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5 Core Elements Of Song Plot

5 Core Elements Of Song Plot

What is a song plot?

Sure – all songs have them, and as a songwriter you’re supposed to create compelling plots with interesting twists or takes on life, but how do you get started?

There are five core elements of a plot.  We’ll highlight them, and give you a simple way to approach plot in your songs.

Lets start with making sure we have a core definition of “plot” – and not just the diabolical kind.

 

DEFINITION OF “PLOT”

 

In it’s most basic literary form, a plot has the following characteristics:

  • A series of events that make up a story
  • Acts as the foundation on which the characters and setting are built
  • Organizes information and events in a logical manner
  • Creates anticipation, tension, resolution based on how the events relate to one another in this sequence

 

SEQUENCE OF A PLOT

 

  • Introduction:  Characters and settings are established and main problem is introduced
  • Rising Action:  A series of events build up to the conflict
  • Climax:  Main point of the plot and turning point of the story – highest emotional point
  • Falling Action:  Winding down of the story where results of events and character actions are heard
  • Conclusion/Resolve:  Everything is tied up in a bow – happy or tragic ending

 

FIVE CORE ELEMENTS OF A SONG PLOT:  STEP-BY-STEP

 

1  Choose A Song Idea

 

This is an over-arching theme that creates the foundation of who your characters are, how they react to things, and the events that will occur in your story.

You’ll add some language to give it more precision later, but for now, a general direction, or theme is all you’ll need.

This is not an exhaustive list – it’s just meant to capture some of the more common themes you’ll run into in songs.  And I have added “Murder” so we don’t exclude the blues!

 

Themes
Wise Decision
Love/Passion
Heartbreak/Loss
Loss of Faith
Senseless Act/Action
Friendship
Kind/Thoughtful
Shame
Warmth/Compassion
Joy/Pleasure
Justice
Betrayal
Fun/Vitality
Fear
Hold In Confidence
Strength of Convictions
Injustice
Unwise Decision
Doubt
Pain of Loss
Remorse/Regret
Jealousy/Anger
Moment of Weakness
Crazy
Hurt
Murder
Faith In Something
Remember Past

To see a theme in action, check out this song breakdown: Eric Church “Talladega”

 

2  Choose Your Point Of View

 

1st Person
2nd Person
3rd Person
I – We
You – You
He – She – They

More Point of View Options

 

Combine the below with your point of view to give your main character an identity:

Song Prompt: Speaker Character Options
Husband/Wife
Father/Mother
Teenager
Grandparent
Boyfriend/Girlfriend
Child/Baby
Parent
Other Relative
Friend/Neighbor
A Family
Enemy
Religious Figure
Confidant
Mentor
Mistress/Secret Lover
Lover

 

3  Choose The Event Perspective Of The Speaker

 

Internal
External
Thinking/To Self
Talking/To Others

 

Combine the below with your perspective to create an emotional context for the song & conflict options:

Song Prompt: Emotional Baseline
Concerned/Truthful
Fair
Troublemaker
Acceptance
Apologetic/Sorry
Desire/Want
Strength/Self-reliance
Approval
Regret
Patience
Giving/Full of Heart
Hard Times
Opposites
Unconcerned/Liar
Unfair
Do-gooder
Denial/Rejection
Unapologetic
Lack of Desire/Unfeeling
Dependent
Disapproval
Hopes/Dreams
Impatient
Taking/Heartless
Good Times

 

4  Choose A Point(s) In Time For the Events

 

Present
Past
Future
Moving
Now – Here
Back Then – Ago
Someday – There
Between Any Of Them

 

5  Choose The Place For The Story

 

None
Specific “Here”
Changing Place
If a thinking lyric in speaker’s head, may not have one!
Specific, identified place where  the plot is unfolding
May move from place to place depending on the song verses

 

Song Prompt: Place List
Home/Away
Vehicle
Park/Garden
Town/City
A Room
Restaurant/Bar/Club
Street/Road
Special Place To You

 

Source:  Adapted from The Songwriters Idea Book by Sheila Davis

 





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