Songwriters Series

Music has been the overwhelming influence in my world this past month.  I’ve had the chance to discover some new bands and have gained a few new favorite songs.  I also started wondering more and more about similarities and differences between what a songwriter does and what book writers do.  My hope is to keep finding new bands/singers/songwriters to fall in love with and maybe even snag a few who might be willing to answer these questions.


These are just a few things that popped into my mind this week:


What is the secret to conveying so much in so few words?  The song that just had me swaying along was a mere 178 words long.  The book I’m working on that hopefully does the same?  104,000 words.

Is there any similarity between plotting a song and plotting a story?  Are there industry formulaic “rules” a songwriter follows that would be similar to our plot lines and character arcs?  Is there an editing process songwriters go through with their lyrics?

Is there an element they know they have to get right, for example emotion, sentiment, sound, message, theme, story in order for the song to work?  I have heard it said that you can have a successful book with a not-so-zippy plot as long as you’ve got exciting, sympathetic characters.  Is the same true for their songs?

Do musicians have similar contrasting feelings about the evolution of music into the digital age as authors do with their books?  Comparing holding a physical record or CD in their hands to knowing the benefits that digital media offer as far as ease and speed of sharing their work with listeners/readers.

Does a songwriter feel more personally exposed sharing their lyrics than an author writing a fictional story or are songs often fictionalized?

Is there a comparison to be made for the feeling of energy a musician receives from performing a live show?  I don’t know yet, but is a book-reading as electric as a bass-pounding, amped up song set?

Musicians are often the subjects of our stories.  How many bluesy, guitar-strapped-across-his-back heroes have we strutted across our pages?  How many punk rock, attitude-served-up-on-a-prickly-stick heroines have we designed to deconstruct the poor boy next door?  Do songwriters tend to write about a certain type of person?  A tortured lover or a girl trying to make her way in the world?

What is more powerful for them, a song about a moment or the big picture? 

Whatever our similarities and differences, I know the songwriter/musician is an essential component to my artistic expression and very often the muse that drives the words onto the page.  I think that means I owe them a big ole thank you!  Thanks!

As we speak, I’ve submitted this list of questions to a new favorite band and if I hear back, I’ll be sure to post their answers here and invite them to the pond.

Have a great musical day everyone!


12 thoughts on “Songwriters Series

  1. I love when Carlene-Mermaid talks about music. You can just feel the excitement!

    I often wonder about the process of the song writer. So I really hope you get that interview soon.

    Question for you: do you create a playlist for your characters/story? If you do, want to share any of the songs?

  2. Hi Kerri-Mermaid, why thank you. I definitely create playlists for the story and the characters in the stories. Do you? I’d like to see yours too if you don’t mind.
    My southern gentleman saves girl from seedy rockstars story songs:
    Why I’m Feeling Blue by Casey James
    Better Than Me by Hinder
    The Dead of Night by Depeche Mode

    My Friends-to-Lovers story songs:
    Dog & Butterfly by Heart
    No Rush by Josh Turner
    Cold Desert by Kings of Leon
    My Best Friend by Tim McGraw

    1. Hi Avery! That’s what I was thinking as well, but then I thought, what is the magical ingredient that differentiates a poet from a songwriter? You know, for example I have learned there’s a huge difference between writing the short story (thank you Avery for that Garden Story experience) and the full length novel. Another question I have to ask is the part about setting the lyrics to the music. Thanks for reading me today, Avery Mermaid!

  3. Carlene,
    I often wonder about a songwriter’s inspiration. And is there anything more interesting and exciting as trying to figure out whether the songwriter is speaking from experience? And if so, then that kind of humanizes them a bit, doesn’t it? That they can experience the same heartbreak, the same betrayal, the same yearning as the rest of us. How many rumors went around about Phil Collins’s song “In the Air Tonight”? Did he watch someone drown, get murdered? What? And if anyone could keep a dry eye the first time they heard Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”about the death of his four-year old son, then they should be horse-whipped. Taylor Swift makes no apologies for her songs about all the boys she’s loved. LOL. Those break-ups and angsty feelings have skyrocketed her to the top of the charts. 🙂
    I think whether you write songs, books, poetry, or anything else, you pour a bit of yourself into it. And that’s what resonates with listeners/readers. And that’s why it’s also so highly personal.
    Great post, Carlene!

    1. Thank you so much for weighing in, Kim. I really appreciate your thoughts on the subject. I was thinking more about it and even if you are writing a piece of fiction, it’s still being filtered through your own thoughts, feelings, experiences. So it’s all very personal. You are right.

  4. Carlene mermaid..
    I hope your writing has a lot of music in it. You definitely light up when you talk about it.. it comes through in how you express yourself. That’s such a gift that you can get inspiration from music!

    1. Thank you, Masha. I just found out today that my grandpa, (my mom’s dad) played guitar and sang for the 1960’s and ’70’s Texas band, Tommy Tolleson and the Gulf Coast 4 Star. It’s definitely in my blood and feels nice to surround myself in when I’m writing. Thank you for noticing 😉

  5. Grandpa JC also wrote contemporary songs & gospel hymns. He sang & played guitar on some for me, recording them on a cassette when he came to San Diego for your birth. He died 1 1/2 yrs later before he got to professionally record his own music. Then my friend’s son recorded a scratchy album over my father’s cassette so I don’t have any of his music left. You have creative juices on both sides & they manifest themselves beautifully in your work. Love you 😉

    1. Thank you, Mom. I found a CD with Grandpa JC singing with Tommy Tolleson and the Gulf Coast 4 Star, that way you will have his voice again. Love you.

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