Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rocking Out

When I was a kid, I always had this image in my head of my grown-up self writing. I'd have a desk in front of a window that looks over something pretty. A Lake, mountains, gardens. I would use a fancy fountain pen and have solitude and quiet all day long so that I could concentrate and create wonderful things.

My adult self is a little bit different. Well, okay, my adult self is 180 degrees away from what I envisioned twenty years ago. These days silence and solitude make me twitchy, so I take my laptop wherever the action happens to be. When I'm not hanging out in my living room with hubby, friends, and cat, I'm parked in the local coffee shop, the break room at work, etc, people watching and pecking away at my latest project. No matter the location, though, I always always have music.

I'm a big fat philistine when it comes to my tunes. I think I own some Mozart somewhere. It's probably still wrapped in cellophane. I need to hear words, beats, riffs, wails. Something that makes me feel my scene. Something that makes me feel my characters. For example, Voice of the Bard was Rock/Southern rock. There was a lot of road music. Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream, Saving Grace, Last Dance With Mary Jane. Sheryl Crow's Diamond Road. Live For Today by 3 Doors Down. That's Anna. My current protagonist, Em, is a lot different. She's Patti Griffin. Natalie Merchant. Marjorie Fair. Sometimes Alison Krause. There's also some Rosemary Clooney in there. Hey, it's weird, but she fits the plot quite nicely!

Music is so important to my process that creating a book's soundtrack is part of the planning stage for me. Right now, I'm working on an outline for a fantasy that's related to American hobo culture, so I get to play with songs like Kimmie Rhodes' Desert Train. And just as my outline and plot may change while I write, so does the playlist. If something I chose at the beginning of the process doesn't feel right anymore, I remove it. If I stumble upon something new that fits my work, I'll add it.

So, what about you guys? Do you need dead silence or do you rock out a little while you write? Anybody have strange pre-writing rituals like mine?


Lexie O'Neill said...

Dear Mel,
So, we're up and early:) I'm one of the dead silence kind of people. I'll take my laptop and plug it into the gazebo plug-in and sit on the side porch in a rocking chair overlooking the lake--no kidding!
Then, when the morning sun beats down, I'm in a cubby hole in the guest room--no noise. At the same time, if I'm into a story, I can work almost anywhere. Last night, no kidding, I got hit by a ping pong ball because hubbie and son were playing and I was writing!
Have a great day!

Holli Bertram said...

Music can spark a story for me, but I can't listen to music while I write. I think it's because music drags me into whatever world the musician has created and makes it difficult for me to focus on MY story.
How cool that you can use music to feel your scenes and add to your writing! I love the idea of a book soundtrack.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Depends on the story. When I was writing medievals I loved Celtic music. It just, like you said, helped me to set the scene. Then with my futuristics I couldn't really find anything but industrial rock and then I was bouncing around--it was too much. With my current project I find silence works best.

Savanna Kougar said...

Mel, so absolutely kool. I don't quite do the music thing as intensely as you do. But silence is usally not my ally when I'm writing. I have internet radio on, shows which include a variety of music. Stories, scenes have been born from the snatch of a song as I'm driving, or the whole song puts me in that mood, which creates the next scene in the story I'm working on...it's as though my Muse says, here ya go, just what you need. And it is!
A couple of months ago I heard some oldie goldie Samba music (courtesy of Rollye James, radio talk show), Byrd, the musician -- it was wonderful incredible music, the perfect music for my hero in Curses Were Strange Beasts. I knew that was the music he chose to dance to at a retro Hollywood thirties/forties nightclub. Dance scene is upcoming, however, in the story. But he did tell the heroine they were going dancing, while solving the current oil crises and running from the Black Unit.

Susan Macatee said...

No, music doesn't work for me and neither does dead silence.

I write best with normal family background noise. Although I tune it out, the absence of any noise in my house would be too weird.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Interesting process you have, Mel. Music makes me 'feel' characters. I'll usually have one or two songs that remind me of each character. But I don't listen while I'm writing.

I need absolute silence during first draft mode, but during revisions I can work with normal household/family noise around me.