How to Write a Singing Scene

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Part One

  1. What perspective will this be from? The singer or the audience? Maybe both.

»A. There is more to singing than using the voice.

I. Will the audiences’ emotions be front and center for this scene or will it be the character’s? It doesn’t matter if you are writing first person or second person. The character can show the reader what the audience is thinking based on body language. 
 
    
II. If the character is singing alone, the audience can be more than just themselves. It could be a deity they believe in, or a loved one that passed away and is present either in physical spirit or thought. Could be a pet or even nature itself (trees, grass, etc) as the character’s audience. They all would respond in their own ways. Maybe the trees dance in the wind while the character sings a melody. Or the birds and bees join in on the tune.
 
    
 

  

Part Two

    1. Connect a deep feeling and understanding back to the reader.

»A. Remember, overall experience is more important than mechanics.

I. What is the song about? What genre? How does it sound? Is it slow or fast? Lighthearted or formal? Does the singer have a high voice or a low one, or a mix? 
 
    
II.How does the song make people who hear it feel? Is the singer doing anything else while they sing?
 
    
III.Let’s say the main character has a song stuck in their head. One way to show the reader (if it’s important to the overall plot) is when every time the song gets stuck in the character’s head, the paragraph would stop and a new one would start with the lyrics.
 
    

 

Part Three

    1. Create an emotion profile for why the character is singing

»A. Is there a message you want to convey? This can be shown by how the character sings.

I. Tone/breathy, maybe the sound of an exasperated sigh would be heard in parts of the singing.
 
    
 

II. How the character holds tension in the body can really influence the emotion. Are they rigid, loose? Perhaps seemingly overthinking it.
 
    

III. Diction can be shown through how you write the lyrics the character is singing. For example, hard/soft on the consonants using bold letters or capitalization. The character can have pauses and slurring in the singing, shown through the way you write the lyrics.

 
    
IV. Breath. Every emotional state has a breathing pattern associated with it. Ways to write breathing for singing would be through body language and onomatopoeia. For example if the character is scared and is hyperventilating: He placed a hand over his heart, barely able to stare into the crowd of onlookers. Wheeze, gasp!  Was all the lyrics we heard from him that night”.
 


V. Think about the type of song and the genre. For example, if you’re writing about rock music, the instruments will be guitar, drums, piano. So ‘Her voice rose higher, while trying to follow the raspy, intense notes of the musician’s bass.  

  
  

»B. Is this a new song?

I. If you’re using well-known songs, include action, internal monologue, and scenery description to avoid a reader skipping over to the actual story.
 
    
II.  If a song is new or a unique take, you can paraphrase the lyrics in a way that tells you something relevant to the character or moment.

Example:  The goofy man staggered down the street in his drunken stupor singing: “You ma-a . . . blue-eyed girl!” He took another swig from the bottle in his hand. “Do you remember when . . . we used to sing: Oh la la, la la, la la, la la, la te da! Just like that!”  He took another swig. “All alone on my own. I thought I saw you the other day. But it was my dreams—” He was silenced by sirens coming from behind him down the alley. He bolted!
    

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Part Four

    1. Create emotion profiles for the song.

»A. Purpose of the song. Is the message in the content of the song or the characters reaction to them?

I. Songs in fiction have multiple purposes such as giving background details, foreshadow, used as a metaphor, portray emotion or conflict, reflect or mirror events of the story, used for character development, etc. The message you are trying to convey will determine how you write them.
    
II.  One method is good for when the content of the song is unimportant or secondary to the characters reaction. Simply include a description of the song. Using broad terms, describe the topic and style of the song but keep focus on how it affects the characters.
    
 

Part Five

    1. How does it end? Good note or bad? Audience wanting more? Character feeling happier?

»A. Don’t be afraid to end the scene or chapter here.

I. When it ends, is there thunderous applause?
    

II. How are they feeling? What are they thinking? Their posture. Are there any subtle movements in their hands, eyes, and breathing patterns?

    
III. After singing the character could simply move on to later that night or the next day. You don’t necessarily have to show what happens right after. It may even make the reader curious. You can show the results of singing throughout the story, for example, if other characters start treating the singing character nicer, or they get a contract deal, or if their depression has subsided.

 

Example:

  • Intense, was the crescendo as it built to a slow roll that crashed like a great wave into the souls of those that listened. A calming silence fell over the eager audience; they were captivated by the intoxicating tune coming from this slender throat. From the depths of his soul, the lyrics rose and swelled around everyone in that room as if all could feel his misery. In this moment, his pain was their pain and the audience and singer were as one. 

 
    

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