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Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Imagination Needs a Good Soundtrack!

When I write I depend on music to provide the emotional fuel for fire.

It’s a bit of a paradox, I’m a highly visual person but I need music to hold the visual images steady. When I write I try to hold the images in mind as if I were seeing a movie or directing a cinematographer and use dialog as the script.

I’m actually a bit stingy with my character’s dialog. I cut them short and don’t allow them to finish a thought in its completion if a visual description or body language could be used instead. If my characters have any complaints against me for doing this to them, they’ll just have to settle matters in pantomime behind my back.

I loop music and can listen to a single track hundreds of times in a row. I apologize up front to my imaginary people for putting them through this but it can’t be helped. That’s just how I work.

I actually prefer to write my first draft in complete silence. I want to hear and feel any subtleties that might be trying to get my attention but after that I need music to finish to work. Love scenes are especially demanding. They require moody, complicated music even if the mood of the scene is playful and light.

While I was finishing “Noblesword” I chose Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite composer Bernard Herman. I looped the soundtrack to “Vertigo” and listened to it continually. The obsessive undertones in the music helped keep me in a rising sense of tension, especially the clicking castanet passage, which I played until the folks around me went mad.

I could not have completed “Blue Apples” without Ry Cooder’s gorgeous slid-guitar playing on the Paris Texas soundtrack. This week I’m completing a long-belabored WIP that required I bring out the big guns of emotionally conflicted music. I won’t say the name of this soundtrack because I’m still working with it and this week it’s my lover.

It’s also true music that is moving to me may not please you at all. For a mental soundtrack to be a good match there must be a special alchemy of randomness, personal preference and the music’s emotional tone. Songs with lyrics are a no-no for me. I have to use instrumentals or else the song lyrics will work their way into my dialog or descriptions. I’ll think I’ve got something great and realize I’m quoting the Rolling Stones or John Lennon.

What I find interesting is the fact the music and the stories pair themselves in unpredictable ways. I do not go through my music collection looking for something appropriate to listen to while I write. The music chooses me. I’ll hear it in the back of my mind while I write or wake up thinking about long forgotten music or as was the case with the current soundtrack, a casual friend on Youtube sent it to me at the moment I needed it most. I obsess on certain tracks until I have to go through the formality of buying the music on iTunes or go looking for an old CD. Then I loop it and start writing.

Does anyone else out there in the digital domain, obsess on or loop music while they write?



Amber Skyze said...

I did when I first started writing. Now I can't write unless there is silence in the house.
I'm sure this new wip will be great!

Suzanne Johnson said...

I need silence for my first draft and my last read-through for cadence, but music in between. Like you, I don't always choose the soundtrack, and it isn't always something that would make sense to anyone else, although I did listen to Zachary Richard and BeauSoleil for my latest book set in Louisiana.

Tina Donahue said...

For some reason I'm really hooked on cross-over country. Just love LeeAnn Rimes - always here her song How Could I Live Without You as I'm writing the tender scenes. And the song by Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats - plays in my mind during the conflicts.

Great post, Kat - love your work!

Adele Dubois said...

I wish I could write with music playing, but I find it too distracting. I'd be too tempted to sing along!

Glad you found what works for you, and your readers, Kat!


jean hart stewart said...

Fascinating but amazing to me. I have to have it silent as I can make it to write. Love music but have to sing or hum along and can't do that and write. So glad it works for you, as your stuff is great. Jean

Katalina Leon said...

Amber, how are you finding silence in your busy house? lol
Suzanne, I love Beausoleil and Michael Doucet voice. I definitely listen to Zydeco for my NOLA stories. You cannot separate NOLA from food and music they have to be together!
Tina you got me hooked on that Carrie Underwood song. It's pretty powerful. Carrie is like the cross-over country western goddess of destruction... the things she does to that red truck are brutal! I'm sure "he" will think before he cheats...
Hi Adele, I sure wish I was not so distracted and could work in silence because no doubt I would get more accomplished, but I'm wired for noise.
Hello Jean, silence is working well for you! You have an impressive body of work.

Cara Marsi said...

I enjoyed your blog, Kat. Very interesting how the music chooses you. I have to write in complete silence. If the TV or radio is on in another part of the house, I close my office door. The only time music helped in my writing was when I was stuck on a scene in a novel I've not completed yet. The hero is Italian, and I played a CD of opera music made for me by my cousin's tenor boyfriend. That helped me write the scene.

Katalina Leon said...

Cara, that's how I use music, to set a mood and keep me in that mind space until a scene is completed. Opera is an excellent choice for that!

Sandy said...

I'm one of those who have to have absolute quiet.

Katalina Leon said...

Hello Sandy! If I waited for absolute quiet in my house I'd never write! lol I think I'm using the music as an active "white noise" to block out all the other distractions. Plus I love music, it helps with the emotional heavy lifting... XXOO Kat

Liz said...

I go on long walks with my dogs, Pandora running with my Mumford and Sons OR Foo Fighters stations. I let my characters play out their scene to music, picturing the movie trailers that will someday emerge....
good luck with your new WIP Kat! let me know if I can help in any way whatsoever!

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