Hal David (1921-2012), half of the Bacharach/David songwriting team (73 Top 40 hits in the U.S. including The Look of Love, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again and others) said he reads 2,000 words for every lyric he writes. As I sat listening to him talk a few years ago, I realized he was speaking with authority, as he was a true expert with clear results. Anyone who writes that many hits must know what he’s talking about! Sure, some songs just “come,” but usually have to be re-written until they say exactly what you want. Maybe I should say, songs SHOULD be re-written until they say what you mean! How many times have we heard a song that is not quite there? Plenty! And some of them have been my own! Finding just the right lyric for a song takes crafting and time.
Stephen King, the American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy, says he has so much to read and so little time to do it. Apparently, he goes back to re-read books he’s already read as well to get fresh ideas and fill his well of ideas with the number of words that Hal David spoke about. As King is mostly known as a writer of horror, he also says he usually doesn’t worry about genre. He just wants to tell a good story, with characters of interest to himself and his readers. His desire is to pull the reader in and give him or her an immersive experience. In his words, he wants to “own the reader for the length of the story.”
What do we do as writers of music and/or books-do we own the reader or listener? Are we wanting to create an experience for our listeners or readers that draws them in for the length of the book or composition? King also uses the idea of expressing thoughts in compressed nuggets. This is similar to using Twitter, which limits messages to 140 characters. Can you say what you mean in fewer words or characters? This is a wonderful concept to think about when dealing with our customers, clients and audiences. What will capture them and keep their attention? And are we telling a good story? I’m sure thinking about this more and more as I write.
Subscribe to Facebook Musician Page & Monthly Newsletter! ©Deborah Johnson • Twitter: @DJWorksMusic • www.DJWorksMusic.com “Night Writers” by Stephanie E. Ponder, Costco Connection (October, 2014) pg. 25-27
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