for a strong, fast pick-me-up
If you want to add greater contrast and tension and texture to your writing you can learn from the “cinematic” writing style of singer-songwriter Paul Weller and his song Down In The Tube Station at Midnight.
I’ve been a fan of Weller‘s songwriting since I played in bands around the time the band The Jam was at its peak.
We were in Australia – but were heavily influenced by the UK vibe.
Now I’m a writing coach and trainer – yet I haven’t “grown out of” my love of Weller, The Jam, and my trusty parka. 🙂
This vacation I’ve had time to study Paul Weller’s lyrics in detail – with a greater appreciation from also studying the Writing advice from Roy Peter Clark and his podcasts of his Writing Tools.
In one of his podcasts, Clark advises writers to write like a movie or TV camera – moving around from different angles and creating different “shots” – close-up, pull back to a wider shot etc.
With Clark’s advice in my head, I studied the lyrics to Weller’s song Down the Tube Station at Midnight.
I’ll share with you why the lyrics are so strong and how you can use the cinematic technique.
At the end of the post I’ll link to the full lyrics and a video of the song for you to study and learn from.
When you do study the clever and powerful lyrics, I encourage you to look out for the cinematic changes of camera angles and even changes to completely different and contrasting locations.
When I listen to the song and read the lyrics, I love the way Weller zooms in on little details. For me, the songs is like a dramatic movie.
The “singer” ventures down into the Tube Station at Midnight. (Establishing shot)
Weller zooms into details like the toffee wrappers and the newspaper headlines.
Then there’s a close-up of the change – with the Queen smiling and beguiling.
What an eye for detail Weller has! And the smiling is soon to be in stark contrast with what is to happen!
Then there is a cinematic device of creating suspense or a sense of danger through sound. Rather than seeing the danger – we hear it first – before it is revealed.
Whispers in the shadows – gruff blazing voices
“Hey boy” they shout – “have you got any money?”
Then there’s a cut to a contrasting scene of pleasant order and preparation – once again, little details! Very “proper”!
Then note the sudden cut back to the scene of danger!
She’ll be lining up the cutlery,
Polishing the glasses and pulling out the cork
And I’m down in the tube station at midnight
Then there’s the “bashing scene”. Weller uses the powerful sense of smell – something cinema can’t convey. Unless it is narrated.
(the use of this sense of smell will feature in a future post!)
I love how after the character singing the song has been beaten up and lies on the ground – we see through his eyes a contrasting poster of something far more pleasant. In my minds eye – I imagine seeing the “cheery” poster from the side angle of your head being horizontal and parallel to the ground rather than upright and vertical.
British Rail poster read “Have an Awayday – a cheap holiday –
Do it today!”
Then note how we cut back to the aftermath of the beating – then flash to an imagined scene of fears for the wife – then back again to the Tube Station. Quick cuts!
I glanced back on my life
And thought about my wife
’cause they took the keys and she’ll think its me
And I’m down in the tube station at midnight
Thanks to Roy Peter Clark‘s advice I see now this song from a different angle!
So – how YOU can use this technique
So whether you are writing lyrics or a novel or a speech or even a blog –
1. change angles and change scenes. Move around and see things from different angles
2. look for the little details – the toffee wrappers, the smiling Queen on the change
3. look for contrasts – a contrasting HAPPY poster or cut to another location
4. Help your reader or listener SEE and help them change angles with word suggestions/cues such as FAST FORWAD or REWIND to, or CUT TO. Don’t be afraid to use cinematic language.
Weller’s line about “my life swam around me” suggests to me those blurry dissolves we often see in movies.
If YOU have favourite lyrics (Paul Weller OR other writers) – please add them in the comments section below.
Here are links to the full lyrics and a video of the song.
Here are links to other Paul Weller inspired posts.
Also, here are links to more writing tips that can make your writing more “real” and engaging – and even entertaining!
I’m getting 2014 off to a strong start with my blogging too.
If you’d like to improve your writing: Here are some quick tips.
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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.