Songs to Inspire a Novel

When I started this blog it had a much bigger focus on music, so it’s no surprise that I was excited to see this week’s prompt (songs I wish were novels). While I’ve moved away from that – and in the interest of honesty, I have a hard time listening to music when I struggle with bouts of depression and anxiety (which the last year was filled with) – I do hope to return to it when I am ready. Songs can easily tell a deep and meaningful story, and convey and inspire emotion, so it’s not a stretch to imagine a song as an inspiration for a novel.


Losing My Religion // R.E.M. It’s a southern expression that means “at my wit’s end”. I am picturing a southern Gothic novel about madness, dysfunction, mystery within a small town. “I thought that I heard you laughing / I thought that I heard you sing / I think I thought I saw you try / But that was just a dream.”

Gasoline // Halsey. This would make a fabulous character driven novel full of angst and disillusionment. It could also veer into dystopian territory, depending on how you interpret the lyrics. “Are you insane like me? Been in pain like me? Bought a hundred dollar bottle of champagne like me? Just to pour that motherfucker down the drain like me? Would you use your water bill to dry the stain like me?”

Shelter From the Storm // Bob Dylan. Possibly one of my favorite songs of all time, I’ve always thought this song was about not knowing what you have until you lose it. “Now there’s a wall between us something there’s been lost / I took too much for granted, I got my signals crossed / Just to think that it all began on an uneventful morn / “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”

House of the Rising Sun // The Animals. Originally a traditional folk song, it tells the story of a man’s life gone wrong in New Orleans. This could easily be explored in historical fiction set in the Deep South.

S.O.B. // Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats. I feel like there could be a fun story behind this song, one that walks the fine line between hilarity and heartbreak.

One Headlight // The Wallflowers. The song opens with a reference to heartbreak, loneliness, a repressed past, and a cemetery – that sounds like a good ghost story in the making. “So long ago, I don’t remember when / That’s when they say I lost my only friend / Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease / As I listened through the cemetery trees.”

You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive // various (my favorite is Ruby Friedman). “In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky / That’s the place where I traced my bloodline / And it’s there I read on a hillside gravestone / You’ll never leave Harlan alive.” This song is amazing and it’s perfect in Justified. I can imagine it inspiring something like Brian Panowich’s Bull Mountain.

Off to the Races // Lana Del Rey. Rikers Island, cocaine, love, passion, and summertime could be an explosive combination. All. The. Drama.

What song would you like to see inspire a novel? For more lists, go here.

Image via Rolling Stone

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