effects him maybe with just those few lines that really hit home for him. Thanks for the advice!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
As a musician, I agree with this. I wrote some lyrics for a sinister metal song in my current WIP, and used 2 verses, though I have the whole song penned. Using the entire song would have been indulgent. I used the two verses that relate to what is going on in the MCs life and story, with lines that relate to her fear of situations that have occurred. The lyrics were sent to her in a text from an ex-boyfriend/musician who she believes is stalking her. The lyrics also are construed by her to show the ex-boyfriends state of mind as foreshadowing of the story. I guess the lyrics can be either read as lyrics or as a poem in this case.
I want to read this! It sounds cool!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hmm, I don't agree. I think telling would be "He's the greatest musician ever" and showing is showing how the audience/MC reacts to the music. But it's still annoying to constantly hear how brilliant a character is without proof. Or even with proof. No one is so brilliant everyone agrees they're brilliant. Someone out there thinks they're annoying or untalented or smug.

By having a non-audio format, you avoid the common narrative problem of proving the brilliant artist is brilliant. I read so many books where one MC is supposedly this amazing artist/writer/whatever, but the way they talk about art is 101 AF. I read a teacher/student book where the expert senior student and the professor were talking about her painting and he's super impressed by how she used contrasting colors to show contrasting emotions. Really? That's fine, but it's not the insight I expect from a freaking professor. Or a senior student. That's baby's first art lesson stuff.

I another book where two econ nerds were talking about how they loved Freakanomics. Don't get me wrong. I love Freakanomics. But I would be shocked if econ nerds love Freakanomics. I would expect most econ nerds roll their eyes at Freakanomics for being so basic. And that hearing "do you like Freakanomics" is the econ equivalent of romance authors hearing "is it like 50SoG."

It's a challenge, because even if you are an expert, the audience probably isn't. You have to talk about art/music/econ/whatever in a way that feels authentic AND translates to your audience. Harder than it sounds.
Great point. I hate when I find stuff like that in books. You roll your eyes when you're thinking, "I didn't even study cooking ever and even I know a soufle is hard to make." In this case, she's not even an amazing musician and nobody is saying she is...I know you were all using that as an example and not literally, but the point of the song isn't to show how great she is that he loves her for it, it's more about the fact that a few of the lines in her song show him that there's a part of her that's broken just like him. And in that moment he begins to trust her more, knowing that she understands that darker part of like many others don't. I guess I should just make sure to convey that in his thoughts as he's listening to those verses. Shes not even an amazing musican. I just think she understands him and her music is what shows that to him.
 

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I want to read this! It sounds cool!
What would be cool, would be to have it recorded in a studio and to use it as a soundtrack for a promo video for the book. Maybe put it on YouTube with a link at the back of the book. Still that really would be indulgent and costly as an amateur, especially if it was crap lol..
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
What would be cool, would be to have it recorded in a studio and to use it as a soundtrack for a promo video for the book. Maybe put it on YouTube with a link at the back of the book. Still that really would be indulgent and costly as an amateur, especially if it was crap lol..
I didn't even know that was a thing people did! I'm so new at all of this stuff. Something to keep on the back burner once I finally finish this thing. One day lol.
 

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But it's still annoying to constantly hear how brilliant a character is without proof.
This reminds me of the movie Roadhouse. They spend so much time having people say "Patrick Swayze is the baddest man alive" that they forget to actually have him fight people until the very end. Constantly having hype men around you does not always mean that you are actually great. Super off topic, but it always bugged me :LOL:
 

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In this case, she's not even an amazing musician and nobody is saying she is...I know you were all using that as an example and not literally, but the point of the song isn't to show how great she is that he loves her for it, it's more about the fact that a few of the lines in her song show him that there's a part of her that's broken just like him. And in that moment he begins to trust her more, knowing that she understands that darker part of like many others don't. I guess I should just make sure to convey that in his thoughts as he's listening to those verses. Shes not even an amazing musican. I just think she understands him and her music is what shows that to him.
It sounds like the lyrics will add a lot then.

I think romance readers will like it too. I love when someone falls for someone else via their words. What's more romantic than someone understanding your deepest secrets? Or finding those deep secrets in your work? I wrote a secret journal book a few books ago and it was one of my favorites. Readers seemed to like that element too. But if they didn't, oh well. Can't please everyone.

I absolutely included more lyrics than necessary in the book I wrote with lyrics, but it's extremely easy to skip lyrics/poetry in a book. If readers don't like them, they can very easy skip past them. The key, as said above, is to not overhype the lyrics. It sounds like you're not in any danger. But for anyone else considering including in world writing of some kind in their book. If everyone in the book says it's brilliant, you better deliver brilliance!

I've included a handful of poems by eighteen year old characters for various reasons and I usually write them pretty quickly, because they're not supposed to be great. More a way the hero is just so obsessed with the heroine's thoughts/wants to know every place she hurts.

I did read a book where each chapter started with a snippet of a poem by an anon poet and in the end it turns out the poet was the heroine all along! And it was EXTREMELY OBNOXIOUS. I didn't like anything about the book, so I was not really on track to like it, but that was ridiculous.

Hey, I love His Dark Materials, but I really don't need two lines of poetry opening every chapter of The Amber Spyglass. The only time I enjoyed those were when they were Emily Dickinson poems and only because I happened to have just watched Dickinson (highly recommended, esp season two) before my last reread of TAS.

So, yeah, sometimes less is more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
It sounds like the lyrics will add a lot then.

I think romance readers will like it too. I love when someone falls for someone else via their words. What's more romantic than someone understanding your deepest secrets? Or finding those deep secrets in your work? I wrote a secret journal book a few books ago and it was one of my favorites. Readers seemed to like that element too. But if they didn't, oh well. Can't please everyone.

I absolutely included more lyrics than necessary in the book I wrote with lyrics, but it's extremely easy to skip lyrics/poetry in a book. If readers don't like them, they can very easy skip past them. The key, as said above, is to not overhype the lyrics. It sounds like you're not in any danger. But for anyone else considering including in world writing of some kind in their book. If everyone in the book says it's brilliant, you better deliver brilliance!

I've included a handful of poems by eighteen year old characters for various reasons and I usually write them pretty quickly, because they're not supposed to be great. More a way the hero is just so obsessed with the heroine's thoughts/wants to know every place she hurts.

I did read a book where each chapter started with a snippet of a poem by an anon poet and in the end it turns out the poet was the heroine all along! And it was EXTREMELY OBNOXIOUS. I didn't like anything about the book, so I was not really on track to like it, but that was ridiculous.

Hey, I love His Dark Materials, but I really don't need two lines of poetry opening every chapter of The Amber Spyglass. The only time I enjoyed those were when they were Emily Dickinson poems and only because I happened to have just watched Dickinson (highly recommended, esp season two) before my last reread of TAS.

So, yeah, sometimes less is more.
I do feel you there! The books that have too much poetry, I do find myself skipping by it. I'm usually not sure how it relates to the chapter yet either...until after the rest of the chapter is read, so i'm ususlly annoyed like what is this unnecessary two lines here and how will it connect to what I haven't yet read?

Your secret journal sounds neat- as a reader I always enjoy the raw thoughts of characters. They feel real rather than perfectly crafted. Thanks for the suggestions and advice!
 
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