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.


3. Starting Out

Ok, your song is playing in the background, the lyrics are open on a new tab, and you're ready to start turning your song into a story.

The first feature any story has, is a setting. Where is it going to happen?

Unless you already have an idea of where you want to set your story, a good way of coming up with the setting, is through genre stereotyping.

We stereotype without even thinking about it, every single one of us. Despite what people say, it can be used in a good way. Such as when you're writing your L2L novel. 

First thing to do, is get a blank Word document open, or a completely blank sheet of paper, in front of you. While your song is playing, ask yourself these questions:

What genre is it?

What would I associate with this genre?

I'll focus on the second question later on, but don't forget about it. The second you get something that seems like an answer, get it down. No matter if you think it doesn't fit, get it down. If you picked up on it, chances are someone else will too. Not to mention how even the smallest element of a song can be put to good use.

Also, don't focus on the song as a whole. Break it up, and put each section into a few genres. The globally-recognised song division is like this:

Verse One,
Verse Two,
Verse Three,
Extended Chorus/Edited Verse One,

Occasionally you may get a few strange elements, like repeating Verse One instead of having a Verse Three, or it may be an Edited Verse Two. More commonly, the Chorus will be between Verse One and Verse Two instead of grouping the two Verses together. Very rarely, there may be reversed Layering between the Extended Chorus and the Outro, but that's the standard structure.

Now, listen to each section of your song individually, and figure out which genre each section is. Some sections may be the same, in which case simply focus more on the genres of those sections.

This is an example of one of the first L2L transpositions I did, to give you an example:

Intro: Choral

Layering: Urban, modern Rock, late-developed Jazz

Verse One: modern Rock, Urban, Pop, hints of Swing

Bridge: modern Rock, Urban, Pop

Chorus: hints of Choral, modern Rock, Urban, Pop

Verse Two: modern Rock, Urban, Pop, hints of Swing, hints of late-developed Jazz

Bridge: modern Rock, Urban, Pop

Chorus: hints of Choral, modern Rock, Urban, Pop

Break: Choral, slightly Orchestral

Repeated Verse One: modern Rock, Urban, Pop, hints of Swing

Chorus: hints of Choral, modern Rock, Urban, Pop

Extended Verse Two: modern Rock, Urban, Pop, Electro-Synth

Reversed Layering: modern Rock, Urban, Pop, faint Soul

Outro: faint Soul

The three most frequent genres are Pop, Urban and modern Rock, so those are gonna have the most impact on my setting choice. The best way of getting a setting from these, is to stereotype them.

If you look back on your genre notes, you should have several words or phrases for the What would I associate with this genre? question. Use them to build up description for the setting. Be bold in your description, and think outside the box. If you want, use my example below, for the same song, as a guideline:

What would I associate with this genre?

Pop: Well-liked, popular, bright, cheery, pastel-coloured, middle-class and above, noticed, well-known, filtered, synthetic.

Modern Rock: Influenced, transcending cultures, gathering together, full-spectrum, bold, developed, types, branches, spreading, global, free.

Urban: Bold, harsh, fierce, lower-class, 'ghettos', streets, aggressive, bloodshed, black-and-white, fiery colours, angular, sharp, edge, not giving up, independent, social outcasts.

The song as a whole fits into the 'Pop' genre, so that's going to be my main starting point. Using the words linked to Pop, I came up with this idea for a starting setting:

A large city, very well-kept and very well known. Somewhere in the north-east of the United States, but where exactly, I don't know. The story begins in the suburbs of the city, which is very well-kept and pristine.

That's not bad, but it needs more. After all, there are two more main genres to filter into that, not to mention the minor ones picked up on. So next, I added elements of Urban.

The main city is well known and well kept, but the area where our story is isn't so much. It's upper working class, not quite middle class, with one or two run-down areas far out in the outskirts. The housing designs are pretty basic, but the home of our main character is pretty well-kept.

Notice how I added in the elements of Pop, to keep the two genres linked, like in the song. It's missing the Modern Rock elements though, so I'd better filter that in.

There are many different parts to this city. It had a very vivid past, and may have played a big part in US history (I haven't found a city to base it on yet, so I'm unsure). Everywhere you look, many different people are doing something. Hurrying to work, dealing with their kids, getting the shopping done, etc.

If I combine those paragraphs together, I get my starting setting. I can add elements of the other featured genres later. I noticed elements of Choral; I'll make the central location near a chapel, which our main character can hear from their room. Hints of Swing and Jazz; later in the story, I'll make them hear that kind of music at some point. We can filter it in as it goes along.

Looks like it's going well so far.

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