Using music as a prompt for your writing

by | Jan 27, 2020

Music can make a powerful writing prompt.

This is a song about a young homeless girl, begging on the streets and a man who walks by, seeming not to have noticed her.

This song is a message. It is a warning to us all not to ignore poverty; a reminder how, in comparison, we live in Paradise. Have a listen and see what you think.

For the purpose of this exercise, however, consider that every person has their own story and things mightn’t always be as straightforward as they may seem. Think about what could have been going through the mind of the homeless girl, or the man, at that particular moment.

Was he just an ignorant individual who didn’t care? Or could there have been another reason he didn’t stop to help? What led the girl to be in the situation she’d found herself? How did she feel being treated as though she didn’t exist?

Try to put yourself in the shoes of either the girl or the man and write something from the heart, something that captures their feelings in that moment.

Here is an example of what one of my Young Writers came up with when they did this exercise:

“I walk down the street. The sky is dark but a thousand streetlights block out the stars that should shine brightly down on earth.
I keep walking. Back to Lily, back home. She’s taken a turn for the worse. And she wasn’t too good already. Miriam had texted me, a short message, but it had yanked at my heart strings – no, stopped my heart, and abandoning my late night work, here I was, walking as fast as was acceptable for a respectable business man to go.
Will I be in time?
Then, I pass the chip shop. It’s long closed, of course, but as I hurry closer I see a dark shape huddled against the corrugated iron door.
I hear a cry through the night. “‘Scuse me Mr, please, please, it’s so cold… Help me Mr, please, please.”
And in that moment I am close, so close to helping, to understanding, so so close to saying “Yes, come with me,” because no child should be out at this time, in this weather, out at all. Besides, this child is almost as small, vulnerable and sweet as Lily.
My little girl…
And isn’t it acceptable to want to see your own child, who may be dying THIS VERY SECOND, than helping a child who has nothing at all to do with you.
I hurry past, the lump in my throat growing with every step.
It is acceptable, it is fair,
Isn’t it?”

This is a beautiful, but tragic, piece of writing, examining the possibilities of circumstances in people’s lives that lead them to behave in certain ways. It reminds us that we can’t always assume we know the reasons behind people’s actions and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.


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