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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Put on your dancing shoes (or at least your headphones)

Do you need to bring some real feeling to a scene, but find yourself running into clichés or even worse—no words at all (come to think about it, maybe clichés are worse than no words at all)?

Try taking a big fat break and turning on a few tunes. That’s right, I’m suggesting you get your ”Butt-In-Chair” bottom up from wherever it’s currently planted and think about your current manuscript and its scenes. Then go grab your CD collection or i-Pod (or mixed tapes, ha!…or 8-tracks, God forbid…my first car was a 1979 Buick Park Avenue, with an 8-track player and a CB radio- hot, I know...especially when I was going to high school in 1998), and make a little soundtrack to your novel.

I know that lots of people listen to background music to help them write, but this is the first time I heard a specific song and it really helped me see where I needed to take the manuscript. Here’s the short story of how I discovered this novel approach to listening to music (pun is very lamely intended):

I wasn’t necessarily struggling with a chapter coming up in my WIP, but I didn't exactly know how to go about it, until BAM! BAM! BAM!

(that’s the distinctive sound of Patty Griffin hitting me over the head with a blunt object, i.e. her song, “Not Alone”)

Before I knew it, I was picturing the scene vividly in my mind while driving (very safely) to the post office, and I can’t tell you how exciting it was!!! (though you might be able to guess how exciting by the three, count'em THREE, exclamation points I just used). I could feel the emotion that my characters would be experiencing, and couldn’t wait to get home and type out a few notes, namely, “listen to that song any time you want to remember what the scene should feel like.”

I know that it’s taboo for authors to even mention the word “movie,” (even if Orlando Bloom would totally play your main character’s love interest), but making a “novel soundtrack” isn’t a half bad idea. I’ve just discovered the one song and got 2,000 easy words out of it in an hour, which is something along the lines of a record for me. I’m not saying the writing is gold; I’ll be going back to polish it later, but the raw emotion I was going for is there already, which is nice.

Give it a try if you’re stuck—even if it doesn’t work out, there are worse ways of spending an hour, and who knows? Maybe a song will inspire an idea for your next project.

Hope everyone had a good 4th of July!