Songwriter U: Expectation, Surprise & Inevitability

The second principle underlying effective narrative development in songwriting is Expectation, Surprise & Inevitability. Controlling these parameters can be very useful for focusing attention, sustaining interest, and amplifying emotion. It’s not just the lyric that can do this! The idea is to set up an expectation, and later fulfill that expectation with an outcome that is both surprising and inevitable; inevitable in the sense that there were no other right choices for that moment. An expectation of what? Expectation of a certain type of rhyme: Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly, Birds fly over the rainbow, why, oh, why can’t I? We expect the lyric to (perfect) rhyme; what it rhymes with is a surprise (it’s not about bluebirds or flying, but about stepping out).The thought is inevitable; in context there seems to be no other choice!  How it rhymes can also be a surprise: Now’s the time for living life unfettered, For soon enough a man is old and Cardigan-sweater’d! A result can be inevitable but not surprising (cliché): There’s no safer place to land, falling in love together So baby, take my hand, I want to hold you forever Expectation of a particular chord change, melodic phrasing or…

To view this content,

Join Today

or Sign In

The Benefits of Membership:

  • Subscription to the American Songwriter Print Magazine
  • Access to all Feature Magazine Content Online
  • Access to Print Edition Archives
  • Premium content in our Songwriter U section
  • Discounts on vinyl, Songwriter services, and other American Songwriter Partners
  • Exclusive access to members-only contests and giveaways
Click to Join

We've started an American Songwriter membership! Click here to learn more.