Monday, May 24, 2010

The Write Note - Music and Writing

There's no obvious connection between writing fiction and music. Writing is primarily mental, and making music engages the physical body as much as it does the brain. The connection...?

Any writer who's used music to help them write knows the answer. Because writing primarily engages the brain, it's a constant battle for writers to choose the right words to evoke sensual, physical reactions. Music, famous for its physical effect on people, helps writers “make music” with their words and create prose that explodes into life.

Listening to music, whether instrumentals (such as soundtracks – brilliant for writing!) or vocals, doesn't just set the mood and inspire, it actually can improve the prose by weaving in themes, threads, and subtle variations the writer couldn't achieve with silence.

Just the other day I discussed this with someone and they wanted to know how music could affect the writing itself. Certainly it could affect the writer, but how could the intangible essence of the music get into the words?

“Don't look at me,” I said, “I haven't a clue! All that I know is that it does.” Perhaps it has something to do with the subconscious. A psychologist could theorize, but as writers we don't need to know why music works for us, we just need to believe and let the music sing through our fingers into the words.

One of the most dramatic times music has affected my writing happened when my cowriter and I were editing our WWII novel A Fire Is Woken. I was working on the first romantic climax, the scene where the two main characters (FINALLY!!) admit they love each other. Sentimental, happy sigh kind of stuff was how the outline shaped the scene. A satisfying ending, a calm and happy oasis in a rather turbulent sea.

How boring! The first rule of good writing is keep the reader turning the pages! What a disaster to have the reader, halfway through the novel, put the book down with a satisfied smile thinking they'd reached the happily-ever-after?

No, of course that wouldn't do. But one week and a bout of pneumonia later, my aching head couldn't come up with a solution. Finally, I decided “Oh to heck with this, I'll just write it,” turned on some writing music and dove in. The scene played out as outlined. No conflict, no tension. I sighed, muttered, kicked by chair away from the keyboard and stared up at the ceiling in despair. And then... I realized this song was playing on repeat, tinkling, sunshine-y music. Romantic sweeps and trills of exultation. Just like the scene.

Then beneath the surface I heard the background: dull low notes, ebb and flow, almost reaching a crescendo, then sinking back below the surface, hidden but not gone.

An idea started to tingle on the edge of my brain. I sat there for a second, held my breath, then flew back to the keyboard. My fingers couldn't fly fast enough as the scene played out in my mind.

The end result? The scene is romantic, and satisfying on the surface. But below the outward happiness, there's a strong undercurrent of trouble. The reader can feel the trouble ahead; not blatantly, but as a subtle shiver...they know there's a heck of a lot more book to come. The one comment we get consistantly about the scene is that the readers are unable to put it down. They can't wait to find out what happens next – because they know something will.

That never would have happened without music. The odd part is, I don't know where that piece comes from. It exists on my computer simply as “Track 01”. But somehow, in a mysterious way, that piece inspired and saturated me enough with its message that I was able to pass that mystery, that apprehension onto black and white, paper and ink.

Pretty amazing, huh?


What are some instances music has drastically changed your writing? What sort of music inspires you?


Note: this post is part of AbsoluteWrite's May blog chain! Below are links to the other participants in this enticing endeavor!

The AW May Musical Blog Chain's Fantabulous Links Are:
Aheïla: and direct link to my blog chain's post
Stefanie Gaither: and direct link to the blog chain's post
AuburnAssassin: and direct link to her post
xcomplex: and direct link to her post
Proach: and direct link to her post
8thSamurai: and direct link to her post
vfury: and direct link to her post
CScottMorris: and direct link to his post
Hayley E. Lavik: and direct link to her post
FreshHell: and direct link to her post
LadyMage: and direct link to her post
DavidZahir: and direct link to his post
Aimée Laine: and direct link to her post
egoodlett: and direct link to her post
Semmie: and direct link to her post
Sbclark: and direct link to her post
Razibahmed: and direct link to his post
ArcticFox: and direct link to her post
Lilain: and direct link to her post
Truelyana: and direct link to her post
CowgirlPoet: and direct link to her post
Alpha Echo:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Words From The Wise - Writing Quotes!

Today, instead of an article on writing, I decided instead to do something fun and post some of my favorite writing quotes. (Oh all right, yes, it's a lazy cop-out, but it'll hopefully provoke a few chuckles, and that's just what the doctor ordered, eh?)

So here are a few of the writing quotes I have plastered over my notebooks and walls and in the margins of my REFUSED file. Enjoy!

“Most writers enjoy two periods of happiness—when a glorious idea comes to mind, and when a last page has been written and you haven't had time to know how much better it ought to be.” ~~ J. B. Priestly

“A writer lives in a state of astonishment.” ~~ William Sansom

“It's nervous work. The state that you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.” ~~ Shirley Hazzard

“My books happen. They tend to blast in from nowhere, seize me by the throat, and howl 'Write me! Write me now!' But they rarely stand still long enough for me to see what and who they are, before they hurtle away again. And so I spend a lot of time running after them, like a thrown rider after an escaped horse, saying 'Wait for me! Wait for me!' and waving my notebook in the air.” ~~ Robin McKinley

“If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise. Attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it.” ~~ HG Wells

“I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.” ~~ Peter de Vries

“Sometimes I think my writing sounds like I walked out of the room and left the typewriter running.” ~~ Gene Fowler

“I can look at my books with pleasure from a distance. Four feet is close enough.” ~~ Jim Bishop

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~~Robert Benchley

“My stories run up and bite me on the leg—I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish the idea lets go and runs off.” ~~ Ray Bradbury

“There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured...the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked to him with a stick. If you disturb the patient at such time, he may break into tears or become violent.” ~~ Robert Heinlein

“A book is like a quarrel. One word leads to another, and may erupt in blood or print, irrevocably.” ~~ Will and Ariel Durant

“Computers will have to learn that when I quote from some old author who spelled differently from the machine, the wishes of the long-dead author will have to be respected, and the machine will have to mind its manners.” ~~ Robertson Davies

“Sir, perhaps the lack of literary inventiveness in modern opening lines is due to the effect of the word processor. When I ran the first line of Moby Dick through my spell-checker, it suggested changing it to 'Call me Fishmeal'.” ~~ Helen Grayson

"Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good." ~~ Anonymous

“I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.” ~~ Peter de Vries

When I'm not in the mood for laughing, I read these two quotes – they sum up beautifully the need for perseverance in writing, and the assurance that if you just keep WRITING, sooner or later you will achieve your dreams.

A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view, a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. ~~ Junot Diaz

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.” ~~ Richard Bach

And for a final chuckle... :D

“Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer--and if so, why?” ~~ Bennett Cerf