For me, the importance of music in my writing experiences can’t be stated enough. When I am sketching a character, my first question is often not what they look like, their age, or even what their name is. My first question, is usually “What would this character be listening to?” From there I get a mental picture (appearance, mannerisms, etc) and slowly begin to bring it into focus. With a character that listens to Miles Davis I may picture a sophisticated, artsy, urbane, hipster-kinda character. If they listen to Nine Inch Nails I may get an elusive, eccentric rebel. It all depends, essentially, on the power of a playlist.
Music helps me shape the plots of my stories as well. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve sat down to write and that song I’ve heard a million times will play on my iPad and I hear a certain line and think: THAT’S IT. I write it down and begin my planning from there. I will write that lyric down and use it to guide my plot. It’s like a movie playlist. A short story that I wrote recently began with a line from REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” Which is a great opener, by the way, because it leads me into questions that will be answered throughout the narrative. For example, why is this character hurting? Why do they feel everyone else is hurting along with them? And what experiences have they undergone in their life to have such a feeling?
Tomorrow I’m going to post sections of my playlist so you can see what kind of songs inspires me to write. Spotify is a godsend, man…
With my announcement that I’ll be participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month, I have a bit of a confession to make first. First, I am not writing a novel. Well, at least not in its purest, most traditional sense. What I will be writing is a group of interconnected short stories, with a central theme and group of characters throughout. As I began the planning for this project I realized early on that it wasn’t coming together as a novel. I also realized that as much as I loved my main character that I did not want to stick with her for the entire book.
My decision to tell a novel in short stories is fueled by my fascination with the human experience in general. The people you meet everyday all have a back story, a set of events that occurred that led them to encounter you at the particular place and time that you encountered them. How do human personalities develop? Surely our past shapes our experiences, but how? I want to tell the stories behind the people that my main character interacts with. As I begin this venture I am reminded of one of my favorite authors, Gloria Naylor, who also used this same technique in her novel, “The Women of Brewster Place.” It is indeed a novel, but if you look carefully at the subheading, Naylor calls her book “A Novel in Seven Stories.” Each of her seven main characters has a story to tell.
So, at midnight, I’ll begin writing. I have a ton of notes, a kick ass Spotify playlist, and plenty of coffee on hand to keep me company. I am sooooo ready to put pen to paper and slay this!
Review for Frank Bill’s “Crimes in Southern Indiana”
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This book is a bit of a guilty pleasure, because under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be caught dead reading a book with characters engaging in behavior this despicable. I liked this book for exactly the reasons I shouldn’t, because I figure every now and then it’s good for a serious reader like myself to treat myself to a bloodbath by ne’er do-wells.
This book is pretty much a nastier version of “Breaking Bad” in literary form–with people being buried alive, chopped up, beaten up, and fucked up beyond all recognition in almost every story. Frank Bill takes you to hell and back in a bullet ridden pickup truck and to a thousand other nasty places in between. In this universe there is murder, crooked cops, revenge, dogfighting, drugs, and guns (lots and lots and lots of guns) and not only are they the rule, they are the law. You want to feel bad for many of these people but you don’t, the protagonist in one story often shows up again antagonistically in another, as if they’ve finally drawn fate’s hand for their misdeeds.
Honestly, I liked this book. But there were many stories I wished were longer because they felt so rushed. We never really get to know the man who’s head gets blown off during a meth raid and I wish we did. I really wish we did, because it would have given this story even more power.
Back to blogging again. I’ve been hit by the writing bug once more and this time it won’t leave me in peace. Since I’m not teaching anymore I have tons of time to do this and do it right. I’ve always wanted to start a book blog, and even though Tumblr is cool for that very purpose, it isn’t a space for me to get serious about my craft. On Tumblr there are simply too many pictures, too many voices, too much distraction. Here I want to just write–reviews, discuss literature, and explore ideas I can write about (and hopefully sell) later. I will eventually set this up as a domain and get a better design, probably next month when NaNoWriMo starts. But anyway, bear with me. This this will see the light of day and bear fruit, or be damned.