Write A Backstory For Your Song

Sep 04, 2021

It’s important to write a backstory for your song. Let’s talk about why.

 

It Helps Flesh Out The Character Of Your Story In Your Mind

One reason it’s important to write a backstory for your song is that it helps you dive in and empathize with the character of your song.

Fleshing out the character of your song can really help you to write from their perspective better.

You wouldn’t write a biography without knowing the ins and outs of a person, right?

You can’t write an Abraham Lincoln biography without knowing more than just the highlights of his life. You need to research to find the little details of what made him tick and the man he was behind closed doors. 

So why would you write a song from a character’s perspective without doing your do-diligence to make sure you understand them more fully? 

The more you understand and flesh out a character, the more real they’ll feel.

It’s like how an underdeveloped character in a movie can end up feeling unreal to you. It almost takes you out of the movie because it feels so fake.

You don’t want your song to be like that too, right?

Even if the perspective and character of your song is you, it can be helpful to dive deeper and recall the backstory to the story you’re telling in your song.

Even if you’re writing about the breakup you went through 10 years ago, it was 10 years ago. You might not remember all the little intricacies and details of how you felt and what you went through without diving into your own backstory.

 

It Can Help Give You Some Details To Work With

The more you explore the world and history of your character, the more you can draw different ideas from them.

Your character might be an 80-year-old woman, but she isn’t just a woman who’s 80 years old. She’s a woman who lived 80 years. She has 80 years of possible history for you to dive into. 

Obviously I’m not saying you need to write an entire biography for your song’s fictional character, but it would help to come up with enough of a backstory to figure out how they tick. 

An 80-year-old dealing with death who is lonely and has no family left has a significantly different outlook than the one who has her family all around her and her favorite granddaughter is getting married in another 6 months. 

Right?

No one deals with anything the exact same way. How I feel when my heart is broken is different than how you feel. There are similar themes and relatable emotions, but we are all different.

Taking the time to dive a little bit more into your character can help you to nail those details, making the emotion and story of the song all the more real.

It can even help you figure out some great symbols and themes for their life that you might not have without diving deeper than the story of your song.

 

It Helps You Explore Your Song In A Low Pressure Way

If you were going to write a book, would you sit down in front of a blank page and start writing or would you figure out a genre, a couple characters, and at least a rough outline first?

Hopefully you’d outline first. If you don’t even know whether your story is sci-fi or historical fiction, you might run into a problem when you just start writing.

Similarly, it can be really helpful to take a step back and come up with a rough outline and backstory to your song.

It’s like going to a grocery store. Is it better to just figure out what you need while you’re there or to come up with a list beforehand by looking at the recipes you intend to cook that week?

If you just go and hope to remember everything as you walk by it, you’re hoping that you remember all the recipes, the ingredients, and all the other things you may need as you go through the store. You’re relying on your memory.

If you figure it out beforehand, all you have to do in the store is look at the list.

Similarly, having an outline and backstory helps you create a cohesive song that is less likely to be a total mess. You already know what the conclusion of your song is. You know what part of the story the second verse is telling. And you understand why the elderly lady isn’t ready to go.

Maybe the best part of this is the pressure it alleviates from writing your first lyrics. I think it’s always a good thing to take as much pressure as possible off of our first lyrics, and writing a backstory can help do that. It means you already know where your song is going and who your song is about.

You aren’t just staring at a blank page when you try to write your first lyrics. Instead, you’re staring at a page with all sorts of backstory and information to draw off of. 

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