Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Movies, music, imagination - What inspires YOU?

I'm always fascinated by the methods other writers use in which to inspire themselves, their characters, scenes from their books... I'm always interested to find out how they work when they're writing; do they sit in complete silence?  Do they have the TV on in the background?  Do they listen to music?
Personally, and I think I may have mentioned this before, I have to have music on when I'm writing.  Because music is such an integral part of my life.  I need it to be there because it helps me think, but I don't just use it as background noise - I use songs as inspiration.
And, after reading a very interesting blog post from M.J. Kane, an aspiring Women's Fiction writer from Atlanta, entitled 'Does Your Story Have A Soundtrack?' http://thiswriterslife-mjkane.blogspot.com/2011/10/does-your-story-have-soundtrack.html#comments - which gave me the inspiration to write this blog post of my own - I was glad to see that I'm not alone!  Because, yes.  All of my stories have soundtracks.  Every single one of my books was built on music, characters and chapters were shaped by listening to certain songs, ideas were formed by the lyrics of a track.  That's the way I work, and that's the way I love to work.

My first novel, 'No Matter What', was shaped by quite a few different styles of music, all carrying their own form of inspiration at different times in the book, all giving me some kind of help to write a certain scene, or decide which way a character would go just because I listened to the words of a song or liked the way a track felt.

Canadian rock band 'Nickelback' featured very heavily on my soundtrack for that book, the song 'Do This Anymore' from 'The Long Road' album being a track in particular that became very important to me, and I don't know why, not really.  All I know is that I was lying on a sunbed in Tenerife one afternoon on holiday - when I was in the very early stages of writing the book - this song was playing on my iPod, and the ideas just started flowing!  I could picture in my head the way I wanted the story to go, the way certain characters were going to react to certain situations; I'd shaped practically an entire novel on that one song.  Even now, every time I listen to that track, it gives me goosebumps because it reminds me of how close I am to the characters in that novel, how much they mean to me, and how much one song shaped them all.

Another song on my 'No Matter What' soundtrack is Christina Aguilera's 'Fighter', a very poignant song that inspired a later part of the novel, and helped me to put myself in the position of one of the main characters.  The lyrics to this song were very important to me, because they describe almost exactly just how that character was feeling, what she was going through at the time.  It helped me to write some very heavy scenes, and it's a song I absolutely love.  For a lot of reasons.

And those are just two examples from a list that is well into double figures of songs that helped me to write my debut novel.

But it isn't just music that helps determine the way my books take shape, although it's still the biggest part.  But, along with music, I also like to picture the story playing out in my head, almost like a movie, as I listen to certain songs, and that helps in a way you wouldn't believe.  Taking time out to just sit and listen to music, without any other distractions, has helped me combat many an attack of writer's block, because letting the story play out in my head makes it more real, it makes the characters real, their behaviour and actions more important - it makes everything three-dimensional almost, and it works!

I also read somewhere that, when creating characters, it can sometimes help to base characters on real people (not too closely, though, for obvious legal reasons!) and have pictures of those people around you when you're writing - and that really works, believe me!  I use this method almost like a stencil, if you like.  I take the basic outline, and I then make that character my own.  It makes things a lot more fun when I'm picturing the book's "movie" in my head, let me tell you!  And I think there are a few people out there who have read my books and know just who I've based certain characters on! 
And am I talking complete rubbish here?  Because it's probably very hard for someone else to understand, this weird and wonderful method I seem to have adopted, and I think all writer's have their own very personal ways of working.  This is just mine.
I write pure escapism, you see.  Fantasy, if you like, because I sure as hell haven't lived the glamorous lives some of my characters have!  So I have to gain inspiration in a very different kind of way.

By making the story and characters into a "movie", by creating these scenes in my head, acting it out, it makes the book so much easier to write.  It makes me see how things could gel together, how relationships could play out.  It makes characters and scenes easier to create, easier to write about because I have images and ideas stored away to fall back on, songs I can listen to that will help me.

Anyway, I'm rambling now.  But as I'm rambling I'm listening to yet more music that is - as we speak - triggering off more new ideas to help me carry on writing my new novel, a follow-up to 'No Matter What', provisionally entitled 'Illusions of Love', and it's a novel that is fast developing it's own soundtrack, its own "mini-movie".  And I'm enjoying every second of creating it all.

So, if you're a writer, how do you like to write?  What inspires you?  Music?  Real-life experiences? Something you've seen on TV?  I'd love to know.  But, as far as I'm concerned, it's music and imagination all the way for me, and together they can be a very powerful tool...

For more information on 'No Matter What', or any of my other novels, visit my other blog Michelle Betham: Author - It's All About The Books  for everything from reviews to taster chapters.

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