Tag Archives: music

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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Music Inspiration, behind the scenes of the Talent Chronicles with Linkin’ Park

I thought this might be kind of a fun feature to do every once in a while…

I’m really big on song lyrics as inspiration. I don’t usually listen to music while I write because I find it distracting, but I do a lot of plotting to music. I love songs that seems to tell a story. A lot of my stories, characters, and scenes are pulled directly out of songs I’ve heard. I even named my blog “Hunting High and Low” after a-ha’s first album, because the story I was working on at the time, working title WEST OF THE MOON, was very much inspired by their “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” album.

So I thought it might be fun to occasionally post some of the songs that have inspired things I’ve written or songs that speak to me but I’m not sure what they’re saying yet.

Today I’m going to give you a pretty obvious choice: Linkin Park’s “Numb,” which basically inspired all of Joss’s and Gene’s interactions in HEROES ‘TIL CURFEW.

I didn’t set out to purposely make Gene what he is. When I sat down to write HUSH MONEY, in my head he was still just a dad with a military background who was a bit overprotective when it came to his daughter. But the first time he came onto the page, something happened–one of those amazing, unexpected things that make writing so addictive. Gene pulled all kinds of crap out of my life and became more than I had intended. And what he made of himself had a big impact on Joss’s character and the story.

But since Gene’s mental illness was something I didn’t plan, I didn’t know where I was going with it. Then one day, as I was washing dishes and listening to my A Walk In The Dark station on Pandora, this song came on. Not like I hadn’t heard it before, but that was the day that it snagged me and said, “this is what their relationship is.”

And I was like, “Whoa. Joss is a lot more angry about this than I realized.”

Because, you know, why shouldn’t she be? It’s not fair. In HUSH MONEY, with regard to how she deals with her dad, I wrote her as someone I could admire. I made her loyal. I made her protective when she could easily have been something else. I made her willing to make sacrifices in order to support someone who needed her. I wrote her as kind of person I want to be.

I think this song helped me understand that she couldn’t continue to be that without some internal cost. It helped me feel the frustration that must be welling up inside her. That day I really listened I knew they’d have a confrontation in the next book. I knew that Joss would be pursing a course to become something that wasn’t going to fit within the safe confines of what her father wanted for her and what he needed for own sanity, and that, at some point, this was all going to come to a head.

And I knew there would be consequences to that. Any time you set up rules which a character knowingly breaks, there have to be consequences. Joss knew that her father was unstable. She chose to tell herself that it would be okay to continue on her path of defiance. She thought he was getting better. She saw what she wanted to see, the way people do. Giving her consequences for her choices gave me another big chunk of plot.

I listened to this song a LOT as I planned out the Joss/Gene scenes in book 2. And then one day another line in it, the significance of which I hadn’t thought about it before, spontaneously sparked for me and set off something completely new. Something that’s filling in some backstory and giving me a big chunk of HEROES UNDER SEIGE.

So what should we talk about today? Does music inspire your writing? How? What kind? Any thoughts about Joss’s relationship with her dad that you’d like to share?


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#ROW80, Write Hard

It’s my turn to make the inspiration post of the week for the ROW80 crowd, so you’ll find me over there today, talking about writing with passion in a post titled Write Hard.

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