Do You Use Music to Help You Write?

Do You Use Music to Help You Write? explores whether or not music can help you with your writing.

I’ve been up since 4 AM. (I knew I had that last coffee too late in the day yesterday but can take no satisfaction in being right about that now!)

Fridays can be chaotically busy here at my desk, so much so that even with a full and restful night of sleep, getting through them with all my jobs completed some weeks can be challenging. But, somehow I’m managing to stay awake today though I suspect once I move away from my desk I may collapse into a sleeping heap on the floor!

My trick to consciousness under these circumstances is music—loud and upbeat. (If you’re interested, I’ve got Chicago cranked with all their hits from the 70’s and the 80’s. And, YES, I know I’m dating myself but there’s something rousing about the likes of Questions 67 & 68 and their other songs from that era that seems to be keeping me going.)

So, I know that music can keep me awake, and when I’m particularly stressed, I know that classical music can be somewhat calming. I also have a couple of CD’s here from the Through a Dog’s Ear series and have witnessed their calming effect on everyone here in my office including the dogs and the foster kittens down to the point of napping after a couple of bars. I don’t dare turn that on today!

Music For Writing

But, today, I’d like to explore whether music can help you with your writing.

Have you ever noticed that while we, as fiction writers, can sometimes struggle to accurately relay the thoughts and intense emotions in a scene involving our characters, with paragraphs and sometimes pages and pages of text, song writers seem to manage to nail the same sort of idea or theme in a three minute song? Of course, there’s no denying that the actual tunes, and the angst in the voices of the singers contribute to that raw emotion.
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Show, Don’t Tell: Paint a Picture with Your Words

Show, Don’t Tell: Paint a Picture with Your Words provides examples to explain the concept of show, don’t tell when writing.

You hear it all the time in fiction writing courses, and you can read about it in books on writing and on blog posts online. Show, don’t tell.

I can be kind of dense sometimes but I have to say that that often left me scratching my head. Huh? Show? Don’t tell? Whatcha talkin’ about?

But I get it now–I think!

Examples

I think a couple of examples are the best way to show you want I mean.

Example #1

Tell:
The boy walked slowly across the street to his house. He knew he was in trouble.

Show:
He was short for his age and looked even smaller in his older brother’s hand-me-down blue jeans rolled up at the legs so he wouldn’t trip. He shoved his hands into the tattered pockets and trudged across the narrow street. With hunched shoulders, he walked into the house and braced himself for the whipping his father would surely give him.

Example #2

Tell:
She was an old woman. She looked him in the eye and said thank you.

Show:
Her wrinkled skin had been damaged by the sun over her many years on this earth. She brushed a long strand of grey hair from her forehead and tried to adjust her stooped frame to look him in the eye. “Thank you,” she said, her voice barely audible.

Be Specific

Give details. Be specific. Paint a picture with your words. Avoid adverbs. (They usually end with “ly” if you’re confused about which ones are the adverbs!) Close in the gaps so that the reader knows exactly what you’re talking about and can picture it!

Do you see the difference? Do you have any other suggestions to help writers show and not tell? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Bloodline: Multi-dimensional Characters That Take the Prize

Bloodline: Multi-dimensional Characters That Take the Prize reviews why writing characters like those in the Netflix series Bloodline is important to good fiction.

Tonight my husband and I will watch the final episode of Netflix’s new series Bloodline. The 13 episode first season premiered on March 20th.

We aren’t usually ones to binge watch TV series. Well, I should clarify and explain that I would if my husband was more keen to do so. I’m not sure if that says more about my self-discipline (or lack thereof), or his, or the fact that, if I’m reading a good fiction book, I can’t put it down until I’ve finished it and that this trait has transitioned to my television watching habits. The availability of complete seasons or series, being streamed or on DVD, makes this a modern day option, doesn’t it?

Yesterday we watched an unheard of FOUR episodes. You’d have to know my husband to understand my disbelief. I don’t think he’s ever willingly subjected himself to four episodes of one series in one day. Granted, it was a Sunday and a bone chilling cold day at that, the type of day when you want to hibernate, sit on your bum and just veg, but mostly I think we watched so many episodes because this series is just so darned good.

What makes it good? The plot is good and offers lots of conflict and I don’t think it can be disputed that the very talented actors are well cast, but to me the realism of the characters themselves takes the prize.

There is nothing black and white about the characters in Bloodline. Though some of the characters are blacker or whiter than others, or perhaps better said darker or lighter shades of grey, I have felt varying degrees of sympathy, anger and understanding for the actions of each character. They’re all very human and like the rest of us, they’ve all made bad decisions that they’ve later come to regret. It’s probably safe to suggest that these bad decisions and the reactions of others to these decisions, drive the plot.

I’m not sure that I could break my observations and praise for the way the characters of this series have been written into a few bullet points, a how-to article on writing characters like in Bloodline, other than to stress the importance of creating multi-dimensional characters. If I could document step-by-step bullet points so that we could all crank out such excellent characters for our books that would be wonderful for all concerned – you, me, and all of our potential readers, but I think my best recommendation would be to watch this series and decide for yourself, if you agree with me, what pointers you can glean and transfer to your own writing projects.

In the meantime I’m counting the minutes until we watch the final episode tonight!

If you’ve seen the series and care to comment (no spoilers please), I’d be interested to know if you agree with me or not.

Photo credit: Pixabay