Last night I saw the fabulous Metric in a surprise, last-minute show in Jacksonville. Front row, on the barricade. Pure awesome. Emily gets most of the press for Metric, but let me just say that guitarist Jimmy Shaw is also phenomenal. To celebrate a fantastic night, I'm starting my Music Lessons blog series.
A novel tells a story using somewhere around 80,000 words. The average song uses around 200 words. I think writers of long fiction can learn about imagery, emotional impact, and economy of words by diving into the music that moves them.
Here are some of my favorite Metric lyrics:
From Black Sheep:
Hello again, friend of a friend, I knew you when
Our common goal was waiting for the world to end
Now that the truth is just a rule for you to bend
You crack the whip, shape shift and trick, the past again
We get such a great picture of these two characters, without knowing their names or what they're wearing or what they had for lunch yesterday. We know that they are having this reunion, because she SHOWS us, and they have a past that you want to know more about. And then we have the metaphors. I can totally relate to seeing someone after a long time and having the encounter transform your memories. We also see how this other person has the upper hand in the relationship, all in less than 50 words.
From Gimme Sympathy:
We're so close to something better left unknown
I can feel it in my bones
After all of this is gone
Who'd you rather be?
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
You're gonna make mistakes, you're young
Come on baby, play me something
Like "Here Comes the Sun"
This song gives a great illustration of voice and word choice. "Something better left unknown" is such a moving combination, with this sense of trepidation as the one character begs the other to "feel" with her, and ultimately to help her move forward. The conversation rings true, and it brings the listener into the connection by having her draw personal connections. Sometimes we have to take risks like this. Maybe the reader won't have the reaction you intend for a reference, but by letting her make it, you deepen the connection to the story.
I'll wrap up for today so I can get to work on my WIP with all this musical inspiration. But stay tuned for future posts in the series, highlighting Death Cab for Cutie and The White Stripes.
Here is a video from the concert, featuring Help I'm Alive. (The audio is really loud, so if you want to give it a listen, be sure to turn it down a little.)