Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The connection between music and writing

Writing and music are very intertwined in my storytelling process.  I struggle with this creatively because I realize music is much more subjective than any other sense I could use for description, but for me is often the best way for me to set a certain mood for a scene of understanding of how a character is feeling at a given time. 

Unfortunately, the chances that someone else gets the same reactions and feelings from a song is not only certain, but very unlikely.   When I hear the song Champagne Supernova, I immediately feel the hope and wonder that my fifteen-year-old self felt the first time I heard the song.

Here is a great example:

A close guy friend came up to me in orchestra class and pulled me into the cello room, promising me a life changing experience.  Most people might think this story is going in a different direction, I am a romance writer after all, but nothing that boring happened in that closet.  Instead he pulled out a CD from his bag and played Champagne Supernova by Oasis for me.  Ten seconds into the song, I was already in love.  Halfway through, I knew that I wanted to go to the Champagne Supernova in the sky.  By the end, I knew my life had been changed forever.  In the same way Strawberry Fields Forever had changed my life a year or two earlier, I now lived in a world where this song existed, and I now knew about the genius of the Gallagher brothers.  I felt like they GOT me and understood the relationships I had with my friends and that we’d be able to get through anything together.

My thirty-three year old self, well… she really appreciates the enthusiasm of her fifteen-year-old self, but feels those feelings right along with her.  Except I have no idea now what the song is trying to say, and am torn being wanting to be that idealistic person again and being happy to have the life experiences that have put me in a place where I don’t even get the song anymore.

You are probably asking, so what?   The point is, I could set an entire scene in a story where a character is listening to that song and it will totally work to tell me everything I need to know about how the character is feeling at that exact moment, but unless you had the same experience with the song nineteen years ago that I did (oh my God I’m old!), it’s not going to tell you the reader a damn thing.

So as a writer, I have to try and describe those feelings that song evokes in me.  What I find is that I’m just there as a writer yet.  I can get close.  I can start to set the scene with objects and thoughts.  But really describing the feeling I feel as I am writing still evades me.

I also struggle with how much to include the music in my writing.  This is particularly difficult when I’m writing characters that are musicians.  When they are performing, I know as a writer exactly what they are playing and what their entire set is.  But how much does the reader care?  I know I care when I read, but am I normal?  The answer to that question is obviously always no, but when it comes to music in writing I suspect most people care less than I do. 

I like the idea of including play-lists with the book, so that people who do care can listen with you, but I know I’ve never bothered to look-up the list on Spotfy to listen, so I doubt many others do.  I like a listing at the back of the book, both of the songs that are included in the book as well as songs that were influencing the book while it was written, and I fully intend to do that for my books.

Hopefully I’ll have my first book out in the early fall, and then I’ll really know exactly how people feel about music being included in the text of the book.  Until then, I’ll have to rely on my critique partners and writing friends to help me wade through this subject I’m so passionate about.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. Do you ever imagine what movie score would accompany your book if it was made into a movie? When I'm struggling with a scene, I find that music inspires the imagination. Anywho, I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!