Books from songs


Dangerously confused
Apr 8, 2011
Rotorua, New Zealand

Odd question. How many of you have been inspired to write stories from songs?

The reason I ask is that a few days ago I was finishing off the Barton Villa sequel when I turned on one of our music tv channels and immediately heard the song Jessie by Joshua Kadison. I hadn't heard it in years, and had more or less completely forgotten about it. And then straight after that I was busy starting a new book all about a man burnt out by an obsessive, intermittent love. (And I don't even do love stories!)

Anyone else had this sort of thing happen to them?

Cheers, Greg.
Only tangentially. I once was inspired by Harp Tree Lament, which was done by Jefferson Starship but which was written by Robert Hunter. Strange lyrics. I worked images into a DnD campaign I was running at the time. Ever since, I've wanted to capture the mood of that song, somehow. Now I want to go listen to the album again.
I wrote an entire novel (currently in final editing stage) inspired by one movement in a Mozart piece. A major turning point in the story takes place when one of the characters goes to see that piece performed live. I worked hard trying to actually describe instrumental music in words. I also have in it a chapter where two other characters go see a Mekons concert, and a few other passages where music is important.

I've also considered writing a book based on the song "Like a Motorway" by Saint Etienne. I once wrote about ten pages of it, to see how it would work. It's not one of my priority projects, though.
>... worked hard trying to actually describe instrumental music in words
Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.
(and variations thereon)
I didn't find inspiration per se, but I have written numerous stories around a song, or where I used a song as a focal point and so on, and often use songs to set a mood for reading. Off the top of my head (disregarding where I use songs for mood), I have roughly seven or eight--give or take--where the songs themselves are critical to the story. A little bit of country in this, heavy classical in that, punk here, and rockabilly there. There is even a 40k word novella where the song Hotel California used throughout is key.

However, the songs have never inspired the story. I've always found the songs to fit the story I want to write.


Damn! I shouldn't have posted this. Now I'm getting more story ideas! Gods - imagine the story you could write based on Hotel California! A hotel you can never leave! And with no wine list! Or stairway to heaven?! Sort of like the opposite to Dante's Inferno?!

Cheers, Greg.
Damn! I shouldn't have posted this. Now I'm getting more story ideas! Gods - imagine the story you could write based on Hotel California! A hotel you can never leave! And with no wine list! Or stairway to heaven?! Sort of like the opposite to Dante's Inferno?!

Yeah, well...I wrote mine for a friend of mine who had missed out on the wonders found in era bookstores. No, not that kind, add more neon, quarter booths, and glossy mags. So it's not a work of enlightening literature by any stretch. In any case, the more I thought about it, with the flexibility of forums and websites, I've written a number of short pieces where I could use a song as a punchline or add them throughout, and actually have the tracks there in the story.

I like doing so to the extent that for my alpha/beta readers, I'll add -fitting- musical tracks at the end of chapters, and even sound effects throughout to help make reading an enhanced experience. On my latest stuff, though the sound clips would be great for digital readers, I even looked into what it would take to add a music soundtrack for an expanded version of the novel. Unfortunately, I fear that stretches my capabilities (chasing down copyrights), more than I'm willing to bear.

Oh, P.S.: I do have one story I MUST finish. It's about a futuristic flight school where the various forms of craft are gravity propelled. In the story various cadets are having a rough time of it, getting a feel for how the system works. Essentially, the pilot uses their entire body--like a dance--to increase the pull or push from this object or that and sees the outside world as various fields and waves.

Anywho, the cocky cadet, arrogant and the like, has discovered the perfect ancient song to run the course. Everything affects the fields, even rain, fog...everything has a pull of it's own. So, to find a song that matches and inspires him to move just right ensures a perfect score. Unfortunately, he encounters a bunch of cues which makes him (accidentally) choose 'track 13.'


Unfortunately because, once he's in the cockpit's field, you cannot hear, but only feel the music. So, we have Tarik fly the course as he performs this beautiful flowing dance in the cockpit. Smugly knowing all the while, he is the finest gravity flier that has ever lived. Also, since you're protected by the field, you can't feel anything other than the inputs and feedback of the navigational field and music.

When he lands, and smugly walks toward the other cadets, standing there mouths' agape, he just knows it's in awe of him. The ship falls into a heap damaged upon repair, the other cadets howl as he glances to the replay screen, seeing the ship lurch and slam into buildings, the ground, and jerk around the sky like a giant dog is shaking it.

Smug as always though he's failed the course, he walks away unable to understand and says, "play track 14," and begins dancing as he wanders down the runway, trying to figure out what he did wrong.

Track 14

I draw a lot of inspiration from music. One idea came heavily from Fields of the Nephilim's Mourning Sun. The current idea owes a lot to Dead Can Dance's Ulysses and Dark Tranquillity's ... Of Melancholy Burning. There's an undeveloped idea that comes a lot from Vangelis' Ask the Mountains. And so on and so on.

I know I'm not alone, as I know @Vaz got a story idea from Cult of Luna's Leave me Here. I also know RJ Barker gets a lot of inspiration from music - Fields of the Nephilim for the Wounded Kingdoms, think he cited Cult of Luna for his new series - and of course, Joe Hill's Horns draws super heavily from the Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want.
Kate Bush has influenced probably 90% of the stuff I’ve written. If I can mix Kate Bush, M R James and Michael McDowell I’m happy.

I’m super-influenced by music - as a dance teacher I have choreographed two dances which ended up as stories instead of dance. I wonder how my dance process affects my writing one.

I wrote a short for the first SS challenge which was based on Felix Gaeta’s lament song in BSG.

Probably what I need! My problem with it is I had it in my mind as a fantasy tragedy but it might be more of a redemption story.

Redemption and tragedy can work together though. Hell, I think a lot of a time, redemption kinda requires it. That sh*t hurts.
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