Music as a writing tool for literature


Landon Erp

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I've been re-reading a book I bought quite a while ago lately. It's called "Comic Writers on Scriptwriting" and it has about a dozen or so interviews with a number of writers.

The writers in this book discuss the particular tricks different writers use. Some go out of their way to bounce ideas off people, others purposely hole themselves up like a hermit while in the creative process etc. But one thing that caught my attention was an interview with former Bat-Title writer Devin Grayson.

Since to make a living as a comic writer you have to write several titles at once (it usually averages out to having to write one or two issues a week of various titles) she has a lot of characters opperating in her head. Not in the literal sense mind you, but a big part of her writing is just partitioning part of her mind off to BECOME the characters she's writing, they have their favorite spots to write in and more importantly their favorite music. This works in the sense that in order to be fully functioning as Dick Grayson, Selina Kyle, Natasha Romanav (etc...) she has to follow their musical tastes. She specificly listed how Selina (Catwoman) is kind of a suave smooth sohpisticated person who just eminates grace, but oddly she has rather loud tastes in music. You see Selina likes music like Garbage, Alanis Morisette and "all those other rock chics."

The weird thing is after I read this I kind of applied it to my own writing and it seemed to help.

I always tend to listen to music when I write because silence distracts me and I need a little bit of noise to keep myself focused (it helps if it's the type of noise that focuses me in the right dirrection).

I've recently started applying it again more heavily and it's had good results. This weekend I picked up an Ozzy Osbourne cassette I haven't listened to since the mid-90's. As I was listening I became amazed at how what used to impress me no just reminds me of what was wrong with a huge segment of my life. But as I kept listening I realized one of my characters was enjoying it... so much so he was telling me a part of his story I hadn't yet been able to figure out yet.

I'm not so sure I know where I'm leading with this but I am kind of curious if anyone else has an opinion on this style of writing.

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Thanks Jody. Oddly enough part of what made me want to listen to the Ozzy tape was a back and forth I was having with Joe Marone over on the Solo music forum about the psycho-epistemology of heavy metal fans. I'd been reading some biographies of serial killers for the project I'm writing now and I found it kind of weird that a few were actually heavy metal fans (most notably Jeffery Dahmer). I found it kind of ironic that this sad lonely guy did a few really horrible things and since his arrest probably more than a few of his favorite bands have written songs about him (one band did a whole album about him). The weird thing is I think he might've got some solace out of that.

But it kind of goes back to what Rand said about music and sense of life. If you really want to understand/become another person you need to understand their music. Like just stepping out of yourself and your mindset momentarily and then figuring out "what would make this appeal to someone?" and "what would that appeal mean." I don't have my characters tastes as defined as I once did, but the one's that are defined speak so much clearer.

Raven has this strong nihilistic/Nietzchean streak, but she also has a tenderness and vunerablity to her to her. When I'm listening to the Cure, Type O Negative, marilyn manson and Jack off Jill I can tap into her. It's representative of this strong lashing out and trying to create a monsterous appearance that's really just someone who's been hurt once too often trying to keep that from happening again because "If they're scared of me, they can't hurt me."

And I have another character named Jen who I had a lot of trouble getting for a long time. She's seems a little shy and cold on the surface, but when she falls for someone she jumps in heart first. It takes her a while to get to the point of opening up and letting someone in, but once she does there's no turning back for her. She loves 50's do-wap (sp) and ballads. There's a kind of purity to those old love songs, like there had been a lot building up to the love but by the time you were finally hearing the end product in the form of the song, there was no turning back for the singer. Each one was desperately in love and there was nothing that could be done about it.

(I hope I didn't just give away the ending of Naked Souls)

But it's just kind of interesting the things that come to you when you orient your mind in this fashion.

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