It felt good to be out of the rain
Many writers listen to music while writing. And, hey, why not have built-in background music in your story?
Sing me your song, O
Unfortunately, since most fanfiction doesn't include an audio component, writers are frequently left having to copy and paste the lyrics directly into the text.
You stare unblinkingly at me
While your car waits in the freezing rain.
When it's done right this can really benefit the story, especially if the lyrics really fit with whatever is happening in the story. Unfortunately, it can just as easily detract from the story, especially if the readers don't actually recognize the song. Posting lyrics from a Michael Jackson or Beatles song is one thing, but posting lyrics from the writer's favorite indie band runs a much bigger risk that the reader won't actually recognize the song. Alternately, the reader might simply not like whatever song the writer is using, and it ends up spoiling the mood anyway.
The words just come out wrong.
So I have to say I love you
In a song.
There are three main ways of writing a song fic. One method is to turn the fic into a kind of musical, and just have a character actually listening to or performing a particular song that fits the mood of the story or scene. Sometimes this fits in neatly enough, and is frequently a way that Live-Action TV shows intersperse famous background music - namely, by setting the scene in a bar or club and having the actual musicians performing onstage. If the story isn't a musical, a chapter may be set during a bar's karaoke night, which features one character singing a song specifically to another; the rampant abuse of Suspiciously Apropos Music involved in this one is part of why so many people hate it.
The second way is to actively rewrite the lyrics of a song and replace them with lyrics of the author's creation. There's a very good chance readers won't recognize it unless you specifically spell out which song or band you're "covering", so to speak, and even then it could just as easily detract from the experience. Some fanfiction is nothing but Song Fic, essentially rewriting the lyrics into a poem that fits whatever franchise they're writing about. It's certainly the more creative way, but it can still seem totally out of place.
The third way is to intersperse the lyrics in the text. In a basic Songfic they are italicised to distinguish them from the rest of the story, and can disrupt the flow, betraying a rush-job. It used to be very popular but then it became so commonly used that a lot of it was very bad. However in the more skilled examples writers may choreograph the song to the events passing, turning it into a kind of music video, with a gentle poke for when to start playing. The most dedicated will have characters speaking the lyrics of the song, adapted to turn them into a conversation or remove repetition. It can really add to the drama if it comes at a major Wham Moment. The ultimate goal is to have the song meld with the scene, preferably right down to the timing of introductions and solos. It's a complicated business to do well because it requires the writer to listen to the song over and over while writing until thoroughly sick of it.
Most one-shot songfics are named after the song they use. Sooner or later you'll run into somebody who really does know how to write songs, and has composed their own lyrics to their own tune, but since it's in (italics) text, you can't see the tune. Guess you'll just have to find your own tune.
This trope is a classic example of how Tropes Are Tools. While Song Fics are deplored by some people and major sites like Fanfiction.Net forbid the use of non-public domain lyrics due to copyright issues (not that they enforce it much), they can be highly effective if they're used correctly and can add more depth to a story than you might think.
Mundo paparazzi mi amore chicka ferdy parasol
Presto obrigado tanta mucho cake and eat it carousel.*
Compare Virtual Soundtrack.
- An example of the third variety: We Belong, a Ranma ½ Song Fic by troper Looney Toons, set around the song of the same name by Pat Benatar. (And written in 1998, before songfics wore out their welcome.)
- There is an AU InuYasha fanfiction where the chapter that dealt with Kagome's Freak Out! of Unstoppable Rage of unreal proportions had alternate paragraphs dedicated to the Evanescence song "Bring Me To Life," because the author just couldn't believe how appropriate the song was to her story.
- Embryonic Eclipse is an anti-dub Sailor Moon fanfic written to rectify a complaint the author had with another fic: a Dark Fic entitled "The Dark Side Of The Moon", which contained no other references to Pink Floyd. This fic makes up for it with large amounts of references to the band, quoting a song in its entirety, and naming all the chapters after the album's tracklist.
- There is a rather elegant Cardcaptor Sakura version of this in The Universe is Resting in My Arms. The lyrics flow almost seamlessly into the story.
- The Death Note fic A Cure for Love is set to the discography of The Smiths. Each chapter begins with an italic block of lyrics that are a thematic to the chapter and the titles of each chapter are named after songs titles.
- A curious example is the Death Note fic Requiem by firelordzuko, which is at a songfic based on the Greek and Latin lyrics of the traditional Catholic Mass for the Dead (or Requiem Mass). The music is the Requiem in d-minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The plot follows Near at L's funeral, where Mozart's Requiem is performed.
- Justified in Looney Toons' Mega Crossover fic Drunkard's Walk, whose central character has a superpower that turns songs he listens to into other powers.
- A Fuku Fic challenge generator had "turn on the radio and copy down the song currently being played" as one of the randomly chosen options for how to start your fic.
- The Ace Attorney / Elite Beat Agents crossover To Each A Tempo has at least three Song Fic chapters, which makes sense, as they're set during EBA missions. The fic also slips other song lyrics into the dialogue at several points, such as when the Judge very briefly rickrolls the court.
- The Steven Universe/One Piece crossover A Gem in the Rough has quite a few songs integrated in the plot. Some notable songs include "We Are The Crystal Gems," "With A Little Help From My Friends," "Don't Stop Me Now," "Jolly Holiday," "The Greatest Adventure," and the 4kids rap. There are also a few original songs thrown in as well, most notably a summary of the entire story up until that point called "A Gem In The Rough" and the aforementioned "I Am The Very Model Of A Cunning Tiger Millionaire" (which were both set to the tune of "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General,"( "Going To The Grand Line," and "If You Want To Be Our Shipwright" (both being set to the tune of songs from ''The Simpsons,'' specifically "Gonna Paint Your Wagon" and "Minimum Wage Nanny" as stated in the Author Commentary).
- The Monsters, Inc. fanfic Angela's Pet Monster. Moreso in the later installments.
- The Inside Out fanfic Figured You Out uses this fairly straight, with Anger and Disgust using the lyrics to "Figured You Out" as their dialogue as they get to third base together. The chorus is left out of their dialogue and some lyrics are slightly edited to avoid repetition, but the make-out is still so tightly choreographed that you'll hardly notice.
Breech: If you think you hate Nickelback, don't feel too bad; you can still read the fic without it. Besides, if you think you hate Nickelback, you didn't have to listen to it 300 times in a row while writing, and then 300 more times during editing and post-editing. Enjoy!
- Chapter 9 of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality contains a spoof of the Ghostbusters theme. Chapter 10 contains an apology for chapter 9.
It honestly didn't occur to me - although it seems obvious in retrospect - that many readers would have massively bad associations to songs in fanfics. All I can do is apologize and promise not to do it again. I'm afraid, however, that since this chapter was already written, you will have to sit through the Sorting Hat singing its version of Evanescence's "My Immortal", which has never happened before.
- In The Rise of FireClan, the kitten protagonist sings Slipping while killing Snake and Ice. How he even knows what "cavemen" or "lemmings" are is never explained.
- A character called Alice miscalculates during a lesson in preparing a hallucinogenic incapacitant. She inadvertently goes on a mind-bending trip and encounters smoking caterpillars, talking chessmen and a dormouse in a teapot. See A.A. Pessimal's Discworld fic White Rabbit. A Jefferson Airplane song is intimately involved. Alice Band even finds herself merging with the essence of Grace Slick to sing it.
- In the Merlin fanfic OHMYGODIMONFIRE, the author makes fun of songfics by writing several oneshots set to ridiculous music, such as the song in the title. As the author says in the Author's Note:
"You know what irritates me? Songfics. No offense to those of you who write them..."
- Not quite a fanfic, but there doesn't seem to be any other way to classify it - 24: The Musical is a fan-made musical version of 24 released as MP3s to the Internet, along with a music video version of one of the songs
- The Once Upon a Time / Treasure Planet crossover Jim Hawkins: An Untold Story features two musical chapters (Act I & Act II). The in-universe explanation is that Mr. Hyde and the Evil Queen have blackmailed Erik, the Phantom of the Opera, into placing a curse on Storybrooke. The spell creates a Juke Box Musical featuring medleys of rewritten lyrics in the style of Moulin Rouge!.
- The author, a self-described theatre nerd, also begins each chapter of the fic with an applicable quote from a musical.
- An example of the second variety: Captured! The Zutara Musical! is a songfic from Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom that uses various Aimee Mann songs in a dedication to a certain ship.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Crimps and Prance climaxes in a scene where Cheerilee goes to a nightclub with some friends, and dances to Echoing Green's version of "The Safety Dance".
- Another Friendship is Magic fanfic, the infamous Rainbow Factory, intersperses the lyrics of the Wooden Toaster song 'Rainbow Factory' throughout the story. But it works here, since the fic is actually inspired by the song itself, which was about how the weather factory in Cloudsdale had some dark ominous secret behind how it makes rainbows. But where the song was very vague about exactly what goes on at the titular factory, instead saying that it's simply "Where your fears and horrors come true" and "Not a single soul gets through", the fic explains exactly what the Rainbow Factory's dark secret is, in all its gory detail.
- The Deconstructive Parody, "The Conversion Bureau: Metal Ripper" has the lyrics of Sabaton's Primo Victoria complete with Youtube links at the end where the group defeats Celestia.
- Less obvious are the links to Youtube of the respective songs whenever a spell is cast using a lyric taken straight from the music in question.
- Total Drama Island, by Gilbert and Sullivan takes the song fic concept to reality warping levels. Instead of just one song, its over 70 percent of the total verse content from a whole series of 14 light operas. The thousands upon thousands of lines of Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics are collected in a separate section with a cross-referencing system that allows the reader to quickly jump back and forth between the episode synopses and the lyrics. The overall effect is to turn the canon story arc of Total Drama Island into a comic opera.
- The MLP Alternate Universe known as The Cadanceverse is nothing but Songfics; including a ponified version of Carmen replacing A Bird in the Hoof.
- The The Loud House fic Requiem for a Loud is filled with lyrics of various pop songs, courtsey of Luna. Chapter 13 has the most so far since this is A Day in the Limelight chapter for her.
- The Kim Possible oneshot Don't Haze Me gets its title from the The Reign of Kindo song of the same name. It features the lyrics spread throughout the story, tying into Kim's development.
- This fic demonstrates both the 'character singing' types as well as the 'interspersed italics' version.
- Played with in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. It has dialogues between each chapter that are named after musical works by J. S. Bach. There was at least one where the characters were listening to, and talking about, the piece the dialogue was based on.
- Invoked in Those Lacking Spines:
Xuxastell lifted the pen from the paper and regarded her poem with a discerning eye, quite proud of the misery she had evoked in it until she realized that it was actually the chorus of the song "Angels" by Within Temptation, currently playing on loop on her iPod.
- The song Closer by Nine Inch Nails is a frequent choice for Lemon fics because of the lyrics. Specifically, the "I Wanna Fuck You Like An Animal" portion of the lyrics. However, this is Misaimed Fandom since Closer is meant to be about a self-loather using sex as an escape, a way he can delude himself into thinking he's somebody else. Of course, the actual meaning of Closer can be useful for writing Angst. Take, for instance, this (Not Safe for Work) X-Men Slash Fic. So yes, not all uses of Closer in a Song Fic are Misaimed Fandom.
- Not exactly a fanfic... or a song, for that matter, but Richard Corben & Rich Margopoulos' Haunt Of Horror has several stories where the panels are juxtaposed with poetry from Edgar Allan Poe or H. P. Lovecraft. One particularly amusing example would be Poe's Israfel on a story about a Gangsta Rap beef.
- A comedic use of Song Fic was Bruinhilda's "I'm Too Sexy." The song in question is blasting over the music system of what turns out to be exactly the wrong kind of establishment...
- While not a fanfic per say (though it was originally a WoW parody)Looking for Group periodically has character periodically break into song, such as Richard singing Never gonna give you up by Rick Astley 144.
- An enforced subversion comes in The Fanmake Blooper Series's first installment: Sleeping Blooper, in which a businessman actually stops Facilier from singing his Villain Song, as the terms and conditions of Fanfiction.net bans song fics.