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What Word Lists Can Do For Your Lyrics

If you write your own lyrics, I hope you know the value of creating word lists. One benefit is obvious: once you have a general topic, lists of pertinent words will give you the basic vocabulary from which you can pull together a lyric.

But there is another benefit that you may not be thinking of, but might actually be an even stronger benefit: creating lists of words can help you develop a storyline.


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Here’s how that can work. Just because you have a topic doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a story. You know the empty feeling you get when, after writing a line or two, you find yourself scrambling, trying to figure out what to write next.

So let’s say you’ve got a general topic, but don’t know how to proceed from there. Here’s what you can try:

  1. Create two lists of words that pertain, even vaguely or generally, to your chosen topic. List #1 should contain the kinds of words you might use in a verse: narrative, unemotional, observational words. List #2 should contain the kinds of words you might use in a chorus: emotional and full of feeling.
  2. As you write, see if a story or a line of thought is becoming apparent. From time to time, stop writing and start reading what you’ve written down. Often, even on a subconscious level, you start writing several things that all connect in some way.
  3. Once you observe a storyline appearing, start two new lists. But this time, write words that pertain in a more direct way to this story that you’ve noticed.

You might even do step 3 again, as the story comes more clearly into focus.

By the time you’ve done these three steps, you’ve got lists of words and phrases that you can use in your lyric. But more importantly, you’ve got words and phrases that outline a story.

Doing lists is a great way to avoid using clichés or other overused words in your lyric. It gives you greater control, and makes it more likely that you’ll stay focused and on topic.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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