Writing can be a lot like method acting. It’s not always easy to jump into a character’s skin unless they’re similar to us. So what are some ways to become that character in order to write from their perspective? Music tops the list.
Everyone has been moved by music at one point in their lives. Often times, it propels us back to a certain place or era. By listening to the music our characters love, we can tap into the emotion of the scene. This becomes especially important when writing the opposite sex.
To celebrate my new release, let’s use Sage and Niko Quintano as the example. Their marriage is nothing like mine. Bob and I spend most of our time laughing and razzing each other. Anyone who knows us has heard me say, “I’ll cut you, man.” Or “Don’t make me kick your ass in front of your friends.” Which always gets a laugh due to our size difference. We also have our own version of a high-five as well as certain expressions we say in unison (usually stolen from movies). I do call him “Pup” like Sage calls Niko, and he’s as supportive as Niko when it comes to my writing career, but other than a few minor details that’s where the similarities end.
Because Bob and I have so much fun, even after twenty years together, writing about a marriage filled with secrets isn’t easy. Here’s where music really helps.
While writing CLEAVED, I listened to several key songs to trigger the right mood. To prevent this post from taking forever to load I’ve only included a few videos. The others I linked. Incidentally, I can no longer listen to any of these songs without being reminded of certain scenes. That’s one hazard to keep in mind. Oh, also, most lyrics are copyrighted. We can use the song title — Sage loves to change Niko’s ringtone to get her point across — but not the lyrics without written permission from the artist.
To write Niko I used the following songs…
Down on Bended Knee by Boys II Men
Just Once by James Ingram
How to Keep the Music Playing by James Ingram and Patti Austin
So, clearly, Niko royally screws up in CLEAVED, and he’s destroyed by it.
Inherently, men want to fix things. They think in terms of what to do, but sometimes, a circumstance is so severe there is no fixing it. When men and women find themselves in these types of situations they react differently. Music allows us to tap into those differences. We can hear it in the lyrics.
Sage loves the Eagles, but for CLEAVED, I needed more powerful music…
Hurt by Christina Aguilera (this song brings me tears every time I hear it)
It Matters to Me by Faith Hill
Hello by Adele
Dreamer by Ozzy Osborne
We Don’t Talk Anymore by Charlie Puth and Samantha Harvey
This next song I listened to over and over, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why…
How Am I Supposed to Live Without You by Michael Bolton
Are you sensing a theme here? Like MARRED, CLEAVED is a psychological thriller/mystery that’s very emotional. Maybe even more so than MARRED. Music allowed me to tap into these emotions. By the time I finished writing the first draft, I felt emotionally spent. Sure, I’ve made myself uncomfortable before — diving into oil drum was no picnic — but certain scenes demanded even more from me. If I didn’t immerse myself, if I stayed detached, the story would suffer. Hence, why writing can be so personal. Whether readers realize it or not, we often bare our souls in our books. I have hunch they do notice, but I can only speak from my experience as a reader.
I’m curious what your views are on the subject.
While writing, I can’t listen to music — I end up singing along and totally lose my train of thought — but I do stop writing in order to play different songs. What I can listen to during the writing process are background noises. YouTube is filled with these types of videos, from swampland sounds to owls and other predators. I mentioned a few in my Pets in Fiction post. Here are a few more I listened to while writing CLEAVED…
Owl sounds (includes other birds too)
Coyotes (wicked eerie)
What’s CLEAVED about?
Author Sage Quintano writes about crime. Her husband Niko investigates it. Together they make an unstoppable team. But no one counted on a twisted serial killer, who stalks their sleepy community, uproots their happy home, and splits the threads that bond their family unit.
Darkness swallows the Quintanos whole—ensnared by a ruthless killer out for blood. Why he focused on Sage remains a mystery, but he won’t stop till she dies like the others.
Women impaled by deer antlers, bodies encased in oil drums, nursery rhymes, and the Suicide King. What connects these cryptic clues? For Sage and Niko, the truth may be more terrifying than they ever imagined.
* * *
Rather than create a regular book trailer, I did something a little different. While narrating an excerpt I used pieces of my research videos (locations that appear in the book), scattered images (I’ll let you figure out the who, what, and why they’re there), and shot new video of the area since the scene took place on the exact same day (different year, though).
For the full effect watch on full-screen mode.
If you’d like to read the first chapter, you can find it HERE.
If you’re a writer, do you use music to help you nail the emotion of the scene? As a reader, do some authors make you wonder if certain scenes might be real, or certain scenes might hit too close to home?