1. riggbren
    Offline

    riggbren Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0

    Can't Think of a Good Way to do This

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by riggbren, Feb 25, 2012.

    I'm currently writing a song about a man in his 40's who has poured more than he had into other people his whole life, just trying to be a good person, but now that he's grown up and had kids, he considers himself old and burnt out. He uses this as an excuse not to try to be a good person, or care about his life whatsoever. He has a broken relationship with his family because of this, and is just waiting to die, even though so many people support him and love him. In the song, I want the listener to dislike him and be frustrated with him at the beginning of the song, but be sympathetic towards him by the end. I've tried many times to write and outline the lyrics, but to no avail. The lyrics never fit the somber tone of the song.

    I just need some advice on how to portray different negative qualities in the first and second verses, respectively, and then to have the climax and resolution where the listener can empathize with this character in the bridge. If I can't think of a good way to do this, I may trash the song altogether. I know that the resolution in the bridge, where the listener can empathize with him, will be revealing his reasoning.

    I'm not asking anybody to write this for me, but I just want some advice on how I can accomplish this.
     
  2. Gonissa
    Offline

    Gonissa Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2012
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Ghost Tower
    Well, what reason does your listener have to hate the dude? He doesn't sound that bad.
     
  3. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Holy shit.

    You are trying to cram way too much into a song. It's like you're asking us how to be a genius.
     
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    minstrel's right... it's way too much for a song lyric to put across...

    besides which, if the guy was good all his life, what's to hate?... that makes no sense at all...

    and, speaking as a still-living-large 73-year-old, how in the bleep can you consider someone in their 40s OLD!!?
     
  5. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,535
    State his failure as a father in the first verse or two (or how he doesn't take responsibilities for his kids or something) - and then in the bridge you can tell the listener his reasons - something like, he feels inadequate and how he has been trying so hard but it's failed so many times before so why bother now?
     
  6. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,685
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    There is so much wrong, here. First, if he's in his 40s, he isn't "old" and hasn't lived "his whole life" (whether to serve others or not). So, your basic premise is wrong. Second, if he's "been a good person and served others", how could he have a broken relationship with his kids? I mean, yes, it is possible, but not in the simplistic manner that you could divulge in a verse or two of a song. Third, wanting people to hate him at the beginning is inconsistent with your notion that he's "been a good person and served others" and has so many people supporting and loving him. Fourth, the kind of tale you apparently want to tell - wherein people will be inclined not to like him but then grow to understand his situation and sympathize with him - is more conducive to a longer type of work - a novella or a novel.
     
  7. riggbren
    Offline

    riggbren Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, I don't mean that he's actually old, but that he considers his life over. It's actually not as long and complicated as it would seem. And you wouldn't necessarily hate him, but be frustrated by the fact that at this point he uses his good reputation as an excuse to give up on being a good person, or caring about his life. And I also don't mean that all this will be included in a song, but when I write a song about a character, I normally try to fill in a lot of their backstory, so I can portray that kind of character better. Sorry for the bad wording, but I agree. Maybe this is too much for a song.
     
  8. Lake Effect
    Offline

    Lake Effect New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Northwest Indiana
    I was intrigued enough by your question that I actually registered here to weigh in on it. It strikes me that I don't really know your point of view--in other words, whose words are those of the song? The tale is told by someone, and I'm thinking it's you. I think you are as important as the person you're writing (singing) about. So if you are, say, 22, you might quite legitimately find forty-something "old." While those of us with grey hair may bristle at that perception...it is simply a perception. It does not purport to say "what is so." You are the only one who can say what you see.

    For this song to work (and in my mind, for anything poetic to work) it must be authentic. So it must express who you really are in relationship to this character and his failings (real or perceived). From my point of view (as with a few others here) the notion that a fundamentally good, caring person gives up at age 45 seems not to ring true. What interests me is why you might think that's what's going on. What is your relationship here that makes you pick this subject, this man, this spin on his life?

    I resist filling in the tale, but I think that's where your song is. There has been a wound, a break, a betrayal. He seems to have turned his back on what he was. But there remains affection and sympathy. Open your heart if you dare. Spill your guts. That's the only way "good way to do this."
     
  9. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    That to me sounds like he's depressed. Depressed people often go over and over all the past mistakes, real and perceived ones. Writing from his point of view might help with showing all this. But it would be a tall order trying to communicate all you intended, in one song. Worth a try, though. Good luck!
     
  10. riggbren
    Offline

    riggbren Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0

    Well, actually, the character is partially based on my girlfriends dad. He had a really troubled childhood, with a schizophrenic dad and such. He's an incredible psychologist, but ever since he was in his mid-40's he decided that all the people he helped and all the good he did was enough to justify giving up, and wasting away in front of a computer screen. He just wants to die, even though he's not even done raising his youngest kid. He poured in everything he had to other people, more than he had, almost. And now he's paying for it, he's drained. The character in my song has some different circumstances, but that's basically the kind of person he has.
     
  11. Lake Effect
    Offline

    Lake Effect New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Northwest Indiana
    So you are on the threshold of a point of view. Is this a song to write to your friend, to let her know you see and feel what she's going through? Or do you want to be more intimate, yet, taking on her view of things, expressed from all the pain she must be living in? I can't but imagine the difficulty of seeing the father you love and admire, who has reached out to others his entire life, suffer in a way that makes him withdraw from the affection which might heal him. There's a song here, surely, in mystery of love and greatness abandoned.

    You might even take a harder path, and write from the father's perspective: it might be the song, perhaps, of Silverstein's Giving Tree. No one's written that one yet, but the honesty might kill you.
     
  12. riggbren
    Offline

    riggbren Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's not really to her, or about her dad, but I feel like if she listens to it, she'll know that I understand. Originally, the song with from the point of view of the son. But I felt like that version had too much going on. But thanks for asking these questions, because they're definitely addressing things I hadn't thought about very much until now.
     
  13. Lake Effect
    Offline

    Lake Effect New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Northwest Indiana
    Actually there's so much challenge in writing a song that I can barely wrap my head around it. Your words, to be powerful, must paint a picture of what you see, as honestly as you can. That much, I'm sure you know. To the listener, the point of view must be clear--father, daughter, son, friend, omniscient observer, you have to pick one. If it doesn't seem to work, try another.

    As everyone here has warned you, you can't try to say too much: tight, clear images are like clean brush strokes and, like a simple line, a sharp phrase can suggest much more than it says. Someone your age wrote Roberta Flack's hit "Killing Me Softly" by cutting to the core of what it felt like to love unrequited. She simply mailed that song to a famous voice, and the world found her words irresistible. In your life someone is dying, and not so softly. Speak to it; be honest; don't gush.

    Good luck.
     
  14. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    can you set the lyrics to music, after you write them?

    i'm a lyricist [among many other 'writing' things], so here's just one way i might approach it... here's an opening chorus that i could build the verses on, which would progress from the depressed state up to the closing chorus' brighter future:

     
  15. riggbren
    Offline

    riggbren Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2012
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yeah, I can set them to music. I've had the music written for awhile, but I haven't been able to come up with lyrics to fit it, save for the closing line of the chorus "He's still got 30 years to go, he's still got 30 more to blow."

    But that chorus hit it dead on. I'm almost tempted to steal it from you, but the tone in my lyrics is always a bit sarcastic.
     
  16. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    it's yours for the asking... just mention me when you accept your grammy, ok?
     
  17. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    You might want to look up the lyrics to a song called "Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself?" by Morrissey from the album Vauxhall and I
    He is a brilliant lyricist, but this particular song portrays a similar man to the one you described. It so well written, such descriptive terms in only few short words, just really well done.
     
  18. superpsycho
    Offline

    superpsycho Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2012
    Messages:
    638
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The regrets of a forty year old would seem fairly standard. Usually missed opportunities, or the path their life has taken. What about selling his dreams or principles for money if it’s a folk or rock song. Lost loves, lost moments or miss spent youth and bad choices if you’re doing country. The way you describe it though is he lost sight of his goals and life trying to please or live up to expectations of others. He might be torn between his own desires and earning the respect of his father sort of thing.
     

Share This Page