Writing to a Musical Muse

I did an open mic reading at the Peninsula Writers Club. The chapter in my novel where Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert experiences a 5D movie preview. 5D is two better that 3D! But Cal is a movie critic, and does not like 3D (Roger Ebert reasons). Then the 5D preview makes him LIVE the heartbreaking climax of Holly’s story, The Last Super. Anyway, I played music during the reading: Unchained Melody from the movie Ghost. A section in this chapter fit the beats and the emotion from that song. The small gathering of club members liked it.

I love music. Music has inspired lots of chapters in my novel. Music plays like a movie scene in my head. Holly’s fight with Dan Mann: Battle of the Heroes from Star Wars III. Holly’s fight with the hundred or so super soldiers: Burly Brawl from The Matrix Reloaded. Holly and Cal watching a sunset: So Much In Love by The Tymes. An angry and heartbroken Holly trying and failing to sleep: Last Night I Didn’t Get to Sleep At All by The 5th Dimension. I write a chapter more easily when a song has helped me see it. I have bought a LOT of music off iTunes to help me write.

However, a lot of music is owned by big corporations who are not going to share. So do not expect me to use my iTunes music in a podcast, or in anything even remotely professional, or at any gathering other than a very very small circle of friends or fans. I do not need a business that zealously defends the copyright to the Happy Birthday song sending lawyers to beat down my door.

Music can be a crutch. My writing must be strong enough to stand on its own, without music or my DRAMATIC performances. I am not gonna tell my readers that they have to buy and then play John Williams’s theme to Superman as they read my story. (Um, probably I won’t.) My short stories have NO music in mind. So far.

And consider this: real time and reading time do not match. In Storyist (the Mac and iPad app I use for my creative writing), each double-spaced, 12-point-courier-text page takes one and a half minutes to read out loud. Do you see the problem? Actions you imagine in music are hard to fit in text. Maxwell Alexander Drake said that you can speed action up, or slow it down, but you cannot read action at the same speed it happens in the real world. Oh, maybe if Holly punches a bad guy, I can write, “Holly punched him.” That’s boring, and it STILL takes too long. I could write “POW!” Not much better. (I’ll write later about superpowered sound effect words.) An early version of Holly’s fight with Dan Mann fit in the 3 1/2 Battle of the Heroes song, and I would never use that early version now. Short, dry, very little flowing prose to draw the reader in, and when my barber read it, he said, “This character Holly. What does she look like?” I was told my chapters read like screenplays. You need more than dialog and bits of action. You need description, feelings, emotions, thoughts, in other words, PROSE! You can match a text passage to a song, but do NOT stuff too many actions into that song’s short timespan!

I will continue to be inspired by music. But I cannot rely on songs to help me write or open-mic-read. (Oh, but I remember a reading where I used music, and the chapter had Holly so very heartbroken, and the open mic audience was RAPT. Boy, that felt good.)

P.S. I still wonder what it would cost to use music. Probably too much for me to consider it. Even if I say, hey readers, this is a cool song, run to iTunes and buy it cuz it is only a dollar! Maybe if I found indie music where I know the people who own it? Or maybe I just need to finish my novel (sound effects: my voice changes to Stewie Griffin), that novel I been working on for about five years now, that nnnnnnnnnovel …

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