Looking For Inspiration For Your Novel? Make a Mix Tape For Your Characters

I’ve been feeling stuck in the revisions of my novel. The second half of the book feels shallow, partly because I’ve been too scared to go all the way to my core to bring out the story that’s buried there.  It’s like a fossil that’s only partially revealed.

Image Credit

If I slow down, maybe I can get the whole thing out.Image Credit

There’s one scene that has me particularly stuck.  I tried coming at it from several angles: her point of view, his point of view, with a kiss, without a kiss.  Each version felt mostly true but something was missing. Soul. Passion. Depth. Gravitas. Mess.  I’ve been trying to keep the mess off the page, even though real life is messy and love certainly is one of the messiest ventures I’ve ever undertaken.

I decided to put aside the question of whether I have the chops to pull this off– that whole line of inquiry has been tabled.  Maybe (hopefully?) forever.

But the question that has consumed me was what did I need to go deeper?

Alas, there were two things that brought me closer to the bone. One of them involves a therapy session which will be the subject of another post when I have the guts to tell you about.  In the meantime, let’s talk about the other road to depth.

I made a mix tape.  For my characters. It’s the soundtrack of my book. I tried to find help in those plot books, but they scared me so badly I never cracked them open. Ever.

But music?  Music hits me on a cellular level– hell, way down into my double helix.  Maybe I just needed another art form to help me access something for my book. Nothing whips me to butter like a great song.

Now when I write, I play the songs that evokes the emotion for that moment. Over and over.

Since it’s a love story, it’s not hard to find songs for the trajectory of the story.  Extra bonus: if it ever becomes a major motion picture, I’ve got the soundtrack already worked out.

Here’s the playlist–

Dogs in the Yard, Fame Soundtrack

Something in the Way She Moves, James Taylor

Then Came Lo Mein, Robert Earl Keen & Margo Timmins

You’re Still Standing There, Lucinda Williams & Steve Earle

Bullet & A Target, Citizen Cope

Missing you, Chicago

Anything Could Happen, Elllie Goulding

Sleeping To Dream, Jason Mraz

Bleed to Love Her, Fleetwood Mac

Both Hands, Ani DiFranco

Selfless, Cold, & Composed, Ben Folds Five

Til It Shines, Keb Mo & Lyle Lovett

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack

Now, I crank up the tunes, get into my guts and out of my chattery, obstructionist brain, and I let it rip.

Something tells me that if I am willing to slow down and let the excavation take place– shovel full by shovel full– I may end up with a story that I love and will stand behind no matter what happens.

Inspiration. I’ll take it wherever it comes and today it comes via earbud and iPod.

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30 thoughts on “Looking For Inspiration For Your Novel? Make a Mix Tape For Your Characters

  1. Well, you know this speaks to me!!! That Steve Earle/Lucinda Williams duet is one of my favorite songs of all time. I love their crazy, twangy voices enough separately, but together, it is pure perfection. I love your playlist and think you can rightly expect that it will get your story flowing again.

    • That’s one of my favorite songs ever in life. Lucinda just kills me. Those two should collaborate more. I once saw her with her father, the poet and it was pure gold.

      • Wow, that sounds incredible. We saw her last summer at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels…have you ever been there? Such a neat venue. She couldn’t remember some of her lyrics, and she kept cussing and finally stopped the band, proclaiming side effects from too much acid in the 70s. It was a night to remember.

      • I have never been there. My parents see Willie there often. Also in Helotis (sp?). I am reading Willie Nelson’s biography right now and getting a greater sense of the role that Texas plays in the country music (real country music, not Nashville shit) and am becoming obsessed. Obsessed. Considering asking for a pedal steel guitar for my 40th. OMG. someone stop me.

        On Mon, May 20, 2013 at 11:46 AM, Outlaw Mama

  2. I am also stuck with revisions. The mess is there, but it came out very, um….messy. Cleaning it up is tedious. Very, very tedious. Thanks for the new tunes. I was just thinking yesterday that my book has had a soundtrack as well. I turn on certain songs for certain scenes that speak to the mood. And now they are becoming tedious as well!

    • Well that’s going to happen to me too. You can only hear these songs so many times before Ima need some new tunes to give me a different emotional pitch!

    • Gurl, there is no chick lit without Ani, right? NOt saying you are writing chick lit, but I am and she’s gotta be there. Period. And I love that song– 32 flavors right after Both Hands….

      On Mon, May 20, 2013 at 10:32 AM, Outlaw Mama

      • I’m addicted to calling it women’s fiction. As for Ani – “squint your eyes and look closer, I’m not between you and your ambition.” LOVING that line — for me and my MC.

      • Whoa that’s good. The label is much more affirming so I’m adopting that pronto. and that line for you and your MC is giving me chills. My current vibe with my MC is “don’t give up on me, babe.”

    • Here’s hoping. My next mix will be to get into their pants, but I gotta work up to that. You know, I’m southern.

      On Mon, May 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM, Outlaw Mama

  3. Music hits me that way too. I have soundtracks for everything, not just on Pandora or iTunes but in my head, all the time. I love that you are doing this and I can’t wait to hear how it brings out the soul in your scene!

  4. I do not understand how you fit all your days into the 24-hour Earth days.

    I just don’t get it.

    Cool music. Can’t wait to read it. Really.

    Now, back to: where do you find the time?

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