Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Getting My Groove On

I was cruising through some blogs the other day, when I came across this post on Tammie's site, which is all about how music influences her characters and her writing. And I asked her if I could raise that subject here because I think it's such a cool and relevant point.

I'm a big music-phile. (Is that a word? Probably not.) I'm completely and hopelessly addicted to my Napster to Go subscription and always devote at least a bit of time each day seeking out new bands and singers who strike literal chords within me. So after reading Tammie's post, I took some time to think about how music influenced my own writing and scene setting, as well as how much it's influenced my own life. I'm sort of someone who - at the risk of sounding like Ally McBeal (yipes!), has always had various soundtracks for my life, contingent on my mood or what phase I was currently in. More so than melody, I've always related to lyrics, and if the lyrics impact me in some way, you can bet that the song will be on rotation in my house for months or years to come. Right now, I'm sort of in this self-evaluation phase, and I'm digging melodic mid-tempo singers like Chantal Kreviazuk, Sara Bareilles, Mandy Moore, Mat Kearney, Brandi Carlile and the like. I listen to their songs and get lost in them, as if they're personally speaking to me.

And in some ways, I very much do the same with my characters. My heroine, Jillian, in Time of My Life is helplessly lost between two lives and two loves, and desperately trying to find her way back to what feels right, and so, when I hear Vanessa Carlton's "Home," it resonates and helps me dig into Jillian's mindset - it really transports me to the scenes in which Jill's trying to figure out what feels like "home." Ditto Ben Fold's "The Luckiest", which is all about how someone comes to appreciate how fortunate he is for the love he has in his life. And Five for Fighting's "The Riddle" speaks to Jillian's love for her child, even when she doesn't quite know her place in the world. I could go on like this for days: Dashboard Confessional's Stolen, Mandy Moore's "Most of Me," Snow Patrol's "Open Your Eyes," The Weepies' "The World Spins Madly On," even "Skid Row," from Little Shop of Horrors, which sounds random I know, but every time they launch into the last verse:

Someone show me a way to get out of here,
'Cause I constantly pray I'll get out of here.
Please won't somebody say I'll get out of here,
Someone gimme my shot or I'll rot here.

Show me how and I will I'll get out of here,
I'll start climbing up hill and get out of here,
Someone tell me I still can get out of here,
Someone tell Lady Luck that I'm stuck here.

Gee it sure would be swell to get out of here,
Bid the gutter farewell to get out of here,
I'd move heaven and hell to get out of Skid,
I'd give I don't know what to get out of Skid,
But a hell of a lot to get out of Skid,
People tell me there's not a way out of Skid,
But believe me I've got to get out of Skid row.

I'm always moved by the tenacity behind the lyrics and the fight in the voices behind them, and damn if it doesn't give both me and my characters a kick in the butt. (Yes, I love show tunes, so what?) :)

So, I'm always looking for music suggestions. Who or what inspires both you and your writing? Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!!


Eileen said...

I find that I write better when the music I am listening to in some way reflects the tone of the scene I'm working on.

Have a great Thanksgiving yourself!

Anonymous said...

This is why I like Pandora ( Whatever I'm in the mood for, it pulls up a channel of similar songs that keep me in that mood.

Trish Ryan said...

I'm so driven by the music I'm listening to. Sometimes i have to consciously change the soundtrack in my head because I end up writing deep, mournful stories when I need to be upbeat and funny, or vice-versa.

In my memoir, I wrote two scenes around certain lyrics that affected my whole view of the world. I was crushed to learn that it costs hundreds (thousands?) of dollars to quote lyrics in a book. Those were tough scenes to rewrite.

Still, though, I'm amazed at how powerful music is and how many new places it takes me. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the copyright laws regarding using lyrics in a book? I have a couple of scenes in my manuscript that are heavily influenced by music and I was hoping to quote a verse or two....

bob said...

Along the same line I have seen some who put the actual tunes mentioned within the book together which I thought was a neat idea.

I'm not exactly sure how the lyrics in a book are covered.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Barrie said...

I use too. I listen to quite a bit of teen music, since I write YA. But I have to admit that I often write to....silence.

Jen A. Miller said...

I'm also a huge fan. Not only do I find new-to-me bands, but it reminds me that artists I like have new stuff out (I'm like the group Stars but forgot about their new album until it popped up on my "Ari Hest" playlist).

I don't write fiction, but I use music to get me through my non-fiction projects. I listened to Guster's "Portland: Live on Ice" *21* times in the last month of writing my book. It's a perfect, to me at least, album. It's not too intrusive, but has a good mix of upbeat and slow songs. And I still listen to it.

Right now, I'm digging the new albums of Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Eat World, and I'm absolutely loving Silver Storms by the A-Sides. All are now on my ipod for the drive to my dad's for dinner!

Susan Johnston Taylor said...

I love that you quoted from Little Shop! I'm a huge musical theater fan. For nonintrusive, relaxing music, I also like Diana Krall. You might be interested to know that how music impacts our lives is one of the essay themes for Skirt! magazine next year.

Cindy said...

How about Dido? Sarah McLachlan? Those are two of my faves.