To often, beginning songwriters fail to touch the senses of the listener. Instead, they will string together some words that don’t have much power in them.
Here is an example.
The Lord is good to me
He loves me every day
I know He’s always there
To help me find my way
Although every line of that verse is true, it’s pretty generic. There is not one single thing that the listener can visualize, touch, taste or smell, within this first verse. It does not cause the listener to feel anything. A listener needs to have a sense of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. You can even cross over to Organic senses like how you feel in your body, as in “my feet are tired” or “my stomach has butterflies”. There could even be a sense of motion. But this verse contains none of that.
Let’s try another pass at this verse with words that create something that can be visualized.
Jesus paid the price
For a toll I could not not pay
Salvation built the bridge
That I cross every today
Now there is something for the listener to lock into and see. There are still just two stresses per line and the two verses basically say the same thing. The second version still tells of the Lord’s goodness to us, and that He helps us find our way. But it is stated in a way that causes a visual image in the senses of the listener.
“Jesus paid the price” identifies who the Lord is. It also establishes that there was a debt that needed to be paid.
“For a toll I could not pay” establishes that I was indeed the one who was in debt, and had no way of paying it.
“Salvation built the bridge” lets us see a visual image of a way being made to cross over into something better.
“That I cross every day”, lets us see that the bridge is still good, it is always there, because I can still cross it today.
The second verse says the same thing as the first verse, but in a much more colorful way.
I can visualize “Jesus” and a “Price”. A “toll” paints a vivid picture to anyone who has ever
passed through a toll booth. “Builds the Bridge” is an absolute image to visualize, that shows the
listener what you are trying to get them to understand. And “I cross everyday” let’s the listener know
that it’s not a one time event, but He cares enough to make sure you’re toll is paid everyday you live.
I can both visualize the bridge and feel the sense of motion by crossing it.
The second verse touches the senses of “sight”. It also touches the “organic” emotion of being in debt, and how that feels inside. It also establishes the feeling of relief when the debt is paid. The “toll” and the “Bridge” can conjure up images with sights, smells and sounds that the listener associates with those past experiences in their own life. There is also a sense of motion when you say “I cross everyday”.
The re-written verse also uses the tool of the metaphor. It is saying things that did not happen “literally”. Jesus did not literally pay money for a literal “toll”. Salvation did not, or could not build a “literal” bridge that I can cross. But a metaphor takes what is impossible, and uses it in a way to describe something that is possible.
If your lyrics are sounding generic and there’s not a whole lot of “Feeling” in them, then try this exercise. Take a generic piece of lyric, and re-write it, by trying to touch the senses of the listener, and using metaphors to your advantage.
Until next time, keep on writing . . .