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Our October Author Interviews--10/4 Wendy Tyson, 10/11 Marilyn Levinson, 10/18 Earl Javorski, 10/25 Linda Lovely. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing And Music


Writing And Music

I am not like some writers, including Steven King, who can write with music playing softly in the background or even blasting away. However, I think there are a number of similarities between fiction writers and songwriters. In some ways writing fiction and writing music are quite similar tasks.  Writing mysteries is like writing jazz  — there are general expectations but a there is also great deal of freedom within the general parameters.

The author and the songwriter both have only a brief time to grab the audience’s attention. Songs like Don’t Get Around Much Anymore start with a quick burst of sound. The up tempo bouncy tune might lead the audience to expect a happy song.  The lyrics, however, express heartbreak, and the contrast is striking. Both a hook early in the work and a touch of surprise  are elements in the popularity of songs and mysteries.

Pacing is another similarity in creating songs or mysteries.  Stardust, was moderately successful in its original jazzy tempo and presentation.  With lyrics and a slower, more somber tempo, Stardust became very popular and now is regarded as a classic. It’s doubtful that a novel today could successfully contain whole paragraphs devoted to describing the protagonist’s appearance like Dashiell Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon did.

Songs can be witty, ironic or playful like those written by Cole Porter.  They can comment on social issue like, Strange Fruit, a poem by Langston Hughes, memorably turned into lyrics and sung by Billie Holiday.  Well-written stories have tone and voice.  They can comment on social mores as Charles Dickens did in his best-known books.

As a storyteller, I enjoy songs that follow the story arc, i.e., they have a beginning, a middle and an end including many folk and popular tunes including Black Velvet Band, John Henry and Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me.  

What books remind you of songs?  What songs remind you of music?  

12 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I was a Harry Chapin fan. His songs were stories.

I can and do write to nonverbal music. If I hear lyrics, I start singing along, which severely inhibits my writing or editing.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

I was a Harry Chapin fan too.

LD Masterson said...

I was a big fan of folk music in the 60's, especially Peter, Paul, and Mary. Most of their songs told a story.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, I love the music you're describing. I was a Harry Chapin fan, too, and still love folk music because of the stories told. I don't know if you know John McCutcheon, or not, but his songs always tell a story. I go to a lot of folk music concerts. We're lucky here in NE Ohio to have a strong following of folk music and a local radio station that features folk music every weekend evening. I don't usually write to music, but I can. I do listen to music in the evenings when I'm reading - usually classical or folk music. It's background for me, but when something particularly grabs me, I stop reading and listen. If it's classical, I may just conduct the music with my hands as the orchestra plays.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Folk music commonly tells a good story--going back to Scottish border ballads like "Barbara Allen" that also have an American version. A lot of current pop singers are writing autobiographical music these days as well. Country music is full of interesting stories. Anyone of them could inspire a novel.

Linda Rodriguez said...

I'm with you, Warren. I love music, but can't write to music that has lyrics in any language I understand. (If it's a language I don't know, it might as well be instrumental, as far as being able to write to it goes.)

Many, many years ago (when I was a mere babe), I was a blues/jazz singer professionally (had trained for opera). Still love opera, blues, and jazz--and 60s /70s rock. The singing experience and training came in handy when learning to give public readings, though.

I've been listening to and reading about writers who set up soundtracks for their WIP and always play them to get in the right imaginative place for that book. Am considering trying this. What do you all think on that topic?

E. B. Davis said...

I've always wondered about the differences in song writing and story writing. Often the composer and the lyricist are different. It's almost as if the composer writes the setting and tone, the lyricist writes the POV and plot.

I'm a rock fan, but my daughter loves country, and I have to admit that country songs tell stories, more so than rock. They're fun.

Warren Bull said...

Ld, I saw PP&M in concert once. They were great.

Steve Liskow said...

Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Paul Simon are all marvelous story-tellers. But let's not forget Ira Gershwin's or Cole Porter's brilliant lyrics from generations ago. I'm like Jim in that I can write to instumental music, but lyrics interfere with the voices in my head. If I'm really stuck, I'll try to play music that matches the mood of the scene I think I'm trying to write.

Kara Cerise said...

I recently started listening to country music and many songs tell a good story. One of my favorites is Blown Away by Carrie Underwood.

I have often wondered if lyrics in older songs were written as poems then set to music.

Anita Page said...

Warren, I was interested in your analysis of the connections between writing songs and writing stories. I also like songs that tell a story, which is one reason I love bluegrass and blues.

Susan Fleet said...

Hi Warren, enjoyed your post (via crime scene writer link). I don't write songs, but I was a professional musician in the Boston area for many years. Now I kill people. Fictionally, of course. Am working on my 4th Frank Renzi mystery series. You can check out the series, (and my solo tpt CD) at
http://susanfleet.com/