Musician is to Garage as Author is to Garret

The Song Remains the Same

I’ve been mourning the Evanescence breakup. I know, old, old news, move on. It’s just I’ve got the new stuff in my car right now and I keep trying to like it. Because, let’s face it, Amy Lee is a goddess. And sometimes, she’s enough. (Heard Sally’s Song?) But sometimes there’s something missing.

Every once in a while, I’m listening to Pandora and I hear something that catches my attention. Oh, hey, what is that? It’s We Are The Fallen. It’s what’s missing. Only it’s overlaid with a vocal that, while talented, isn’t her. Isn’t it.

It occurs to me that what I miss and what I want isn’t a singer or a name. It’s a sound.

The bands we love have distinctive sounds. You know them when you hear them. Metallica, Linkin Park, Led Zepplin, Queen, System of a Down, Rush…

In writing terms, we’d call that “voice,” right?

Garage Days, Revisited

When I hear Disturbed, I imagine them playing Metallica in a garage somewhere, a long time ago. Not being a musician myself, I’m just assuming that’s part of growing into the musician you’re going to be, that early process of trying to emulate those sounds that you love, letting them become a part of you, mix up in that unique way that eventually comes out as something different. Related, maybe, reminiscent, but a different sound.

The same way reading is part of writing. The same way maybe snippets of your early writing sound suspiciously like Jane Austen. We assimilate, not only style of prose, but we find themes and ideas we love that become part of what we do. Related, reminiscent, but different.

Fan fiction works in at this point. Whether the fiction is based on literature, film, or television, the writers make me think of those kids in the garage, exploring the work of artists they admire, letting it become part of them, taking their first steps toward finding the writers they’re going to be.

And sometimes it makes me think of the professional musician, master of his own sound, who plays a cover simply for the joy of taking something established, something that everyone knows and recognizes, and turning it on its head by applying that unique sound he owns.

Kind of makes you think of that sense of delight you get when an author or screenwriter takes a familiar story and turns it into something awesome though only mostly new.

It’s a Kind of Magic

For many authors who stand out for me, there’s something in their work that makes it stand apart from the rest as something unique and special, whether it’s voice, something in their style of characterization, a world created, a recurring theme that they somehow manage to play out again and again with a grace that never fails to touch you.

I don’t know how you go about finding that on purpose. Is there a method, a shortcut, or is it just a magic that emerges after 10,000 hours input, mimicry, and practice? Sometimes, when I’m enjoying someone’s fiction, I like to think about influences, about their garage days and wonder what went into the making of them.

Want to talk about garage days? What’s gone into the making of you? Have you found your voice or style yet?

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Musician is to Garage as Author is to Garret

  1. It’s weird for me to go back and read my old work because I can absolutely see what I was reading at the time. Nora. Nora. Mary Higgins Clark. Nora. L.J. Smith. Nora. Jane Austen. Nora. Are we seeing a theme here?
    I still occasionally have those influences bleed into what I’m writing, but I think I’ve reached a point in my career that I’ve really found MY voice. And that’s a fun place to be.

  2. I wrote fanfic when I was a teenager, but I didn’t know that’s what it was. And I always inserted myself into the story so I could be with my latest heartthrob, like Randolph Mantooth that played Johnny Gage in Emergency. LOL.

    Finding my voice through reading would have been very hard for me. I read everything from historical romances to horror to science fiction. And everything in between. Maybe that’s why I’m so weird. LOL

    And I get to see YOU and KAIT tomorrow! 🙂

    • Of course he’s best known for his guest appearance as Michael in the 2-part Greetings From Earth episode of Battlestar Galactica in in 1979. No? Just me? Really?
      Now when Emergency! comes on TV, Les and I go, Look, Briar, Emergency! and then she walks out of the room. I was totally into that show.
      I think my voice/style has come less from what I’ve read and more from what I’ve watched. I made up lots of stories as a kid, mostly from TV shows that weren’t going the way I wanted them to. (Voltron really needs more romance, dammit! And, like Jayne Cobb, Thundarr in my head was smarter and more articulate than what came across on TV.)
      Can’t wait to see you tomorrow. I really need to do laundry today and put that playlist together.

  3. I was afraid to read while writing for a long time. I felt itchy just wanting to dive into a book, but I didn’t want to be influenced by the writing. During Christmas time I finally broke down and read the entire Vampire Academy series in two days. Afterwards, I felt so relieved. When I went back to writing it was still all my own. That was the moment I was sure I had my own voice. Now I can read, put the book down and write, without the two areas intermixing.

    I would say if anything it just inspires me. To finish a book and think…Wow, I want to get closer to finishing my own one of those!

    Thanks for the topic!

  4. Ooh, all my old work has so many cornball elements to it! Very embarrassing.

  5. So I’m guessing you don’t like the new Evanescence’s album? I don’t like the entire thing, but there are a few songs that appeal to me. Did you know they came out with a deluxe edition that has bonus songs? Check out the song Secret Door; I find it absolutely beautiful.

    Anyway, when it comes to my writing I’m still in my garage days myself. In fact, I only started writing short stories during a Creative Writing class I took last semester. Before that, I only wrote poetry. I’ve known that I wanted to be a contemporary teen author since high school, but I never knew how I wanted to do it until that writing class last year. It was in that class that I wrote my first original short stories featuring teens and began to find my voice. I also made teens the subject of some of my poetry, an idea that never occured to me until I took that class.

    Speaking of fan fiction, I wrote that in a journal when I was in high school. Most of it wasn’t contemporary teen fiction because it was based in alternate universes from video games or cartoons. I think the only bit of contemporary fan fiction I wrote was for a book called The Outsiders. It was that book that inspired me to become a contemporary young adult author and read other contemporary young adult books to inspire me.

    When it comes to finding your writing voice, I think it involves trying new things and experimenting. Before last year, I only listened to rock music when I write. Now, I listen to contemporary classical music every now and then. Recently, I’ve realized that I wanted to learn to write a vignette. I’ve reread the book The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cineros for inspiration and found it more understandable and relatable than it was when I was required to read it in high school. A small how-to book on writing vignettes has helped a little too. Finding your voice can be a fun adventure as long as you keep an open mind and listen to your muse.

  6. Very interesting take on where we come from. And yes, I think there is a certain amount of garage band as a beginning writer. I wrote in my journal for years, not really fiction, exploring which character I wanted to be maybe. By the time I started writing poems and short stories in my late teens, my voice had developed pretty well. But when I wrote my first YA mystery novel I slid very quietly into the YA mysteries I read as a kid. Finding your voice isn’t a one time thing, it’s a life long adventure.

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