Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Inexpressible*

As with just about everything else when it comes to writing, there isn't one right way to create a character. (I can't tell you how often I've wished that entire sentence weren't true.) Heck, I don't think I've ever used the same technique twice myself. Well, with one exception.


For some reason, when I really start getting into the heads of my characters—when they truly become real to me—I start seeing them in my head when I listen to music. Not every song, mind, but I suspect I unconsciously search for songs that fit. When I've found enough songs for a decent playlist, say 20 to 30, I feel like I've found the emotional key to my story and my characters.

Sometimes I'll listen to the playlist while I'm writing, but not always. Sometimes it's enough to listen to a few songs before I start writing, just to evoke the mood I'm seeking. I'll listen in the car to spark ideas for upcoming scenes. Or I'll listen late at night before going to bed, to let new ideas germinate overnight.

I don't look for songs that tell the exact story I want to write. It's enough if a phrase or line of melody resonates strongly. Several of the songs on my current playlist are instrumental only. That doesn't always happen, but this time—oh, this time—so many of the songs I've chosen are jazz and they make me see and feel the magic and how the various characters feel about using it. Having so many instrumental songs also makes it a bit easier to listen to the playlist while writing.

If you're curious, here are the songs on my current character playlist (the order is random). I wish I could provide the actual songs for you, but I've found links to listen to (most of) them online.

Pick Up the PiecesAvenue Blue Feat.Jeff Golub
Ever ReturningBernward Koch
Song for OlabiBliss
TrinidadBoney James
Caribbean DreamBryan Savage
Spontaneous CombustionFishbelly Black
Nothing But YouKim Ferron
Harlem NocturneKofi
MadridMarc Antoine
Give It AwayZero 7
Head Over FeetAlanis Morissette
Chain of FoolsThe Commitments
Just My LuckKim Richey
KraftyNew Order
Zombie JamboreeRockapella
In Too DeepGenesis
You Tell Me That I'm Falling DownLinda Ronstadt
Reference PointAcoustic Alchemy
Running on FaithEric Clapton (unplugged)
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move OnJimmy Buffett
FeverMichael Buble
Regrets (Duo Avec Jean-Louis Murat)Mylene Farmer
UnboundRobbie Robertson
King of Wishful ThinkingGo West

So, that's it. As you can see, it's a bit of an eclectic mix. I'm sure it says as much about me as it does about my characters. But the right music makes my characters and my story come alive for me. How about you? Do you use music when you create your characters or when you write? I'm all ears. :-)

Catch you on the flip side...

* Title from: "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." — Aldous Huxley


Genene Valleau said...

Definitely an eclectic mix of music! Interesting that a lot of authors seem connected to music when they write. However, I need pretty much complete silence when I'm doing the intense writing of a story. Well, except when I was writing the story of a former rock star. Even then, the music was distracting when I was writing.

I like this: "I feel like I've found the emotional key to my story and my characters." That's what we're looking for, isn't it?

chanceofbooks said...

I need silence for the actual writing or just neutral background noise (since my house is seldom *silent*) but like you, I think about characters when I'm in the car listening to music & certain pieces of music seem to help me delve deeper into brainstorming mode. For the WIP I just finished my "playlist" included:

The story:
Letters from Home
People are Crazy, Billy Currington
Need Somebody, Kings of Leon
Fix You, cover version by Javier Colon

My Hero:
Home, Blake Shelton
Five o'clock Somewhere, Alan Jackson
God Bless The Broken Road, cover version by Jeff Jenkins
Time after Time, cover version by Javier Colon (this book will always be linked with NBC's The Voice in my head)

My heroine:

Temporary Home, Carrie Underwood
Just the Way You are, Bruno Mars & cover by Taj Austin

Paty Jager said...

Great mix, Debbie! I listen to music, but not individual songs. I play full cd's. NA music when writing the spirit trilogy, Mayan when writing the book set in Central America, Chris LeDoux when writing the rodeo book. I'm working on my cd's for the latest book now. It's Lady Antebellum, And a acoustical bluegrass I found., I need to find some Norwegian music, but haven't looked hard enough yet.

I like using the music to get into the story and in some cases with the pounding of the NA drums get into the mood and tempo of the story.

Deborah Wright said...

Hi Genene! I can't always listen to the music while I'm writing, but every once in awhile it just works. I'll listen, start to write, and it's like the music propels the writing and then fades into the background. Hard to explain.

Deborah Wright said...

Hi Bethany. Great playlist!

Time After Time is one of my favorite songs. Cindy Lauper's version is still great, and I checked out the clip of Javier Colon singing it on youtube -- wonderful voice. My favorite version, though, is by Eva Cassidy -- always gives me chills.

Deborah Wright said...

Hi Paty!

Oh, man, I can almost hear the NA drums! (I'm a bit of a freak for drums, LOL!) I'm curious about the Mayan music -- any artists/songs you'd recommend?

If you're ever writing about the Incas / Peru, check out Cusco. They're actually a German group, but their music is amazing.

Paty Jager said...

The Mayan Music is by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl- One of my favorite is "Singing Earth"

I have one Inca cd. It's my Inkuyo. The third book in the action adventure will take place among the Incas.