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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Good Songfic: Discussion and Tips

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Discorpor8, Feb 25, 2007.

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  1. Discorpor8

    Discorpor8 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2005
    Songfics, in my mind, can be interesting, well-done, and fun to write. Unfortunately, the songfic has garnered a bad reputation for the often derivative and poorly written fics it produces. That's why I've set out to create the ultimate guide to writing a good songfic. Feel free to post links to your songfics, and feel free to discuss the challenges and successes you've encountered while experimenting with this genre of fan fiction.

    THE GUIDE

    As I have said before, there is such thing as a good songfic. Here are some tips for writing one:

    1. Actually write a story around the song. Don't just adapt the lyrics to whatever character or situation you're describing.

    2. On the flip side, use the lyrics to enhance the story, not clutter it. Act as if you're writing a music video with dialog. The lyrics of the song should reflect what's going on.

    3. Also think about tempo and the instrumental parts of the song. The reader will hear the song in their heads as they read, and nothing is more of a mood killer than an upbeat song in a serious fic.

    4. But, if you want a little humor, you can make the song slightly incongruous with the story (think "Stuck in the Middle With You" in Reservoir Dogs).

    5. Don't stick to just one genre of music. Show tunes, rock, pop, rap, country, jazz, and even classical have interesting, compelling songs.

    6. Lyrics DO NOT belong in dialog. Ever.

    7. Think about alternate meanings and double entendres that some songs have. Do your research, or you could end up with some very humorous results.

    8. On that note, be careful of songs translated from other languages for the same reason.

    9. Keep changing the lyrics around to a minimum. It's OK if the song refers to things like cars and the like. If it has too many references or subject matter that doesn't go well in the Star Wars universe, look for a different song.

    10. Above all: have a good time writing, and don't be afraid to experiment!


    Some Recommended Songs

    In a songfic, the song is, of course, the most important part. Here are some songs that I love for fics, and for what plot, characters, etc. they would do best.

    "Existentialism on Prom Night" (Straylight Run)---Very emotional, beautiful love song.

    "No More" (Into the Woods)---Good song for father-son relationships. Vader/Luke, Han/Jacen, you name it.

    "Chasing Cars" (Snow Patrol)---Although it's a tad overused, this is an amazing love song. If nothing else, use it for this line alone: All that I am/all that I ever was/is right here in your perfect eyes/they're all I can see.

    "When Somebody Loved Me" (Toy Story 2)---Hands down the most heartbreaking breakup song ever.

    "Nightswimming" (REM)---I have painful memories of being rejected on the dance floor to this song. It's another great one for breakups, deaths, and the like.

    "O Fortuna" (Carl Orff)---Bombastic, powerful, great lyrics that sound just as awesome in English as they do in Latin. Use for epic duels.

    "Till Him" (The Producers)---A surprisingly sweet little ditty about meeting the perfect man.

    "As Time Goes By" (Casablanca)---A classic. Good for romance between older characters.

    "Children Will Listen" (Into the Woods)---Wonderful for fics involving kids.

    "Hurt" (Nine Inch Nails)---The classic angst song. Tread carefully. This song has been used in many a bad songfic, and some may ridicule you for using it.

    "Keep Me in your Heart" (Warren Zevon)---I was in a puddle crying when I first heard this song. You probably will be too.


    Feel free to suggest songs you've loved working with, and share your experiences in writing songfics.
     
  2. SabyneAmberle

    SabyneAmberle Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 16, 2004
    I love to write songfics, personally. They're one of my favorite things to write. :D

    I think they draw me because it's easy to take a song and imagine how a character or scenario can be written around it. Some folks think all songfics are bad and/or cluttersome, but I find them enjoyable, both to write and to read.

    I've used a fair number of songs to write songfics to:

    The Real World by Queensryche
    Uninvited by Alanis Morisette
    Uninspired by 8Stops7
    Come Home Soon by SheDaisy (Excellent for military fics.)
    Gunning Down Romance by Savage Garden (Great angsty love/breakup song!)
    From Yesterday by 30 Seconds to Mars (Great Angst/military themed fic, if written to properly.)

    There's something about writing a songfic that just feels great to me. :)
     
  3. Noelie

    Noelie Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2005
    I have done a couple and I found them fun.

    I used: The Touch of Your Hand, by the Nylons
    Friends and Lovers-by Gloria Loring

    I have several others I want to use sometime. If something good comes up.

     
  4. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Here are my links
    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/Message.aspx?topic=26188225&brd=10476] Private Investigations [/link] and
    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/Message.aspx?topic=26195877&brd=10476] Why worry [/link]
     
  5. MsLanna

    MsLanna Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 8, 2005
    I'm not sure I like them.[face_thinking]
    Apart from the fact that i don't know half the songs that are turned into fics.
    But I tried once myself. It was fun, though i think I used a bit too much lyrics and too little story. It's easy to fall into that trap, especially if you use a very emotional song. I took 'I don't want to miss a thing' and, well, :oops: [face_whistling]

    Still, I'm thinking about a second one using 'The only one' from Pet Shop Boys. Then I really want to use only a few lines inserted every now and then, more like a theme song.

    For changed lyrics, um wasn't there a thread for that once?:confused:

    What I also like is telling the reades before a chapter/story, which song was going through your head with it.:D

    And in case anybody's interested: [link=http://boards.theforce.net/the_saga/b10476/21410064/p2]I don't want to miss a thing[/link], on the middle of the page somewhere.
     
  6. mari4212

    mari4212 Jedi Youngling star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 8, 2006
    I'm rather leery of songfics in general, just because they're easy to mess up. Then again, of my Star Wars fanfic, I've got two published on the boards, and one of them is a songfic, which is proof I don't always listen to my own advice!

    What I've found works well in reading/writing fics is to not really incorporate the song into the character's pov. Use lyrics to set the mood around a section, or use the song as the inspiration for the plot of the story, and it tends to come off as less forced. It also tends to be less distracting for people who don't know the song well, who can't hear it in their heads and understand all the implications.

    For my story, Hands, I used Jewel's song by the same title, but used the lyrics as a framework for several drabbles. The drabbles were my main character's thoughts and feelings, the song just framed and introduced each new segment. It worked well because the theme and structure of the song was what I needed to phrase the story correctly, the song wasn't just something I attached on to include a song I liked.

    And in general, while reading, I've found that having your characters sing the song to each other throws me out of the story completely, especially when it's a popular song that is tightly linked to Earth and our modern culture. Except for a story in the hands of an absolute genius writer, it utterly destroys the mood of the story.
     
  7. Discorpor8

    Discorpor8 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2005
    I used to be pretty wary of songfics myself, Mari. And I agree; the characters should not sing the song. For me, the lyrics are almost like the Omniscient Chorus in Greek tragedy. They expose the action and add to the plot. Thus, I always put the lyrics in italics and separate entirely from the actual text of the story.

    Also, I tend to stay away from songs that are closely tied to the real world. No songs mentioning real world cities, events, people, or anything else. I decided to stick to this when I was writing the draft to a songfic using "Love is Here to Stay" by Cole Porter (famously sung by Ella Fitzgerald). It had great lyrics, except for "The radio and the telephone, and the movies that we know may just be passing fancies...", then "In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they're only made of clay...".

    Obligatory Shameless Plug: The final installment of my Angsty Songfic Trilogy will be up this weekend! R & R!
     
  8. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Mar 1, 2002
    I have a question of you songficcers. If the story is inspired by a song, is it a songfic? Or if it has lyrics but just at the beginning and end of a story, is it a songfic? Or do you have to incorporate the song lyrics in the body of the story?

    I've only done what I would consider a songfic once and that was only using lyrics at the beginning and end of the story. For the most part, songfics that have the lyrics in the middle of the story complete destroys the story for me. The lyrics kick me out of the reality of the story into the real universe and I'm sure that's not what the author really intends. I also don't recognize most lyrics especially since I don't listen to a lot of music.

    I've only used He Lives in You From the Lion King 2:Simba's Pride by Disney because it was such an inspirational song. I hope to use Lee Ann Womack's I hope you dance. in another story but again I'd only put it at the beginning or end of the story.

    So exactly what is a songfic?

     
  9. Alley_Skywalker

    Alley_Skywalker Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 27, 2005
    I guess some people have a more liberal definition of a songfic but I call a songfic something that has at least the majority of the song incorporated into the story.


    Okay, I?m petty big on the whole songfic thing and I love them too.
    So?

    --The characters shouldn?t be singing the song to each other ? that?s just cheesy/corny.

    --Lyrics really don?t belong in dialogue ? at least 99.9 percent of the time.

    --There really should be more writing then them there are lyrics. Yes, sometimes this is hard to do especially if a song seems to say a character?s thoughts better then you do. But maybe, if you can?t wind some writing around it, don?t use that song.

    --The song is your framework, the skeleton of your story. Now you have to go and flush it out.


    Stuff I used? Well lets see songs that were used for off site fics that I can?t link to:

    ?Nobody?s Home? ? Avryl Lavigne
    ?Hotel Paper? ? Michele Branch
    ?Dying? ? Five For Fighting
    ?My Immortal? ? Evanescence
    ?Want You Back? ? Mandy Moore
    ?Gomenasai? ? TaTu

    Now for stuff on the boards?

    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/Message.aspx?topic=26252537&brd=10476&replies=5]I Loved Her First[/link] set to ?I Loved Her First? by Heartland
    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/the_saga/b10476/22436895/p1/?0]Remember...[/link] set to ?Remember When It Rained? by Gosh Groben.

    *Note: the latter one, I think, is the better of the two.

    Here?s one where I tweaked, the lyrics, I like doing that though I know I probably shouldn?t. But even despite the re-made lyrics I think it came out pretty well.

    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/the_saga/b10476/22882790/p1/?0]On My Own[/link] set to (the tweaked version of) ?Don?t Forget To Remember Me? by Carrie Underwood.
     
  10. Jade_Max

    Jade_Max Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 28, 2002
    As someone who is very fond of song fics to begin with, I find I have a much different approach than what's already been thrown around in here.

    I'm of the opinion that a song fic can and should be no different than any other Vignette, or short story, that an author writes. In particular, I like the idea of a multi-part song-fic.

    For example, instead of just throwing the lines in where they belong, try and use one stanza per chapter. It leads for more plot/story development, more character interaction and doesn't limit ones creativity to the standard format for song fics. It also allows the author to explore the words of the music at a more leisurely pace than cramming it all together in a Vignette.

    I'm a huge fan of these stories and while I occasionally write song-fics that are only a Vignette in length, I've more that are longer than shorter. Experimenting with Song fics and turning them into something that is beyond the norm means less rigid standards. I find with the long song fics, people can guess at the outcome, but a really inventive author can always pull the rug out and twist it.

    Just my 2 cents. :)


    Edit:

    A couple links to "long" song fics:

    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=9502991]Wrong Again[/link] - Set to the song by the same title. Singer: Martina McBride. I use a lot of her stuff.
    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=9708164]Not Strong Enough to Say No[/link] - Set to the song by the same title. Singer: Blackhawk

    I've done shorter fics too, but I like the long ones better ;)


     
  11. Jade_Pilot

    Jade_Pilot Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2005
    I've only done one songfic and it was for a roulette challenge piece about a year ago or so. I mostly stay away from songfics because they tend to be so melodramatic. (Well, at least mine was) ;)

    Dianethx has made a superb observation about using lyrics in our fics:

    "I've only done what I would consider a songfic once and that was only using lyrics at the beginning and end of the story. For the most part, songfics that have the lyrics in the middle of the story complete destroys the story for me. The lyrics kick me out of the reality of the story into the real universe and I'm sure that's not what the author really intends."

    This might be why this genre is not one of my favorites. The lyrics rip me from the author's world, making it hard for me to settle back into it once I've finished the song.

     
  12. Alley_Skywalker

    Alley_Skywalker Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 27, 2005
    Jade_Max, I know what you're sating. I like those types of songfics as well.

    Also there's the concept of writing a "continuouse" songfic where an author uses a different song from a single album for each chapter. These are ticky to do...I've never seriously attempted one of those though I've played around with the idea. I've seen one of rhose done extrememly well though (sadly its off site so no link).
     
  13. Lola64

    Lola64 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 10, 2005
    As a reader I usually only enter a songfic thread if I know the song. But sometimes I'll pop in anyway, either if I have read the author's other works, if the characters listed in thread title are fave's of mine, or even if the song title sounds interesting.

    Out of those sometimes, I've enjoyed many.

    It works to have the song lyrics somewhere in there, for those like me who are not familiar with the song. I've never had a problem with the breaking up of them between paragraphs because it helps me understand the song more by reading the scene/situation the author has provided, even vice versa.

    I've written one songfic, for the first Dare Challenge. It was horrid. I'd post a link but that would lead to me being embarrassed so I'll just move on. Ok? :p

    But there's been a song that's inspiring a subject that I've wanted to try. It's been sitting in my Word for some time now, being worked on every now and then, never quite making me like it. I think it's because of my first experience with a songfic and the way I was doing it.

    The comments here and even the guide (thank you Discorpor8) have already inspired me to open it up again and perhaps rework it in a different style.

    edit: because I can't spell
     
  14. Alley_Skywalker

    Alley_Skywalker Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 27, 2005
    As a reader I usually only enter a songfic thread if I know the song.

    Hmmm, not knowing the song has never bothered me. Actually I've found some truely wonderful songs through reading songfics.

    Discorpor8, do you know if there's a songfic index here in WR already? If there isn't maybe you/we could start one here :)
     
  15. Discorpor8

    Discorpor8 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2005
    I don't think there is. Maybe I will start one here. However, there may be a little bit of a wait because I have a lot of stuff going on IRL. I will do it, though.
     
  16. lazykbys_left

    lazykbys_left Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 17, 2005
    As of right now, I've only written one songic ([link=http://boards.theforce.net/a/b1/18178408/]The Death of Anakin Skywalker[/link], based on Glory of Love by Peter Cetera) and it was for the [link=http://boards.theforce.net/a/b1/17812535/]SongFic Challenge[/link]. I very much doubt I would have written it if it wasn't, because a) I'm not too thrilled with songfics in general and b) I hadn't even heard of the song when the challenge was issued.

    I think the main reason I'm not fond of songfics is the lyrics prose lyrics prose format. Like dianethx and Jade_Pilot, the lyrics throw me out of the story. If it was just a few lines at the beginning and the end, I suspect it wouldn't bother me as such. Lately I've taken to ignoring the inserted lyrics. I realize I'm missing out on the Great Songfic Experience, but I feel that stories in text shouldn't have to rely on external components.

    A side note: my all-time favorite story on the JC Fanfic forums is the songfic [link=http://boards.theforce.net/a/b1/19315431/]When We Go Down[/link] by talkingbanana - and though I've read it a countless number of times, I have yet to read the lyrics.

    When writing TDoAS, I decided to take the lyrics and put them into the prose, mostly out of order and slightly twisted from the original intent. I also took a few lines that seemed out of place in SW but were perfect for the fic and put them at the beginning. TDoAS got a favorable response, though it may be because of the "if you don't like a fic, don't post" policy here.


    Alley_Skywalker: Discorpor8, do you know if there's a songfic index here in WR already? If there isn't maybe you/we could start one here

    There have been a few songfic indexes in the past, but none of them really got off the ground. If you're going to start a new one, here's a list of JC Fanfic threads with the word "song" in the thread title:

    [link=http://f59.aaa.livedoor.jp/~lazykbys/jcfanficthreads.php?s=10475/u///song]Before[/link]
    [link=http://f59.aaa.livedoor.jp/~lazykbys/jcfanficthreads.php?s=10476/u///song]Saga[/link]
    [link=http://f59.aaa.livedoor.jp/~lazykbys/jcfanficthreads.php?s=10477/u///song]Beyond[/link]
    [link=http://f59.aaa.livedoor.jp/~lazykbys/jcfanficthreads.php?s=10016/u///song]Classic[/link]

    - lazy



    PS: I have ideas about songfics that go completely against the intent of the song itself, and also "songfics" to things like the [link=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_sutra]Heart Sutra[/link]. Variety is the spice of life, yes? :p
     
  17. geo3

    geo3 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2002
    So... is there any such thing as "poetry fic"?
     
  18. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2002
    Wow, my ideas of a good songfic are really different from most others'. [face_thinking]

    I'd consider a songfic anything inspired by or incorporating a song, though with the latter it can be hard to judge just how much a song inspired a story.

    As a reader, here's what make up a good songfic for me:

    1) No characters singing lyrics to each other, or the song appearing as background music in the story. I haven't yet seen either work well.

    2) To answer geo3's question, I consider lyrics a form of poetry, so if one character recites part of a song in that manner, I usually don't have a problem with it.

    3) Lyrics as dialogue - don't usually have a problem unless the characters are using really sappy lines.

    4) More original writing than lyrics. For me, if the writing ends up supplementing the song rather than the other way around, something's not right.


    I really like this comparison and think this is one of the best ways to approach songfics if you're going to use the usual method of putting lines in the middle of the story. Otherwise for me the presence of lyrics is too jarring.

    Also, this is just my opinion, but there are some songs that are so beautifully written that you can't chop them up into stanzas and write a few lines after them. Doesn't do the song or story justice. Maybe they can inspire stories, or you can quote a few lines at the beginning and end, but a line like "His arms are around me and his tongue in my eyes" from the Cure's Lullaby - that's one I'd like to see in the actual story, not italicized and set apart.
     
  19. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2004
    I've written a few songfics. For me, when I hear a song, I'll just have a brainstorm because something in the song reminds me strongly of a character. Sometimes I put the lyrics only at the beginning and end, but usually I use them to break up the story into scenes. :) But the lyrics have to fit the scene they accompany. I've never had a character sing the words. To be honest, that never occurred to me. :p And you definitely need more story than song. :D
     
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