I used to listen to music when I wrote. My first piece of long fiction, an attempt at Multiverse fantasy that will never, ever, ever, ever, ever see the light of day again, was written, as a desperate attempt at escapism during the worst semester I ever had in college, to a playlist comprised of about fifteen songs. It included Mozart’s Dies Irae, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and 13 tracks of Gregorian chant. Yes, I was startled every time when the soothing, lilting chanting of real life, actual monks suddenly switched over to this. But it worked. Kinda.
TLDTC – can I do acronyms like the cool kids? – was written to a Pandora station which featured much of the same sort of thing. Lots of chant, some Hildegard von Bingen (someone needs to make a movie out of her, cause she was awesome), and some harpsichords. But after 40 hours of writing, which didn’t even get me through the month of November, I hit my limit. Yes, Pandora has a limit, and they will cut you off from all your stations. I do have an extensive library of such smash hits as Symphony No. 9 in D Minor by Georg Tintner, from the hilariously named collection “I Love the (18)80’s”, and all of Chant, (oddly enough, Chant II: Vow of Silence never made it onto the charts).
But listening to the same songs over and over didn’t work for me by that time. Once music gets too familiar, it just gets irritating. Maybe that’s why my first attempt at storytelling turned out so abysmally.
These days, I need silence. I can’t listen to anything while I write. I don’t know what brought about the sudden shift, but it happened. I do use songs for inspiration, of course. This song, which was randomly (and legally) downloaded during the search for something else of a similar name, became the theme for the boss battle in TLDTC. Did I just say boss battle? Okay, you know what I mean. But I think it encapsulates the feeling of the last three chapters pretty well, and if I ever make a movie, that’s going to be in it.
While this song, from whence the title of this post is taken, helped color the background story for a couple of my secondary characters (want to know how Seovann got his scar, why Kerimu is so cranky, and what the deal is with that sword [It’s not quite what you’re thinking]?), which turned into a 50k word novella on its own. I’m thinking about polishing it up and releasing it as extra material some day. It’s also like, one of my favorite songs ever, so don’t say mean things. Try driving down the highway with it. You’ll see why.
Sareisa, my main character from The Paper Flower, which is my current project, has a theme song, too. Little bit of a different mood, isn’t it? Well, it’s a sad story. Or at least, it starts off sadly. It’ll get better. But sometimes you’ve got to beat the crap out of your characters before they really start showing what they’re made of.
On a personal note, Sareisa is a character that was conceived during a difficult time in my life, when I was struggling with depression, anxiety, lack of motivation and lack of direction, and I started to write about her because I thought that if she could find a way out of her sad, stifling life, then maybe I could, too, by figuring things out through writing about her overcoming her obstacles. I stopped working on her for a couple of months because it was making me more frustrated with my own situation, and I knew that I couldn’t find an answer for her problems if I couldn’t find one for myself, first.
I’m much closer to getting there than I was a few months ago. I’ve started to do the work, and now I can write about her doing it without feeling like I’m trapped in the same dismal place. Feels good. I still don’t know exactly how she’s going to get what she wants, but that’s just a logistics problem, not an emotional one.
What does this have to do with music? I don’t know. But that’s a sample of how music affects my writing. A book is no different from a film in the sense that you’re watching a story unfold, and music is an integral part of setting the mood while that happens. I associate songs very strongly with certain emotional states or events in my life, as most of us do, and my characters’ lives are the same thing. Although, you know. Not actually real. Don’t tell them.
I am so excited about getting my proof copy in the mail. Pictures (I mean of things other than water, flowers, and dictionary editors) will be shared once it arrives.