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
Craig- Lets hear it for the boy (this one
disturbs me to this day)
Chuck Hatley- Sickening indecipherable Christian country music...or in worse
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 “You...Out...now!” Heh...he so wanted to
hit me. He did as he was ‘ordered’ though, and that very night I had a party at
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 listen....as 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?