|Below Mary talks with Luna about her writing character-based songs.
Luna: How does writing fiction influence your songwriting?
You have to get "into character" to write fiction. I do it with songwriting, too. It's liberating to shed your own ego, dive into the soul of another person, and see the world from that point of view.
Luna: How do you get started writing a character-based song?
Mary Amato: First, imagine a character. This can be someone you have invented, or you could be inspired by a stranger or a person in a photograph or painting. Next, make a choice about whether you're going to write in "first person" or "third person." If you pretend you are the person and you are using "I," then you're writing in first person. If you're singing about the character and use "she" or "he," then you're writing in third person.
Luna: Can you give examples?
Mary Amato: Sure. John Prine put himself in a woman's shoes to write "Angel from Montgomery" which has been covered often. "I am an old woman named after my mother…" That's a first-person, character-based song. Paul McCartney chose third person to write about the Eleanor Rigby in his classic song. "Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been…"
Luna: What tips do you have for songwriters who want to try writing character-based songs?
Mary Amato: Try one of these brainstorming ideas and then use the raw material that you come up with to craft your song.
For more advice from Mary Amato, visit the THRUM SOCIETY. Isn't that a great name?
Let go of any inhibitions you might have and enjoy!
- Write a diary entry as if you are the character.
- Interview yourself as the character.
Ask all kinds of questions:
- What do you love?
- What are you afraid of?
- What makes you smile?
- Take a walk, imagining that you are the character and allow yourself to think the thoughts of that character.
- Jot down all your thoughts when you return.