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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Providing the ambience

I've been raised on and with music. Ever since I was four, my grandparents have taken me to their ragtime society's annual festival. I grew up dancing with my grandfather to Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb. When I was twelve, my mom got me an MP3 player. I filled it to bursting with an eclectic mix of music (some of which you may hear featured on this very blog.) My mom and I share music; I give her Shania Twain and Hilary Duff, and she gives me Dan Fogelberg and Janis Ian. We share a love of musical theatre, so we swap musical soundtracks. Music has been involved with almost every part of my life for as long as I can remember.
As I think I've mentioned, I'm a character writer. When I weave a story, my focus isn't on the plot--although, obviously, that's an important part of writing, and I treat it as such--but the characters. My greatest joy comes from creating a believable, well-rounded, motivated character who my readers will fall in love with and root for. I want them to cringe when my character makes a mistake--not because they dislike the mistake, but because they understand why the character behaved this way, and because they empathize with him/her. And when the "good" characters triumph and the "bad" characters fail, I want my readers to cheer, cry, hug the book to their chests, and breathe a sigh of relief.
Where am I going with these two (seemingly unrelated) thoughts, you ask?
Maybe it's random (they don't call me Random Ruthie for nothing!) but I like picking theme songs for people. I have several for myself--a few of them are even on this blog. Heh. (Positivity by Ashley Tisdale, Unpredictable by Skye Sweetnam, and How Lucky You Are from Suessical the Musical, to name a few.) I've chosen songs that remind me of my closest friends, my relatives--even cartoon characters who I happen to like. (What?? I did say I was a Phineas and Ferb fan, didn't I?!)
Since this is true, it should come as no surprise that I like to choose theme songs for the characters I create. Not so much with characters from my short stories--I don't need to know them as well as I do my novel characters, so they usually don't garner theme songs. But for the (several) novels I'm working on...(yes, it is physically impossible for me to work on just one project at a time. Why do you ask?) I have soundtracks.
Well...okay, I take that back. For the novels that are currently in-progress writing, (my two "classic" fantasy novels, for lack of a better description) I have soundtracks. For my sci-fi novel and my urban fantasy novel, which are still in the planning-and-musing phase, there's no music yet. Once I'm closer to actually scribbling out a plot and defining the characters more richly, I will pick soundtracks for them as well.
Aaaanyway. The point is, the "theme songs" help me concentrate. They give me a center from which I can build out on my character. Sometimes the perfect song only speaks to one facet of my character. Then I pick more songs, create each character a personal soundtrack. Sometimes I don't find the perfect song at all, or until I'm halfway done writing already. But when I want to get myself reacquainted with a character I haven't worked on for awhile, I pull their song up on my iphone and turn up the volume.
Point being, I thought I'd share the theme songs for my current project with you. Since I don't feel comfortable giving character bios and a synopsis (sorry, guys...not that I don't trust you, I just don't want to chance finding a distorted version of my story floating around a year from now), I figured this would be a good alternative. Listening to the music may not tell you what my story is about or what happens, but it should give you a basic understanding of some of my main characters.
...oh. And yes, the novel does have its own theme song. In this case, it has two. Go figure...it works.
The novel itself: Some Hearts by Carrie Underwood, All You Wanted by Michelle Branch
The main character: Play on by Carrie Underwood
The romantic interest: Mother Earth by the Subdigitals
The best friend: Crazy Dreams by Carrie Underwood
The ingénue: Beautiful World by Dev2.0, Walkaway Joe by Trishia Yearwood
The innocent child: You'll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins

Huh. Just realized that I have three Carrie Underwood songs. I didn't plan it that way.
Quit looking at me like that! I listen to more artists than just Carrie Underwood, I swear! Check my playlist down there at the bottom of the page if you don't believe me! Go ahead, I dare you!

Friday, January 22, 2010


My younger brother Ben is one creative little dude. While I'm off at the theatre stepping into a character's skin, he's at home spinning stories and worlds out of the most mundane of circumstances. Ben watches a nature documentary and gets an idea for a new species of animals he can use in a story; he reads a book on art history and imagines a world where art is illegal. There is, almost literally, nothing that won't set his imagination to work. I don't doubt that he'll be a great author and a great storyteller.
Seeing as how he and I are together every day for school, and seeing as how we're about as close as two siblings can be, we tend to use each other as sounding boards for creativity. Hardly a day goes by without Ben tapping me on the shoulder and announcing, "I thought of an idea for a..." And off he goes. I don't approach him with ideas quite as often, since writing and storytelling aren't my only creative outlets, but when I do have a new story concept, he's one of the first to know. When I'm in that stage of writing where I have the idea, but none of the details, Ben is fantastic at listening and giving input. Sometimes all it takes is one little sentence: "That's a cool thought, but what if you added this?" and my story resolves itself into plot twists and characters.
We also work well together when coming up with joint ideas. Ben is all about plot; he loves action/adventure and is fantastic at adding nuance and suspense to a story. I'm more into the characters; I concentrate on populating my worlds with realistic, well-rounded people. Together, we create outstanding characters who take amazing journeys.
But we're not always creating other planets or envisioning magical beasts. Sometimes, our combined creativity is focused on something as simple as making up an episode on one of our favorite tv shows. Ben and I share a lot of similar tastes in television (heheh...cartoon network and disney, anyone?), and we recently discovered Phineas and Ferb on the disney channel. (If you haven't seen this show, I HIGHLY reccomend it. Cartoon or not, it's super-creative and has humor for all ages.) Now we bounce episode ideas off each other all the time, and in fact, I'm actually writing some of them into full-fledged stories. Granted, they're not stories I can dream of publishing, but there's a place for such stories in the world (fanfiction.net, people...but I suppose that's another blog post.) And besides...it's just fun. It's fun writing in a world I didn't make up. It's fun trying to match the style of the show.
And most of all, it's fun creating with my little brother. Love you, Ben.