Song Sketching: Using Story Arcs

Aug 19, 2018 | Exercises, Intermediate, Lyrics

If you’ve ever been in a high school English class, you’ve studied how drama is created in a play, a novel or short story. So you knows the “story arcs” that can occur and the sequence of how drama unfolds.

You know, the introduction of characters, their struggles, the climax, the resolution and the happy ending.  All in 3:30!

Following a basic story arc will help you quickly create your Song Sketch and give you a compass for the genesis of the story you’re telling.  And, you’re using a Song Sketch because your message/intent is the ultimate goal!

For an example of how a Song Sketch ties to a song arc and a song, read through my article Song Sketching: Tell Stories Like A Movie and dive into Mary Gauthier’s “Between The Daylight And The Dark.”

Your assignment should you choose to accept it:  apply those same practices to one of the song shapes below.


Songwriting Exercise
Choose A Shape
Pick one of the shapes below to begin.  Try and choose one that you don’t usually write or that is outside the box for you.
Create A General Outline
Label each of the core elements of the shape and write a brief summary of what will happen. Use an outline form, so I, II, III with some A, B, Cs under them, but keep it general for now. Song Outline Worksheet
Use Object Writing To Find Details
Focus on a moment or each of the key moments and write down some of the descriptive details by using the object writing exercise.  You’ll use these within your lyric to create imagery.
Service title
Write out the story in long form, then shorten to create your lyrics. Don’t worry about rhyme right now. Let’s make sure your message/intent and the story conveying it are clear.
Service title
Now go back and find your chorus, or the big idea. What is your hook line? Is there a bridge?


General Story Arcs: Customize To Another Theme
story streaming movie architecture – @cwodtke


Love Arc
story shape boy meets girl – @cwodtke


Coming Of Age Arc
story shape coming of age – @cwodtke


Justice Arc
story shape justice – @cwodtke


Quest Arc
story shape quest – @cwodtke

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