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I've been through the desert on a horse with no name,
It felt good to be out of the rain
Many writers listen to music while writing. And, hey, why not have built-in background music in your story?
I have a song to sing, O
Sing me your song, O
Unfortunately, since most fanfiction doesn't include an audio component, writers are frequently left having to copy and paste the lyrics directly into the text.
The samovar is full of tea
You stare unblinkingly at me
While your car waits in the freezing rain.
When it's done right this can really benefit the fic, especially if the lyrics really fit with whatever is happening in the story. Unfortunately, it can just as easily detract from the story, especially if the readers don't actually recognize the song. Posting lyrics from a Michael Jackson or Beatles song is one thing, but posting lyrics from the writer's favorite indie band runs a much bigger risk that the reader won't actually recognize the song. Alternately, the reader might simply not like whatever song the writer is using, and it ends up spoiling the mood anyway.
There are three main ways of writing a song fic. One is to intersperse the lyrics in the text, often italicizing them to distinguish them from the rest of the story. This may disrupt the flow, but it can also add to the drama, particularly if it's done at a major Wham Moment.
Another method is to have a character actually listening to or performing a particular song. This may fit in more neatly with the text, and is frequently a way that Live Action TV shows intersperse famous background music-namely, by setting the scene in a bar or club and having the actual musicians performing onstage.
The third way is to rewrite the lyrics of a song and replace them with lyrics of the author's creation. This is probably the most dubious method, since there's a very good chance readers won't recognize it unless you specifically spell out which song or band you're "covering", so to speak, and even then it could just as easily detract from the experience. Some fanficition is nothing but Song Fic, essentially rewriting the lyrics into a poem that fits whatever franchise they're writing about.
This trope is a classic example of how Tropes Are Tools and Tropes Are Not Bad. While Song Fics are deplored by some people and major sites like Fanfiction.Net forbid the use of non-public domain lyrics due to copyright issues, they can be highly effective if they're used correctly and can add more depth to a story than you might think.
Compare Virtual Soundtrack.
- An example of the third variety: We Belong, a Ranma ½ Song Fic by troper User:Looney Toons, set around the song of the same name by Pat Benatar. (And written in 1998, before songfics wore out their welcome.)
- More recently, User:Looney Toons used Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" as the framework around which to lay out some foreshadowing for the Ah! My Goddess story he was writing at the time.
- And in a triple play, justified in User:Looney Toons' Mega Crossover fic Drunkard's Walk, whose central character has a superpower that turns songs he listens to into other powers.
- An example of the second variety: Captured! The Zutara Musical! is a songfic from Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom that uses various Aimee Mann songs in a dedication to a certain ship.
- Fanfic writers shoehorned the Train song "Meet Virginia" into countless Harry Potter fanfics involving Ginny Weasley.
- During the height of both their popularity, Savage Garden songs were common in Gundam Wing fanfiction, particularly the song "Crash and Burn".
- There is an AU Inuyasha fanfiction where the chapter that dealt with Kagome's Freak-Out of Unstoppable Rage of unreal proportions had alternate paragraphs dedicated to the Evanescence song "Bring Me To Life," because the author just couldn't believe how appropriate the song was to her story.
- A Fuku Fic challenge generator had "turn on the radio and copy down the song currently being played" as one of the randomly chosen options for how to start your fic.
- Not quite fanfic, but a certain type of freeform text roleplayer will do this with every single post, as they believe it's creative and provides atmosphere
- This fic demonstrates both the 'character singing' types as well as the 'interspersed italics' version.
- And then there's, Embryonic Eclipse is an anti-dub Anti-Sue Sailor Moon fanfic written to rectify a complaint the author had with another fic: a Dark Fic entitled "The Dark Side Of The Moon", which contained no other references to Pink Floyd. This fic makes up for it with large amounts of references to the band, quoting a song in its entirety, and naming all the chapters after the album's tracklist.
- Played with in Godel Escher Bach. It has dialogues between each chapter that are named after musical works by J. S. Bach. There was at least one where the characters were listening to, and talking about, the piece the dialogue was based on.
- Invoked in Those Lacking Spines:
Xuxastell lifted the pen from the paper and regarded her poem with a discerning eye, quite proud of the misery she had evoked in it until she realized that it was actually the chorus of the song "Angels" by Within Temptation, currently playing on loop on her iPod.
- The song Closer by Nine Inch Nails is a frequent choice for Lemon fics because of the lyrics. Specifically, the "I Wanna Fuck You Like An Animal" portion of the lyrics. However, this is Misaimed Fandom since Closer is meant to be about a self-loather using sex as an escape, a way he can delude himself into thinking he's somebody else.
- Of course, the actual meaning of Closer can be useful for writing Angst. Take, for instance, this (Not Safe for Work) X-Men Slash Fic. So yes, not all uses of Closer in a Song Fic are Misaimed Fandom.
- "Closer" and Julia Eklar's "Terminus Est" have both been used in Knights of the Old Republic fanfics for Atton Rand in regards to the Jedi woman he tortured, and later mercy-killed.
- There is a rather elegant Cardcaptor Sakura version of this in The Universe is Resting in My Arms. The lyrics flow almost seamlessly into the story -- this troper did not realise it was a songfic until seeing them quoted in one hit at the end.
- Not exactly a fanfic... or a song, for that matter, but Richard Corben & Rich Margopoulos' Haunt Of Horror has several stories where the panels are juxtaposed with poetry from Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft. One particularly amusing example would be Poe's Israfel on a story about a Gangsta Rap beef.
- The Phoenix Wright / Elite Beat Agents crossover To Each A Tempo has at least three Song Fic chapters, which makes sense, as they're set during EBA missions. The fic also slips other song lyrics into the dialogue at several points, such as when the Judge very briefly Rick Rolls the court.
- A comedic use of Song Fic was Bruinhilda's "I'm Too Sexy." The song in question is blasting over the music system of what turns out to be exactly the wrong kind of establishment...
- Song Fics are obviously popular in franchises based on musicals, such as Wicked:
- The My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfic Crimps and Prance climaxes in a scene where Cheerilee goes to a nightclub with some friends, and dances to Echoing Green's version of "The Safety Dance".
- Pinkie Pie breaks into song in numerous otherwise lyricless fics - just like she does in canon.
- In the Merlin fanfic OHMYGODIMONFIRE, the author makes fun of songfics by writing several oneshots set to ridiculous music, such as the song in the title. As the author says in the Author's Note:
"You know what irritates me? Songfics. No offense to those of you who write them..."
- Glee, being a show about a high school show-choir, is practically made for Song Fic of the performing version. The quality varies.
- Chapter 9 of Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality contains a spoof of the Ghostbusters theme. Chapter 10 contains an apology for chapter 9.
It honestly didn't occur to me - although it seems obvious in retrospect - that many readers would have massively bad associations to songs in fanfics. All I can do is apologize and promise not to do it again. I'm afraid, however, that since this chapter was already written, you will have to sit through the Sorting Hat singing its version of Evanescence's "My Immortal", which has never happened before.
- The Death Note fic A Cure for Love is set to the discography of The Smiths. Each chapter begins with an italic block of lyrics that are a thematic to the chapter and the titles of each chapter are named after songs titles.
- Script Fic Calvin and Hobbes The Series sometimes does this, often over a Montage.
Credit for the above lyrics go to the band America ("Horse With No Name"), Pink Martini ("Dosvedanya, Mio Bombino"), Jim Croce ("Had to Say I Love You In a Song"), and the Beatles ("Sun King.")