What Taylor Swift Can Teach Writers by Jeff Chapman

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on April 25, 2014 in Books, Guest, Jeff Chapman, Writing |
Jeff Chapman returns to the blog today to celebrate the release of his latest story, Last Request: A Victorian GothicHe brings us an enlightening and fun piece on storytelling. Welcome back, Jeff!

LastRequestCover621x1000What Taylor Swift Can Teach Writers

by Jeff Chapman

My daughters recently discovered Taylor Swift. You know what that means for me. I tried to interest them in U2, The Doors, or Mazzy Star but no luck. So, as I’m listening to Taylor Swift ad nauseum, the writer in me starts analyzing the lyrics. Why are these songs so popular? (I have to give Swift some praise here for writing songs that at least have some story to analyze.) Here’s a link to a Youtube video for “You Belong to Me,” one of her more popular tunes. It’s safe for work. Unless you’re a guy trying to maintain your macho credentials. In that case you should wait until you get home and everyone is asleep.

Let’s begin with a few observations on the video. As for the guy, if that’s the girl next door, why does he ever leave the house? And why did he close the curtains? And what self-respecting father would allow his daughter to have a bedroom window looking directly into a guy’s window? I would have that window bricked over so fast.

As for the story, we have a geeky girl (glasses, books, and studying) who has a crush on a very popular boy. He’s out of her league. It’s hopeless. But, his uber-popular cheerleader girlfriend is no good for him, doesn’t appreciate him. If he would take a serious look at geeky girl, he might understand that she’s the best girl for him. And that’s exactly what happens in the end.

So why is this song and others like it so popular? The story is every less-than-popular girl’s fantasy. Swift is doing something smart. She’s aligning herself with the majority of teenagers, putting words to the hopes and dreams of the masses along with a catchy tune. Writers often hear the mantra “write the stories you want to read.” The idea is that those stories will be your most impassioned work. We hear successful writers repeating that phrase as if it’s a formula for success. Is it? What if what you want to read isn’t what loads of other people want to read? Will you create great stories that no one reads? Maybe, instead of focusing inward, we should tailor (pun intended) our stories to resonate with the hopes and dreams of the masses. Something to think about.

Last Request: A Victorian Gothic blurb:

“For the love of God, cut my head off.” The last request in Uncle Silas’s will shocks everyone speechless, everyone except his favorite niece, Anna. More than death itself, the claustrophobic Silas fears a premature burial. Will her elders carry out his request? Anna is certain they will not. It’s up to her to do the right thing, even if it is a bit grisly. Armed with butcher knife and candle, Anna heads for the crypt underneath the church in the dead of night. All does not go according to Anna’s careful planning. 

Step inside a dark story in the tradition of the penny dreadful, at times humorous and horrifying, but don’t close the door behind you. Someone might lock you in. Last Request can be purchased on Amazon

Jeff_chapman-headshot-small-80x109About the Author:

Jeff Chapman writes software by day and speculative fiction when he should be sleeping. His tales range from fantasy to horror and they don’t all end badly. He lives with his wife, children, and cats in a house with more books than bookshelf space. You can find him musing about words and fiction on his blog or you can connect with him on Twitter (@JeffChpmnWriter), Facebook, Goodreads, or his blog.

Jeff’s latest title is Last Request: A Victorian Gothic, available for your Kindle at Amazon. At times horrifying and humorous, Last Request follows a young girl’s attempt to carry out her late uncle’s curious request.

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