When I sit down to write, I normally play some of my favorite “writing music”. Examples? Any Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother being in the lead), some unplugged rock albums (Nirvana, Alice in chains), Neil Young’s Harvest and Harvest Moon and so on and so forth.
While sitting down to write the other day, I started thinking about writing – as in writing fiction – and music.
But let me take you on a brief bunny trail first, before I start making my point (this is not fiction after all).
When I first attempted playing guitar, I learned a few chords and sat with a couple of guys who already played. I listened and I remember the realization that the guitar does not actually mirror the tune the singer was singing, but rather accentuating it. Lennon and McCartney aren’t singing C, F, G or whatever the heck it is. These chords draw the broad strokes of the song. So maybe it isn’t as complicated as I thought? How about solos then? Some songs are identified with the guitar solos. But these don’t define them either. They are decorations. Some really fancy ones, but decorations all the same…
Back to our little discussion about writing fiction and music.
If I think about a novel as a song. An Epic if you’d like. A stairway to heaven. Sure, you can learn the main riff, and pull off a nice home-made rendering of this song. But you still did not create that masterpiece that withstands the tests of time.
When I plan a novel, I (so far subconsciously?) think about the end result and I want it to sound like a complete package. That means, putting the band back together.
Let’s see here.
Before we can even entertain writing a novel (especially a novel), we must hire the drummer. Without the cool guy in the back, you might as well write a comic strip. Why? Because your novel must have beats.
You absolutely must have a bass player. The drummer may be cool, but please… show me a rhythm section that produced anything really good without the bass player. Bonham/JP Jones, Chad Smith/Flea, Ulrich/Butron/Newstead/Trujillo? Need I say more? These guys help make the beats more… pungent?
Then come the Rhythm guitar. Because your story doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Or maybe it does… then leave this guy and get started. The point is, your story happens in a place and a time. It – if you will – sings to the tune of its background. It adheres to its rules. It makes sense.
With the above, you most certainly can start a novel. It may be a minimalistic one. But these may be the bare bones of the band we need for this task.
But if you want to write a bigger one. If you’re on a mission from God!
Then you must add the solo guitar guy. This guy will make your language dance, your imagery fly and your scenes come to life.
The Saxophonist is needed for love. You can have the cheesy tunes, or the classic. Down and dirty or implied. The Sax can paint it anyway you want.
How about a brass section? Want your climax and other turning points to reach that dramatic peak? You have the option to let ‘em rip.
That’s all I guess… You could take this imagery to the classical world and build an orchestra (and some already have). In art, there’s no limit. Only what works for you.
So pick up the phone (or your laptop), and put the band back together. I know I will.