How Understanding Songs Benefit Novel Writers

Songs are ancient storytelling forms. Thousands of years ago—long before scripted language evolved—indigenous people got their message across by vocally singing as well as orally telling structured stories. This primal people-connection still resonates and you, as today’s novel writer, can benefit by understanding timeless song-structured forms.

I don’t pretend to be a songwriter or musician. I can barely play the radio, and my only rhythmic venture was a limerick unfit to print. However, I’m a moderately-skilled written storyteller who tries to improve by studying other storytelling venues including songs.

Novels are only one type of storytelling. We find stories in all sorts of artwork. Music, dance, songs, film, and plays come to mind. I think there’re stories to be found in abstract art like ice-sculpting and graffiti-painting. All art forms tell a story, and one of the most powerful connectors is a song.

This piece started the other day when I opened my inbox and Amazon offered me a free three-month subscription to their newest line called Amazon Music. I downloaded the app and checked it out. I was still up at 2 a.m. because this awesome and easy-to-use platform has stuff that took me back… a way, way back. Amazon Music is so good that it’ll make you want to throw rocks at Spotify.

Enough of pumping up the ’ZON. While listening to hours of songs with vocals ranging from Chubby Checker to Reba McIntyre to Celine Dionne to Brian Johnson, I felt a common thread. All their songs—as varied as their voices and lyrics are—have defined structures. I decided to explore this and see how understanding song forms could benefit me as a novelist. Hopefully, what I learned will benefit you, too.

The Three Main Song Forms

In songwriting, form and structure mean the same. They’re interchangeable terms that describe a framework for building time-proven and marketable products. Having said “for sale”, there are endless variations of the three song categories. It’s the same as breaking down the classic beginning, middle, and end novel structures into microcosms.

Think of a song—any song. Let’s go with Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets. It has a mix of all three forms in the tune, and it’s one of the catchiest dance pieces ever recorded. Jolene by Dolly Parton takes a classic form and reverses its structure. And Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is in a form-league of its own. I found a Rolling Stone quote saying this rock opera was so unique that it could only be sung by an entity like Freddie Mercury with God doing backup.

As different as Bohemian Rhapsody, Jolene, and Rock Around The Clock are, they still conform to recognized structures. It’s no different than taking novels like Wuthering Heights, Fifty Shades of Gray, and Harry Potter. Where there’s story, there’s form and structure. Let’s do a dive into the three main song forms with a caveat that I am not a songwriter by any score.

Verse-Chorus Form

This is the simplest and safest songwriting structure, especially in pop music. It’s highly effective at getting the story across. However, verse-chorus is not the oldest form. We’ll get to that in a minute.

There are two distinct parts in a verse-chorus song. The verse is the story and the chorus is emphasizing the message or theme. Songwriters refer to this as the ABAB structure where A is the verse and B is the chorus (which is also called the refrain).

The same thing happens in a novel where the story (verse) unfolds in the narrative through exposition, dialogue, and the treasure-trove of devices available to the novelist while the theme (quiet chorus) unfolds through plotting, characterization, and whatever else a novelist can dream of.

A typical song verse contains lyrics that build on the story. Verse lyrics change as the song progresses. A typical chorus repeats itself. It’s here where the hook or earworm resides. You know. The catchy part—the one that pops-in while you’re having a shower. (Think “Chevy to the Levy” in American Pie)

Good verse-chorus song examples are Penny Lane (Beatles), California Girls (Beach Boys), and That’ll Be The Day (Buddy Holly).

Verse-Chorus-Bridge Form

This is an expansive form of the simple ABAB song structure. Songwriters term it the ABABCB form as it stretches the multi verse-chorus style by adding a musical or lyrical bridge to it. The bridge addition is often called a rift, solo, or a Middle 8.

Part of song structure expansion includes adding extras to the ABADCB form. They include an opening or introduction (intro) that is usually musical without lyrics. Then, songwriters go with one to three verses, throw in a single chorus, add a bridge/rift/solo/ Middle 8, and then finish off with a final chorus and an outro. The ABABCB outro is also known as a tag, coda, or conclusion.

Songwriters say they get more mileage with their music with the verse-chorus-bridge form. It allows a great change of pace from the twang-twang felt in the ABAB structure. Today, the ABABCB song form leads the pack of popularity.

Good verse-chorus-bridge song examples are Hot N Cold (Katy Perry), High and Dry (Radiohead), and What’s Love Got To Do With It (Tina Turner).

Strophic Form

Strophic form is by far the oldest song structure. It’s also the cleanest. It’s been around from the dawn of time and led to the early church hymns.

The only part in a strophic-structured song is the verse. That’s it. Sure, some songwriters clever it up with a hidden chorus built into the verse or slip in a rift as an interlude. But, purists stick with the strophic program when they really want to put story over strings, symbols, and saxophones.

Strophic songs can be simplex or complex. In pure form are children’s lullabies like Hush Little Baby. Put a little flare to a strophic structure and you get the incredibly annoying It’s A Small World. Or, you can stretch strophic style to the magnificent Amazing Grace.

Some of the finest songs ever written fall in the strophic category. They are timeless treasures telling tragedy and triumph. As a rule, strophic-structure songs are much longer than ABAB and ABABCB forms.

Good strophic song examples are Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot), Maggie May (Rod Stewart), and Mack The Knife (Bobby Darrin).

Analyzing Actual Song Forms

This piece wouldn’t be fun without grabbing an ABAB song, an ABABCB song, and a Strophic song and having a look at what makes them tick. Doing this can make you relate to your novel structure, and we can always improve on that—at least I can improve on mine. Here are three highly-successful songs that use common songwriting forms.

ABAB Song Form — Bad Moon Rising (John Fogerty)

(verse)
I see the bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see bad times today

(chorus)
Don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

(verse)
I hear hurricanes a-blowing
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers overflowing
I hear the voice of rage and ruin

(chorus)
Well don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise, all right

(guitar bridge/rift/Middle8)

(verse)
Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye

(chorus)
Well don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

(chorus)
Don’t come around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

ABABCB Song Form — Hotel California (The Eagles)

(horn/guitar/drum intro)

(verse)
On a dark desert highway
Cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas
Rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance
I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

(verse)
There she stood in the doorway
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinkin’ to myself
‘This could be heaven or this could be hell
Then she lit up a candle
And she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor
I thought I heard them say

(chorus)
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year any time of year
You can find it here

(verse)
Her mind is Tiffany-twisted
She got the Mercedes Benz, uh
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys
That she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard
Sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember
Some dance to forget

(verse)
So I called up the Captain
“Please bring me my wine”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969”
And still those voices are calling from far away
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say

(chorus)
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise what a nice surprise
Bring your alibis

(verse)
Mirrors on the ceiling
The pink champagne on ice
And she said, “We are all just prisoners here of our own device”
And in the master’s chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can’t kill the beast

(verse)
Last thing I remember
I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax”, said the night man
“We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave”

(long guitar bridge/rift/outro)

Strophic Song Form — The Times They Are A Changing (Bob Dylan)

(short harmonica intro)

(verse)
Come gather ’round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’ (chorus)

(short harmonica bridge)

(verse)
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’ (chorus)

(long harmonica bridge)

(verse)
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’ (chorus)

(short harmonica bridge)

(verse)
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’ (chorus)

(long harmonica bridge)

(verse)
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’ (chorus)

(short harmonica outro)

Let Song Forms Benefit Your Novel Writing

Songwriters, like novelists, know rules need followin’. The three-form rule is basic to writing gold-record songs as the three-act rule is to penning blockbuster novels. Some things work, and these three forms or structures are proven.

The basics—guidelines more than rules, they say—and they say it’s okay to break the rules as long as you know what you’re doing when you break them. I agree, and from what I observed in the three ABAB, ABABCB, and Strophic styles, they are full of rule breaking. And I think Fogerty, Felder/Frey/Henley, and Dylan knew exactly what they were doing when they did so.

Your novel writing is your personal craft. It’s your expression and it’s your freedom of individuality. Go ahead and break the rules if you want. Just like the songwriters do. But, understand what conventional structures are before you color outside the lines.

What about you KZ writers? What’s your experience with story form and how songwriting applies to your work? And you KZ readers? What do you see in similarities between songs and novels? Please feel free to comment!

———

Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective and exhausted coroner, now an energetic crime writer and indie publisher. He’s also an avid song-writing student and wishes he could write like Bob Dylan instead of sing like him.

Check out DyingWords.net which is Garry’s website and popular personal blog. He’s also out there on Twitter. Garry Rodgers lives on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia on Canada’s west coast where he spends non-writing time putzing around the Pacific Ocean.

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48 thoughts on “How Understanding Songs Benefit Novel Writers

  1. I remember reading (but can’t Google the source), that country music is, at its best, a three-minute novel – well, at least before the “Bro-country” list songs of late…
    Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, (high school classmate [and only claim to fame]) Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney and sometimes considered country John Prine and Jimmy Buffett all write/wrote with definite story arcs.
    Kenny Rogers had two “story-songs” turned into TV movies (“The Gambler” and “Coward of the County”), while Dolly Parton has made a mini-series of her autobiographical “Coat of Many Colors” and Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was a “star-making” vehicle for Sissy Spacek.
    The verses almost always flow in a chronological order – or if they flashback, it’s usually pretty clear the singer is remembering – usually in the bridge – something that emphasizes the songwriter’s message/theme…
    I think this “concrete story-telling”, with attention to real-world details and emotions, is the biggest difference between country and other styles of “commercial” music (except maybe opera, of course 🙄)…

    • And I sure miss Merle, Johnny, & several of the other greats. C.W. McCall was also a great story-teller with songs like “Teddy Bear”.

    • A three-minute novel – that’s a good analogy, George. When I researched this piece, and I had to research because this was new territory for me, I read that the new ABAB pop songs released today average 2 minutes and 46 seconds. Seems like Paradise By The Dashboard Lights wouldn’t cut it any more. And I’m with you about country music storytelling. I miss the 80s and CMT when every new release had a video story that went with it – George Strait, Keith Whitley, Ronnie Dunn & Kix Brooks… and Reba.

  2. Great post, Garry. I made my bones as a poet. I published the first-ever full length poetry collection as an ebook (Lessons for a Barren Population, 1996(?), Hardshell Word Factory). That was nominated for book of the year at Frankfurt. I also received other major nominations on my work.

    When I started writing fiction full time in 2014, I realized how much that experience helped me. In any dialect, English is an accentual-syllabic, metrical language. As writers, we should at least be aware of the flow and emotion inherent in the rhythms of the language itself.

    Reading and studying poetry or songs can improve the rhythm of your writing in prose. I even created an audio course called Poetry Techniques for the Fictionist, Course 10 at https://stonethreadpublishing.com/audio-lecture-series/.

    • I have to say I’m woefully ignorant of poetry. I am pretty much the same about music, as well. But, I agree that reading poetry, absorbing music, and studying the flow of both will definitely help a novelist to improve their craft. That’s really what novels, songs, and poems are -flows of information to leave an impression in the audience’s mind. Always appreciate your input, Harvey. Thanks!

    • RIP, Hard Shell and Mundania! Hard Shell was founded in 1996 so wow. The Frankfurt eBook Awards were both horrifying and funny because the big traditional publishers not only screwed over the authors who were the pioneers of the media but Bill Gates, as well. They had a huge, fancy party on his dime and gave the awards to authors who weren’t even epublished.

      • Thanks, Marilynn. I did a little research and saw that my book publication and Frankfurt Ebook of the Year attempt (mine came in sixth) was in 1999, not 1996 as I’d guessed. (grin) I felt pretty good about the result because they were unsure what to do with poetry, especially in ebook form. There was no poetry category, so my collection was lumped in with the Literary Fiction category.

  3. Excellent post, Garry. Do you remember when Paul Anderson wrote a guest post for my blog, comparing auditory to visual writers? It was a few years ago, but this post reminded me of the message at its core. I’m much more an auditory reader than a visual one. I can envision a scene, obviously, but I feel the rhythm in the written word. It’s what attracts me to certain authors. As a writer, I can tell right away when the rhythm is off. I don’t know if it’s as deliberate as song structure, but it’s a fascinating topic.

    • Thanks, Sue. I was thinking of you when I put this together and how you’d relate song structure to your writing. You have a totally natural flow in your work which makes it highly readable and retainable. I hear every word in your stories – especially Shawnee 😉

      I didn’t recall Paul’s piece so I clicked on and started to skim. “There’s wisdom in them thar words”, I said, so I copied and printed it to read with a red pen a bit later.

  4. Thank you. I learned something new! I’ve never had an interest in song-writing generally, except that one day I would like to write one in honor of my dad, so you never know when this info might come in handy!

    Classic country (for me that’s mid 1990’s and earlier) does an excellent job of story-telling and that’s one of the reasons I prefer it over all others, though certainly other genres have that quality too (such as some of the examples you gave).

    What good story-telling in song and in books have in common is touching your heart, either overtly or by grabbing a piece of you that you didn’t know it got till a line from the book or song pops into mind at an unexpected moment, even years down the road.

    I think one of the reasons I don’t have an interest in song-writing except for that one song is that I want to keep it a purely enjoyable form. I just want to listen and be wowed, whereas there are times in my life where I ruin the joy of writing by over-analyzing it.

    • I’d say the best-written songs, like the best-written novels, are those that truly resonate without thinking how that happens. When I listen to Garth Brooks, I never consider how he put together killer tunes like Friends In Low Places and Standing Outside The Fire. In fact, I’m not going to bother analyzing those hits because I want them truly enjoyable, as you say. Thanks for reading and commenting, BK!

      • Just because … (from Wikipedia)
        According to Earl Bud Lee, one of the song’s co-writers, the idea of the song was born when he and some songwriting friends gathered for lunch one day at Tavern on the Row, a popular Nashville eatery. When the check came, Lee realized he had forgotten his money. He was asked how he was going to pay for the meal, and he replied, “Don’t worry. I have friends in low places. I know the cook.” Lee and his songwriting partner, Dewayne Blackwell, immediately recognized that the line “friends in low places” had potential, but they didn’t act upon it immediately.

        Some months later, Lee and Blackwell were at a party, celebrating a recent No. 1 hit by another songwriter. They began to talk about the dormant “friends in low places” idea, and “at that very moment, it all started to come together in a song,” Lee said. Because nothing else was available, they wrote the song on paper napkins. When the songwriters polished “Friends in Low Places”, they contacted Garth Brooks to see if he would record a demo for them.

  5. Garry, I had to pour a third cup of coffee and read this a second time b/c it was so thought-provoking. Thanks for showcasing a really different way of thinking about structure/form.

    I can’t listen to music while writing–too distracting b/c I pay attention to the lyrics rather than concentrating on my work. Yet each of my books has a theme song. The song may or may not be named within the story yet it runs in the back of my mind as an undercurrent. Maybe the subconscious hears a message in that song that I need to know to tell the story.

    Thanks for the explanation of how the written form and musical form are interwoven.

    • I’m with you about not listening to music when composing, Debbie. I can’t even have background instrumentals on or even the sounds-of-nature downloads that some writers like. Nope, total silence for me. Sometimes I even yell out the window and tell the resident crow flock to shut up. (Sue Coletta – FYI, we have about 100 black mouthpieces here which I call the Nob Hill Gang.)

      I read in my ramp-up that many successful songs salt their title in the chorus. Look at what that clever Dylan did in The Times They Are A Changin’.

        • These are Canadian crows, Sue. They do not have US 1st Amendment protection. Rather, they have nest-to-wherever-crows-go-when-they-die social benefits like free heath care, a guaranteed basic income, and rights protection to get a public-paid lawyer to sue me at the bird tribunal if I hurt their feelings. Our crows are a protected species – a national treasure somewhat like your bald eagle. #CanadianCrowsCaw

  6. Could not agree more. For me, Bruce Springsteen is the master at this. He’s basically John Steinbeck with a guitar. I sat last night with a glass of bourbon and listened to his new album, “Letter to You,” straight through. It was like reading a really good short story collection. If I can affect readers even half as much with my words as his lyrics affect his listeners, I’ll have achieved more success than I ever could have imagined.

    • They call him The Boss for a good reason, Gregg. I haven’t had a chance to hear Letter To You yet. Short story collection… good way of describing it. John Steinbeck with a guitar… luv it.

  7. Great post, Garry!

    As a vocal performance major in college, most of this is very familiar to me. (And as a child of the 50s and 60s, so is the music in your examples.) 🙂

    All art forms tell a story, and one of the most powerful connectors is a song. True that. My dad was a mechanic in his younger years, and he could whip out a car/engine/fender story at the drop of a hat. Art is everywhere.

    One of my vocal coaches in college told me that if I dared to come to the stage to perform, whether for a production or a jury, I’d better not arrive without having studied my piece, autopsied it, and put it back together. In other words, musicians (whether songwriters, instrumentalists or vocalists) must understand what they’re giving to the audience, or the audience won’t “get it” either. And the audience is smart.

    I think that concept flows into novel-writing for sure.

    Thanks again for this post. Took me back a few decades and reminded me of a few things. Like ten college friends piling into a VW bug (yes, bug) and heading down the freeway to Huntington or Laguna beach, with California Dreamin’ pounding on the radio. 🙂

    • California Dreamin’ – oldie & goldie, Deb. Your bug-stuffin’ trip got me thinking so I Googled Guiness and found this: On 29 April 2000, a total of 25 people crammed into a standard VW Beetle in Kremser, Austria. Thanks for enjoying the post!

      • Would’ve liked to have seen that, Garry…but not been in it. As I recall, our bug was stacked 3 high x 3 in the back, and somehow I, the 5’2″ 100# vocalist, was sandwiched between a 6′ volleyball player and a wrestler.

        It…it was a long ride…but body surfing and hot dogs more than made up for it. 🙂

  8. I STRONGLY suggest you remove those lyrics from this blog. ASCAP is beyond crazy about lyrics and music being posted, and they even laugh at the concept of “fair use” so education as an excuse won’t cut it.

    And, as aside, never use lyrics, even a few lines, in your books for the same reason. Going the legal route and asking permission is also a waste of time because they often expect more money for a few lines than a book will make in its lifetime. ASCAP is bonkers.

    • Marilynn – I’m not going into deep research here (and I know quoting even a line or two from a song is verboten in books), but if I want to know the lyrics to a song that I’m having trouble remembering/understanding, I just Google the title and there will be numerous links to the lyrics. How are those allowed if you’re suggesting Garry remove them from his post? Is a blog that different from a site quoting lyrics?
      If not for those sites, I might never have know it was “bad moon on the rise” and not “bathroom on the right.” 🙂

      • LOL! And as a kid I thought the song “Band on the Run” was being sung as “Band on the Rug”. I don’t know. As a kid it seemed like it made sense. 😎

      • A lot of the lyric sites get shut down, but they are like a game of whack-a-mole and reappear. Kind of like the ebook pirate sites. Others manage to stay up for reasons I haven’t a clue about. What I do know is that no one has a right to anyone else’s copyright material, outside of specific cases of fair use. I know of others who have gotten in deep poop by using copyrighted material on their blog or in their book. What is most important for us here is that we make our money off of copyright, and we will be hypocrites if we misuse others’ copyrighted material. So don’t.

        Click on my name for my blog then click on the copyright label for links to articles on specific copyright topics. I’m not a lawyer, but I link to experts’ resources on the subjects I cover.

  9. The first time I heard Collin Raye’s “Love Me” I actually sobbed. Even today, thirty-some years later, it still tears me up. I can’t remember any books that have affected me like that, but your post is definitely food for thought. The Bridges of Madison County, like a song, was short, yet touched readers in a profound way. I didn’t like the story (a woman taking a lover while her husband was out of town?!?!) but the writing was beautiful. And Ernest Hemingway has been described as a writer whose ‘prose was like poetry’ which he could do in his era, but which would sound stilted and old fashioned now. We can, however, write each sentence so that it flows smoothly, each book in a way that describes the emotional heart of the story, like a song.

    • I have to admit I’ve never read anything by Hemmingway. The only thing I know is his quote “Write drunk. Edit sober” which seems like good advice. He’s survived the test of time, though, and it may well be due to poetic prose. Thanks for commenting, Becky!

      • Garry, if I may make a recommendation on Hemingway, I suggest getting a copy of his The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia edition. It’s a masters class on short story writing.

  10. As a writer of fiction and poetry, I’ve always been rather jealous of music because it pushes so many emotional buttons in the human brain with so little effort. Just a few shrieks of violin at the beginning of the shower scene in PSYCHO and the ominous, growing “dum dum” threat at the beginning of JAWS do things to a person’s insides even if they’ve never seen either movie. Add in words, and you can beat a person to death emotionally. It can take half a novel to equal that kind of emotional kick.

    I did a humor piece for my Christmas blog called “What Christmas Songs Can Teach a Writer,” if anyone is interested. Any additional songs would be appreciated since I update it every few years.

    http://mbyerly.blogspot.com/2019/12/what-christmas-carol-can-teach-writer.html

  11. Wow, Garry. This is impressive. One of my favorite songs is Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” You gotta know when to fold is good advice for every writer.

    • Thanks, Elaine! I was fortunate to see Kenny Rogers live back in his Gambler days – masterful performer who owned the audience from start to finish. Know when to fold ’em… yup, I learned that lesson when I queried agents 🙂

  12. This is absolutely fantastic, Garry. I am a huge fan of Chuck Berry, who could jam a story and sometimes even a novel into three minutes and change. Several of the older time country singers could do the same, as can a more contemporary gent named Robbie Fulks who is one of the founders of the insurgent country movement. Anyway, thanks so much for this!

    Um, about the lyric reproductions in your post…what Marilynn said. Music publishing attorneys are more tenacious than Uncle Walt’s legal team.

    • Thanks, Joe. Had to Google Robbie Fulks. Okay, this guy is interesting…

      I want to say a quick something about copy & pasting lyrics to this blog post. I didn’t think for a second there was anything wrong with it – like, there’s no profit here and no defamation – just an honest attempt at educating and, if the artists were marketers, they should be happy readers would click onto their products which average 50 plus years old.

      If the KZ administrator feels I’ve breached an ethic, I’ll gladly amend the post. Until then, I hope readers get value from this piece.

  13. Another great story telling song is Red Sovine’s “Phantom 309”. And speaking of story tellers, though I’ve listened to Johnny Cash for years, it wasn’t till about 2-3 years ago I discovered he cut a song called “The Chatanooga City Limit Sign.” Highly recommend this fun song if you haven’t heard it.

  14. This is an amazing post, Garry, packed with so much insight. When it comes to music, I know what I like, but that’s about it. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the craft and structure of fiction, but nearly none at all when it comes to song writing. I have even more respect now for my song writer friends.

    I’m saving this post to re-read and absorb.

    I do use music when I write–typically instrumental when I’m composing, but songs when I’m brainstorming. My new mystery series begins in 1990, so I’m having all kinds of fun listening to music from that time.

    Thanks again for a fantastic post.

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