Music Calms the Savage Breast…and Whets the Creative Knife

Give a song lyric and a one sentence pitch for what your story is about. 

This was the prompt that lead me to enter the writing contest hosted by Larry Brooks at

The idea inspired me.  Writing contests are great practice for presenting yourself, but it’s even better when they stir something inside you. 

A week later I was in for a delightful surprise.

I sifted through the words to songs that had really stuck with me over the years and took to heart what Larry Brooks said in his post, that

“it’s important to notice that the lyric that came to mind has remained with you over time.  Maybe a long time.  Which means there’s something about it that resonates with you.” 

I knew I wouldn’t have to look far.

Some songs absolute haunt me.  The song Mad World stuck with me so closely in high school, I made myself figure out how to play it on the piano.  

When I interwove the lyrics of this song with an idea that had begun in my head, full of symbols, secrets, fear, and family grief, I discovered a dynamic combination.

So I welded the two elements together, boiled down the story concept to one line and highlighted the song lyrics that most spoke to that.  I highly recommend this say-it-in-one-sentence technique to anyone writing a novel.  It forces you to focus and it’s very painful the first time, but it gets easier.

I spent about twenty minutes thinking, writing, praying, and then I submitted my idea to the contest.

I discovered this morning that my lyric and log-line (the one sentence pitch) were named as the winner!

I’m grateful for this clear indication that my studies and the application of them to my writing really do pay off.  See the announcement of me as winner here.

It can take months for a concept to sink down deep enough to where I can actually understand how to use it in my own writing, and having patience for that is challenging.  However, this was a sweet taste of encouragement that let me know I’m on the right track. 

I want this story to be an encouragement to any writer reading this.  Time dedicated toward learning the craft of writing and marketing yourself is time well spent. 

Pace yourself however you need to in your craft studies but make sure to study craft with a humble and teachable mind.  Much of advanced writing is a deeper study and understanding of the basics.   Of course, make sure to write regularly.

I highly recommend checking out StoryFix if you have not already.  Larry is a very articulate and thought-provoking writer with a solid sense of story craft.

Tell me what inspires you.  Do you have a story that was born from a song lyric?  Let’s hear it!  Did you see a painting that conjured  a saga inside your mind?  What was it?  Tell me places where you’ve recently found inspiration.


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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Congratualations, Elise! Your advice is wonderful, and apparently pays off. I love the contest idea. Perhaps something will come to me while the radio is going in the office – I haven’t written in ages and your advice is giving me ideas.

  2. Sayre-Good to hear from you! I’m glad to hear that you’re inspired. Let me know if anything comes out of your radio-listening inspiration. 🙂

  3. Great pitch! Congratulations!!!

    1. Lainie-Thanks for reading it! I’m pretty excited. 🙂

  4. One of my all-time favorite song lyrics is:

    When peace like a river attendeth my soul,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll,
    Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    But lately I’ve been entranced with Fairytale of New York by the Pogues: .

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