Tag Archives: People

Guest Post: Your Music Versus Their Music

Let’s face it. You have musical tastes. Whether it was the music you grew up with, or the music that spoke to you, or the music that someone gave you on a mix tape, or the soundtrack to one of your favorite movies, we are a species and a culture that loves their tunes — and someone else’s tunes are at times ‘noise-that-you-don’t-like’.

Stop for a moment and think about what music lives on your iPod, WinAmp, or on your playlist for Pandora — or, if you’re not part of the iThingy generation, your CD collection, or (if you go that far back) vinyl and cassettes.

You’ll see that your music defines you, more often than not. Listening to a song can take you back to who you were and what you were doing when you listened to the song — maybe it’s about someone you dated, or classes, or maybe it was played at your graduation — perhaps by you on an instrument of your choice. Maybe it was the in-thing when you were growing up.

I trust you see where I’m going with this.

Your characters ought to have their own musical tastes. Maybe it’s the same as yours. Maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe it’s an anthem for who they are as a person — and maybe the secret to their character is hidden in the lyrics.

Have you ever listened to a song’s lyrics and said, ‘this reminds me of a friend?’ And yet when you played it for them, they said, “I don’t get it?”

Realize that they aren’t wrong, and neither are you. What it is is that you, as the author-attributor (yes, I know that’s not a word), are seeing the person with your own filter that happens to be a song. And so your perception lends itself to music.

When you’re the author, though, you will almost always match the perfect song to your character, because they can’t help but agree with you — unless you have characters that defy initial definitions and ideas and strike off on their own – to with, marching to the beat of their own plotline.

One of the things that I gave the Novice Wordsmith as a challenge, more than once, was to say, “Take this song that I’m giving you. Look up the lyrics, listen to the song, and then apply it to a character of yours. Figure out what sort of situation they would be in for these lyrics to make sense. Go.”

I, personally, am somewhat musically driven; I’ve written whole short stories and parts of chapters while being inspired by music. It didn’t even have to have lyrics – sometimes it’s just a feeling. After all, how often does listening to the instrumental soundtrack to a movie conjure up memories of the movie itself in your head?

(And just to prove the point: “Everything is awesommmmme!” o/~)

You should try it. It’s a different way of seeing the words and getting some inspiration. Instead of having ‘writing music’ in the background to help set the mood for you, why not have the music take a more active part of the writing by choosing the song directly?

A bit of trivia here: My very first NaNoWriMo started out exactly this way. Lacking inspiration, I turned on the radio, and started writing using the first song that came on — Sting’s “If I Built This Fortress (Around Your Heart).” Suddenly I had a mental flash of a guy driving down the highway doing 75 in a convertible, and a character snapped into focus. I let the lyrics and that mental image drive the introduction, and decided that I’d take that journey with that character — wherever it went.

You can go either way with this, really: have the song write the character, or have the character pick the song that goes with them. It really is as easy as the character turning on the radio — and then deciding whether to hit Skip/Shuffle or listen and live.

Let me know how it goes for you, and whether you tuned in or tuned out.

Reward Yourself

When you work anywhere that gets you exposure to a lot of people every day you’re there, you’re bound to run in to some interesting people. Last year, among all of the others that I encountered, I got the chance to meet and be on a first name basis with one of my city’s top weight loss gurus.

The most memorable thing about talking to him wasn’t anything he said to me, it was something I saw on his Facebook page.

“Eating is emotional. When you reward yourself for certain accomplishments with food, you’re perpetuating a problem in your eating habits that is to eat your feelings and then you end up with extra weight.”

Okay, pause.

One of the most common things I see as motivation for people to achieve something is the incentive of a new dress to wear at a goal weight, or a beer at the end of a marathon, or a hot, delicious meal after a long day. Giving yourself a pat on the back somehow, something positive to look forward to, has been with us for probably about as long as we’ve had brain function (No, don’t worry, there’s no evolution and progression speech waiting here in this post). When you take that away, what happens?

The idea, I think, is that once you start rewarding yourself for something, anything, it’ll devolve into smaller things and you won’t be able to stop. It will create a problem for you, because you’re not putting in enough effort to be able to earn that reward.

But by god, if you want to reward yourself with a huge ass cupcake for getting through the month of November, writing 50,000 words and struggling through most of it, you should not feel bad for doing so! (I have pictures, too!)

Don’t get caught up in the rewards. Get caught up in what you’re doing, and when you accomplish something especially difficult, then feel free. Play a game, get lost in a book, head out and see a movie.

That’s something different too, small rewards compared to big rewards. Finishing a deadline and getting something done that you wanted, you can relax, and do it how you want. When you overdo it, you’re going into excess without really accomplishing much, rewarding yourself big for little things and throwing off the balance.

Obviously, there’s a difference between off time spending and rewarding yourself, but the point I’m trying to make is not to lose sight of what you really want versus the other exciting things. Don’t let something else cloud your vision. With a lot of work comes the ability to play, but you need to put the work in first to earn it, otherwise you may be at a risk of falling off track.

Typically, the only rewards I give myself are to play a game for a while, totally veg out, but sometimes, like last night, I wanted something to make the last day of a hard month sweeter.

As always, use caution and moderation, but enjoy what you can, when you can.

-The Novice Wordsmith

People Watching Part II

Another part to traveling is getting to know the people that you’re seated beside. On my way out here, I got to meet two very friendly, interesting people, one who works for Boeing as an overseer in their software department (not sure on the title), who worked his way up from a mechanic position, and the other who works for a portable classroom company, who was coming back from a trip through Europe.

There’s a second part to People Watching because the first was simply about little things that influence your writing in little ways, because I feel like I wasn’t understanding the task at hand as well. This is a deeper thought of, “how would this person be as a different character in your story/novel?”

You meet new ideas when you talk to someone to pass the time as the flight goes, or the train. Someone who speaks like it’s the easiest thing they’ve done since breathing, or someone who doesn’t care for the idea of marriage. They’re strongly political or they’re more easy going.

Of course, with the first post, if you see someone remarkable, in the way of their body language, a visible tattoo, or just something about their overall appearance. The two people at the help desk who are obviously flirting with each other but aren’t with the same party, the mother of two who butts her way into every conversation, or the sales person who doesn’t take no for an answer.

These people have potential. Let the knowledge and views of them influence you if they make an impression on you.

– The Novice Wordsmith