Monday, May 21, 2012

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

     Music has the power to transform, to bring memories crashing over us like a wave, to elicit emotions we thought long buried. This evocative medium can play a huge role in the creative process. For some writers it’s just background noise to drown out the world around them. For others, songs with lyrics disrupt their flow of words to the page. But for me, music is an essential step in getting deep into my characters’ heads and bringing them to life.
     My symbiotic relationship with music started with a fascination for movie soundtracks. One of the first I remember was 1968’s OLIVER! (no, I wasn’t born then, darlings, I saw it during a rerelease in the 70’s J). After my grandma took me to see it, I begged until she bought me the two-disc album set. I spent hours upon hours listening to the soundtrack in my room, staring at the movie-stills on the cover, reliving everything the characters had gone through and imagining what might happen to them after the credits rolled.
     Over the years, a diverse array of soundtracks captured my interest, including, but not limited to: The Wizard of OzGrease, Urban Cowboy, Xanadu, Footloose, Purple Rain, Top Gun, Les Miserables (Listened to this one until the cassette tape warped!)
     Growing up, a soundtrack was always playing in my head; songs appropriate for whatever drama I was going through at the time. Maybe this is why I love shows like GLEE and SMASH. Because it doesn’t seem at all strange to me when people burst into spontaneous song in the bowling alley…since I often belted out ballads in my head as I traversed the halls of my high school. 

Is it any wonder that my first young adult novel, DOON (co-written by the fab Ms. Carey Corp) is a re-imagining of the classic musical, Brigadoon!?!
     So when it comes to writing fictional characters, music not only inspires me as a writer, but becomes part of who my character are. In DOON, Veronica Welling is a born optimist who’s been throat punched by disappointment her entire life. When she meets the boy of her dreams, it’s hard to let her guard down and believe in happily ever after. Two songs that personify this character for me are: The Only Exception by Paramore and Arms by Christina Perri. If I’ve been away from Veronica for a while, all I have to do is listen to these songs and I’m instantly in her head.

     For my hero, Jamie MacCrae, the tortured, outwardly stoic, crown prince of Doon, getting in his head is as simple as listening to – Falls on Me by Fuel or You and Me by Lifehouse.
     Likewise, I have songs that transport me into the relationship between two characters. For the angst-ridden romance between Prince Jamie and Veronica, the song that gets me there every time is the haunting ballad, Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars.
     I also have songs for specific scenes; action sequences, the black moment, the climax, etc. I end up with quite an extensive playlist by the time a novel is completed. Some may see this detailed attention to music as a distraction, but the muse inside my head demands it. J
     Who would’ve thought that little girl wistfully dreaming about Oliver and The Artful Dodger would now be creating soundtracks for her own characters. I *love* being a writer!
Your turn! What movie soundtracks had an impact on your life? For you writers out there, do you write to music? Create playlists for your characters? Or would that disrupt your creative flow?


Melissa Landers said...

I *love* that poster for Brigadoon! It's romantic and mystical and borderline hypnotic! Something like that would make a great cover for Doon. :-)

Sorry. Got a little off topic there. Great post, Lorie! While I don't share your passion for soundtracks, there are certain songs that "speak" to my for each of my characters.

Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks, Mel!
I love that Brigadoon poster too. :D You're right, it could make a great cover!

Unknown said...

I HAVE to listen to music before I write a scene. Be it the aching melody of Lightning Crashes for an emotionally moving scene or Enter Sandman for a dark and intense fight. That being said I turn OFF the music and work in silence when I actually write the scene

Lorie Langdon said...

Sounds like a good strategy, Anonymous Poster ;-). There are times, when even I have to turn off the music and write in silence. It's rare, but it does happen...

Tonya Kuper said...

Fab post!

Music plays a HUGE role in my writing process. I MUST listen to music WHILE I write. Like the writer above, I listen to specific songs or artists according to the the feelings I'm trying to convey or the environmental ambiance I'm creating. However, I can't listen to actual soundtrack despite my love for musicals and movies. I can pull a single from a soundtrack, but can't listen to the entire thing - I'm pulled back into that story too much, rather than weaving together my own. And, I most certainly make playlists for my characters/novels! :)

Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Tonya! I don't listen to entire soundtracks as I write either, I agree that it would pull me into the feeling and characters of that movie. My love of soundtracks was just a catalyst to the tie between music and my writing. It's such a great tool to be able to put on a specific song and feel that emotion! :D

Jen J. Danna said...

I'm totally with you on the soundtracks! I've always loved them and I think I always will. They're still a major part of my music budget (and that's not just because both brothers are film composers!). They can be so evocative and emotional; watch a film draft without the music and you'll realize how much impact the music has.

I love that your passion for soundtracks lead you to DOON. Thanks for sharing a really lovely story!

Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jen! One of my fav things to listen to while writing a dramatic scene is a station I created on Pandora that plays all movie music from Braveheart, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings etc.

How fascinating that your brothers are both film composers! What a creative family. =D

Kimberly said...

Do you know how much I loved this post? A lot! I've loved the soundtracks of everything from movies to Broadway shows for as far back as I can remember. I remember sitting with my grandmother in our den listening to Evita over and over again. And Fiddler on the Roof. Every time I went to a show, I had to buy the music! I've listened to Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon so many times. When I do, I feel like if I close my eyes, I'm right there again. :-)
And don't even get me started on Grease! Oh, Grease! How I loved you...:-) It was non-stop all the time. That and Saturday Night Fever...
Thanks so much for such a great post! And I loved that you had songs and music for your characters. I watched the video of the link, and they were so emotional...I get the idea of that being in Doon. And I've always, ALWAYS adored Brigadoon. Can't wait for Doon to get published! Fingers crossed for you and Carey. It deserves to hit the shelves. :-)

Loree Huebner said...

Love the Brigadoon poster! Love Oliver too! "(STRAWBERRIES) Who will buy my sweet red roses?"

I love soundtracks - everything from sing-a-long oldies like Oklahoma to Sound of Music to My Fair Lady to instrumentals like Little Women and Out of Africa, and everything in between. I write to many instrumental 'em.

Fun post!

Lorie Langdon said...

Aww, Kim, thank you so much! I just want to give you a big hug right now! I feel like we could be kindred spirits! ;)
I loved Saturday Night Fever and Phantom too!
I can't wait for you to read Doon ...please send love and prayers our way that we can move onto the next step with it *soon*.
Now I can't wait to hear what you have to say on this music topic. :D

Lorie Langdon said...

Hi Loree!
I listen to the Oliver! soundtrack to this day! "I'd Do Anything", "Who Will Buy", "Consider Yourself"...It's still one of my favorites of all time. :)
I love listening to instrumentals when I'm writing action - the drama of it really inspires me to write escalating tension.
Thank you so much for stopping by today! :D

CareyCorp said...

Great post Lorie.

Movie Soundtracks still have an impact on my life.

Confession time - I often listen to the RENT movie soundtrack at work...and I cry. Yes, that's me weeping in the corner, mumble-humming "Goodbye love." and "I'll Cover You."

Marisa said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing. :D Movie soundtracks are pretty awesome.

Lorie Langdon said...

Carey - Nice visual! Now when I call you at work and you're crying, I'll know why. ;o)

Hi Marisa - Thanks so much for stopping by!

Cecily White said...

It's SO TRUE that music inspires writing! I make my own soundtrack for every book/scene/character I write. (Of course, it can consist of everything from techno to the BeeGee's, and usually involves chair-dancing)
Great Post, Lorie!


Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks Cecily! I've been known to do some chair-dancing in my day, as well. ;o)