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The Frettie Journal
A collection of interviews, updates, tips and resources for songwriters.

Write The Video Before You Write The Song

Tips & Resources by Brent Baxter, Pro Songwriter on June 06, 2018

As songwriters, we sometimes to leave too much information IN our heads and OFF of the page.

This is a big mistake, and it can leave our listener either confused or emotionally disconnected from our song. So why do we do this? Maybe we know the story too well. Maybe we’ve lived the story, and our memories fill in the blanks that are in the lyric. Or we don't know the story well enough, and we end up with a vague, disjointed story. Either way, our lyrics can sometimes just tell about the story without actually giving us the story.

You might say, “Last night, you made me cry,” without telling us that he made you cry BECAUSE he “looked at me with cold blue eyes like I was some stranger he was telling goodbye.” It’s up in your head- you see the picture when you sing that line. But the listeners won’t see that. They can’t. They’re not in your head.

Don't just TELL the emotion. SHOW the cause of the emotions.

One way to help build the habit of showing-instead-of-telling is to “write the video.” This is not actual storyboarding, where you frame each shot and decide on all the edits and cuts. It’s just writing down what you see in your mind’s eye when you’re thinking about the story in your song. It can be stream-of-consciousness, or it can be more structured. Memories or make believe, it doesn’t matter. Just capture the sights, sounds, tastes, touch and smells of your story.

This process is good for a few reasons:

1. It gives you a stack of images to use in your lyrics.

Now you can pick out the coolest, most true images for your song.  You're not stuck just using what you can think of in the moment.  Instead of "well, that's the best I could think of at the time," you get to say "that's the best I could think of. Period."

2. It helps you really solidify your thoughts.

Instead of vague notions you’re trying to capture in your song, you’ve already sketched out your story. Now, instead of trying to come up with the next rhyme, you’re more likely to think about what the thought needs to be. And a cool thought is much more important than just a cool rhyme.

3. It helps you reach past cliche’ images.

It might be easy to just write about her “feet on the dashboard” because that’s what country songs say (and you’re just focused on finding a line that sings well). However, if you spend more time on the story without being constrained by “next line syndrome,” you’re more likely to say, “Well, no. Her feet weren’t on the dash. One leg was curled up under the other.” That’s way more original and more believable.

So, remember. Focus on giving the listener the cause of your emotions, not just your emotions. Write the video to your song, and you’re more likely to see the video OF your song someday. Oh, and if you do dream of getting your songs recorded by a major artist, getting cool videos made and all that, I have a great opportunity coming up for you.

In July, I'm hosting Songwriting Pro's "Building A Hit: From Blank Page To Finished Lyric" online workshop series. This 4-week series will help you get your best song ideas ever, write them better than ever, and actually finish them! It's a game-changer. And since it's an online event, it doesn't matter where in the world you live. But space is limited, and the deadline to reserve your spot is Sunday, July 1.



God bless,


PS- Thanks for stopping by Frettie! I appreciate it. As a matter of fact, I want to give you a special little something just for your visit. It's my FREE ebook "Think Like A Pro Songwriter," and it reveals valuable I-learned-it-the-hard-way-so-you-don't-have-to tips to help you succeed at the art, craft and business of songwriting. You can download it at

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