Transposition: A Guide To Turning A Song Into A Story

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So, there's a song you love, and you want to turn it into a story. Yet, you're not exactly sure of how to do it. Here are my tips.

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5. Analysing Your Lyrics

Task one is done: creating a setting. The next task, creating some characters, usually come from the lyrics.

A/N: Sorry for my example song. It's just one I've tried and tested before. If you hate it, there's a comment section below for you to use.

Lyrics are what we notice first in a song, seventy-eight percent of the time (huge thanks to my music teacher, Mrs Moore, who told me that). They're where the information of a song is. Without lyrics, songs would be completely different.

A fun way to prove this, is to take a song you know the name of, but you've never heard it before, look for the karaoke version on YouTube, and have it playing, without looking at the words on screen. Try coming up with your own lyrics, then check the original ones. Nine times out of ten, they will be completely different.

 

Right, let's say this is your song choice (it's probably not) and you're reading through the lyrics, whilst the song is playing. (For a guide, I've put the notes of the song below the lyrics. One note per syllable.) This is what you might get from them:

Lip-stick in hand,
C C B D

Tahi-tian tanned,
C B C

In her pain-ted on jeans.
C C D D B C
 

She dreams of fame,
C D B C

She changed her name,
CC B D

To one that fits the mo-vie screen.
CBB D C BB C

She's hea-ded for the big time, that means
D CC A B C C, BC

Right, from those two verses, we can get a vague description of what our main character looks like: A girl or woman, from anywhere between the late twentieth century and today. She's reasonably girly, and she's originally from Tahiti. Not bad for just the first two verses.

We can also get a rough idea of what goes on in her mind, and her future goal. She wants to be a film star, and is reasonably driven to get it. She's even prepared for it, by changing her name. What she changed it from, can be decided later. Same with what she changes it to.

She's go-ing Hol-ly-wood,
D CC EDC

She's go-ing Hol-ly-wood Ton-ight.
D CC EDC DC

She's go-ing Hol-ly-wood,
C BB DCB

She's go-ing Hol-ly-wood Ton-ight.
C BB DCB CB

She's go-ing Hol-ly-wood,
D CC FED

She's going Hol-ly-wood Ton-ight.
D CC FED ED

It's true, that you, may nev-er ev-er have that chance ag-ain.
DC DC D CB CB C B D BA

(That chance ag-ain.)
(B D BA)

Now we have an idea of her goal, where she's going, and why. She's off to Hollywood, to seek fame, and she wants to get there as soon as possible, as it's a one-shot chance. This is a perfect base for a plot, which we'll keep in mind for earlier.

I'll spare you the rest of my analysis, but I managed to create a rough idea of my character:

She's a fifteen-year-old girl, originally from Tahiti, with a dream to become a film star, and the desire to get it as soon as possible, not caring that her means of getting there are either immoral, illegal, or both. She wants to give up her past, her family, and everything, just for a shot at fame.

That isn't exactly much. We know barely anything about her friends, her personality, or what she looks like. We don't know her likes and dislikes, we don't know where in society she fits, and we don't know who's in her family. That can't happen. That can't happen at all! We need to know her as well as we know ourselves.

This is where the story starts to really become our own. Fill in the gaps about your character, in as much detail as possible. Describe them in such detail that you could picture them standing in front of you.

Try and make them fit your setting though. You wouldn't put a countess on the streets of Harlem, so make sure it all fits. If it helps, sketch out a rough idea of your setting, then sketch your character in the setting.

Above all, make your character realistic. If your character is too perfect, people aren't gonna give your story a second glance. Give them flaws, give them a dark side, or show that sometimes, your character can be in that mood where they simply hate everyone (we've all been there). The general rule is: For every two qualities, give them a flaw.

The one rule is, have fun with creating them. You can create the 'you' you want to be, the 'you' you think people will like most, an ideal friend for you, or anyone you want. Let that creative side of you flourish!

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