Fanfic Subgenres: The Song-Inspired Fic
Posted by Chris Lang on April 8, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Hello and welcome to Fanfic Subgenres, where I discuss subgenres of fan fiction, and how those genres also apply to works by professionals.

This time, I’ll discuss the ‘song inspired fic’. Song-inspired fics are fics inspired by songs. Often at times, they are fanfics involving the group that did the song, though sometimes they are fanfics featuring characters from television, movies, and so on that are appearing in a story whose events or themes are in line with the lyrics of the song.

So of course we get angsty troubled romance fics where, say, Buffy and Angel, Ranma and Akane of Ranma 1/2, or some anime couple are breaking up, with themes that match, say, ‘So Much For My Happy Ending’ by Avril Lavigne, or ‘Goodbye to You’ by Michelle Branch (of course, the latter song was actually used in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). We get sad fics about death or loss inspired by teary sentimental songs like ‘I Will Remember You’ by Sarah McLaughlan or ‘Dust In the Wind’ by Kansas.

Or maybe we get actual fics expanding on the song itself. Maybe the song itself tells a story, and the writer is moved to expand on the story and the characters. Maybe they’re imagining more about what happened the Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia. Maybe they’re wondering just where the Purple People Eater came from (all Sheb Wooley told us about the creature’s background was his taste in food, and his interest in rock and roll). Maybe they’d like to know more of the backstory of Brandy (who, according to Looking Glass, is a fine girl) and the man she loves.

In any case, there are many kinds of song-inspired fics out there, and many overlap with other fanfic subgenres. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just baffling.

The Fanfic Critic reviewed a ‘song-inspired’ fic in episode 127 of her show, ‘It/s All Too Much” by BeatleBabe. I will confess right now that I am the one who requested that fic, because when I heard about it, it sounded like a really bad one. After all, it combined three of the most hated fanfic subgenres ever: Real person fics (which I’ll discuss in a later article), self-insertion (which I might discuss in a later article), and male pregnancy (which I probably will not discuss in a later article).

BeatleBabe is ashamed of the fic, and has hoped it’d just go away, though I myself think it deserves to be studied as a good example of what NOT to do in fan fiction. However, it’s important to note she was not serious when she wrote the fic in the first place. She wrote it as part of a challenge to write fics inspired by the Beatles and their songs. Going for ‘quantity over quality’, she tried to write hundreds of fics each inspired by a particular Beatles song, and ‘It/s All Too Much’ was one of them. She admits that they’re not very good, and this one was probably the worst of the lot.

Personally, I can see writing fics about a few Beatles songs. Some might think the backstory of Eleanor Rigby (and Father McKenzie) could use more fleshing out, or want to know what turned medical student Maxwell Edison into a maniac with a silver hammer, or know more about the woman in ‘A Day In The Life’. Or they want to know more about the guy who’s a real ‘Nowhere Man’ (and no, that short-lived UPN series doesn’t count). I suspect, however, that any fic based on ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ would be more than a little surreal.

Other songs, however, might be a bit problematic as they don’t really have a story. For example, ‘She Loves You’ and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ are really just love songs without much of a story, so to build a story around them, a writer would have to invent characters and a plot that sort of fit the song’s themes.

Of course, song-inspired stories are not only found in the realm of fan fiction. We see them all the time in animated specials. We’ve seen animated specials based on ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ and other such songs.

Probably the best known professionally-done song-inspired works would be most of the Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials. There’s ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ (which I reviewed in another entry), ‘Frosty The Snowman’,The Little Drummer Boy‘, and probably their most popular special, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. All these take material from the songs and expand upon them in interesting ways.

I’m sure there’s a lot more professionally-produced song-inspired fiction out there, but they slip my mind at the moment. But in any case, we see plenty of song-inspired fictional works in fanfic-land, and in television and movies.

 

Feel free to leave your comments below.

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This article received the following comments, including a wonderful conversation with Les that I just had to reproduce in its entirety.
BigBlackHatMan
12:29 PM on April 08, 2013 I like this concept. I could see using songs to write stories. Good work
Reply

Moviefan12
12:08 PM on April 08, 2013 Pretty good, I remember an okay MLP fanfic inspired by Temporary Home by Carrie Underwood. It wasn’t bad and I did like how they tied the lyrics into the story but I would’ve never thought of something like that. Personally, I’d like to see someone try and adapt Some Nights by fun in a fic.

Les
02:27 PM on April 08, 2013 Hi Chris Lang. Yeah, Nowhere Man was short lived(Which is exactly what the FOX network does….destroys any amazing science fiction series with serious potential-see Sliders, Firefly….). Oh, and useful trivia…Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, isn’t a tool hammer, it’s the action hammer in a gun. Great article, my friend. Peace.

Chris Lang
02:42 PM on April 08, 2013

Les says…
Hi Chris Lang. Yeah, Nowhere Man was short lived(Which is exactly what the FOX network does….destroys any amazing science fiction series with serious potential-see Sliders, Firefly….). Oh, and useful trivia…Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, isn’t a tool hammer, it’s the action hammer in a gun. Great article, my friend. Peace.

Nowhere Man wasn’t on FOX, it was on UPN. It was one of the first four shows they did. Of those, only Star Trek: Voyager lasted very long.

As for your interpretation of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Paul McCartney (the guy who wrote the song in the first place) had a different interpretation: He said Maxwell Edison and his weapon were a metaphor for something that comes out of nowhere to ruin your day. The other Beatles thought Paul McCartney spent way too much time in the studio trying to get the song right, and I can see their point: It’s just a darkly comedic murder ballad whose tune is upbeat despite the grim subject matter — I’m not sure if it’s worth going to that much trouble. For all Paul’s perfectionism, he did end up cracking up during the part about writing 50 times.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I looked it up and Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie are also fictitious characters. However, Paul may have unconsciously remembered the name Eleanor Rigby from seeing it on a tombstone at a church in the town where he and John Lennon first met. As for Father McKenzie, he was originally named Father McCartney, but the name was changed because they wanted to be clear that the ‘father’ was a priest and not Paul’s dad.

Les
03:18 PM on April 08, 2013

Chris Lang says…
Nowhere Man wasn’t on FOX, it was on UPN. It was one of the first four shows they did. Of those, only Star Trek: Voyager lasted very long.

As for your interpretation of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Paul McCartney (the guy who wrote the song in the first place) had a different interpretation: He said Maxwell Edison and his weapon were a metaphor for something that comes out of nowhere to ruin your day. The other Beatles thought Paul McCartney spent way too much time in the studio trying to get the song right, and I can see their point: It’s just a darkly comedic murder ballad whose tune is upbeat despite the grim subject matter — I’m not sure if it’s worth going to that much trouble. For all Paul’s perfectionism, he did end up cracking up during the part about writing 50 times.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I looked it up and Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie are also fictitious characters. However, Paul may have unconsciously remembered the name Eleanor Rigby from seeing it on a tombstone at a church in the town where he and John Lennon first met. As for Father McKenzie, he was originally named Father McCartney, but the name was changed because they wanted to be clear that the ‘father’ was a priest and not Paul’s dad.

Ah….UPN….well, I guess FOX doesn’t have the monopoly on screwing shows, after all…..and I’ll concede the point if Paul says Maxwell’s Silver Hammer wasn’t a reference to a gun…but I could’ve sworn it was…anyways….I did know about Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie….and did you know that Hey Jude was about Julian Lennon?

Chris Lang
04:20 PM on April 08, 2013

Les says…
Ah….UPN….well, I guess FOX doesn’t have the monopoly on screwing shows, after all…..and I’ll concede the point if Paul says Maxwell’s Silver Hammer wasn’t a reference to a gun…but I could’ve sworn it was…anyways….I did know about Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie….and did you know that Hey Jude was about Julian Lennon?

Yes. Paul was inspired to write that song to comfort Julian, who was going through hard times because of his parents’ divorce. He started writing it in the car on his way to see Julian and Cynthia Lennon some time after the divorce. However, it was years before Julian knew the song was inspired by him.

Oh, and John Lennon said that the song was one of Paul’s masterpieces.

On a more fun note, back when cassette tapes were still viable and you had cassette players in car radios, I had this idea of recording ‘Hey Jude’ toward the end of one side of a tape, and then, if there was dead air, I’d just ‘extend’ the final coda (the ‘na, na, na, na, na na na na’ section) a bit so there’d be only 30 seconds or less of dead air on that side. I never got around to it, though, before we changed cars to one that had a CD player instead of a cassette player.

Les
04:46 PM on April 08, 2013

Chris Lang says…
Yes. Paul was inspired to write that song to comfort Julian, who was going through hard times because of his parents’ divorce. He started writing it in the car on his way to see Julian and Cynthia Lennon some time after the divorce. However, it was years before Julian knew the song was inspired by him.

Oh, and John Lennon said that the song was one of Paul’s masterpieces.

On a more fun note, back when cassette tapes were still viable and you had cassette players in car radios, I had this idea of recording ‘Hey Jude’ toward the end of one side of a tape, and then, if there was dead air, I’d just ‘extend’ the final coda (the ‘na, na, na, na, na na na na’ section) a bit so there’d be only 30 seconds or less of dead air on that side. I never got around to it, though, before we changed cars to one that had a CD player instead of a cassette player.

Ahhhh cassette tapes…yeah, that would’ve been a good way to extend music into the dead air on that tape. I go back even further, having had 8-track tapes and my first Record Player back in 1973….sigh…good times

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