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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  • Love,Lit,Art&Reason

    Awesome song choices. I love 90s grunge and so many of those would inspire such awesome books.

  • Kate

    REM’s Losing My Religion (and Night Swimming even more so) is one of those rare songs that I could listen to on loop and never get sick of. #ALLTHEFEELINGS.

  • Jess Henry

    Halsey for the win! She made my cut too. Except with ‘Strange Love’ (I love the edge, could make for an interesting love-break story).Gasoline is a gorgeous song. It would definitely make for a strong character base. I also did Lana Del Rey but with Blue Jeans. (It basically tells the whole story. The imagery it invokes would be intoxicating if written properly). Off To The Races would be the same. Beautiful imagery to play with. I love Losing My Religion and House of the Rising Sun. Excellent choices this week! 🙂

  • Chrissi Reads

    I absolutely love Losing My Religion. It would be amazing to see it as a novel!

  • mariahelena

    Great list. I’d read all of these (especially Losing My Religion)

  • Krystianna

    I really like where you took the topic this week! Off to the Races, House of the Rising Sun, and Losing My Religion are some of my favorite songs ever.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

  • Amber (@ YA Indulgences)

    Halsey made my list! Her song Drive and Empty Gold. Gasoline is good as well. I’d love a good angst novel. This is the second time I’ve seen One Headlight today! That is awesome. It’d make a great story. Here is my TTT

  • Jenny @ Reading the End

    Oh, I looooove “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” It does suit Justified perfectly, and it’s also just an absolutely fantastic song. I can play it (albeit not very well) on my guitar.

  • Lindsay @ Lindsay’s Library

    Great picks! I almost put “S.O.B.” on my list — it could definitely make an interesting novel. Every time I hear the song I want more info on the “main character” and his life and drinking problem! Love your idea for “Losing My Religion.”

  • Lauren

    SOB would make a great novel! 😀

    Check out my TTT and my current giveaway.

  • MeezCarrie

    You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive is a great choice! My TTT

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