writer in progress: what my characters sing in the shower

So, this much you already know: The major theme of my last five years has been: How do you write a novel?

And part of that is coming up with dozens of ways to answer this question: How do I cross the gap between my life, my thoughts, my voice ... and get over to where and who and when my characters are?

How do I get rid of Jenn and jump into them?

I'm finally getting a few clues, a few tricks. There is, finally, something up my sleeve.

I work up some kind of mental shorthand: for a character, a moment, a theme.

So, for last fall's project: If I could conjure up the smell of rain hitting stone, if I could think about the sound of rain and a certain color of grey... then I was ready. I could keep writing.

Something about the feel and sound of the rain got me right back into the world of that book, the sense of who those characters were.

Wow. ... That looks so funny typed out, and yet it was such a huge part of my process!

And then, last summer, I realized that one song could be a thumbnail sketch for a whole character's story--her worldview, captured in three minutes of lyrics. The song held a place in my mind, got me right back into that character's point of view, reminded me of what she was up against.

It was invaluable. I could slough off everything that had been on my mind, whatever dramas, whatever busyness, whatever familiar chaos I had in my pockets, and presto: I was set. I was writing. The characters came out when they heard the music, and they had so much to say.

So now I have whole playlists for my novels-in-progress, dozens of songs that sum up the main character, the love interest, the villain, the funky little side character that (hopefully) makes us all laugh... it's all done in songs.

If I listen to it straight through, I'm itching to get back to work. It's like my novel's musical. (Just without the brilliant dancing.)

I've been wondering all week why this song has been in my mind so much:

And this afternoon, I realized it. It is the perfect song for one of the characters in this current project. I mean it. The perfect song.

For anyone else, it's just a fun little love song. But for her, it represents everything that she's gone through, how she's changed by the end of the book. Oh, this character. She's learned so much, she's a different girl... and this is exactly what she'd say.

Yep. This is Jane's song. Jane's song in the last chapter. There we go.

(Jane would like me to mention: the lyrics sound like her. Ingrid's whole space-travel-plant-thing? The hair? The mascara action? Not so much her. The gloves--well, okay. She'd like the gloves. And the words: yes. Crazy eyelashes: no. Not this book at least. Check back for the sequel.)

1 comment:

  1. Triggers for getting into the mood. Interesting. I like the dependability of it.