If you listen to any genre, you’ve heard them – the three primary song plots.
You’ll notice they increase in complexity as you move from Attitude/Emotion to Situation to Story.
For example, pop songs tend to be “Attitude/Emotion” song plots (to paraphrase Gillian Welch, you can get ready for a date listening to them).
“Situation/Circumstance” song plots are a bit more grounded in reality, but still do not have a discernible time line.
“Storyline” song plots are literally just that – a story with a timeline.
For your songwriting, the plot type should be something you determine early. Your lyrics will be constructing the plot, so choosing the type at the outset is important.
Great news! There are only 3!
A single attitude or emotion is the core focus of the song
Descriptors are focused on the emotion or attitude
Commonly used in pop songs and blues
“Girl” Marren Morris (Songwriters: G Kurstin, M Morris & S Aarons)
“Unchain My Heart” Joe Cocker (Songwriter: Bobby Sharp)
“Uptown Funk” Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
(Songwriters: M Ronson, B Mars, J Bhasker, P Lawrence, D Gallaspy, N Williams)
“All About That Bass” Meghan Trainor (Songwriters:Meghan Trainor, Kevin Kadish)
The attitude or emotion is given a situational context, or circumstance, which dominates the song
Most commonly used in the blues, R&B, and pop songs
“Crossfire” Stevie Ray Vaughn (Songwriters: Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton, Reese Wynans)
“If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right” Luther Ingram
(Songwriters: Homer Banks, Carl Hampton, Raymond Jackson)
Interesting to note that Barbara Mandrell had a country hit with this song too.
“Talladega” Eric Church (Songwriters: Eric Church, Luke Laird)
The song’s events have a clear beginning, middle and end
Most commonly used in the country genre
“A Boy Named Sue” Johnny Cash (Songwriter: Shel Silverstein)
“Two Black Cadillacs” Carrie Underwood (Songwriters: Hillary Lindsey, Josh Kear, Carrie Underwood)
“By The Time I Get To Phoenix” Glenn Campbell (Songwriter: Jimmy Webb)