So, I’m 76,000 words into my second novel and, once again, music has wormed its merry way back into my characters’ lives. But how can it not? It has certainly provided the backdrop to many a scene in ‘Oh What A Pavlova!’, which releases in (eek) September/October – in fact editing has now officially begun… And although I didn’t start writing my second book with any preconceived lyrical ideas in mind, what do you know, they spilled themselves out on paper anyway!
And I think that’s a really good thing. When we’re writing about a time or a place, it’s hard not to travel to that era or setting courtesy of a song or an artist. Right now in the novel I have *almost* finished (edits aside…), two sisters find themselves in a decades long riff because of a certain musical icon. You’ll just have to read the book later to find out who and why!
But this has opened up into a little subplot all of its own, quite unexpectedly, I could never have predicted it. That’s what I love about the way music invokes creativity. It’s fresh and it’s exciting! I’m always in awe of how a quick rummage through my CD collection can take me on a journey, bringing life to the outline of a novel which previously only sat in my head, making the characters more rounded and believable, usually more silly and spontaneous too.
Of course, flitting back again to my first novel, ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’, when you are basing part of a story in Somerset – or Glastonbury to be precise, you could hardly pass up the opportunity for a chapter featuring the Glastonbury Festival. And so there are always the obvious ways that we can spice up the characters’ surroundings and emotions, decisions and fate. But it’s perhaps the words of a song which add even more to this; the lines of a powerful song that swirl round and round in somebody’s head as they are subject to yet another unexpected lunge from their partner in the kitchen… all because they cooked the dinner late/dared to put a piece of lettuce on the plate; the lilting melodies that paint a picture of their momentary freedom when they are driving solo in their car; temptation and lust as a certain tune belts out on the dance floor. And then there are the artists, solo and in groups, who whisper straight to your characters’ souls, hinting at what their next direction in life should be.
All of this can add an extra dimension to any story – long or short, making it easier for the reader to engage, literally taking them from their armchair/bed/train seat to the scene of the crime/passion/bid for independence.
All too often we are warned as writers not to date our work, to omit the contemporary sign posts, make the story something almost neutral, so we could pick it up in a decade’s time and not feel it had had its day. But I disagree. More than anything, when we liberally scatter, when we bread crumb (in the case of ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’ that would be the music of the ‘noughties’), we are also creating social history in literary form, documenting the highs and the lows of that period in time.
And in an industry that is swamped with celebrity writers, dictated by social media following, as well as a set of unspoken publishing rules that must be adhered to until the end of time in order for a manuscript to even be read, these rebellious little nods at diversity are priceless, helping writers to find their unique voice in a very crowded field!
Which is now making me think of Glasto all over again… and how much I would LOVE to be there this year…