Melodies and Harmonies in Writing

I realized it’s been a while since I’ve written a music-related post, so I decided to write one, about melodies and harmonies–or rather, plots and subplots.

For example, take this song, All the Pretty Little Horses. It’s a slightly creepy lullaby that I love because my mom used to sing it to me when I was little. I love the melody and the minor tune that makes it interesting.

Or on the other hand, there’s songs like Entreat Me Not to Leave You composed by Dan Forrest. (I shared a song by him in this post.) Based on the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible, it’s absolutely beautiful, a cappella, and goes to 8-part harmony at times.

The first song only has one melody, while the second has a melody plus a whole bunch of harmonies. But just because All the Pretty Little Horses doesn’t have the harmonies that Entreat Me Not to Leave You has doesn’t mean it’s bad. They’re both beautiful pieces of music.

But what would be bad is if you had a choir full of beautiful singers who had the capability to sing 8-part a cappella harmonies, and you had them all singing unison throughout the whole song.

If we compare All the Pretty Little Horses to a short story, then having just the melody–the main plot–is just fine. The story is short enough that it would be hard to incorporate more than one plot, just as it’s impossible for one voice to split into multiple parts. (Although, that would be awesome. I wish I could do that.)

And thus, Entreat Me Not to Leave You would be comparative to a novel, with a main plot, as well as a whole bunch of subplots and characters and worldbuilding and all sorts of awesome stuff like that.

But despite that each harmony is different from all the others, they also fit with one another. I could put eight random notes together, but it’s likely that putting those eight together at once would sound…eghhgh.

Yet in Entreat Me Not to Leave You, even though it does often split into eight notes, they go together. They harmonize with each other.

So, how does harmonization of melodies and harmonies go along with writing novels? When writing plots and subplots, they have to, well, fit together somehow. Usually they don’t weave together until the end, but then, suddenly, you realize how everything fits together.

Finding out how everything fits is one of my very, very favorite things about writing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you write a novel, you want all the pieces to sort of fit into the main plot. Not only just the subplots, but also even down to the scenes. Every scene should contribute something to the plot, right? So writing something random about gemstones turning all the characters insane is probably not a good idea. (Yes, I did do that in my first novel.)

Similarly, characters that last for more than one scene/affect the characters/are not “extras” should also play roles in the plot, and at least affect it a little bit. Everything, or nearly everything, that goes into the plot should come out of it at sometime in another place, at a way that can either help or hinder your characters.

Like every scene should contribute to the story, so should each character, each setting, each piece of the plot. If they don’t come together like that, the tune will become discordant and confusing.

But when they do flow together and change the story, each piece pushing the main plot along, all the notes will harmonize, and you will get a beautiful song.


(My apologies if this post is really disjointed or confusing. I was not only distracted while writing it, but also wasn’t sure how to write out my thoughts very well.)

20 thoughts on “Melodies and Harmonies in Writing

  1. Kit February 27, 2016 / 7:11 PM

    If this is the post you were sitting on and weren’t sure how to write, I just want to say that I think this is a great post and was well written.


    • Lana February 27, 2016 / 7:17 PM

      It was, so thank you! Maybe it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was…then again, I did delete some of it.


  2. Christine Therese February 27, 2016 / 9:36 PM

    I really like this analogy! (I myself am planning to write a music related post, haha) This is such a great post.


    • Lana February 27, 2016 / 10:42 PM

      Ah, thanks! And really? I’m excited to read it! I should be writing more music-related posts, since the title of my blog is “The Music of Words” and it’s supposed to be about writing and music. So, hopefully more posts like this one will come. 🙂


      • Christine Therese February 28, 2016 / 5:50 PM

        Yeah, I’ll just be rambling about some of the stuff I sing at choir haha XD Great! Looking forward to them 🙂


      • Lana February 29, 2016 / 4:42 PM

        Oh, I love choral music, so I’m excited to hear about them!


  3. Kellyn Roth February 28, 2016 / 9:49 PM

    Another amazing post! 🙂 That’s totally true. One of the first books I wrote, The Heirs to the Trunk, had about fifty little subplots that had nothing to do with the main plot. It was soooo confusing … and awkward … and weird.

    The main part was about this girl (in the early 1900s … because I can’t stop writing historical fiction ….) who was trying to figure out who her family was. Of course, she basically found out who her family was in the first couple chapters of the book except for her twin brother who miraculously like disappeared and … the plot was really complicated.

    But there were about a hundred other subplots that just filled up the story. Most of the subplots could have been their own books! And they didn’t usually have anything to do with the main plot. *sighs* Disagreeable subplots are a super bad habit of mine. *contemplates blog post on the subject*

    Sorry for the super long comment. XD 😀 😉


    • Lana February 29, 2016 / 4:48 PM

      Hehe, no, I love long comments! (And any sort of comments, really.) But yeah, I totally know how you feel. My first novels were very…interesting. Lots of really random stuff going on.

      Is this novel you’re talking about the one where they had the trunk with the clues in it or something? I still think it sounds interesting…I just think it’d be fun to read people’s first books to see how the style/plot is and stuff, hehe.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth February 29, 2016 / 8:16 PM

        Yeah … it’s the one about the trunk with the clues in it. It’s very … strange. XD I deleted all of it at one point, but I recently decided that was a bad move (just so I’d have something to compare my current writing to) and I’ve managed to find and salvage bits and pieces of it. Perhaps someday I’ll upload it on a Google docs and share it with you. 🙂


      • Lana February 29, 2016 / 10:12 PM

        I would love to read it if you’d be willing to let me! Maybe we could do some sort of trade, and you could read my first novel in exchange? Hehe.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth March 1, 2016 / 9:51 AM

        I’d love to do that sometime! 🙂 It wasn’t exactly my first novel, but … it’s horrific enough to be. Would you rather read the first version I wrote or the second? XD


      • Lana March 1, 2016 / 9:53 AM

        Hehe, whichever version you’d want to share with me. The first version might be a little more fun to read, though… 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth March 1, 2016 / 2:41 PM

        I might give you the first version, then. On the other hand, the first version is missing a ton of stuff … like, chapters and missing here and there for some unknown reason. XD


      • Lana March 1, 2016 / 9:57 PM

        Hehe, well, whichever you think would be more interesting to read.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth March 2, 2016 / 11:08 AM

        Well, I’ll just put both on the Google doc and leave it up to you. 😛 😉


      • Lana March 4, 2016 / 4:28 PM

        Ooh, okay! *will probably end up reading both versions* Did you also want to read my novel as well?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth March 4, 2016 / 5:15 PM

        I’d love to! 🙂


      • Lana March 5, 2016 / 4:45 PM

        Okay, how should I share it with you? Do you want me to PM you a link to a google doc?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth March 5, 2016 / 5:54 PM

        Sure. I’ll get mine up on a doc, too. 🙂


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