Saturday, September 18, 2010

Story Songs

Sometimes I find pieces of my stories in songs.

I think it's an interesting relationship; music and storytelling. Music is a great source of inspiration - it speaks a language words are insufficient to match. It paints pictures, sets scene and tone, conveys emotion. Music is its own form of storytelling. So when an author is writing a book or short story, the music they listen to must have some effect on their work, right? It does for me.

I have a playlist on my iPod called "Story List." It's where I keep the songs that have a direct correlation to a writing project of mine, past or present. In each of these cases, it wasn't a matter of sitting down and saying, "Here's a song I like. I'm going to write a story to go with it." Instead, each time I may have had a germ of an idea, an idea in a different manifestation perhaps, or maybe just the notion that I needed to write something, and soon. Then I heard the song, and it was like a spark suddenly blossoming to full-fledged fire. Something in the song drew the story out of me.

Sometimes it's nearly the whole song that fits. Sometimes it's barely a line of it. But something in the song, the arrangement of notes, the tempo, and most especially the words, makes the connection.

I'm going to give a few examples to show what I mean, mostly of past projects (because I don't want to give away things I'm still working on!)


THE STORY: A short story I wrote back in high school about a man kept in solitary confinement by a mysterious enemy army. His mind creeps into the realm of insanity, but he is able to hold on long enough to reality that when the war is over and he's freed he's able to piece his identity back together.

THE SONGS: "Glycerine" by Bush. "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. "White Room" by Cream. "


"I'm never alone / I'm alone all the time."

"When logic and proportion have fallen softly dead / and the White Knight is talking backwards / and the Red Queen's off her head / remember what the Doormouse said / feed your head"

"I'll wait in this place where the sun never shines / wait in this place where the shadows run from themselves"


THE STORY: A reluctant young mother is having trouble dealing with the fact that she feels no nurturing, motherly instinct at all for her child. In fact, she's afraid of it - to the point that she still calls her "it," and has nightmares where her daughter turns into some weird monstrous thing that attacks her. Over the course of the short story she finally comes to form a bond with her daughter, in an unlikely way.

THE SONG: "Plenty of Paper" by Eisley


"Something's growing under that wing / I think a face is dawning" (Inspired me to write the opening nightmare in which the baby starts growing a second face in its armpit)


THE STORY: It's pretty long and complicated, somewhere between a short story and a novella, but the scene that started it all was the idea of what it would be like for a ghost to be restored once more to a physical body, to be resurrected into physical being and life.

THE SONG: "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap

Sample lyrics:

"Where are we? / What the hell is going on? / The dust has only just begun to form / crop circles in the carpet. / Sinking, feeling. / Spin me round again and rub my eyes / this isn't happening."
(It wasn't just the lyrics, but the ethereal, urgent, mournful, and almost accusatory tone of the song as well.)


THE STORY: A future world where trees are nearly extinct. People have to visit them in a tree sanctuary, which looks much like a zoo only for plants instead of animals. The story follows a terminally ill young boy who comes to see the trees, and one of the botanists who works there who has just discovered a secret that will change her life forever.

THE SONG: "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell


"They took all the trees and they put 'em in a tree museum / and they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them."

So, maybe these examples don't get the picture across, but when I hear these songs now, I don't just hear these songs. It's like the world of the story comes alive inside me as they play, from the first chord to the very last note.

Somebody else's story inspires me to tell my own. I love that.

1 comment:

...someplace like home... said...

i loved the one from college about the near extinct trees!