How How To Write Amazing Second Verses – Escape From Second Verse Hell – Pt. 3

Fellow songwriters – it’s time to unpack your baggage!

Welcome to the third installment of Escaping From Second Verse Hell.  Check parts one and two to get up to speed.  This week we’re going to deal with the problem that happens when you don’t give enough detail.  If you’re more of the Cliff’s Notes-type writer then this week’s info is for you.

This tip is not in Pat Pattison’s material at all as far as I know but I still recommend his book Writing Better Lyrics.  You can click the link to read what other writers think about it.

Week one’s tip was pertinent when you write a decent verse but in it you tell the song’s whole story.  In that case you just put that verse second and then write another verse before it to set the scene.

Week two dealt with “boxes” and how to include your character’s deeper motivations into a sequence that builds momentum.

Now we’re going to learn how to add detail and emotional weight to a verse that might be a little light in the heart and mind department.

In my YouTube video that corresponds to this article (check it out here) I gave an example of a verse that reads like a plot outline.  Then I use a technique I learned by analyzing how the greats write.  What they do is write a line and then immediately follow it up with a supporting line.  Let’s take a look at the opening lines from Sting’s “Fortress Around Your Heart”

Under the ruins of a walled city

Crumbling towers in beams of yellow light

No flags of truce, no cries of pity

The siege guns have been pounding through the night

What I see here is two lines that set up ideas and two lines that support it.  Line 1 zooms you in to a ruined city from wherever you’re sitting.  Line 2 gives details about the former.  Line 3 introduces a human element, through negation, which contrasts the inanimate nature of dead walls and line 4 gives a positive sense of action and immediate history – but, critically, relating directly to line 3.

If you wanna get really fancy you can bake the supporting line into the second half of each of your lines.  Take a look at “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” as performed by The Righteous Brothers:

You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips
And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips

I left black the words that tie those two halves together.  Incidentally the black words deal with time, the red words negate the presence of something and the blue corresponds to the parts of the body.  In any case you can see how there’s a wind up and a pitch.

You could also say that the whole first line is red and the whole second line is blue but I’m arguing that the detail is built into the line.  Regardless, these two songs do not read like a outline – they have detail, take their time and make you feel something without being overly verbose.

As a side note, know that they’re showing you what’s going on with the use of concrete imagery.  Sting isn’t saying, “Man, when I love girls I’m so possessive.” He’s showing you the world in which that feeling lives.  Phil Spector wasn’t saying, “My old lady’s left!”  He’s talking to her and giving details which prove it.  That’s a whole ‘nother article.

Anyway guys I hope that was helpful.  Make sure you’re following up your new information with some supporting detail.  Be sure to check out parts one and two and check back here every week for new Hexspa updates.

I’m going to be on Patreon soon so if you like what I’m doing please consider going over there to check me out since I’ll have some awesome exclusives for your contribution.  Also check out Writing Better Lyrics if you want to work on your writing in earnest.

See you next week,



How To Write Amazing Second Verses – Escape From Second Verse Hell – Pt. 2

Writing songs can leave you with a trapped feeling.  Often you’re alone with no one to ask for assistance.  It’s like being an elderly person who has fallen and whose Life Alert has just run out of batteries.  This claustrophobic feeling is like being in a box.

Wait a minute.  We’re going to talk about boxes today!  Damn, I’m getting good at writing these intros.

Hey everyone.  Welcome back to Escape From Second Verse Hell.  You can check out Part 1 – Second Verse First  if you haven’t.  Today we’re discussing a technique used for song development called “boxes”.

This method is espoused by Pat Pattison in his free Coursera course called Songwriting: Writing the Lyrics.  It’s not in his book Writing Better Lyrics although the two are very complimentary to one another.

How it works is this: when you have a problem developing your story you draw three boxes, one bigger than the other.  In your bottom box (the biggest one) you put your why; why is the main character saying these things?  Remember that it’s your character’s why – not yours as a songwriter.  This why should be the foundational resonance of your song.  In your second box you put how the song ends.  This one is typically easiest for most people since the first thing they write tends to tell the whole story.  The top box is how you’ll start the song off.

Now there’s no hard and fast rule that your first box has to be any less dramatic or interesting than your second box.  You still need somewhere to go though.  So if you start your song out gunning then you might want to later tell the audience that your character is on a vengeance mission because his dad was murdered.  Check out this graphic:

Boxes rock.

You might think, “Why do we have a why in the bottom box instead of a beginning-middle-end format?”  Good question.  Your middle can go between box one and two.  It’s important to state your deepest message into the song though so, by resolving that into your why, you’re guaranteed to make use of the third box that way.

I hope this is clear guys.  This has been the most helpful songwriting technique I’ve come across.  I used to struggle with verse development.  I really had no idea what verses did nor how they affected the chorus; at least not in any conscious way.  There are a ton of popular songs which have little-to-no verse development.  Despite that, once you realize how effective proper pacing can be there’s no going back.

If you guys want to improve your writing then I recommend picking up Pat’s book, Writing Better Lyrics.  Spending a little time reading that before you start scribbling out couplets can really make the time you put into the craft more rewarding.

Thanks for reading.  I’ve got some new songs I’ll be posting soon.  Let me know if this was helpful and what you’d like to see from me in the future.

I’ll see you guys next week.


How To Write Amazing Second Verses – Escape From Second Verse Hell – Pt. 1

Second verse – a curse worse than a burnt MRSA in your bursa?

In his book, Writing Better Lyrics, Pat Pattison says that one of the biggest challenges songwriters face is the second verse curse.  This could apply to any creative person whose art uses time: filmmakers, authors, instrumentalists and others.  I want to explore some of his ideas in one place so we can fix this disease once and for all.

Most writers make the most intense idea the first thing they jot down.  That’s fine but to kick off this series on Writing Amazing Second Verses I want to utilize our natural foibles and turn them into assets.  This week we’ll use the technique of Writing The Second Verse First.

It’s a common strategy, really:  “Begin with the end in mind.” The Secret, visualization and perhaps other techniques use this.  Or maybe you’re familiar with the mixing trick of starting with the loudest, or most important, part of the song and then working backwards.  Similar to sewing a pillow, you don’t initially work on the part everyone sees first.

What I’m saying is that, since we pour our hearts out without a second thought – and that can be scary to some people (I should know), you need to first extend your hand before anyone can see your heart on your sleeve.

Whatever you write first will actually go later in the song.  Let’s look at an example:

In my video I use the impromptu lines:

Melting into your eyes

Halo white at the altar

That just popped off the top of my head.  It’s not necessarily a good way to start a song.  Where would I go from there – the divorce?  Maybe we should talk about the first time our character saw their love interest:

Trembling under my book

Hunting woman is stalking

So now we’re at the library.  The guy is reading, a hot chick walks in and he’s got a choice to make.  Since we’ve started with the second verse we know he’s going to talk to her.  All you’ve got to do is connect the dots from here – the path is clear!

So go forth, young poet, and poureth out thine soul.  Just be sure to add a preamble and you’ll be good to go.

I really recommend Pat’s book Writing Better Lyrics.  It’s helped me immensely.  He also has a free course on Coursera which is a great supplement to the book’s content.

Thanks for reading guys.  Please pick up that book as it helps me and it will certainly help you.  Besides, if you follow along with my articles it’ll help to have that as a reference – like a textbook.  Check out my video on this topic on YouTube, subscribe there if you haven’t and have a wonderful fuckin’ day 🙂