• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

How do you write fantasy lyrics?

This is of course a subset of lyric/poem-writing, but with the addition that I want to
I've got some songs that have good worldbuilding, whose lyrics describe interesting worlds not like our own:
There Won't Be No Country Music, There Won't Be No Rock 'n Roll, C. W. McCall
Lookin' Out My Backdoor, CCR
The Noah Plan, Peter Schilling
Artificial Heart, Jonathan Coulton
Sleeping with a Gun under My Pillow, The Boy Least Likely To

The way that the likes of They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton write lyrics, I like, but I myself can't do. I don't think I could have written "These are not the clothes I had on when I went the bed... and when I close my eyes it looks the same as when I open them again," and songs with lyrics with no logical flow like Let's Get This Over With I simply can't write. I bring these up because they seem like a great way to get fantastical worlds across. I always get the impression of some larger world listening to TMBG's lyrics.
There's probably other ways, though. How do you write songs about other worlds, be they futures, pasts, or nevers? How do you exposit fantastical creatures or settings in the span of a song?


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
I don't know much about music, but I've taken to writing poems for my stories, some of which would be musical in-world. A lot of songs don't read well when you take away the music and just look at the words. Too much repetition, some random out of place words, meters that only work because of the way they're sung. Even if it's supposed to be a song, I have to write it for the written word, to be read in a book, so I want to write around that. I can't assume that every reader is going to hear "a-oh-oh-ohhh" the same way in their head as I would want them to. I think most would read it as awkward and feel uncomfortable. I want to avoid that. So I think about it in terms of poetry.
Ooh, I wasn't referring to songs whose lyrics go into stories. I was referring to self-contained songs that exist in real-life and are sung and performed.
I guess the answer is that you write them the same way as you would write songs about this world. Practise until it works. Writing songs is probably like writing a poem or writing a novel. It take a lot of practice and a lot of getting it wrong or only partially right before it starts to sound decent.

I remember a Writing Excuses episode on this topic, which might get you started: Writing Excuses 5.39: Filking and Writing Music with Tom Smith | Writing Excuses


I’ve done this before. I find method acting is the way to go. Like, take a character from your setting and think about the kind of song they would write.
If you got a good grasp on the character, they can describe all kinds of fantastic stuff but in a way that makes it sound natural and kind of mundane.

Come to think of it, I think “mundane” might be the key. When I listen to TMBG, I’m always really endeared to how they don’t seem to notice how odd their own lyrics can be to the point where they’d throw-in some humor or a quip because the strange subject matter is no big deal to them.
Personally, I tend to write more chivalric or old epic poems though recently I turned to Alfred Tennyson's style for one poem that's telling a story of a great battle (almost finished it actually), and it's been great fun.
You should also formulate your poems, to your own tastes though I do agree with WooHooMan, in conforming the poem to your character's tastes, for example; my troubadour/master assassin character of Renaud always sings depressing songs (he's led a terrible life), whereas his goddaughter, the princesse Marthe loves epic songs and love-tales so hers are always bubbly and full of romance, or about her beloved father. So her style is lyrical and rather like Snow-White, where his is sad, morose and more akin to down-pouring rain for lack of a better description.

Sorry for using my story as an ex, I should have found actually successful authors/poets varying their styles, I do believe Tolkien did this. Aragorn (my favourite of his poet characters)'s style is somber and dignified at quite a few points, especially at Boromir's funeral.