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Trish Milburn | The Power of Music

April 27, 2009

It’s amazing how much emotional power can be packed into song lyrics. I admire anyone who is a good songwriter, creating a story out of a few short lines. I like to incorporate music into my stories to show a character’s feelings or to set a mood. Though I’m careful not to venture into copyright infringement by using actual song lyrics, I do reference them.

For instance, I was recently working on a young adult story (Winter Longing, Razorbill, Summer 2010) in which my heroine has experienced a significant loss. As teens often do when they’re hurting, she listens to certain music over and over. For my heroine, Winter, it’s the songs of Breaking Benjamin, a band that I like and whose lyrics really speak to what she’s experiencing.

Winter is enduring a loss, so when she hears Breaking Benjamin’s “Breathe,” the lyric “You left a hole where my heart should be” really packs an emotional punch. Later, it’s the band’s song “So Cold” that takes on new meaning when heard in the new context of her life. Though I don’t quote the lyrics, it’s the lyrics “You’re so cold, but you feel alive; Lay your hands on me one last time,” that serve as an important turning point for her.

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