My friends! Hello! Today lets explore something that everyone knows and loves in some form or another. A lighter topic for the beginning of Summer (at least for me. Kids are out of school so that starts MY Summer 😉 )
Music. The stuff that creates moods and memories. The stuff we sing off-key to in the bathroom or in the car. The stuff we do homework to or dance to in a club. Whatever you use music for, it creates reaction in you, yes? And how lucky are we as humans to be exposed to this? We’re able to get tickets to Broadway and not only HEAR music up on the big stage but see dancing accompaniment as well! AMAZING! We can go to rock concerts at the Greek Theater in L.A. and experience our favorite bands live while dodging the inevitable contact highs and spilled beer. That is a unique experience in and of itself for sure. Or we can be romanced by live jazz on the street corners of New Orleans while eating beignets and sipping chicory coffee.
Even in the 2-D world, music is ever present. Can you imagine watching a movie with NO MUSIC? O_O That super intense moment right before the killer nabs the chick would be flat as a pancake without the rumbling drums or high-pitched eerie flutes. Lord of the Rings would for sure be as mind-numbing as a lecture on politics without the swell of violins and the brassy blare of horns.
How about an example on a personal note? Your first dance at prom. Even if it’s the worst, most cliche song ever, you’ll always remember it because of the way it made you feel, dancing there with your boy/girlfriend/crush or whomever. Your first big break up. The soundtrack of angry chick ‘eff you’ songs and depressing ‘take me back’ songs with a few ‘maybe it’ll work out’ hopefulness songs thrown in. We connect with music in all sorts of forms and mediums. Without consciously knowing it, as we continue to live and grow, we make a soundtrack for our lives that builds on itself.
Hey, if it works in real life, why not your fictional life? Or the fictional life of your novel characters? Yep. You knew it would eventually come to this because this is under the category “writing about writing”. Duh. But first, a bit of a dance down memory lane….
My mom constantly listened to music. While she cleaned, while she drove, while we were camping and while we were chillin’ in on the patio. Different bands for different moods. There was REO Speedwagon, Wilson Phillips, Bad English, Journey, Eddie Money, Richard Marx, the Doobie Brothers, Damn Yankees, Tears for Fears, Heart, Ted Nugent, Styx…all these wonderful bands that I still love today as an adult. They remind me of my mom whenever I hear them and always will. They were my first musical education, something I’m forever grateful for because music these days? Yeeeeesh. (I’m eternally thankful my kids missed the Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana trend -_-)
Then when I got my very first Boom Box in sixth grade I discovered the Radio and expanded my musical repertoire to the 90’s alternative music (and the inevitable BOY BAND fad >_<). Goo Goo Dolls (my very favorite #1 band of all time), Vertical Horizon, Third Eye Blind, Aqua, Savage garden, Edwin McCain, Stabbing Westward, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sixpence None the Richer, Backstreet boys, *NSYNC, Hanson…all of these bands remind me of being in Middle School and plastering posters all over my walls. I remember I dedicated Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” to my first serious boyfriend at our first 9th grade dance. I listened to the radio for HOURS just to catch my favorite Backstreet Boys song “Quit playin’ game with my heart”. I cried hearing “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain for the first time. My Christmas and birthday lists were mostly taken up by CDs I wanted and books. (And chap stick. My mom would laugh reading that…)
They’re still with me, even 15 years later, and have built on the root of my rock and roll education. I love that I can play Styx on my iPod in the car and my kids will know exactly who they are. They cna even name the songs correctly. Oh yeah. Some music HAS to be heard.
I moved on to a broader and less wholesome mix of music later in High School and College that included Static X, Rednex, Seether, Good Charlotte, Staind, Skillet, Red, Cake, Rob Zombie, Meredith Brooks, The Black Keys, Breaking Benjamin, and Evanescence. I even took a course on “Music Appreciation” and fell in love Gregorian chants, bagpipe music, polka, and French Rap. I took a course on keyboarding and acoustic Guitar and 4 semesters of Choir. I was inundated with Music and I loved it. It filled me up and made my life fuller.
Okay okay, sorry! The point of this is not to go down memory lane….
It kind of is.
When I started writing my first story (the one that’s incomplete and going on 17 years now) I had a ginormous case of CDs that I could select from and pop into my disc-man (yes my age is showing >_>) whenever I needed to create a certain mood or remember a specific time in my life. I used my musical education to write dramatic dialogue and tear out the hearts of my characters. Sometimes I would listen to a song on repeat while I fleshed out a scene, needing that perfect blend of notes and lyrics to strike the right tone. These amazing little discs helped me to sink into whatever emotional state I needed to be in at the moment to create the right mood in the story.
Sometimes the pages of my notebook would be stained with tears as I forced myself to listen to a sad song over and over. Bryan Adams’ “Every little thing I do” for some reason reminds me of my late father. I cry every dang time I hear it. So yeah, guess what went into the disc-man when I needed tears? Sometimes my writing would be angry and messy as I wrote furiously, pulling from my own life the time that guy cheated on me or that ex-friend made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. Authors go through emotional trauma writing stories sometimes =/ But in the end it’s worth it right? (I haven’t reached the end yet so I’m assuming it’s true. You know what they say about ASSUMING anything though….)
When I got my very first iPod, I was 21. I was newly married and I had gotten myself a 4th generation sapphire blue iPod Shuffle with our tax return. It was salvation, both on my ears and my arms, not having to tote around that brick-o-CDs whenever I wanted to write. I had an ancient dinosaur of a computer that I downloaded iTunes on and patiently ripped all my CD’s onto it and spent hundreds of hours downloading music onto it. Then hundreds more creating playlist and refining them.Sometimes, that’s more fun than writing.
Silver Sun is the name of the 17 year old incomplete novel I’m writing and the name of the playlist associated with it. I took from all of the stages of my musical education to create an emotional arc that followed the story line. For my main female character, Meredith O’Connor, I used strong female voices like Joan Jett, Florence and the Machine, Adele, Avril Lavigne, Super Chick, Meredith Brooks, and the Pussycat Dolls to represent her. She’s very strict with herself but generous with others. For her jerk of a rock star love interest, I used “Joker” by Steve Miller Band”, “Dizzy” by Goo Goo Dolls, “Low Life” by Theory of a Deadman, and “Are you gonna be my girl” by JET. If I needed an angry moment where a character lashes out, I might use “Coming Undone” by Korn, “Words as Weapons” by Seether, or “Savior” by Red. For the BIG BREAK UP SCENE in the novel I used songs like “Where is your heart” by Kelly Clarkson, “In between” by Linkin Park, “Ex-Girlfriend” by No Doubt and “Almost Lover” by A Fine Frenzy.
If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly recommend you do. It’s a challenge and an immense satisfaction when you can fit the perfect song to the perfect moment in your novel. And–BONUS– you get a playlist you can rely on to be good when your “shuffle” selection keeps throwing you crap you don’t want to listen to ! But really, if you play the list whenever you write (if you can write and listen to lyrics at the same time) it helps to get you “in the mood” so to speak. And I’ve noticed that using the playlist while writing helps to condition your mind to automatically go to your novel when you hear those songs again. Like, whenever I hear “Epiphany” by Staind, it will forever remind me of my character Gaelyn, whom Merry relies on for his blatant honesty about everything. Or “Acoustic #3” by Goo Goo Dolls. I’m immediately taken back to the moment in my novel where Merry and Gaelyn make their first emotional connection.
I’ve made play lists for all the major novels that I’m serious about writing. I have a dozen or more on my iPod—HAD, a dozen. My beloved sapphire blue iPod finally took a crap this year and I lost most of the playlists. (Do you know how hard it was to find another one? I had to import if from Canada! D:) Luckily I had the foresight to back up the playlists I MOST needed before it officially died. But it was still a painful blow to lose all that hard work.The silver lining though was I could start fresh and fall back in love with my novel by immersing myself back in the characters and scene lists.
So two pieces of advice for you my fellow writers, followers, and friends: Make playlists. Call on the soundtrack of your life and give it to your novel. Let your characters borrow your rage, your sorrow, and your happiness! Fill up your scenes with variety and layers! AND then back up EVERYTHING. It will add another layer to your writing that you can enjoy for years to come. I know that even when I’m a famous published author I will continue to listen to Silver Sun and Hourglass and Lycans for the memories and the good music and the hard work that went into each and every list.
Ha….it always comes back to memories and emotion doesn’t it? Music is a powerful tool indeed.
If you’re curious about my thought process or whatever when making my playlist I’ve provided a small sampling of my Silver Sun list and the explanation behind my choices.
This is the break up scene between Merry and Bryce, who cheated on her and wants her back. It sounds prosaic. I’m sorry. But the back and forth between the two is represented in the songs. It’s a good sampling of mood, intent and character. Also, if you’d like to HEAR the songs, I’ve provided YouTube hyperlinks for you to enjoy 🙂 (Thanks to all the great videos that the YouTube members put together for our enjoyment! All credit goes to them and the bands that made music!)
“You Oughta Know” Alanis Morisette (Merry being pissed off)
“Before he cheats” Carrie Underwood (More angry chick breakup music)
“Ex-Girlfriend” No Doubt (annnd morreeee angry girl music)
“The Truth” Good Charlotte (Merry giving up on anger and giving into her despair and pain, asking Bryce to tell her the truth)
“Inbetween” Linkin Park (Bryce’s painful and truthful response)
“Where is your Heart” Kelly Clarkson (pleading with Bryce to look deeper inside himself and tell her it all wasn’t for nothing)
“Werewolf” Fiona Apple (Merry being bitter and cold and self-deprecating)
“Addicted” Kelly Clarkson (Merry hating herself for needing Bryce)
“Without you” Hinder (Bryce realizing that Merry really is leaving and now he’s trying to get her back)
“Almost lover” A Fine Fenzy (Merry’s decision to say goodbye to Bryce)
“One last chance” Daughtry (Bryce’s pleading now)
“Keeper” Yellowcard (Bryce saying he wishes he could be someone else for her and he’s sorry)
“Wishes” Super Chick (Merry telling Bryce they could of had a great thing and that he screwed it up. Hates that she still loves him but is still saying goodbye)
“Time for me to Fly” REO Speedwagon (the final goodbye)