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5 Music Videos that are Actually Story Prompts, for When You Have Writer's Block

by Emily Keeler 10 days ago in advice

How to get over writer's block? These 5 music videos are secretly story prompts

5 Music Videos that are Actually Story Prompts, for When You Have Writer's Block
Photo by Yuri Levin on Unsplash

Writer’s block creeps in many sneaky ways - but so does inspiration.

Stories live all around us: in the strangers across the street, in the shape of the shadows against the dusk... but they also live in the questions that we allow ourselves to ask.

Sometimes a story begins with simply witnessing and wondering.

As a writer, when we take the time to witness and wonder about another artist's work, we are creating room for our own art to grow; we are challenging ourselves.

By taking the moment to ask questions, to wonder about how something makes us feel, and to appreciate the small details of the art itself, we can truly let ourselves be both vulnerable and inspired.

Music videos can be a great source of inspiration.

When you use music videos as story prompts, they become small vignettes with compelling characters who can fuel your own creativity.

1. "sad day" by FKA twigs

Questions to Prompt You While Watching This Music Video:

  • Who are these characters? What is their relationship?
  • How do these characters work both with and against each other?
  • What are the potential plot points in this music video? How could they be expanded on?
  • How does the relationship change over the course of the story?
  • What is the assumed intention vs. the actual intention of each character? How does this change the story?
  • Is there satisfaction in feeling dissatisfied by an ending?

Right off the bat, we have a setting. We have a location, time of day, and tentative mood - from the use of silence at the beginning of the video, we can sense our bodies start to tighten. There is anticipation; we don’t know what’s wrong, but we can tell that something isn’t quite right.

When we look at the bare bones of the first minute of this video, there is nothing inherently disturbing in it. It is the use of music (as well as the lack of music); the attention to otherwise benign details; and our own interpretation of all of those things, that make us take pause and draw closer.

There is no "original idea," but there is your original experience and interpretation of that idea - and that is what makes your specific writing so exciting.

People read your work because they enjoy and respect the way you tell it. Readers come back to your writing because they want to hear your voice.

Whenever you start to ask yourself if you should bother writing that story or that poem, remember this - that there are people who are excited to hear you, even on the days you don’t feel like the incredible artist that you are.

2. "SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK" by Joji

Questions to Prompt You While Watching This Music Video:

  • How does your perception of the character change as more of him is revealed to us?
  • What images grab you the most?
  • What is the meaning behind the character being on a stage where there is no audience? Who is he performing for?
  • What do I find myself hoping happens for him after the video ends?
  • How could this story have started? How else could it have ended?
  • Who are the unseen characters?

When this music video opens up, the first question I find myself asking is simply: why?

At first, we see a man (the musician, Joji) dressed haggardly in a tuxedo. The juxtaposition between the way he is dressed, his expression, and the setting of a lonely bus stop at night all create a sense of intrigue.

As the music video progresses, more about the character is revealed. We are forced to ask who is this character, what is his circumstance, and why is he telling us this story?

“SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” is a music video whose questions tend to lead to answers.

When writing, remember to trust your reader - you don’t have to lay out everything right away, or even at all. There is power in the space between the lines.

There is a gift in allowing your reader to come to those lightbulb moments on their own.

3. "ESTELLA" by KennyHoopla

Questions to Prompt You While Watching This Music Video:

  • Who is the a*shole? Is there one?
  • Who are you most sympathetic towards? Why? Think of specificities.
  • Does this remind you of a story in your own life? Which one?
  • What do you hope happens for this couple?
  • What would have to happen for this fight to occur? Why are we here, at this point?

Stories of heartbreak are evergreen - it is something that all of us have gone through and can relate to on some level or another. One of the reasons this music video is such a great prompt is that it leaves so much up to the viewer - we can watch this and remember the fights, misunderstandings, and heartbreaks within our own lives. It also gives us the chance to feel heartbreak outside of our own experience - we can dip into someone else’s feelings for a moment as we navigate our own.

The music video opens up with KennyHoopla being thrown out of a girl's house in his underwear, and immediately we have to wonder: is our protagonist the a*shole?

Sometimes these are the best stories. Making your protagonist the “jerk” can add humor, relatability, and compassion to the story. Having a less-than-stellar protagonist forces the reader to see the story through a set of eyes that they may not want to look through.

Other times, the story changes. Our perceptions of each character evolve until who the bad guy is, becomes unclear.

“ESTELLA” also offers a trio of characters to create stories for. We have all, at one point or another, been the protagonist, the girlfriend, or the best friend driving the post-break-up car. How do their stories differ? How do they intertwine?

4. "bad idea!" by girl in red

Questions to Prompt You While Watching This Music Video:

  • How would I interpret this story if I didn’t have the lyrics, music, or title?
  • How did they get together in that room? (Was it a text, a run-in, a meetup…? What are the circumstances for their reconnection?)
  • Why aren’t they/can’t they be together?
  • What makes a person a bad idea?

When we meet these two characters we encounter all that they imply about each other. We can see the passion, the pain, and the reflection in the symbols used throughout the video, as well as, through the use of looping repetition. This music video is a prime example of “showing over telling.”

We can see their relationship in their body language. We can see tenderness and regret in the way they stroke each other’s faces; we can see the passion and need in the way they consume each other.

More clearly, though, we can see the ways that they push each other away.

5. "Breezeblocks" by alt-J

Questions to Prompt You While Watching This Music Video:

  • Who do you think the characters are at the beginning of this music video? Who do you think they are by the end?
  • Who are the three characters? What are their relationships to each other?
  • What happened here?
  • Who is the villain?

As the author, you know what will happen in the story; you have an idea of the plot points, the motivation, the catalyst. Now, how would the story change if you didn't tell it in chronological order?

Examine the theme of your story and its genre. Consider using the order of events in order to emphasize the tension in it. When you tell your story in an untraditional manner, you force your reader to slow down.

By telling your story "out-of-order" you also give your reader the chance to draw their own conclusions along the way.

In the End...

Every person will draw inspiration from different parts of their lives. Inspiration can come from experience, emotion, or even a certain obsession with an image or idea.

That character you can't stop thinking about, that climax you can't get out of your head - let yourself fall in love with those ideas. Let yourself fall asleep at night while you fantasize about what your characters might be up to; let yourself feel their pain and elation; let yourself get in way too deep.

There is power in letting yourself be inspired.

Sometimes the best way to get over writer's block is to stop writing. When we slow down, we give inspiration a chance to really wash over us and take root inside us.

When we slow down, we remember the very things that made us start writing in the first place.

So give it a shot: try using one of these story prompts - or any of your own favorite music videos - in your next piece. If you do try out this method, let me know how it goes by sharing your story on Twitter and tagging me at @sleepydrafts - I would love to read it and be inspired by your work.

Because that's the thing - you are somebody's source of inspiration, too - just like any music video or sunrise.

Keep writing - because there are so many people out there who cannot wait to keep reading your work.

There is magic in what you create.

By Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Note from the Author

Thank you for taking the time to read my article! If you enjoyed this piece, you can let me know by adding a "heart," or by reaching out to me on Instagram at @emkeels or on Twitter at @sleepydrafts!

If you want to support my writing, check out my author profile for more articles, thoughts, and short stories. Tips are never an obligation, however, they are always deeply appreciated!

Thank you again for your support. I hope this piece made your day a little brighter.

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Emily Keeler
Emily Keeler
Read next: Race
Emily Keeler

Welcome! I am 25 years old, writing from Ontario. Thanks for stopping by! I hope there is something here that makes your day a little bit brighter!

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