Sunday, 10 May 2009

Pet Sounds

I need a soundtrack. I always have a soundtrack. I’ve got half a soundtrack, but it isn’t quite there yet. I need the song that will play over the movie trailer (in my dreams, that is). Past trailer-songs have included ‘Who Knew’ by Pink, ‘Run’ by Snow Patrol (everybody’s done that one! Sheesh!), and that theme tune from Gladiator (oh hang on, House of Flying Daggers used that one as well. As did, come to think of it, Gladiator). Oh yes, and for Crossing the Line there was something by Morcheeba. That worked well.

So my latest excuse for the dragging pace of my work in progress is ‘It doesn’t have a song’. Apparently George Lucas and Steven Spielberg always built a sandcastle for each one of their movies. They blamed the failure of ‘1941’ on the fact that they forgot to build a sandcastle for it (rather than, say, on the fact it wasn’t a very good movie, but I digress). I don’t need a sandcastle; I need a theme tune.

As I say, I have half a soundtrack. My protagonist is called Ruby, so that’s easy, then. Lots of people have been kind enough to write songs about Ruby. But none of those is the theme song. I realised out of the blue a few weeks ago that another character’s favourite song was ’24 Hours From Tulsa’ by Gene Pitney – a surprise to say the least, because this is a song that has never registered on my radar before. (But I do love it when that happens.)

Lots of writers have soundtracks. Maybe they all do. Are they all as embarrassing as mine? Oh, I have some cheesy songs on book soundtracks. One includes both Peter Cetera singing ‘The Glory of Love’ and that Phil Collins song from the Disney Tarzan movie, ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’. Really. I have very uncool taste, but what the characters demand the characters have to get. James Blunt! Take That! Celine Dion, for crying out loud! And when I listen to the chords swell, and picture hero/heroine running in slow motion through some urban landscape with beautiful cinematography, I get a wee tear in my eye. Sad.

I was reminded of all of this because last night I was watching Bill Bailey’s Amazing Guide to the Orchestra, which was – well – amazing. He was playing the Doctor Who theme in the style of Jacques Brel. And I thought: now that’s cool. I could listen to that indefinitely, I could. Now I just need to persuade my characters that that’s their song. I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

11 comments:

Penny said...

Really interesting post, Gillian, and I am in awe of people who have soundtracks to their writing or to a specific book. I'm one of those writers (surely there must be more then me?) who don't have a sound track to any book, other than sound effects. Writing comes to me visually. For me, if there's any music, it messes up the rhythm of the words for me, tries to control the emotions and the pace, and furthermore I can't hear what my characters are saying. I do like music, and it annoys me that I can't manage the two together. Now, if I was an illustrator . . .

Brian Keaney said...

I don't have a theme tune and I can't write at all if there is music playing because I just concentrate on the music. Nor does writing come to me visually. I hear the words narrated in my head, as I am writing. I can't imagine doing it any other way.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Glad you posted early Gillian... my entire family is out golfing and I'm beginning to feel what a sad life I lead if I'm in front of my laptop on a Sunday afternoon writing!!!

Great post.Yes, wasn't Bill Bailey tremendous. I seem to write all my books to The Mission soundtrack - Gabriel's Oboe etc. But if you look at some of the other titles on the CD... Remorse, Penance, Refusal, Alone... I begin to wonder about myself! Maybe there's a reason why I'm closeted away!

fionadunbar said...

So that's why you were singing that annoying Kaiser Chiefs song! But Kenny Rogers "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" is sooo wonderful and evocative...yes, and I'm not too cool to say that, either! But that song is like a novel in itself, so doesn't slot in easily with other themes.

As well as casting actors for my characters, I too have tunes in my head that go with my stories, but there's no one song, more a series of them...can give you playlist for Toonhead, after you've read it!

Linda Strachan said...

I don't have a soundtrack either but I do see scenes visually as I write, at least most of the time.

I have tried, once or twice, to listen to music but that was more to create a specific atmosphere, spooky or crashing waves type of music, but I can't write while listening to anything with words (or that I know the words to) otherwise the words to the music are in my head and I find it very distracting.

Gillian Philip said...

Really interesting to find how everybody else does it! I don't have the music playing as I write - yep, that would be distracting, and you're right Penny, it would interfere with the rhythm of the words. It really is more like a trailer that I play over and over in my head when I'm thinking about the book (and ignoring my poor kids) - little scenes cut together (I'm a frustrated movie director). I do play music while I'm editing, if it's quite straightforward editing. And if I'm out for a walk because I'm putting off writing, I'll play the playlist on my iPod and hope I get some inspiration.
Fiona, I would LOVE to know the playlist for Toonhead when I've read it! I was hoping it would come today but nae luck...

Nick Green said...

Yes, Gillian, I'm exactly that way too! I look for soundtrack fodder all the time - on many occasions, a song has even shown me the way in the plot. Perhaps I'll think: with a song like this, something tragic has to happen... what??

I even went to the extent of getting a guitarist friend of mine to compose music for my Cat Kin website. The result, with crashing chords, miaowing guitars and hissing hi-hats, definitely powered the writing of the second Cat Kin book, kicked it up the tail and made it more exciting.

Katherine Langrish said...

I have to have silence when I write. Well. Maybe birdsong.

fionadunbar said...

My tunes are ONLY in my head; like you, Kath, I must have silence.

Gillian Philip said...

Nick, you have a personally composed soundtrack? I am SOOOO jealous!!
Yes, I get hints from songs too - even when I don't know what they are. I have practically had shop assistants by the lapels, going, 'WHAT was that SONG? WHAT!'

Nicola Morgan said...

I listen to loud music while writing fiction but need total silence for non-fiction. And the music has to be just right - when I get the right album I will play it over and over and OVER. So, The Passionflower Massacre was written almost entirely to REM's Around the Sun. Deathwatch was written to the Kaiser Chiefs (including quite a lot of Ruby ...). And what I'm writing now is mostly Cold Play's Vida le Vida.

We're a weird lot, aren't we?