What can be learned from reading song lyrics as flash fiction? Today’s song is “I Know Places,” performed by Taylor Swift, written by Taylor Swift and Ryan Tedder, and released on the album “1989”. Only this song is a little different.
The deluxe version of the “1989” album includes explanatory messages from Swift about her songwriting process, including a voice memo from the development of “I Know Places” in which we hear these work-in-progress lyrics:
Baby, I know some places we won’t be found.
The polished final version simply goes:
Baby, I know places we won’t be found.
Right now I can hear some of you saying, “So what, Charlie? She removed one word. Big deal!”
First of all, my name is not Charlie. Second, it really is a big deal. Gargantuan. Brobdingnagian. You see, that word “some” is a weasel word. It adds nothing to the meaning of the line. How many places does she know? Some. That’s more than one and less than many, but is it two, three, or a dozen?
In fact, the word detracts from the line, because “some” makes us think about quantity. The important point is not how many places she knows, but simply that she knows places.
Not some places. Just places.
In flash fiction (as apparently in songwriting), word economy is paramount. Each word must do its part to advance the story.