We Must Be Like Song Writers

I’m a bit of an instrumental music junkie, but as a writer, I can’t help but admire a song with really well written lyrics.

There’s more to writing than simply finding the right words for the right context. A well crafted paragraph must contain fluidity, musicality, melody. The sound a word makes must be taken into account when judging how it will flow in your sentence; the syllables and consonance and assonance are subconsciously noted when listening to a beautiful word. I’ve heard it said that the most aesthetically pleasing phrase in the English language is not “love” or “compassion” or “mother” — it’s “cellar door.”

Say it out loud now, without attaching any context or meaning to it. Cellar door.

Of course, we can’t disregard connotation when writing a piece of fiction or non-fiction, so we must be like song writers  — deliberate in our meaning, yet fluent in our presentation.

I’ll throw to the wind an old favorite of mine.

Like faithful oxen through the chalk,
With dragging tails of history walk.
We soon confuse the compass and the cross.
Carefully and cursively we fill our traveling diaries with loss.

The above are lyrics from “History Book,” a song by the (now broken up) band Dry the River. It’s a song about young lovers growing up and carrying the past with them.

Let’s take it apart, shall we?

The Technical: The very first line — Like faithful oxen through the chalk — is iambic tetrameter with consonance on the repeated th– and f- sounds. The second line — With dragging tails of history walk. — follows near suit. We soon confuse the compass and the cross. Carefully and cursively we fill our traveling diaries with loss. — these lines are ripe with alliteration, repeated s- and c- consonants, careful stressing of syllables, and all around listening pleasure. Seriously. Listen to the lead singer open with these lines, and your ears will melt down your neck.

The Connotation: The image of oxen dragging tails through chalk as they migrate for days upon days is a powerful one. Like faithful oxen, the lead singer croons, because he and his lover are akin to those ancient, nomadic beasts. They have travelled far; they have learned much in the ways of love and individuality and life. They have gone on so long, that they can’t tell the difference between the compass and the cross. What is guiding them anymore? Religion or their own intuitions?

I’m not saying you have to make everything a symbol (please don’t do that) or fling alliteration about all willy-nilly (the absolute worst), but writing and thinking like a song writer can help you feel present in your work. By weighing sound and subject, you can tell a story while setting a melody.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

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Oh Rose

Oh Rose, will you wake from your slumber?
Oh Rose, will you climb from the dirt?
There are shadows approaching;
they darken the sun —
Oh Rose, find your root, take the world.

Oh Rose, do you know they are praying?
Oh Rose, they are crying for you!
Their hearts, how they’ve blackened,
so they tend your soil —
Oh Rose, spread your petals, pursue.

Oh Rose, what is it that you’ve done?
Oh Rose, there is blood on your hands!
You choked from the earth
the spirits sheltered  —
Oh Rose, steel your stem and withstand.

Oh Rose, have you heard the people talking?
Oh Rose, they condemn you for dead!
Your thorns have grown long
and strangled the land —
Oh Rose, they’re coming, duck your head.

Oh Rose, you must go into hiding.
Oh Rose, you must strike from the dark.
The shadows are creeping,
their souls restless now.
Oh Rose, you must free them, embark! 

© 2015 Stellular Scribe

The Maid of Ruby Rill

A born a day of rags and fray, I smelled a hearth in th’ air —
what smells a hearth? why, dogs of course!
and be a dog, I dare.
Such smoke led south ‘round weeping wastes,
and up past yonder hill —
and dancing in the blaze so chaste
be the Maid of Ruby Rill!

She twirled her skirts and called my name, and long a gasp I sighed —
be she a nymph? a siren wraith?
for hooked I was inside.
Honeyed words she kissed my way,
and fierce I felt a thrill —
and what possessed me then to pray
for the Maid of Ruby Rill?

Sweet as sour-grass her song; warm as winter her grin —
but what of flames? did not she blaze?
how white still shone her skin!
Then deep within my core I yearned
and leapt to touch her still —

but crimson bit my hand and burned
my dear Maid of Ruby Rill.

Blackness bled into her eyes, serpentine her smile curled —
what form be this? a trick? a guise?
taunting, her tail unfurled.
Shocked my heart and swiped my breath,
I yelped a plea so shrill —
“Sweet lady, now be not my death!”
to the Maid of Ruby Rill.

A knee I took to hold her gaze, and hands I pressed in prayer —
“what sin is mine? is craving a crime?
speak now or I’ll despair!”
With twisted lips she smirked in ire,
and whispered words of ill —
“Damned are you to tend my fire
here in Ruby Rill!”

A born a day of rags and fray, I sold my heart to her —
what sells a heart? why, slaves of course!
and slave I was, assured.
Of years nothing but dust remains,

but her hearth dances still —
for I have fed and fueled the flames
of the Maid of Ruby Rill.


I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and holiday season! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then hopefully it was a lovely time nonetheless. I haven’t posted anything for two whole weeks (gasp! I know!), but am finally getting back into the swing of things. Today I have for you a poem (actually, a song) that was written for my current fantasy series. I originally approached it with every intention of writing a silly, carefree tavern song — but it quickly developed a darker, more serious tone (as so many of my poems do).

Happy writing! 🙂

The Three

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In obsidian nights
when the rain lashes cold,
the wanderer weeps through the land.

All hear his plight,
as the twilight grows old;
in tempest, how can he withstand?

First come the stars,
like eyes in the sky,
looking down on the traveler’s trail.
Sanguine and simple,
they smile in surprise,
and gentle they breathe on the gale.

Then wakens the moon,
veiled in velvet and light
and his face chases shadows away.
Mystic, his guidance
leads the stray through the blight,
’round rivals and out of the gray. 

In silence, the sun
overlooks her domain,
and sees the roamer wet and cold.
Sagely, she spreads
her arms ‘cross the plains,
to embrace and warm him in gold.

In amber morrow,
when the weather has waned,
the wanderer sings to the skies.

None hear his sorrow,
for the Three banished pain,
and in joy, he strikes his reprise.


This is a song written for my work-in-progress. I really enjoy song-writing (especially when it’s for fantasy fiction), and find that it’s helpful in world-building and culture-creating. I also like to actually write the music for my songs; most of the time I use medieval styles, intervals, and instruments to establish its melody and harmony.

It’s probably difficult to understand the overall message of this song when taken out of context (though you can probably interpret it in multiple ways). Basically, the realm that my w.i.p. takes place in worships three fictional gods who take the form of the sun, moon, and stars. This would be a hymn sung in the Temple or by traveling minstrels.

The Boulder Knight

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The Boulder Knight! The Boulder Knight-
who moves mountains with his hands.
The Boulder Knight! The Boulder Knight-
he’s the backbone of the lands.

The eve was orange and the fire was blue,
and the Boulder Knight stood over his men-
“These lands of smoke,” he said, “Are ours to rue,
Will you stand with me and take them again?”

“With blood and flame we’ll make the Titan’s splay
for the crows across the ash splattered ground,
and then the un-burnt will become the blazed,
when the final wailing traitor is downed.”

Then with steel in hand and glory in heart,
the Boulder Knight lead the charge through the mist,
and they pulled the leeches and land apart
before the Titans could even persist.

The Boulder Knight! The Boulder Knight-
who moves mountains with his hands.
The Boulder Knight! The Boulder Knight-
he’s the backbone of the lands.


 

Here is yet another song/poem from the project I’m working on. Taken out of context, it might be a bit difficult to understand. I am also writing music to go with the ‘lyrics’.