Soundtrack of the Fictional Soul

Every word has it’s own rhythm, it’s own unique beat that flows into the next to create the patterns of speech that we all so greatly depend on. There is a roll or a lilt, a drawl or a twang, a pitch that makes it clear that what is being said is a question rather than a statement. Intonation will change the same three words from being an exclamation of pure lust to one of crushing heartache. These are all things that are heard, things that create the soundtrack of life all around us.

So, then, how does one ‘hear’ the soundtrack of fiction? Where are the lilts and drawls? The shattering hearts that make you hear those words croak their way out of a defeated soul or burst forth from the blessedly victorious?

Dialogue matters in a story but, so does the way in which that dialogue is spoken.

“Go to your room,” he whispered tremulously. ‘ is much different than “Go to your room!” he roared’. Same words, entirely different meaning. So, what changed?

The descriptions following the dialogue puts the ear worm in your readers’ ears. It has to be much more than just ‘he said/she said’ or else the meaning is lost. One could write out those same four words as being said in a sultry moan and it would have yet an entirely different meaning. And yet, the dialogue is just the lyrics to the song.


If I had wings like Noah’s dove
I’d fly up the river to the one I love
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

If I met your man, who was long and tall
I’d hit his body like a cannon ball
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

One of these days and it won’t be long
Call my name and I’ll be gone
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

I remember one night, a drizzling rain
Round my heart I felt an achin’ pain
Fare thee well, oh honey, fare thee well

When I wore my apron low
Couldn’t keep you from my do’
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

Now I wear my apron high
Scarcely ever see you passing by
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

Now my apron’s up to my chin
You pass my door and you won’t come in
Fare thee well, oh honey, fare thee well

If I had listened to what my mama said
I’d be at home in my mama’s bed
Fare thee well, oh honey, fare thee well

Those are the lyrics to Dink’s Song (Fare Thee Well) that has been covered over and over and over throughout history. In and of themselves, the lyrics are an OK story of loved lost. But when we add music to it like the song below…

Now the song takes on a whole new life and meaning. There is a melody that evokes emotion and imagery from the lyrics. They’re not just words on a page anymore, they have a life all their own. The same is true for a novel. A book won’t create actual music (though it would be rather awesome if it did) but the words that are written, how they are put together and their descriptions create that music for the reader. Their imaginations reach out to things that are familiar and plug in that soundtrack to enhance the story, to bring it’s melodies to the forefront.

So, how are those melodies captured? Well, listening to music similar to what you’re aiming for always helps, in my mind. If I am writing a battle, I’ll find playlists of thrumming cadences (or just play the Battle for Helm’s Deep on repeat). Write anything in the thriller genre with the music from the Exorcist or Halloween – that should give you (and your readers) chills for the next few nights.

Use the tools that you have been given to create the melody of your stories no matter the genre and open up that soundtrack to the fictional souls of your imagination.


** Dink’s Song (Fare Thee Well) was originally published in 1934 by Macmillan Press and sung on the above recording by Rob Benedict of Louden Swain.

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