Songwriters have less than 4 minutes to tell their story, with the extra weight of providing enough descriptive elements in the lyric to set a tone, paint a scene and emote a heartfelt truth for the listener. There is no video to help tell the story. The songwriting must provide enough lyric information for the listener to create the movie in the mind when listening. Literary devices provide a great tool to complete this task.
Metaphors are the mainstay of good creative writing. By comparing two unlike objects that do not belong together, you've created a friction, an essential conflict, that will emote a feeling in your listener by creating a new descriptive idea that will demand your listener to pay attention.
Listen to these songs with great metaphors:
Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
Hearts & Bones by Paul Simon
Love is A Battlefield by Pat Benatar
Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel
Loser by Beck
Everything You Did by Steely Dan
& Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Here are the tools to create three types of metaphors.
1. Expressed Identity occurs when you compare two unlike nouns. There are three formulas in which to do this.
First pick two nouns. A great way to find new comparisons is to create an expressed identity worksheet. Make two long lists of nouns and try out the formulas on each noun on list 1 by comparing it to each noun on list 2. For example: If "love" is the first noun on your list 1 and "rose" is the first noun on your list 2, I try out all three formulas below with these two nouns. Then compare "love" with the second noun "river" on list 2 and so on. Then do the same for each noun down list 1, with all the nouns down list 2.
List 1 is "X" List 2 is "Y".
Love = X Rose = Y
River = Y
Razor = Y
Flower + Y
(1.) "x is y" (Love is a rose; love is a river; love is a razor; love is a flower)
(2.) "the y of x " ( The Rose of love; the river of love, the razor of love, the flower of love)
(3.) "x's y" (Love's Rose; love's river; love's razor; love's flower)
Building expressed identity worksheets is a great way to come up with your own unique metaphors.
Now listen to Neil Young's song, "Love Is A Rose" or Amanda Bloom's song, "The Rose".
2. Qualifying metaphors are another way of using comparisons. This time adjectives qualify nouns and adverbs qualify verbs. The conflict between the relationships create metaphor. Again build your lists: List 1 of adjectives and list 2 of nouns and then have fun comparing list one with list 2. Then build list 3 with verb and list 4 with adverbs and have more fun comparing.
(This is a short list for examples only, you should have a whole page.)
Adj / Noun example = feathered canyon
= gothic fairy (Red Hot Chile Peppers)
Adverb / verb example = to sail blindly into his arms
3. Verbal metaphors are also good literary devices which are formed by conflict between a verb and it's subject or object. Take your list 2 of nouns and your verbs from list 3 from the above qualifying metaphors worksheet and compare.
Example: the flower aches for the sun
We all have the ability to have the creative spark it takes to make metaphors. Creating worksheets will help you train your vision and prepare you for that spark of bright and wonderful inspiration.
Once you've found your great metaphor, don't leave it dangling from abandonment in mid song. Continue to carry the idea thru to the end.