Transposition: A Guide To Turning A Song Into A Story

Recommended for anyone taking part in the contest.
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.


6. Plotlines

Right, we have a setting, and we have a main character. Two out of three essential features of any story. We only need the last feature: the plot.

The same as for the character, the best place to search is in the lyrics. See if you can find hints of actions, or what your character could do. Build it up, and think each section through.

As an example, here's an extract of my very first L2L transposition (I apologise beforehand, as it wasn't my best, and I was about thirteen when I wrote it):

There was something about the chill of the night air, that made me remember I was completely alone. Not just like, the-only-person-in-the-room, style alone. I was used to that, having practiced long until after everyone else had left at the end of the day. No, I mean completely, nobody-gives-a-damn-about-you, alone. The kind when you know that if you make one mistake, just one single mistake, you're going to regret it.

That was something I'd never felt before. Back then, back before all this, I didn't care about occasionally slipping up. Now, I have no choice but to care, as the stinging graze across my cheek reminded me.

If you know the song I'm using for all my examples, you might see that I got that from the latter part of verse two. I took a line and expanded it; finding hidden meanings, consequences of actions, chains of events, and the emotions hidden behind the melodies.

Do exactly that. Take even the smallest section of a song, then expand it. Come up with what you think could possibly happen, even if you think it's unlikely to, and expand it. Make every little detail, even the smallest accompaniment by one single instrument, into something important. If needed, try to imagine that every little piece of the song is trying to relay a message to you, and if you don't notice every bit, you won't get the whole message.

If that method of lyric-expansion doesn't work, try this: In English lessons, you may have covered symbolism, inference, and foreshadowing. Try and expand each section large enough to put all three of these features in. After all, if you have too much description, and too much happening, you can always take out the non-essential events, and cut down on the description.


Now you have all the section expansions, start from the very first section, and pick anywhere between three and seven of the ideas. Try and make them as different from each other as possible, so you have a multitude of different plot-starters. Keep doing that with each individual section, until you have between three and seven ideas for each section. Remember, try and make the ideas in each section as different from the other ideas in the same section.

Once you've done that, the creative part really starts. Take one plot idea from each section, and string them together in any order that you like. Keep doing it again and again, but each time, place the ideas in a different order. By doing that, you'll be able to determine what ideas flow best into each other, and if you could link events in a past chapter of your story, to events in a future chapter.


When you find the best chain of ideas for you, write it down either on a Word document of blank sheet of paper, and put it aside for now. Do not misplace that chain at all costs! You will need it later, but for now, keep repeating the whole process of selecting ideas from each section, stringing them together in multiple orders, and finding the order that works best.

Yes, it's time-consuming, and yes, it may get boring, but in the long run, you will be so glad you came up with so many different plot chains. After all, if one representation of a song doesn't have several more representations lined up, to give it another shot.

Once you have all those chains, pick one at random and get to work on it. Make things flow together, fill things out, and above all, be as creative as you physically can, then even more creative than that! Do not stop coming up with ideas as to how things will happen.

Don't be afraid to come up with completely weird ideas. In the words of the cyber-martyr, Adam Gilray, "how to write totes awesome" comes from a flow of "Inspired Insanity Of A Kool And Kreative Kind". Sometimes, what seems insane to you, can be total genius to someone else.


Why are you still reading this? Get on out there! You've got songs to transpose into stories! You've got plot chains to link together! You've got lyrics to analyse, and genres to stereotype! Get going!

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