It’s time for Morgan’s monthly goodie for all of us. I always look forward to reading whatever Morgan decides to write on, and I start counting down the days when it starts getting close to the end of the month. When I finally see an email from him announcing the arrival of his post to me I dive right in. You too huh?!?
Let’s go check it out…
Listen to your books.
This statement could be taken figuratively or literally, and I intend for you to consider both. Actually there is a third, abstract interpretation I also wish to encourage but we’ll get to that last.
Reading is an exercise of the mind first and the eyes second. This is great for a guy like me who can’t see how many pins he knocks down when he bowls. However, since my poor eyesight gave me access to the my state’s Library for the Blind, I took advantage of it and listened to hundreds of books throughout middle school and high school. I read all the classics, (at high-speed to condense the process) and got a fair education in Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, and Stephen King.
Listening to books is quite popular amongst those who spend a lot of time driving and, of course, I couldn’t do that so I did whatever homework I could and cleaned my room. But I always applauded those who chose to listen to books while they drove. It seems like a great way to spend time in transportation.
If you have never listened to a story in your life, I recommend it as a relaxing technique at very least, and a breakthrough in letting your eyes close and your brain paint the picture for you. Movies, TV, they all interpret the visual for us, but books let us do the work, that is, if we weren’t busy reading them. Listen to them and dream your fiction like the truck drivers and the blind dudes do. Reading is an exercise of the mind first and the eyes second.
That was, of course, the literal interpretation of listening to your books. But what about stories that mention music? Or outright quote songs? Or have their own original soundtracks for that matter? Did you know that many commercial books on tape have music beds and even sound effects? It’s very cool when done well.
Just as music enhances movies, I think that stories that have their own gift for the ears make good use of a sense that is most used in life but least used in fiction. (Forgive me if I’ve made that particular point before but it bears repeating).
For those that would argue that only a blind guy would say that we use our ears most, may I submit the emergency broadcast system: What do they get our attention with? A pretty red balloon? The smell of fresh-baked cinnamon buns? Nope, they use a long, loud tone.
Our ears never turn off, not even when we sleep. They, not the eyes, are what the brain believes first and reacts to the strongest. Just imagine hearing one of your favorite books and knowing that you are giving your brain a new perspective on the story.
It’s something akin to listening to Shakespeare in its original Klingon.
Okay, I know we’ve moved on to the figurative portion of the essay but its easy for me to mesh the two together. I know that for me, music inside a story is like the chain that pulls the roller-coaster up the first hill; it helps build tension like crazy and it sets a pace for the whole story to unfold.
I have also found that music makes a connection between fictional characters and readers that can make them feel like they could be friends in real life. As a writer, it’s satisfying to write a character that people care about and fret about and scold me for. Music is one of the quickest ways to relate and I still believe that it is underused.
As to listening to your books in a third, more abstract sense, I speak now to any writers out there. I swear to you that I NEVER thought that I could write to music until I tried it. It not only seemed to relax me, but it helped me see just how much I had gotten done in a specific amount of time.
It was cool to get to the end of a Yes album and realize that I had been writing for 45 minutes straight. I enjoy progressive rock a lot when I write, Pink Floyd, later Beatles, Yes and the like but I’ve had wild success with punk bands like Subhumans and Misfits. Lately, I am mystified with the new Smashing Pumpkins album, “Oceania.” It’s already an important contribution to music as we know it and the first instant classic I have heard in the year 2012.
I’m not even really a Smashing Pumpkins fan, in fact, this is the first record of theirs I’d purchased since 1995′s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Saddens. I wonder if backtracking their discography would supply me with six more sublime recordings.
Back to the idea of listening to music while you write. I would like to hear about any of your experiments with it and I completely realize that for some people, it is impossible to even consider anything short of sensory deprivation.
If you do listen to music, what to you listen to? Do you use headphones, or use the speakers in your iPad? Do you listen to the TV in the other room or do you plop on some classic 80′s vinyl? (My new obsession).
Let me know and I will gladly continue the conversation today.
To end, I’d like to list, (and thank) all the bands that inspired me to write well over 500,000 words of fiction in the last year or so:
(I will omit bands I have mentioned previously).
R.E.M.(Life’s Rich Pageant) , Nine Inch Nails, Information Society, A-ha, Guns-n-Roses, Owl City, Bad Religion, INXS (Kick), Steve Miller Band, Mae (The Everglow), Ben Vaughn (65 Rambler), Iron & Wine (Kiss Each Other Clean), The September When, They Might Be Giants, George Michael (Listen Without Prejudice), Tool, My Chemical Romance, The Dead Milkmen, Silverchair (Frogstomp), Temple of the Dog, Underworld, Pearl Jam (vs.), Dream Theatre, Green Day, Harry Mancini, Violent Femmes, Linkin Park (A Thousand Suns), and, of course, The Muppet Movie Soundtrack.
Thank you for reading, and should you be interested in hearing my own musical contributions, I encourage you to merely search my name in iTunes or your favorite digital music outlet and preview a whole mess of songs that went live just this month. Tailorbird, was written as a gift to help promote Gabriel’s Rapture, and the music video can be found right here on this wonderful website, or by searching for it on YouTube. (You will see Julianne looking at a certain well-known painting).
The Bella Parole album is the soundtrack to my pair of French/American stories with Italian titles.
To everyone around the world, I offer you my sincere wish for a profound, if not productive, if not pampered summer. Myself, I’m shooting for all three.