Writers can learn from anything, especially different forms of storytelling. Storytelling can range from art, to novels, to theatre, to mus...

Writers can learn from anything, especially different forms of storytelling. Storytelling can range from art, to novels, to theatre, to music. I love looking into other forms of storytelling, studying them, and applying the lessons learned to my own writing! 

Recently I've been obsessed with the 'Anastasia' broadway soundtrack, and there is so much to learn from its songs. So today, I'm going to be sharing five of the lessons I learned from this wonderful soundtrack, that can apply to writing!

(Background image(s) are not mine)

The Power of Sound

Sound is an important tool in both songwriting and in novels. Often only visuals are used to convey the mood of a scene, but along with the other senses, what you hear can do the same. In Anastasia, the songwriters use different sounds to put the audience in different mindsets. In Still/The Neva Flows Reprise, a pause comes before (gun clicks). The first time I listened to the song, when they stopped singing, paused, and I heard the gun clicking, my heart stopped beating.

Likewise, in The Press Conference, the frantic clicking of typewriters and overlapping voices conveys a chaotic, busy scene. In writing, sound in description can be a worthwhile and effective tool to use, to convey the emotion and mood of the scene to follow.

Mixing Old With New

In Quartet at the Ballet, the start of the song is a classic piece from Swan Lake, but soon it blends into a new one, incorporating different characters' current thoughts. It is the perfect example of taking an old, well-known idea, and making it your own. When writing retellings, or a spin-off of a classic, when the right balance is hit between respecting the old story, and having a new take on it, it's utterly beautiful.

Simple Descriptions

While long, exaggerated descriptions can be wonderful, there is great power in being able to craft short but vivid descriptions. In songwriting, composers have to be very selective with their words, and choose a few to communicate their ideas. Here are a few examples:

Once Upon a December 
Horses prance through a silver storm

Dancing bears, painted wings
Things I almost remember

In My Dreams
I've seen flashes of fire
Heard the echo of screams

If you find words that paint images in the minds of readers, you can take them to a new world. Fancy words aren't always needed -- often, simple is beautiful.

Recurring Lines Build Theme

If the same scene is repeated over and over in a story, with no change, it's boring and pointless. Repetition can be a highly effective technique, however. If there's a line said by a character which embodies your theme, or their character arc, letting it be said or remembered several times throughout the story, with a new meaning each time, can heighten the phrase's power. It also ties the story together.

Echoes of similar lines from earlier songs, can be found in many songs on the broadway soundtrack. The magical Once Upon a December and haunting The Neva Flows have lines which filter into further reprises; their effect is a soundtrack that feels whole, and connected.

Balancing Out Emotions

In a soundtrack, more upbeat songs (eg Land of Yesterday) are needed to balance out softer songs (eg. In a Crowd of Thousands), where characters question themselves and their actions. This contrast allows the audience to feel the changing and complex emotions of the characters as they grow. In stories, it's important to balance out highly emotional scenes with action scenes, action with reaction, successes with losses. Striking these balances will take the reader on a journey, that will not tire them, yet still excite them.

What's your favourite song from the Anatasia Soundtrack? Who is your favourite character from the movie/musical? Do you prefer simple or elaborate descriptions?
Good luck with your writing, and have a fantastic day! <3

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  1. This post was so beautiful written, Melissa! I loved all of the comparisons that you brought out from the soundtrack and how those could be applied to writing.

    My personal favorite song from that musical soundtrack is "My Petersburg" followed by "In a Crowd of Thousands". Depending on the situation, I like a mix of simple and elaborate descriptions :).


    1. Thanks so much Catherine! <3 So glad you enjoyed it.

      Those are lovely songs! They have such a soothing, lifting rhythm to them I love. :)

  2. I love this! Musical soundtracks can be wells of inspiration.

    1. Thanks Skye! Yes, they are, I love how inspiring they are!

  3. I love this soundtrack! You made some great points. I don't know if I could pick a favorite song, but I do love both Dimitre and Anastasia.

    1. It's a beautiful soundtrack! Me too, they're some of my favourite characters. :) Thanks Rachel!

  4. This is actually the coolest thing how you can find ways to find writing tips out of anything! I never would've thought of using a soundtrack as inspiration for lessons to learn, but THESE ARE SOOO GOOD?! I especially agree with paying attention to detail, like sound, and also repetition fo themes or lines. I do them in my books a lot and it's my favourite!! Loved this post! (Also I love the Once Upon a December song so much.)

    1. Awww thanks Cait, that's so sweet of you! <3 Yes, it's amazing how we can learn from all different forms of storytelling and apply them to our writing! It just goes to show that writers never stop learning. :)

  5. I didn't know there's an Anastasia Broadway! I like the music in the movie especially Once Upon a December. These are some neat points!


    1. There certainly is one! I haven't been able to see it, but I love its soundtrack. I love that song too -- it's so magical! Thanks Victoria! :)

  6. I love the song Once Upon a December. But I have yet to listen to the whole soundtrack. Great post!

  7. Such a helpful article! I just started my experience to writing world and it seems so relieving to understand that music is an ispiration for some other writers. I am from Greece and I am so grateful that you help me at writing and practising my English too. Your blog is one of the most notable I 've ever read!