Friday, November 26, 2004

   I’ve always wondered...what’s the best
way to bring music into written fiction? I write by music. I create soundtracks
for my characters. Each and every one of my characters has distinct and varied
musical taste and a good number of them are actually quite motivated by music.

    Maybe this is because whenever I reach back into my mind and
pull out a memory, it always comes with a song attached. Whatever I was listening
to at that moment, that day...or in one or two rarer occasions, simply the style
of music I was using as my personal soundtrack at the time.

Alan Hatley
- Steppenwolf and Herb Albert
- Lets hear it for the boy (this one
disturbs me to this day)
Chuck Hatley
- Sickening indecipherable Christian country music...or in worse
cases hymns
Francis Maynard
- House of the Rising Sun and Patsy Cline...with a sprinkling
of Tom Jones
My daddy
...Gershwin...followed shortly by Beethoven.
Hal and Chris
...John Cougar Mellencamp (who I can no longer listen
to for this reason)
That brief period where my father wouldn’t speak to me
and I couldn’t manage
to commit suicide no matter what I tried (* note to the desperate--trailer
rafters are not intended to be hung from.) NIN- Hurt...cheesy
and generic maybe, but it was a very melodramatic time for me.
Meeting David
- Alice and Chains- Man in the box.
This was in journalism class. I was filming a faux commercial for a grade, and
for whatever reason he decided he didn’t need to go to lunch, but rather stuck
around to be in the way. He was singing this (man in the box), and using pencils
to drum out the rhythms... with his ass parked right in line with my camera.
The first words I ever said to him were “!” Heh...he so wanted to
hit me. He did as he was ‘ordered’ though, and that very night I had a party at
my house...
    As it turns out, he was the ride for one of the guys
    So of course, I had to take him upstairs where I also just
happened to be playing Alice in chains man in the box. I brought him within ear
shot and told him to if by proving that I liked the song,
and had been paying attention to him, would totally make up for my yelling at
him in class. I was so socially inept... 
    It was a surreal moment of him looking at me trying to figure
out what the hell was going on in my head and me looking back at him trying to
figure out why he didn’t seem to get that I liked him.  
    Building a mystery became his
song sometime later...for reasons that perhaps don’t truly fit the nature of the
song, but to this day remind me of him without fail.

    It’s this sort of thing I am having a bit of issue bringing
across in my writing. I have characters who are so defined by the music they
listen to that it should be included in certain scenes. For example, Jesse:
almost always Skynard is playing in his truck, occasionally Zeppelin but mostly
Skynard. I feel this reveals a lot about the character in terms of his mood and
his personality. Or...In another case Arles, who uses a particular Bowie song to
help jog Sammy’s memory back to a happier time they both shared. The music is
important here, but writing doesn’t  always translate into sound. So, I
find these scenes falling flat and lacking the desired effect I intended.
    Do I quote lyrics? Do I mention song titles? Do I just
describe the sort of music it is and the feeling it gives and allow my reader to
fill in those blanks? I find myself alternating between them all and ending up
feeling let down time and again by the result.
    Has anyone else had this issue? Have you seen it tackled
successfully in anything you have read in the past ,and if so...point me in the
direction of a sound example?

1 comment:

scribblekitten said...

Sure use the music!

I'd say depending on how you want to work it into your story line adding the music will give it more feeling and character development. I've seen it used in several books I read for research development and liked the effect but can't at the moment recall any specific titles for you. I do know that they weren't in this genre although and were works about the lives of famous people, serial killers and other criminal types to help show their emotional states and personalities more.

I'm trying to do this with the current Vamp book I'm working on right now because one of my main characters is a singer/owner of a night club. So at times, I have him perform on stage but only describe the tone and essence of the music he is singing. At other points in the story if I want to set the mood, I am adding music by real artists, giving the band name, title of the piece and maybe a line or two of the song that works well for the scene or speaks for what is happening.

Personally, I'm the same way with music as you and feel it helps to round out the characters and gives the piece a life like feel. I've done this a time or two in some of my other works as well, my unfinished "Fatal Fantasy" book for instance, but never as extensive as I am with this one because before the music was basically used the same as you are talking about doing in your story.