Write it—Choosing Your Novel’s Music Soundtrack

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Glenn Gould informs my writing…

My writing process changed with each of my novels. When I wrote my first novel, Super-Natural Heroes, I handwrote the entire novel in two notebooks. Instead of writing my morning pages, I wrote three pages a day for my novel. Many of the chapters ended up as three page chapters. 

With my fifth novel, Enter 5-D, I wrote my plot lines and character traits on huge white sheets of paper which covered the floor of a 350 square foot apartment (really a converted garage). Both my first and fifth novels feature multiple plots and since I tend to go into a trance when I write, I needed concrete guidance which is why I drew my plot on the large sheets of paper. I also created a vision board for my novel.

The other practice I have with all my novels is that I listen to music which I would use for the movie soundtrack for my stories. When I worked on Love Quadrangle, I mainly listened to Glenn Gould performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations which does appear in my novel and in fact, provides a theme for the novel. I listened to Gregorian Chant while I worked on Super-Nature Heroes, and I listened to French cafe music (mostly French swing) when I worked on Agnes and Yves.

Since I’m currently editing my fifth novel, I’ll talk about the soundtrack music for this novel. I started listening to Nick Drake as I worked on this novel. And one song in particular, “River Man” became the theme for my Ferryman character. And the song plays in my thoughts when I am even thinking about my novel. Other Drake tunes that I associate with Enter 5-D are “Pink Moon,” and “Things Behind the Sun.”

Since my protagonist Eurydice is an opera diva who is best known for her role as the Queen of the Night (The Magic Flute), I watched Diana Damrau’s performances of this role performing “The Queen of the Night Aria”. I also include Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue in the background.

I’m a musician and have immersed myself in music my entire life. My mother even played music for me while I was still in the womb. So, music always plays a key role while I’m writing a novel. And it’s not just background music. I write from listening to tone, timbre, and rhythms. My novels have a sense of musicality in them. Silence plays a role too.

When choosing a soundtrack for a novel (and possibly the movie version later), let’s consider the following.

  • What are the characters’ dominant moods and personality traits? What songs would define each of the characters, even a phrase from a song?
  • What songs describe the landscape of the novel?
  • Songs provide melodic tension and rhythm.
  • Which songs honor the pace of the novel?
  • And which songs provide themes for the novel?

You can add other questions to this list. And don’t stick with the usual musical genres either. If you normally use pop music for your soundtracks, shake it up a bit and try classical or jazz chamber music. Why not listen to music from around the globe, especially if your story takes place in a foreign country?

If you would like a coaching session on becoming consciously aware of music or would like help coming up with a soundtrack for your novel, sign up for a coaching session. I am a music expert and I provide you with this blog Whole Music Experience which features reviews and interviews, as well as, some music examples. For world music, check out World Music Central.

Write It–Geeks for Greeks

Orpheus

When I was around ten or eleven years old, an elementary school teacher bravely introduced our class to the pantheon of Greek gods. I’m pretty sure this was done through the telling of Greek myths. However, with my obsession for superheros or humanoids with special powers to shape-shift and transform, discovering the Greek gods and goddesses felt heaven-sent.

Then when I was a bit older, I saw my mother digging through an old steamer trunk that held her mementos from her childhood and young adult years. A collection of Catholic saint cards fell out of the trunk and captured my attention. Again, I learned that these humans also had “special” abilities in that they created miracles. So, as I grew into an adult, my subconscious mind started mashing saints, superheroes, and Greek gods into a creative stew.

So, when the ideas for “Super-Natural Heroes” and “Enter 5-D” drifted into my conscious mind, this all felt familiar to me. Without getting too astrological on you (the reader), I was born with my Moon in Pisces–the dreamy sign that is most likely to gravitate towards speculative fiction of the more fairy-unicorn-superhero variety. While I have never worn a superhero costume or even T-shirt as a child or an adult, I enjoy humans stepping out of any limitations or as they say in the spiritual communities, stepping outside of the Matrix.

Sure, people could say that super humans don’t exist until they meet a shaman who can shape-shift into a creature. Shakespeare’s Hamlet also spoke of the extraordinary experience we can experience on Earth.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

So, what’s the point of my blog post? Sorry, I’m having another one of my this is your brain on Neptune moments. Greek gods bring magic to my writing. They bring hope that there are other worlds still worth exploring. They also show us the wreckage caused by power-hungry ones which provides cautionary tales for our political elite who some times act like the Titans residing on Mount Olympus.

I revisted the Greek pantheon and its victims because they mirror the world we currently reside. And I chose to take a humorous approach simply because I’m so tired of this dead seriousness which has taken the planet hostage. Don’t you know that humor raises the vibration? And that scientists have proven that we are all made up of vibrations. So, if this makes me a geek for Greeks, so be it. I’m having a good time learning from human errors too. And I’m also a geek for Shakespeare.

Watch my latest narrated chapter from Enter 5-D.

Enter 5-D (Short Excerpt of the Character Pandora)

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John Williams Waterhouse “Pandora”

This is a short excerpt from my urban fantasy novel Enter 5-D.

Pandora is about the enter the labyrinth and encounters the Minotaur. She successfully escaped Pluto’s punishment.

As Pandora contemplated her choices, she heard the sound of high heels echoing in the hallway behind her and then Persephone with Demeter dressed in black dresses and stilettos entered the office. The women’s glittering eyes landed on Pandora and assessed her predicament.

Persephone lowered her eyes and in a haughty voice acknowledged her former husband. “I didn’t know you had company. You always liked them young and pretty.”

Pluto raged. “What are you doing here?”

“My mother and I thought we would stop by for a visit, if you know what I mean.”

Pluto’s Confidant entered the office and gaped at the women in the room. He hid his excitement by presenting a glacial expression.

“Did I come at a bad time?”

Pandora took that moment to back out of the office and when she entered the hallway, she sprinted to the end. However, when she reached for the door and grabbed the knob, she realized that Pluto had locked all the doors. Wishing she had her toolkit with her, Pandora pulled out a bobby pin from her hair and a credit card from her purse and set to work on the lock.

(As you can see, this is a multiple narrative novel so I skip back and forth between characters and their scenarios).

5th Novel–Strangest Literary Ride

Orpheus

I never really know when I’ve completed a novel. And I guess the answer to that is once it’s published and on the shelves of bookstores. However, I completed phase one and phase two and phase three of my fifth novel, Enter 5-D (modern telling of Orpheus and Eurydice), and I have entered the beta reader zone…

Although this feels like the next to last leg of a journey, my favorite part of the journey comes when an idea for a novel enters my thoughts. It’s what Joseph Campbell would refer to the hero (in this case, the author), responding to a quest that last several months to several years, depending on the author.

I carried a heavier burden with my fifth novel in that I had memories of past mistakes weighing me down. I guess I can also see that knowledge as lightening my burden which allowed me to organize the timeline of the plots (multiple), create enough detail of the characters and setting: as well as, work out the structure ahead of time. However, I’m yet to find the right genre to squeeze this novel and I’ve used the term genre-bender. Agents don’t like this, and publishers like it even less. Bookstores and libraries need to know where to shelve the book for best results.  As a writer I have never liked categories, but I understand marketing and publicity too.

My second favorite part of the journey is spending time with my characters. I immerse myself completely in their worlds during and after my writing process. I research the details of their worlds and dive into their head and heart spaces. I also find pieces of my personality in each character–even the antagonists who I sometimes relate to that borders on dangerous projections. Although I’m half joking.

My 5th novel doesn’t just coalesce everything I learned from writing my other four novels, but gleans from astrology, sound healing, music history, and my childhood love of Greco-Roman myths. Then when I was in my twenties I related to Persephone, who I include in my novel, as a powerful Divine Women character. The overall theme of the novel is that by delving into our own darkness (subconscious), we gain power and liberation. Power comes from the inner and not the outer world.

I’ve now entered the beta reader stage and I’m still cleaning up the manuscript. I don’t have a practice of complete rewrites, meaning I never toss the first draft and start from a blank page. I actually, go back and edit the previous chapter each day before writing the next chapter. Then I keep notes of the timeline, eye and hair colors of the characters, but I can still make mistakes due to forgetfulness. After all, this novel is a 300+ page journey that lasted over six months, and then I moved several times in the process of completing the final chapters and epilogue.

I believe that if an author doesn’t reinvent the wheel with each of their novels, then the process becomes easier along the way–especially if the author develops a template or formula. However, doubts, worries and fears still crop up as do potentially dramatic moments where the author deletes the file from the computer (modern version) or tosses the manuscript out the window. Never do this, by the way. You’ll regret it later.

And speaking of my novel, I have some cleaning up to do, so off I go.

 

 

Write It–Doling Out Character Backstory

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Two scenarios plague most novelists. The first one revolves around clogging the narrative with too much backstory and too many character details. The second scenario revolves around not including enough backstory or descriptions to ground the story in a reader’s mind. I fall into the latter category.

However, as I’m rewriting my 5th novel, Enter 5-D, I’ve discovered that doling out the descriptions and backstory in small amounts throughout the early chapters (and later chapters), grounds the stories, gives the readers enough description to go with, and doesn’t clutter the narrative flow.

For instance, I’m current rewriting a novel with multiple story lines, and have created a new reality since my novel falls into the speculative fiction genre. But if I included character descriptions and backstory in large chunks, then I would slow down the tempo of the narrative, and also confuse the readers.  Not to mention, bore myself.

And I also ran into the same problem that I did with my other four novels and that is, not including enough character description or motives for their actions–but I did that less with this novel than with previous ones. But on the other hand, I don’t like reading stories with too much description of the characters, such as describing the eyes, hair, and clothing and other attributes in the same sentence or even paragraph.

On the other hand, if I don’t write down the descriptions of the characters and locations on notepad or storyboard, when I’m dealing with multiple characters, and Enter 5-D has a large cast, I say that a character has blonde curly hair at the beginning of the novel and in chapter 5, he’s a brunette! Of course, you can find these mistakes during the rewriting process and have a good laugh. “Wow, Orpheus, you went from being a Viking to a dwarf. How did you manage that?”

I received good advice recently about drawing pictures of the characters or finding photographs in magazines which I can use in a collage so that I have physical descriptions of my characters. For some authors, this is ideal. Federico Fellini used to sketch and paint his characters (costumes, hair, etc) before directing his movies. For some reason, my mind keeps going back to his drawings as I rewrite my novel.

The best way to use the doling out process is to keep a notepad with the descriptions and backstories for each of the characters, including their astrological signs, date of birth (age), country of birth, etc… I know of one author who is also an astrologer who draws up charts for her characters–now that’s going in depth.

Then when the characters encounter each other we view the other characters physical appearance, voice, etc  through the character (point of view) character’s eyes. So if I’m writing from my character Persephone’s point of view, she sees that Eurydice has dark, long hair, and wears a tunic that clings to her curves. Eurydice’s melodic voice sent tingles up and down Persephone’s spine.

Another approach is to combine a character’s actions with their physical attributes such as, “He slipped his fingers through his blonde curls. Then his blue eyes darted around the room.”

When I used to spend time on the author website, Authonomy, one common mistake authors made was to add long passages or chunks of backstory towards the beginning of their novels. Nothing makes me yawn more than overburdening a narrative with the character’s life story. It’s much better to dole out the backstory in the narrative as the character muses about situations in the past related to their current situation or state of mind. And then later, bring some of that backstory into conversations between characters. But only the most masterful authors do this well.

So the main trick here is to know your characters and their situations well. Research your characters or interview them so you can get their backstory. Remember that journalists never use all their material for an article–only that which catches the attention of their readers and fills in the gaps. As an author or creator of new worlds and characters, your job is to take the approach of less is more.

And if any of these ideas are new to you, then pick up novels of various genres and study how other authors handle backstory and character descriptions. I picked up The Hobbit recently to get an idea of how this is done with fantasy, a genre known for blending an active plot with lyrical descriptions (thus the thick books). Pick up a classic from any genre and you can’t go wrong.

And if you would like a coaching session, sign up at Metaphysics 4 Everyday Living. Please read the service tabs first. I’m available in person in the Bellingham, Washington area or by Skype.  Happy writing!

An Author’s Itchy Feet (Writing Hiatus)

Orpheus

In September I put my 5th novel away, with the idea that I would return to it by the beginning of October. However, I’m still living in a temporary housing situation and I don’t have the space to work on the edits and rewrites of that novel, Enter 5-D. It would help if my Patreon campaign attracted patrons as that would allow me to at least spend more for housing while I write.

I have also looked into renting a room from a professor by circulating notices around the university campus. I try not to think about my novel because when I do I’m hit with writer’s remorse and other gremlins.

If you are an arts patron type and looking for someone to support, either contact me via this website or go to my Patreon campaign page and make a pledge. And tell your friends and colleagues too. Enter 5-D has commercial potential, unlike my other novels. And who knows, maybe some day you’ll say that you got in on the ground floor. Shooting for the moon.

http://www.patreon.com/BelleAuthor