Welcome to another edition of “Typist Thursday”! I need a better title, I know, but for some reason, I’m having a hell of a time updating on Wednesdays. To be honest, I’m having a hell of a time staying on schedule for nearly everything in my life, whether it be working, writing, reading, or exercising. I’m not sure if it’s a bout of depression I have to work through, just being tired, or something else. Maybe it’s just this time of the year? Whatever the reason, one surefire method to help me out of any funk is listening to music.
I listen to music when I do anything and everything: drive, cook, sleep, exercise, and even read. I N E E D music – it is my outlet, my muse, my salvation. I only wish I were musically inclined. I can’t sing a note, I can’t play a note, and I have no real ear for it. But oh, how I love it. I know I’m not the only one who loves music, and I know I’m not the only one who uses it for inspiration.
I H A V E T O listen to music when I write. I just have to. When I was writing Her Beautiful Monster, my first novel, I used specific song lyrics for inspiration which were then featured at the start of every chapter (that list is featured below). And as I move onto other projects, I keep the same system – certain lyrics really inspire a scene or a character or even a type of mood. Here’s what I’m currently listening to as I work on a new manuscript:
- “Iceman” by Bruce Springsteen
“my baby was a lover and the world just blew her away//once they tried to steal my heart, beat it right outta my head//but baby they didn’t know that i was born dead.”
The new manuscript I’m working on (or at least one of them) is greatly inspired by my love for the one, the only, the true hero of the great Garden State, Bruce Springsteen. I’ve been listening to The Boss for almost as long as I’ve been writing, and his voice has been irrevocably and inextricably linked with my own. To pay him homage, I’ve made my protagonist an aging rockstar endeavoring to return his career to its former glory by embarking on a tour comprised of intimate shows in small venues of the beaten path, a sort of grass roots movement to reconnect with his people.
- “Get Hurt” by Gaslight Anthem
“and I came to get hurt//might as well do your worst to me, hey hey//have you come here to get hurt?//have you come to take away from me, from me, from me?//might as well do your worst to me.”
While trying to reconnect with his fans, he gets more than he bargained for when he meets a starry-eyed young woman who asks for his autograph. She’s the only one to do so at the venue, so they talk more than they should about more than they should. And that gets the protagonist into some trouble as he’s married and significantly older.
- “High Dive” by Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
“you dance with your headphones on//and i could watch you all night long//dancing to someone else’s song.”
The age difference between the aging rock star and his young fan becomes too much for the relationship, and the young fan decides to try a romantic relationship with a young man closer to her own age. This drives the protagonist insane with jealousy. And, just to make things even more interesting, the young man is hiding a dangerous secret that could endanger the lives of everyone involved in the sordid love affair.
- “The Thing About Things” by Amanda Palmer
“the thing about things is that they can start meaning things//nobody actually said//and if he couldn’t make something mean something for me//i had to make up what it meant.”
I’m not entirely sure how this particular set of lyrics inspired me, but OHMAN they resonate with me. I had a failed relationship that I’m still sore from, and I have mementos stashed in the back of a tiny drawer in my writing desk (a deck of playing cards, a hotel room key, a pair of socks) that remind me of when I was happiest, of the possibility of love and romance. I imagine the young fan would hang on to mementos of her fling with the aging rockstar in a similar fashion, which is why despite her new relationship, she can’t quite let go, and that adds to the conflict and the complexity of the narrative.
- “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be” by The Black Keys
“she’s got the kind of love i need//the kind that’s never good on me//it doesn’t mean a thing to me//it doesn’t mean a thing to me//and it’s about time you see//things ain’t like they used to be.”
This song reinforces the same ideas as the previous song, but does so from my protagonist’s point of view. I want his relationship with his fan to be somewhat toxic, and even though those involved recognize the relationship as such, they cannot leave the other alone. Personally, I believe we all fall victim to a relationship like that at one point or another- we know the person’s bad for us, but we can’t stay away and even though we’re not necessarily good for the other person either, that person can’t let go.
- “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors
“if you love me, don’t let go//if you love me, don’t let go//hold//hold on//hold onto me//’cause i’m a little unsteady//a little unsteady.”
SPOILER ALERT: There is a death of a major character at the resolution of the story. To get into a somber, pleading mood, I’ll listen to this song. There’s an optimism to the lyrics that is tinged by a desperation that comes from the melody, and that contradiction is powerful. After all, power lies in contradictions for all characters and storylines.
- “Atlantic City (Cover)” by Ed Sheeran
“everything dies, baby, that’s a fact//but maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”
Another epic by Springsteen that expands upon the idea of love never really dying, just ebbing and flowing because of outsider influences and/or extenuating circumstances.
- “Kansas City” by The New Basement Tapes
“and i love you, dear//but just how long//can i keep singing the same old song?”
Those caught up in the love affair that drives the plot of this story are going to try and fit themselves back into familiar roles, even though that’s no longer possible because of the discoveries made and the decisions made because of those discoveries.
- “Monster” by Mumford and Sons
“so fuck your dreams//and don’t you pick at our seams//i’ll turn into a monster for you//if you pay me enough.”
The aging rockstar’s wife discovers the affair and the decisions she makes based on that information seal the fate of all those involved.
And as promised:
Her Beautiful Monster playlist:
- “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” by Neil Young
- “The Tide” by The Spill Canvas
- “A Perfect Sonnet” by Bright Eyes
- “Modern Love” by David Bowie
- “More Adventurous” by Rilo Kiley
- “Leeds United” by Amanda Palmer
- “Portions for Foxes” by Rilo Kiley
- “Monster” by Lady Gaga
- “The Rat Within the Grain” by Damien Rice
- “Ampersand” by Amanda Palmer
- “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra
So what do you listen to when you want to be creative? Or when you want to feel brilliant, beautiful, and brave? Share your playlists in the comments!