Music moves me. I’ve always imagined my life as having a soundtrack playing in the background. Seriously. I’m sure it’s just a result of my being an 80’s mixtape kid combined with my former career in music store management. Whatever it is, it’s still hanging on even though record stores and the 80’s are long gone.
When I’m working on a novel, I have a habit of creating a soundtrack for my characters. When I am writing that character, I listen to her music to get into her head. It really helps. Plus it’s fun to figure out exactly what kind of music my character would listen to. I’ve found some very interesting songs researching my books.
As an audiophile it just makes sense to me that my character would be defined by her music choices. And for me it’s the lyrics. The type of music is not as important as the sentiment. On any given playlist you could find Johnny Cash alongside My Chemical Romance. It just depends on the character and the character’s mood.
It’s hard to write a novel and not write parts of yourself into it. So my characters will always reference music and use it as a way to process parts of their lives, give voice to their emotions. It’s very natural for me.
If you’d like to hear one of my character soundtracks and you happen to be on Spotify (which I highly recommend) here’s a link to a playlist I created for a character in one of my books. I won’t give you a character analysis, but you might just get a peek into another world if you listen to Anna’s music.
Writer’s block. We’ve all experienced it, and chances are we will again. But just remember, it’s a block, not a wall. Blocks can be jumped over, moved, or built upon.
While attending (that seems such a formal word for such casual, intimate gathering of writers) the Texas Writer’s Retreat a week ago, I had the opportunity to get to know John Grogan, author of international bestseller Marley & Me, and The Longest Trip Home. I’m always surprised when I meet people who have a certain celebrity status because, more often than not, they are just normal people – well as normal as writer’s can be. 🙂 And John was no different. Very down to earth and full of great stories.
Over several dinners and glasses of wine, John shared some of his insights on writing. He encouraged us all to read an essay in The New Yorker by John McPhee, Draft No. 4. The essay gives a great tip for dealing with writer’s block. I won’t spoil it here because it’s well worth the read.
One of the first sessions was with Joe Clifford, author of December Boys, Junkie Love and Lamentation, to name a few. He focused on the importance of knowing the setting in order to create truth in your writing. The details will then give verisimilitude to your work.
He challenged us to create a piece using the setting of the ranch. Here’s mine:
Go Big or Go Home
I am sitting on the floor of a quaint Texas ranch house decorated in the finest Asia has to offer. Above Panasonic, the god of TV, sits an ornately carved statue of Buddha guarded by two Chinese dragons. Each wall offers an escape into another world. Hanging wooden masks seem to poke their heads through the veils of time and space merging two unlikely cultures. A bull’s filigreed skull hangs above the doors exiting to the front porch reminding me that I am in Texas.
Once outside the sound of a distant gunshot announces the symphony of late afternoon birds trilling alongside the chuffing of the resident horses, and the chirping of the crickets that lie hidden among the pines. A naked oak dips her moss covered limbs to me in the whispering breeze—an invitation to be here now. I feel an urgency take hold of me – an aching to let this peace soak into my pores—a repository for the days to come.
I close my eyes and I am nowhere and everywhere at the same time. This moment is a big piece of a small part of me that has been crying out for a place to belong. I am embraced by my tribe, both human and wooden.
If Texas is a place where everything is bigger, I must be colossal. The tree soaked landscape surrounds me and yet I tower above it all. I am a tall tale waiting to be told. I am big and I am home.
Stay tuned for more writing tips, and stories from the retreat.