Sunday, October 18, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: With Rings on our Fingers by E. P. Issacs

With Rings On Our Fingers – And Bells In The Background

Music. Music is powerful. It is raw. It is soft. Sweet. Bitter. Filled with rage and hate. I can’t speak for others, but when I write, I write in terms of ‘scenes.’ My stories thus far have been in my head for quite some time, and they play like the scenes of an old movie. Sometimes, putting those scenes down on paper are ‘eeysie-peasie’ – like when the hero of my first book is being trained in the army. Easy is a blessing.

Other scenes aren’t so easy to write. Sometimes I’ve found that even after I’ve worked and reworked a ‘scene’ on paper, it’s still not right. The emotions of the characters and the realness of what I see in my head isn’t there. My writing just can’t do the story justice. And, unlike Ms. Bachar, I fear I only have one story to write. If you only have a single story, that’s all the more reason to get it right.

When I feel the story locking up inside of me, I’ve found music can help to get the keys moving the way I want them to again. A number of studies have been done on the connection between language acquisition and music training. I think, however, that music can help us put words to paper long after we’ve suffered through our first spoken words, hundreds of school grammar classes, and countless mindless college essays.

In an article from Psychology Today entitled “How Music Feeds And Steers Your Imagination”, writer Amy Fries recounts the experiences of Melissa Borghorst and how listening to one Taylor Swift song greased the wheels for her to write two songs of her own and a children’s book. All from one song.

I’m not alone.

Not only that, but music might hone focus as well. Dr. Joseph Cardillo, also in Psychology Today recounts how creating a music game – one in which he and his children would guess the names to unfamiliar tunes – made long drives fun and improved his children’s attentions. The article in which he writes of this is entitled “Music On Your Child’s Mind: Improving Focus Through Song.

Great. Let’s take this a step further, shall we?

If music greases creativity and can help us focus, is it hard to see how it can help us write? How many of us have songs that instantly conjure memories and emotions within us the moment we hear it? How many of us relax effortlessly when under the spell of a particular classical piece? How many of our characters are – at their core – echoes of ourselves or memories of the people we’ve known?

If we can’t get the scene, the mood, or the characters right in what we write – maybe, what we are missing is the right music in the background to trigger the emotions, memories, and people we wish to capture in the works we compose.

Are there any particular songs that get you in the mood to write?

As I mentioned, I tend to ‘see’ what I am writing ready-formed in my head. Each character has at least one song tied to them, and if needed, I listen to that song to help me focus as I write a scene where a particular character is being featured. Sometimes the music is so closely tied to a scene that when I think of a scene, I hear the song tied to it in my head without having to listen to it on the radio.

My current book series “Tales of the Robot Nika” is loosely based on the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Several scenes in the first book are tied to songs by themselves. For example, when Nika and Postage are tromping along the rails looking for Fort Kansas, I hear Alela Diane’s “Dry Grass And Shadows.” When I am writing scenes in which the main villain of the series appears – a character who will play through the series from beginning to end - I like to listen to Florence + The Machine’s “Seven Devils.” Music helps me focus, it fuels my characters, and it drives the scenes in my head that a little clockwork doll begs me to put to paper. Most of the music that fuels my writing is bluegrass or folk, but certainly not all. After all, a bluegrass version of “Seven Devils” would be a true reason to shudder.

Every writer has a muse. I’m glad mine is one as benign as music. What music inspires your muse?

About the Author

E.P. Isaacs was literary editor to the now-defunct Steampunk Tintype and Telegraph and a frequent contributor to the biweekly online writer’s group Tall Tales and Outright Lies. Her first book, Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep, was published in August 2015, and she is busily researching and plotting her second book, which she hopes will be in print in early 2016. When she is not writing (and even when she is), she is fond of listening to bluegrass music and drinking bourbon. Read more about her books at her website:

Book Info

Nika Thought-werk may not be made from ordinary flesh and bone, but this doesn't make her any less loved by her friends—or any less needed by those who find themselves in trouble. Although she is made of porcelain, glass, and wax—a doll brought to existence through the astonishing work of a doctor in 1894 Ireland—Nika refuses to live a life that is anything short of extraordinary.

As she makes her way through tornadoes, a lake filled with stew, giant bubblegum bubbles, and a sheep-napping, Nika must find the strength to go on—even when faced with the gravest of dangers.

Along the way, she meets friends of every size and shape—all of whom help Nika learn to see herself for who she truly is.

Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-toothed Sheep? is available at Amazon.

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