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?