Saturday, 16 February 2013

Songs and Scenes

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that this weekend is New Phone Weekend for me.  In other words, it’s a weekend of updating contacts, figuring out how stuff works and basically trying not to throw anything expensive out of any windows.  Tonight I discovered one of the best things about New Phone Weekend - the music.

New Phone Weekend for me is usually the time when I’m putting together new playlists – discovering new songs and stumbling across old favourites.  The process is normally followed by what's known in my house as a 'musical interlude' – an hour or so when everyone else gets some peace and quiet while I drift off into other worlds, accompanied by whatever soundtrack the random selector picks for me. 

These are some of my favourite nights because this is when most of my writing is done, with my eyes closed and my computer off.  

Writers have different ways of bringing characters to life.  Some write full biographies, some measure their characters by how they would react to a particular moral dilemma, some probably even have conversations with that character just to see what they’d say.  Maybe some, like me, write the characters without even realising they’re doing it.  My way, as it turns out, is through music – the way I get to know my character is by knowing how they react when they hear a particular song.  Does it remind them of something wonderful, or something painful?  Do they sing along like no one can hear them, do they dance only when no one is watching, do they imagine themselves on stage at the X Factor or do they just want to turn down the volume?  Rock?  Pop?  Country music?  The answers to these questions tell me everything I need to know.  Through the songs that come on when I least expect them, I begin to see snapshots of that character’s life at different points inside and out of the story I’m telling, and some of the most important scenes in every story have taken shape during a musical interlude.

Whether I’m on the bus, walking to work, or, like now, just sitting on the sofa listening to some music, a lot of my ideas come from the music in some way or another – not from the lyrics but more from the way I feel when I hear those songs.
I wish I could tell you I have some hugely impressive catalogue of respectable bands that provide the soundtrack when I’m writing, but anyone who knows me at all – and knows that I can recite all the words to The One And Only – would guess that’s a big fat lie.  In fact most of the songs with the highest play count are firmly in the Guilty Pleasure file.  Still, I’m sure all crime writers listen to Glee, right?  Right?!

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