Tag Archives: perspective

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.

When at First You Fail, Try Again, and Again, and Again…

I think I may have touched on this at some point in the past, but I wanted to expand a little bit more because I find myself in this situation, unfortunately, more than I like to admit.

Being bored with what you’re writing, stalling out, avoiding it, not being sure where to go from that point, is not near the worst feeling I get about a story, but it’s still frustrating. You stare at the screen, or you do all sorts of other work, tab out, look at other sites, instead of writing. And then you look at the clock and sigh and realize how much time you’ve wasted not writing. This is especially bad for NaNoWriMo because every minute in the day is absolutely crucial. Or, when you’ve got a deadline due.

Nothing is quite as flustering as having to make the most of your time and yet not being able to go forward.

The best advice in this situation, for me, has been a phrase about perspective, how if you change yours, then you’ll see a situation differently. It’s something used most often with fights and controversy, but it works too for writing, I’ve found.

Desiree sighed as she stared up at the large rock wall. 

The sentence makes you pause and stare and eventually you’re looking somewhere else for entertainment than your own writing. You become stuck because something put you in a corner that you’re trying to get out of, but there’s no way out that you like.

So look at it from a different angle. What was Desiree doing when she got to the rock wall? How long did it take her to get ready, what else was going on prior to this moment that maybe you could expand upon?

It took her longer than she wanted to get ready, but she could still feel the nerves and jitters about climbing the wall.

You have more of a way out here. There are other things to talk about past the first sentence and more ways to transition through to the actual task at hand that you want to write about.

Don’t let a single view throttle your ambition or your story. Experiment, look around, try to find different ways to go about it. When you limit yourself to a single path, you find yourself less satisfied than you would if you had several options, and, again, you trap yourself.

If it’s not a reflective or slow part of the story, instead fast paced, and maybe action packed, the same still applies, but let’s go with a different example.

Bernard took in a deep breath and leaned back against the wall, trying hard to keep himself quiet. 

The same happens here where you lose interest. Some may not. You might look at it and just find yourself stopped. Stuck, caught up in something else and disinterested all of a sudden. It may be what he’s doing instead of how you write it in this case, that you can’t see yourself writing him in a way that has him forcing himself to be quiet.

What can he do differently? Do you see him fighting back, reloading his blaster/rifle, or is he trying to get the emergency back up?

There are always a lot of possibilities, and ideas are everywhere. Don’t write things off immediately, give yourself a chance to try different things, to see what may or may not work. With limited time, you may not have the ability to take a break like you want, but you can still refresh your head and get back in the game if you cycle through other options.

Don’t let the story defeat you, you own the story. Show it who’s boss. 😉

– The Novice Wordsmith