- What your character had for breakfast.
- How many buttons are on their shirt.
- How many words you know.
- How you felt when your were writing.
- How extremely, sickeningly adorable any children or animals in your story are.
- A teenage hero who only wants to have fun and live their life but keeps getting crushed by the system (and whines often).
- The 10,000,000 year-long history of your setting.
My letter to the editor has been accepted and will likely be published in the next couple of days! Yessssss!
Bruce Springsteen - Downbound Train, Paris ‘85
Not only is this my favourite track by the Boss, it’s one of the most moving pieces of music I’ve encountered. This performance is outstanding, my heart breaks for him, it’s everything you are supposed to feel while listening to a great song.
OMG. I know this is like a 20+ year old video and I am a happily married woman, but I just want to lick all that sweat off his body. If my husband didn’t have a stomach bug he’d be even more happily married tonight (tee hee).
Okay, since my site is not a Bruce Springsteen fan blog I will now stop (sadly).
Bruce Springsteen - Downbound Train (Live) con subtítulos en españo
Nice live version for you folks who may want to now listen to the son I was extoling. Is it just me, or was he yummy looking?
“I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen
And the song I so kept hoping I’d look out my window to see him singing to me when I was, well never mind. Younger :)
Oh dear, I’m about to date myself when I mention that I fell in love with the album “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen which was released when I was in high school. However, Bruce Springsteen is an amazing songwriter. If you need a decent ballad for a school project his stuff is well worthwhile. It’s accessible and full of meaning at the same time. Okay, It’s not a book, but seriously great literature doesn’t always come in the form of a book.
One of my favorite songs on the album is Downbound Train, the lyrics to which are:
I had a job, I had a girl
I had something going mister in this world
I got laid off down at the lumber yard
Our love went bad, times got hard
Now I work down at the carwash
Where all it ever does is rain
Don’t you feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train
She just said “Joe I gotta go
We had it once we ain’t got it any more”
She packed her bags left me behind
She bought a ticket on the Central Line
Nights as I sleep, I hear that whistle whining
I feel her kiss in the misty rain
And I feel like I’m a rider on a downbound train
Last night I heard your voice
You were crying, crying, you were so alone
You said your love had never died
You were waiting for me at home
Put on my jacket, I ran through the woods
I ran till I thought my chest would explode
There in the clearing, beyond the highway
In the moonlight, our wedding house shone
I rushed through the yard, I burst through the front door
My head pounding hard, up the stairs I climbed
The room was dark, our bed was empty
Then I heard that long whistle whine
And I dropped to my knees, hung my head and cried
Now I swing a sledge hammer on a railroad gang
Knocking down them cross ties, working in the rain
Now don’t it feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train
On the surface it’s a typical country-song-like lament about an average working guy losing his wife. If you listen to the song it’s got some lovely blues overtones. The first verse he sings rather matter-of-fact—almost like he is talking casually with a guy at the bar. Then every thing shifts just a little at the verse that starts “Last night, I heard your voice …”. When you hear “The Boss” sing those lines you know this guy’s heart is on the floor. Then the last short verse goes back to a more matter of fact tone as he talks about where his life is now. In just the same way a manly man only lets his defenses down for a moment, before he shrugs and says “what can you do”?
But take away the music and I think this song is an nice piece of stand alone poetry. Why?
Well, for one it tells a story that makes your heart ache. The character has lost a relationship he hungers to have back and it ain’t gonna happen. Even if you know nothing about divorce first-hand, everyone can relate to not being able to have what they want most.
The imagery is powerful, simple, and consistent with the narrator. He doesn’t start making references to the sands of Africa or anything bizarre that your average working guy has no experience with. You know his job at the carwash is depressing when he describes it as “Where it al it ever does is rain”.
Trains are something your average working class person has used for transportation and they are also powerful machines that not much can stop once they are rolling. “Don’t you feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train?” is an invite for the listener to nod and say “Yeah, I feel like my life sucks too”. He reinforces the train image at the end by having the narrator describe working on a railroad gang “…knocking down them cross ties, working in the rain”. Moving the narrator from working at a place where it always rains to always working IN the rain reveals how increasingly depressed he is about his life.
At the beginning and the end of this piece the narrator is talking directly to the listener. Not really asking for sympathy, but definitely inviting you to identify with his story of life not going as he planned it. But in the middle he starts talking to his ex-wife. Sort of like he takes out a picture to show to you and winds up talking to it instead of you. “Last night I heard your voice. You were crying crying, you were so alone ….”. He describes a fantasy where his wife still misses him and it being so real he goes back to their former home only to be reminded that she really is gone. The realization brings him to his knees in tears.
Describing a different job at the beginning of the piece versus the end is not just an excuse to use some more imagery. The two jobs provide an image of a guy who just can’t let go of what he lost, not matter how much time goes by. If this was a movie, they’d show the narrator having a series of similar conversations about the girl he lost as he goes from job to job.
We all have met this tragic sort of character. In real life people usually wind up annoyed at “That guy who can’t get over his ex”, but Mr. Springsteen gets us in his head and manages to break our hearts just a bit.
I recently submitted a letter to the editor of my local paper because I was more than miffed over an article promoting a local service. I’d post it here, but it reveals a little more about myself than I’m comfortable sharing (sorry).
Before submitting my letter I spent some time searching for tips on how to write a letter more likely to be published. Got to thinking that some of you wanna-be-writers like myself might want cut our teeth on this little exercise.
First, flip through a newspaper/magazine and find an article that makes you want to get up on a soap box.
Second, write a MAXIMUM 250 word response that incorporates the following:
1. Starts with a hook (figure out a sentence that is going to compel the writer to keep reading)
2. Don’t just bitch about the article that has you up in arms, try to present a counter argument that could advance a debate on the topic.
3. Make it interesting. Tried and true approaches include making the story a little personal, injecting some humor, and/or discussing an alternate approach to the issue that may offer advantages (more inclusive, more financially responsible, more humane, more practical, whatever).
4. Use simple language. Papers like concise, easy-to-read pieces.
5. Don’t attack the columnist personally (play nice in the park).
6. Figure out how to close things strongly and end with a suggestion for change (if appropriate).
You don’t have to post your letter or cite this post, I just thought some of you might find this an interesting exercise. I think it’s a good exercise if for no other reason than you have to get a point across strongly in very few words.
The toughest part of this (for me) was the word count. I was just over 300 with my first draft and on first pass I honestly couldn’t figure out where I was going to cut words. With some effort I got it down to 247 before I emailed it to my father to have a look at (he’s a much better editor than I will ever hope to be). A couple of phone calls and two revisions and my letter was down to 241 words. Amazingly, we managed to strengthen my argument somewhat in that process.