writing fictional songs

i heard someone speak last night about writing fiction. he said that after he quit drinking years ago, he stopped writing for some 9 years before returning to it and getting published and becoming successful. at the time he quit, he mused about the strange correlation between heavy drinking and writing, concluded that they were inseparable for him at that time, and set aside the writing for a long period.
i definitely agree that there is a weird symbiosis, and i have found myself wondering what it is occasionally over the last couple months of working on songs. more so in the last few weeks as i have been working more on lyrics. i remember reading a book years ago that my then-girlfriend shami gave me, the thirsty muse tracing the careers of faulkner, fitzgerald, hemingway, and o’neill.

one of the issues i have been dealing with has been the dividing line between reality and fiction. yesterday i was sitting with the acoustic and some lyrics just bubbled up. mostly what happens for me is i see little movies, vignettes and still frames, that i then describe. i spent some time working through the meter and editing a few passes at my new lyrics, tracked three takes of the vocal, comped it, and sat back and listened to the song.

the problem was that i could identify some people i know in the lyrics. sort of like casting some of your friends in a movie, putting them in costume and having them read your lines. without their permission. i almost never do that, so today i’ve been reworking things to take them out. but i think what i really need to do is to shift the perspective of the song.

seeing friends in the song bothered me because it was narrated by a somewhat biting, cynical, aloof outsider. sort of like the ornery drunk who holds forth at the bar with his opinions about how fucked up everyone else’s lives and beliefs are. that’s not me, but i think that i have written a lot from that voice in the past and i want to break myself of the habit. it’s time to be less critical and more constructive.

one other habit to break: staying up until 5 a.m. blathering about writing. fuck.






2 responses to “writing fictional songs”

  1. Jondi Avatar

    i read an interview with a novelist once, wish i could remember who, but basically they had the same issue – they were worried about their friends and families recognizing themselves as thinly veiled characters in the work, character flaws fully exposed. it turned out it wasn’t a problem, nobody identified with any of the flawed and fucked up characters – nobody saw themselves! i think it’s a writer’s prerogative to borrow from experience, friend’s personalities, etc., and just change the names. oh and if it’s a book put that disclaimer in the beginning of course. all events and characters in this novel are of fictitious origin … any resemblence to real people or events is coincidental. *wink* after all isn’t imagination mostly regurgitation?

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