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How do you write fantasy lyrics?

Discussion in 'Writing Resources' started by Electric Bone Flute, Apr 9, 2021.

  1. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Minstrel

    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?
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    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.
  3. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Minstrel

    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.
  4. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

    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
    Malik likes this.
  5. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    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.

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