hook lines header 

A hook line is the memorable lyric that gets stuck in your head.  It's usually the songs title and is in the chorus.  

See also lyrics or song structures

Keyword        Figurative language        Framing devices        Sex & love     Universal theme        Christian

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Color song title

Colors make concepts memorable  
They create images in your mind instead of abstractions.  

Pay attention to everything.  Does an object have a standard color?   Do certain colors suggest moods in different situations?
For example: a black tuxedo instead of a red or white one.  Look up "color words" in the thesaurus.  Find a color that sounds pleasing to the ear.  Does it suggest a hook line?  

Color Idioms (and check out the idiom strategies)

Ideas associated with color

Green = envy, naivety, sickness, nature, money      Blue = sadness, freedom, lust, cool temperatures        
Pink = femininity, sexuality, youth                             Black = sick, death, secretive, profitable, dark      
Red = anger, passion, lust, hot, un-profitable           Purple = royalty, gay
White = good, pure, virginal, cold, light                    Yellow = cheerful, summery, innocent, cowardly     
Expand on these, or think of your own. 
Blue = sad has been used a lot.  It might be too cliche.  
Free associate
Write down ideas for each color.  Let them flow without interruption.   Incubate and let the ideas develop at their own speed.

City, state or country title

It's specific and memorable.  Do you have happy memories of a place?  What's good about it? 

Who is the person (in the song) experiencing the location? 
Do they represent an archetype?  (a waitress, lawyer, cop, etc.)
Do they have bad memories of this place?  What went wrong? 

Do they want to go to the location?  Or go back to the location?  What's special about this location? 

Choose a plot.  Some places automatically have stories attached to them?  What's the vibe of the location?
Use an atlas and pick a place that has a cool name.

"Nantucket nights"        "Terror in Tehran"        "Siberian sweeties sound so sweet" 

Avoid local phrases your audience might not understand.  

100 Biggest US Cities                                    
Biggest World Cities,                             
Most Popular States (tourism)
State Rankings (poverty,crime, health)
World Map search by continent    
World Countries in alphabetical order
Most Popular Countries

Day, month or number

These hook lines are specific and memorable.

Day: what does it represent?

Sunday = holy day, rest, football, big dinner, family gathering
Monday = back to work blues, irritability, depression
Wednesday = hump day (middle of the work week)
Thursday = Start of the weekend (for college kids)
Friday = Parties, clubs, watch TV at home (lonely?), time with your children (responsibility?), end of the work week
Make up your own.

Month:  what does the month suggest?

November = My birthday (getting old), the air is getting colder, gray skies,
February = It's too cold to leave the house, the pipes freeze, hockey playoffs
August = It's too hot to leave the house, the AC fails, the kids have summer break from school
September = Everything is perfect, farmers harvest their crops, it's the end of summer
December = Christmas and holiday madness.  I'm broke.
January = The new year and starting over.


4 = My lucky number
6 = Percent of people who beat a crystal meth addiction
2 = Just me and you
300 million = United States population rounded down

Categories:  addresses, phone numbers, prices, statistics, ID's, license plates, ages, birth dates, time, flights or taxis

Free Associate:  Write down whatever comes to mind.      

Alliteration works well:
Freaky Fridays      Frozen February     Sexy at seventy

Female name title

The most common hook line strategy.
Praise the woman, criticize her, or do both.   What's your relationship to the woman?  What issue are you addressing?

Girl names (and their meanings)
Popular names

Lookup relationship advice and womens issues.
Womens issues

Idioms for relationships

Heart, night, if                                               

Three of the most popular words in songwriting.


Adjectives:  hard, cold, loving, broken, bulletproof, weak, bloody, foolish, lonely, fiery, frozen, warm


Partying, sexuality, youth, working nights, worrying nights, dancing

If has started as many titles as love.

If can express many attitudes:  hopeful, playful, regretful, wishful, imaginative 

Make three categories:  You, Me and The World.    Write IF statements until one clicks.          

Book title

Title ideas are everywhere.  Find them in newspapers, on billboards or tv commercials, etc. 

Book titles are meant to be memorable.   
I just spent 5 minutes surfing and found "The Agony and the Ecstasy" (a White Zombie song)

Books by subject (huge list)
Top ten books from each year since 1900


"And" thrusts your characters into the action, the heat of the debate, the problem or emotion.   "And" songs are rare and distinctive.  

"And heres to you Mr's Robinson"
"And that's why they call it the blues."

"Ands" are everywhere.  Anytime you read "and" see if the words that follow it spark your imagination.
Write a couple "and" lines for every song.  You don't have to use them.

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Antonyms                Opposites                            "The High Cost of Low Living"                                      
Idioms                     Common Expressions          "If Looks could kill"      
Paragrams              Altered Idioms                      "Friends in Low Places"   
Metaphor                Comparison                         "You Ain't Nothin But a Hound Dog"  
Personification        Humanizing                          "While my guitar gently weeps"
Apostrophe             Talk to abstractions              "Luck, be a Lady Tonight"
Synecdoche            Part for the whole                "Nothin But a 'G' Thang"     
Metonomy               Symbolic Substitution          "Ebony and Ivory"    
Pun                         Two Meanings                     "Government In-action"
New word                                                            "Get Krunked"   


Antonyms are opposite words  
They're a preffered strategy for advertisers.  Antonyms

Auto-antonyms - words that are also the opposite of themselves!

Thesaurus to search for antonyms

Idioms and Proverbs

Informal expressions (Idioms):         "Take it or leave it"        "No problem"        "I'm nuts about you"

Self evident truths
(proverbs or axioms)    "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched"        "Look before you leap"

Idioms  by subject                                                Proverbs 
Idioms  30 pages                                               
Inspirational sayings
Cowboy truths


Paragrams are altered idioms or proverbs 
These song titles tend to stick in your memory.  "I've got friends in low places."

Love at first sight = "Love at second sight"       The high cost of living = "The high cost of loving"

Use a top ten word.  Heart, Night, If, Love, And, etc.
Use an antonym to replace a word.  (opposite word)      
Thesaurus to search for antonyms            Antonyms
Do what sounds right.

Idioms  by subject       
Idioms  30 pages                                        
Inspirational sayings            
Cowboy truths  for country I recon'


A metaphor implies similarity between things  

A metaphor makes a direct comparison            "All the world's a stage"  
A simile compares things using the words "like" or "as"      "All the world is like a stage"

"Our love is on the rocks."  Love = Shipwreck      "That delay cost an hour."  Time = Money    
4 Concept Cliches:
Rain = Hard times        Sun = Good times        Music = Romantic feelings        Life =  Road or Journey

Hit concepts

Man = hound dog    Friend = a bridge    Life = a rose garden    Health = an empty gas tank    Flirting = tree shaking     
Inspiration = a lighthouse    Wife problems = rose thorns    Death = candle in the wind    Infidelity = crime
Silence = a wall    Feelings = temperatures    Troubles = burdens    Relationships = gambling    Love = magic   
Pick a concept and put an = sign after it.  Brainstorm and come up with visual images: 

Trouble = burdens.  Replace burdens with load stones.  Now, "Trouble = loadstones"
You can use the word "Trouble" or switch it to an image or concept of trouble.   "Your love is a load stone".

Try to understand one thing in terms of another

A mixed metaphor results when you mix unrelated concepts:
"If you play your cards right, you'll hit the bulls eye."  This implies that a card game is like target shooting.  Nope.

Make sure your metaphor passes the reality check.  "My heart is frozen in the snow"  No it's not. 
Try using a simile instead, "My heart is frozen like the snow." Use it if it sounds right.  Don't over-analyze too much.       


Compact Similes

These include sayings like snow white and arrow straight.  Choose a subject for comparison, and then try to find a single word that modifies it.  

Make two lists.  
A subject list with abstract ideas:  smile, lover, heart, night, memory, promise, dream, life.
A modifier list containing images that convey certain properties.  
"Rawhide" = tough        "Lightning" = fast        "Rock" = hard or sturdy

"Rawhide heart"  or  "Lightning lover"


Give human qualities to inanimate objects.  
"Illiteracy is robbing you of your future."  
"The sun smiled on my face."

It's good for serious themes and social statements.

Something acts human:    "The wind cried Mary
The singer becomes the thing personified:     "I'm the train they call"

Start with a concept or object

Concept:      A hard road  =  hardships  =  "Grumblin' shoes and wailin' feet
Object:        Guns  =  War, gangs, suicide  =  sorrow, regret, revenge =  "Lead Tears from a .45"

Write a sentance describing the point you want to make.  What feelings are involved?    


Building:  School, Jail, World Trade Center, White House
Bridge:   Golden Gate, Mackinaw, London
Monument:  St. Louis Arch, Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Memorial

World Trade Center = tragedy, terrorism, building 7 mystery
Statue of Liberty = patriotic, freedom, Ishtar
Jail = violence, boredom 


A dead person, place or thing is addressed as if it will answer 
This provides a fresh approach to familiar subjects.  It's a way to address difficult themes not easily treatable by the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person viewpoint.  Determine who "You" is referring to.  Keep it consistent throughout the lyric.

4 plot subjects

Place:                  "Don't cry for me Argentina"
Dead Person:      "Vincent" (or an absent person)
Nature:                "Glow worm"
Abstraction:        "Time don't run out on me"

List the four subjects and brainstorm them.  Attributes for the subjects include: praising, critical, outraged, disappointed, loving, dependable.

Don't give the subject a quality it doesn't posses.  Clouds are not puffs of smoke.    


Substitute a part for the whole or a whole for the part.

Species for genus:                                  "Her favorite food is McDonald's"
Raw material for finished product:       "You look great in silk"
Trade name for generic product           "Give me a Kleenex"
Nickname for a person                            "Be like Mike"
Abbreviation for the whole term            "Gimme some T.L.C."
Place for event                                          "Woodstock"

The most common is "place for an event" where the place becomes an adjective.  "Gettysburg address" or "Persian Gulf crisis"

You can use a series of parts for the whole:        "Bobby and Jackie and Jack" (Kennedy's)
Try replacing a subject like "exercise" with examples:     Weight lifts, rowing, stretching, throwing

This is more useful as a lyrical treatment than as a design device.
Look over your current works and find places to employ this strategy.


Represent something with an attribute or symbol

Cause in place of effect             
Effect in place of cause

Symbol in place of subject       
Subject in place of symbol

"From the cradle to the grave"           Birth and death       Symbol in place of subject
"Nine to five"                                      Time and work        Symbol in place of subject
"The pen is mightier than the sword."   Literature and combat        Symbol in place of subject

Common substitutions

Cause in place of effect                            "The face cream that erases years (wrinkles)."      
Possession in place of owner                   "A sharkskin suit (person) is coming up the street."
Controller in place of the controlled          "Bernstein (the orchestra) gave a great concert."
Location in place of industry                     "Detroit (the auto industry) is making profits"
Container in place of the contained          "Lets have a brown bag (food inside) lunch"
Creator in place of the creation                "You've got a poet (poetry book) in your pocket"


A mild statement substitutes a harsh one

"He died" = "The angels took him home"
This can be effective for handling sexual matters.

Show, don't tell.  Replace an abstract idea with a symbol of it. 

"Shy" = "Taking an interest in my shoes"
"Lonely in bed" = "Extra blankets for the cold"

Let your characters act out their emotional states with their behavior

Symbolic people
Substitute a proper name for a subject, object or emotion.
"Don't be a George Bush"

Compact Metonym

It's a comparison that can be defined as "one that, one who, those which, that which," etc.

"Sticker shock"               Effect in place of cause              The price is too high
"Briefcase flight"             Effect in place of cause              The flight is short

The word "moment" can be effective for this.  Maalox moment, Kodak moment, etc.
This device allows you to group people with habitual attributes.

"Clock puncher" = worker    "Number cruncher" = analyst

Song titles:
"Material girl"   
"Earth angel"   
"Second hand rose"    
"Radio heart"   
"Poetry man"   
"Heartbreak hotel"

Symbolic lyric
An image is used in both a literal and figurative way. 

Rain = trouble (metaphor)        
Rain = rain and trouble (symbol)

"Stop and smell the roses"     (enjoy life's little things) 
"Let's face the music and dance"   (face life with courage)


Words that sound the the same but have different meanings

Homophones   different spelling     (Rome,  roam)
Homonyms      same spelling          (Train on the tracks, train an employee).

Instant pun:  a word or phrase expresses two different ideas

"On the other hand"  
On one hand the singer is attracted to someone, but on the other hand is his wedding ring.

Sequential pun: 
repeat a key word with different meanings each time.

"Make time for Time"     (Time magazine ad)
"What's good about goodbye?"
"A ring where a ring used to be."

Start with a list of homophones.   Expand one into a fun phrase (whatever comes to mind).
Read the pun lists.  Be sure that your meanings are understandable and appropriate to the context. 

Double entendre
One of the meanings is crude or sexual.

Sequential pun plots

The second meaning of the pun is delayed until the end of the song.
"Why are you so mean to me?   Don't you know what you mean to me?
Use a verb in different ways to link dissimilar ideas.
"I held my breath when you held the door for me."

Combining contradictory words for ironic emphasis.
"Serious fun"  
"Make haste slowly"  
"The sounds of silence"  
"Killing me softly"

More puns

New word

Invent a new word to maintain perfect rhyme or regulate the meter

Verbify        Make a noun into a verb          "They stonewalled my idea"      
Nounify       Turn something into a noun     "He whipped out his ego"      
Adjectivise                                                  "Unwinceable"
Clip              Shorten words                          "Rigor mort"
Stretch         Lengthen words                       "Identical  -  authentical"
Blur              Smooth the syllables                "Usually" (4 syllables)   "u-sha-ly"  (3 syllables)   "yoosh-ly"  (2 syllables)
Mispronounce   Force the word to rhyme    "Boy and goil"
Blending  (portmanteau)  Mix two words to make another.      Smoke and fog  = smog
Acronym       Make a new word using the first letter of other words in a phrase.     
Nonsense words   Make up meaningless words     "I am the eggman, I am the walrus, Goo Goo Goo Chube."
Add prefixes or suffixes to change word meanings
Subtract Prefixes:  "disgruntled, disheveled and uncouth"  become  "gruntled, sheveled, and couth.

Prefixes      Suffixes

Make new words using famous names.     

Famous Person:  Jesus, Ghandi, Casanova, Lillith, Hercules etc.      
Characteristics:   God, saint, healer, master, womanizer, Goddess, strong man, psycopath, etc.   
New words:   Try to make words that embody both the name and the characteristic, or that allow you to define the characteristic.   Casanova and notable = a "Cassanotable" reputation.

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Question             "How is this love?"
Phone call           "Post office buddy"    
Letter                   "If you're reading this"    
Setting                 "The gambler"  (train) 
Third person        "She works hard for the money"   
Duet                     "Anything you can do I can do better"  


Questions get peoples attention fast.  The word "sex" is the only word that works better.  
Most question lyrics don't supply an answer (or expect one) but some want to be resolved.  Decide which applies.    

They often start with:
Who, what, where, when, why, do, how, have, will, can, would

Song Titles
"What is this thing called love"    "Where have all the flowers gone?"

Question plot
The question is asked at the start of the song and is answered at the end.

"Who stole my heart anyway?   No one but you"
"Guess who I saw today? You!"   (The woman who finds her husband out on a date)

Phone call

Bucketheads "Post office buddy" is the best example of a phone call song.

Listening to one side of a phone call moves a plot forward and reveals character aspects.
It's good for telling people off or thanking them.  It's more intimate than a letter plot.

Make a list of phone relationships:
Doctor - patient    
Secretary - wife   
Police - hostage taker   
Long distance lovers    

Think of a plot.  Decide who's talking.  Every word should sound like it's being spoken.

Let your audience know that it's overhearing a phone call.  You don't want to confuse them.  

You can use the singers reaction to suggest what's being said on the other end of the line.


The letter (or note left behind) makes the message more effective and the song more memorable. 
The letter has more plot possibilities than the phone call.
It works for plots that are difficult to address like child abuse or date rape.

If you don't have a plot:
Make a list of people you'd send a letter to and why.  
Make a list of conceptual groups of people you'd send a letter to:   "thieves, taxi drivers, doctors, government officials"
Make a list of concerns that you have, and then list the people you'd contact for each one.

A letter begins with "Dear _____, "  ends with a closing "warm regards," (or something similar) and maybe has a P.S. 

P.S. is the most powerful moment in the song.


A song with a setting is more distinctive and memorable.

Present tense: the action is happening right now.    
Past tense: the action happened in the past.

If you don't have a plot idea:
List the potential settings that spring to mind.  What person in each setting is telling the story?  Pick the best one.

Your opening line should identify the "Who, What, Where."       "On a train going nowhere, I met a gamblin' man"
Transport the listener into the scene.  Lyrics that describe images are the most effective. 

The setting can stay in one place, change, or keep moving (in a vehicle).  
If the setting changes, write a transitional line to inform the listener.

The moving vehicle is an underused strategy.  

2 Plot Choices
Leaving the past situation behind (wistfully, reluctantly or gladly)
Heading towards a future destination (anxiously or eagerly)

Third person

Most pop songs are in first or second person. 
Third person is less common, and thus more interesting.  It's also very effective for song subjects that are difficult to handle in first person.   The singer of the third person song is NOT the character in the story.     


Two Categories:
The Singers like each other.
The Singers dislike each other.

Create a scenario that gives them a reason for the conversation (attraction, commitment, disagreement)

Think of a song title.

If they like each other:
Write lines for the two singers.   Which lines are sung separately and which together?

If they dislike each other:
Let your characters criticize each other, contradict and interrupt each other.

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Sex                        "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes"
Love                      "We've only just begun"    
Infidelity                 "Lyin eyes"    
Breaking up          "How am I supposed to live without you?"   
Reuniting               "Love will lead you back"


Which one?
Love =  caring, understanding and commitment. 
Sex = desire and lust.    

Attitude and tone varies from playful and subtle to blunt and vulgar.  Keep it consistent throughout the lyric.


The most popular subject in songwriting. 
Love can be:  sought, found, lost, strayed, stolen, regretted, revived, regained, tragic, joyous, etc.


Emotions range from tension and conflict for the cheaters to anguish for the injured spouse.

The remorseful wife apologizing.
The guilty husband ending an affair.
The wife speaking to the mistress.
A bartender surveying the pickup scene.

If you write the song from the cheaters perspective, make the character likable. 
They could admit to having feelings of conflict and guilt.  
If you write it in third person avoid being preachy.  Show the effects of cheating and the hurt it causes others.

You can try using the viewpoint of an onlooker; a waiter in a cafe of the desk clerk in a hotel.

Try a telephone call
The suspicious wife calls her husbands secretary, or the wife answers the phone when the mistress calls.

Breaking up

Before the breakup:  "You've lost that lovin' feelin"

During  "How am I supposed to live without you?"

After:   "Baby come back"

Problems:  The time frame, setting, motivations and emotions are often unclear.

Who did what to whom?
Who is leaving who?
What emotion does the singer feel?
Is the singer alone?  If people are together, who are they?  Where are they?
Is the singer thinking or talking?
When did the breakup occur? 

You don't have to include the answers in the lyric, but you should know them yourself. 


Somehow, someday, we'll get back together again.  This song plot requires a clear scenario. 

Why did the characters separate in the first place?
Was someone cheating?  Were they too young?  Career issues?   Parent issues?      

The second person viewpoint, (you) is the most effective.
Is the singer thinking the words or talking?
Imagine the scene.

This also works well as a duet. 

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Parent & Child                        "Cat's in the cradle"    
Self Empowerment                 "I will survive"    
Friendship                               "I get by with a little help from my friends"    
Song, music, dance                "Rhythm of the night"      
Getting away                           "Roadhouse blues"
Archetype   (original pattern)     "Foxy lady"
Famous person                        "Candle in the wind"  (Princess Dianna, Marilyn Monroe)  
Social statement                      "We are the world"  
Inspirational                              "Climb every mountain" 

Parent & Child

Basic concepts:  Appreciation for good parenting.  Regret for a flawed relationship.  Anxiety over impending parenthood.
Difficult concepts:  Homosexuality, abortion, illegitimacy

Consider strategies such as Apostrophe (second person viewpoint), the Letter, or the Phone Call.

Self Empowerment

Self empowerment is a basic human need.

Try a "thinking out loud" lyric.
Address the collective consciousness.
Write about what you believe in.  

True Beauty lies within.                                          
It's not what you say, it's what you do.
Treat others the way you want to be treated.                
Don't forget your goals.
Give more than you planned to.                                
Keep trying.
Make it happen.                                                     
Love yourself first.
Open your eyes.                                                     
Enjoy today, tomorrow may never come.
Quitters never win.                                                 
Practice makes perfect.
Control your destiny.    


Offer friendship.
Show gratitude for friendship.
Share your appreciation of friendship with a duet.     

Tone:  playful, heartfelt, appreciative, loving, angry, abusive

Avoid suggesting that the characters are "lovers" rather than friends, unless that's what you want.
Consider the feelings you've never expressed.  What would you do for that person?

Song, music and dance

These words often appear symbolically in lyrics.  

"I've heard that song and dance before" =  I've heard it all before, so don't lie to me.
"Make your own kind of music" =  Be your own person
"Do you want to dance" =  Do you want to have sex?
"Dancing in the dark"  =  Facing life's uncertainties with grace.

These concepts can also be literal, representing musics charm, romance and redemptive power.

Dance names:                        "Macarena"
Appreciation of music:            "I love a piano"
Musical communication:         "Say it with music"
Releasing emotions:               "Song sung blue"
Story songs about musicians:    "Piano man"

Getting away

Whether it's a coffee break or carnival cruise.  It's a universal desire.

Realism:            Reality is what you perceive.  Real is what you make real.
Romance:         The way you hope it would be (if your lucky)
Fabulation:       The way you imagine it would be (but it's highly unlikely)
Fantasy:             A fanciful notion that's impossible


These are accepted patterns in the way we describe the world.

Wolf = evil       Dog = faithful     Snake = trickery     Owl = Goddess

White = purity    Blue = sad

Cowboy, braggart, the wanderer, the know it all, the businessman, the waiting woman, etc.

Mercedes = success    
Beauty = value

Search for the father   
Family rivalry   
Arriving in the city   

Death, parenthood, old age, unemployed

Famous Person 

Famous people often embody archetypes.  These images can add charm and memorability to a song.
Rockefeller = Freemason who created the UN and the man who owns the federal reserve.      
Marilyn Monroe = Sex appeal       

What famous people have impacted your life?
Should you praise them or criticize them?

Is the person famous enough?  People need to understand the reference.
The 2nd person viewpoint works well (you), but any viewpoint is valid.

Social Statement

The world needs lot's of social commentary or we're screwed.  Get on it.

Appreciative, wistful, critical, outraged, humorous, confused

"I watch TV...  I get mad a lot.  I try to put that in a song."     -Hank Williams, Jr.


These songs provide hope and inspiration.   Audiences love a character that is struggling to overcome.

"If I'm doing my job right, I help people hold onto their own humanity"    -Bruce Springsteen

These songs use terms like "you, you're, you'll, or we."


There's a new trend in Christian music that has been popularized by YES FM.  It's called the subtle influence technique.  People in need of the most love and spiritual help are the same people that won't listen to positive music.  Bands like 21 Pilots invoke a positive mood without being preachy.   Nobody wants to hear "you're going to hell," but they will listen to songs that tell them they're loved and special.  There's a demand for positive music in the world.

You'll be successful if you promote positive energy and good vibrations.  It's as simple as that.  Understand the spirit energy in this way: some is very positive and some is very negative.

Focus on uplifting:
1. Yourself  
2. The people around you   
3. The world

If you do that, you'll be successful as a musician and every door will open.   If you're reading this, it's for a reason.  You have a chance to make positive music and influence peoples lives.  You should do it.  Keep the spirit of love inside your heart and do what's best for your fans and the earth.