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A Question About Songs


Speak No Evil
For my fic, I am considering putting lyrics to some certain songs or cuing when a certain song is playing to accentuate the mood. For example, and I'm not saying that this will be part of my fic:

Chimchar readied itself for battle, rolling its small hands into fists, the flame on its bottom blazing.
(Cue "Get Ready For This")

And before or after that chapter, I will give credit to whoever does the song or wrote or sung the lyrics that I will put in it. Is that suitable?


No. 1 Grovyle Fan
Yeah, you're allowed to do that.

I tried it once in my fic, but looking back at it, I thought it was a big mistake [I've recently erased it], unless you expect all your readers to know the song and can put it in in a way so that it won't distract/detract from the actual story.

Yami Ryu

Well-Known Member
To be honest you should avoid it during the middle of the story like that, I saw someone who did that and it was just a bad thing to do. Granted it was like every five sentences/paragraphs. But still if lyric cues can be avoided they should, but if you feel it is absolutely needed, then a note before the chapter could be used.

Though you shouldn't really rely on song to always help get a person sucked into a certain part of the story's mood.


I could see it working, but I would link to a place where you can actually listen to the song.

What most people do as far as this goes is to create a "soudtrack" of sorts, providing music that fits the general mood of the fic (including things such as a "main theme", ambient music, battle themes for certain characters, etc.) I personally don't actually use such things even when they're provided, but that's just me.


The Compromise
I wouldn't say you shouldn't - it all depends on whether it works or not. x3 Song fics are good examples of when it does work mid-story, and I've taken to starting my stories with quotes that I believe match the mood - it just makes it more enjoyable for me, at least. xD I end up loving the songs all the more for the comparison. Like all things, you just have to make sure it works with what you are writing.

I wouldn't really put in something like 'cue' to enter the music - that would just throw the reader out of the story, breaking up the flow, which is something to avoid. If you are looking to recommend a song to be played at that point, as the person above me mentioned, you could create a soundtrack of songs you believe work with the chapter/story with a link to somewhere to download it/listen to it at the beginning, so the readers can play it while reading. Linking to the song at the cue may work, but I'm a little worried that it may seem out of place.

Or you could insert the lyrics of the song throughout the battle, which is a more accurate way of adding the effect you wanted from a particular moment of the song, but you do have to ensure that it is adding to the mood, not detracting by distracting the reader.

In conclusion - by all means go for it! It just is, like all things, something that needs to be used well or it can be more detrimental than useful. Gah, this came out more garbled than I would've preferred. >.<


Awesomely awesome
Though you shouldn't really rely on song to always help get a person sucked into a certain part of the story's mood.

This I agree on.

But hey, if you want to, it's ultimately your choice what you do with your fic. I'd recommend linking the song(s) too. Then a reader could just open it in a tab or something and not get disrupted from the actual reading.

Ace Kenshader

Dreaming sexy
Well it is a good idea to put songs into stories, but like as many others say, it's important not too use too much songs and to use it at a right time.

It's also a good idea for you to put a link to the song in question so that others would know what that song really is, cause it's not a good idea for readers to try and imagine what the song sounds like.


My Serebii face
Found a good essay on songfics while I was poking around for other stuff a while ago, and this thread is as good as any other to post it in:


Once upon a time, I answered a Forever Knight fan fiction challenge that asked authors to write a story based on a song. I choose "Plenty" by Sarah McLachlan, and wrote a Janette vignette that took place during and after an episode, and explained why the character had left Toronto and her lover, using the song lyrics as a part of the structure of the story. I broke the story into sections which were each headed by the song's lyrics, and posted it, and then promptly forgot about its existence.

When a discussion of songfic came up on the Trek board I moderate, it got me thinking about why I now cringe when I re-read a vignette I originally was quite proud of. These days, if I open a story and the first thing I see are song lyrics—that's it. It's over. I have learned (the operative word here being "learned") contempt for that particular sub-genre of fan fiction over the last few years, and I don't care if you're Shakespeare—you have to work twice as hard to sell me on a story based on (or more importantly, having the characters listen to and sing) a song. This is a learned response for one simple reason: 99% of all songfic I have ever had the misfortune of reading has been poorly written, and painfully awkward.

Yes, there are exceptions.

I can see all of you out there, nodding your heads.

Chances are, your story is not one of them, so let's just pop that little balloon right now.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that more genre television has begun using songs (as opposed to the series score) in dynamic ways in the last five years. Series such as Due South, Strange Luck, Nikita, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular have used music incredibly effectively to create mood, tension, express emotion, and convey information in a way that is visceral, immediate, and uses the medium to its best advantage. This works on a variety of levels— the scenes specifically paired with the music and the lyrics create an experience that is unique to a visual/auditory experience that is television (and by extension, film).

Unfortunately, what many fan writers do not understand is that this same feeling and effect cannot be produced in prose in the same manner. Seeing song lyrics on a page is not the same as hearing the song, and what the writers most often fail to understand is that while they know the song and are "hearing" it inside their head while reading the story, there is no guarantee that the reader will. In fact it is more likely that the reader will not. This is particularly common with popular music. While in fan fiction a certain level of shared knowledge—such as to the series premise, the characters appearance and personalities, and the canon and backstories—is assumed, shared taste in music cannot be assumed. Moreover, an author cannot count on the fact that the reader a) knows the song, b) does not utterly despise the song and hate your story merely by association, or c) not knowing the song, will get the desired response from reading the lyrics. The reader may be able to glean a fraction of the author's intent, but it will always be just that: a fraction.

There is a world of difference between heading each section or chapter of a story with song lyrics, and imbedding the song itself in the narrative. The former is decidedly preferable to the later, if for no other reason than the fact having fiction characters listening to the radio, dancing, or God forbid, singing to one another can be forced, awkward, and downright ludicrous unless it is done with great skill.

For example, the chances of anyone aboard the USS Voyager being a Queen or Celine Dion fan are comparable to the chances of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. For those of you who don't have any idea the sad history of Chicago-area sports teams other than Basketball, let's just say that the they'll be handing out ice skates in hell before we ever see B'Elanna and Tom gazing lovingly into one another's eyes while crooning "My Heart Will Go On." It's not a question of personal taste so much as it is staying power.

Staying power is all about music surviving the height of its popularity and continuing to have cultural, emotional, and historical relevance for the following generations. For example, Gilbert and Sullivan musicals have remained pop culture references for over 100 years. Many traditional ballads have been around for over 1000 years, and have become an ingrained part of our culture and language. However, late 20th century French Canadian pop stars will most likely be trivia by the time my kids are in high school, and the chances of even the best glam rock band in the history of the universe being more than an obscure historical footnote in the 24th century are nil. As a fan writer, a Queen fan, and a student of human nature, I accept this and do not try and undermine a story by miring it in inappropriate pop culture references.

Appropriate cultural references, on the other hand, are a completely different story. The novel American Psycho for example, really can't exist without 80s pop music, for two reasons. Part of writing a period piece is creating the landscape in as much detail as possible. But more importantly, the music in the novel serves the plot, and is instrumental in defining character of the protagonist.

To put this back into fannish perspective: Miles O'Brien sang "The Minstrel Boy" in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation which dealt with O'Brien's feelings about the Federation/Cardassian armistice, having fought on the front lines of the that conflict. That was a song that helped underscore a major plot point. That was a completely appropriate (if maudlin) use of a song in fiction that served the story as a whole, rather than the vanity of the author.

If you can turn "La Vida Loca" into a plot point, without losing your dignity, or sacrificing your characters' dignity, then more power to you. However, if you truly believe a song speaks to you and will speak to others in conjunction with your favourite series, then rather than using it in a short story or novel, what you may want to do instead is try to create a fannish music vid. That may well be a more effective way of conveying to your audience the relationship of the song and the characters that you have in your mind, than trying to do so in the silence of prose. And while there is no guarantee that your vid will be better than your story was, at least the audience will be actually hearing the music, rather than reading the lyrics.

My heartfelt advice to authors regarding songfic is to sit down, write the story, and then remove the song lyrics (or at the very least, move them to either the beginning, or end of the story, much as you would a poem or quote).

If the story can stand on its own two feet without the lyrics there to tell the reader what the story is supposed to be about, then you have a better chance of writing something that other people will want to read, regardless of their own music tastes.

Mrs. Lovett

Rolling writer
I'm actually having the same problem right now! I'm thinking of putting song lyrics at the very end of my epilogue, just to set the final mood of the story. Not everyone might know the song I'm going to choose, so I'll just link to it. Find the video on Youtube or something, and put a note at the beginning of your chapter.
Like most people said here, you shouldn't make it the main thing of your chapter. If you want to put in a song during a battle, put the first few lyrics at the beginning, then go on describing your battle. This way, when the reader reads it, they'll have the song in mind but won't be disturbed by lyrics every few paragraphs.


Kindred Spirit
As has been established already, and as Yami Ryu and Chozo put eloquently, combining two forms of media is not the wisest move an author can make. Granted, music can be a great complement to something already good, but only if done so correctly. Quite frankly, having an auditory component to something that requires neither video nor audio is fruitless. Something literary requires nothing more than what is in front of you: the text. I believe the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies here. Despite people's convictions that music can go hand-in-hand with fiction, you all are quite mistaken. As said, the music can counter the mood, but it also conflicts with your own personal take of what the appropriate music is in this situation. You may very well imagine what occurs, include the orchestra of your own, and see and hear what can occur, but a combination of aural and visual—not in a cinematic regard—will, ultimately, do more harm than good.



shooting the moon ☆
Easy suggestion, and what I'm planning on doing toward the end of my fic... I've seen fics crash and burn because they put the lyrics and then some writing and then some lyrics... so select this easy way:
simply inform the reader at the beginning of the chapter in bold letters to please open up a link for youtube (if they'd like) or their itunes/ipods and select the song "yadayada" by "yadayada" and to play it whilst reading this chapter. It's just easier that way and gives the reader the choice of whether to read it without the hassle or to make the effects more real using the song. Instead of telling the reader HERE ARE THE LYRICS and READ THESE LYRICS WHEN I WRITE THIS, you give them a recommendation and leave it up to him or her.
If you don't want to waste your time with telling them to youtube it, just leave it out. Song lyrics and having to restrict what you're writing to what's being sung at that time is just annoying. Plus if readers know the song and you don't syncronize the words when they are sung to what you're reading, they tend to get annoyed. Take it from me, when I see a songfic I search the song and listen to it but if I'm ahead in the song and the lyrics are still in my face when they shouldn't be, it's frustrating.