Music, Language, and Plots

Wow, is it Thursday again? I forgot! It’s still not too late for me to share something here though!

I don’t know how many of you know this, but music and writing are pretty similar the more you know about each. Everyone knows language has grammar (I was raised on Shurley Grammar, with all them jingles): Subject Noun, Verb, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Preposition, Object of the Preposition, you get the point– And the more you understand music theory, the more you come to realize that music has its own grammar too.

Music has its notes, keys signatures, clefs, and chords, but it also has sentences, especially in classical music. The typical sentence is two phrases, the first phrase divided into two similar-sounding phrases. This first phrase is unresolved, and the second longer, continuous one finishes off the sentence with a resolution. This is from

In real practice, it looks something like this:

Image result for chopin waltz op 69 no 2 sheet music


This same thing happens in the English language, believe it or not. You might say it involves the Rule of Three, or the rhetorical device of parallelism. The example that springs to my mind is from Fish Out of Water:

“Papers had to be written, speeches had to be prepared, material needed to be studied, questions needed to be answered, chapters and sections of books were to be read and noted, and homework needed to be done in time for everyone to at least get a couple hours of sleep.”

In writing, this structure can apply to even broader forms. The form of a series, I’d even argue, can be drawn like one long curve over a number of books, with one smaller curve drawn over each book, and then even smaller curves drawn within each book. If you need some way to think about writing a book series, this might be one way to think about it. What is the overarching plot, and what do the protagonists’ lives look like on the surface level? How many episodes or events should each book contain? Questions abound.