What A Writer Can Learn From Lou Reed

I was 15 when I discovered Lou Reed’s music. In the stacks of used CDs at my indie record store I found a copy of  Transformer. One listen is all it took.

Since Lou Reed’s passing last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the influence he had on my life. I even named this blog after his song Stephanie Says.

I never met Lou Reed in person, but that doesn’t matter. I met his music, and more importantly, I discovered his lyrics, and in those beautiful words I began to see how  a few carefully chosen words could paint a picture (lyrics from the song Sweet Jane):

Standing on a corner,
Suitcase in my hand
Jack is in his corset, and Jane in her vest,
And me, I’m in a rock’n’roll band.

Can you see it? Four simple lines that instantly convey location, characters, tone, and makes you want to know what happens next. He has a “suitcase in his hand,” so where is he going? What just happened? Why is Jack in a corset instead of Jane? Tell me more…

And there you have it. The genius of Lou Reed is simple. A few beautiful words that capture a moment in time, and while I love Lou Reed’s music, even his experimental Metal Machine, it’s his words that carry me.

Whether you’re writing a song, a poem, a novel or a screenplay, take a lesson from Lou Reed.  A few simple words are all you need to tell a story and show us that this crazy world is all right. Cue music:

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