Posts Tagged Coldplay

The Undercover Soundtrack – Dina Santorelli

‘Music enables me to reach a deeper understanding of myself’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to open a secret channel to understand a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by journalist, writer and editor Dina Santorelli @DinaSantorelli

Soundtrack by Avril Lavigne, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, Barry Manilow, Susan Boyle, Bonnie Tyler, The Pointer Sisters, Frankie Valli, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin

Full disclosure: I write in total silence. Well, maybe not total silence (I do have three kids), but in an environment that’s veritably music free. While I do things like pay bills or edit copy while listening to my favorite Pandora stations, when it comes to fiction writing my creativity amps up only when the radio is turned down.

Now before you start wondering, What the heck is this fraud doing penning a guest post for the Undercover Soundtrack, you should know that although I don’t write with music playing, my writing is fueled by songs and lyrics just the same, particularly in the following three ways.

1. Pure inspiration

For better or worse, my writing process is one of perpetual breaks – periods of furious keyboard tapping followed by periods of drought, or perhaps pause is the better word. Many times during a writing session my momentum will come to a crashing halt, and it is during these periods of inactivity when self-doubt tends to rear its ugly head: I’m not good enough. Who’s going to care about this story? Why am I bothering?

And while I have been known to take a walk, a shower, and do all kinds of things to get past this kind of “block,” one thing that almost always does the trick is my go-to soundtrack of inspirational songs. There are many of them that I’ve compiled over the years, performed by all kinds of artistes in all kinds of categories. What I find is that often the artiste or song doesn’t matter; rather, it’s the intention, or the message of the song, or sometimes it’s just the title or a meaning that I, alone, have infused into it that’s important to me. Here’s a quick list of some of my stand-bys:

  •  Keep Holding On by Avril Lavigne
  • Fix You by Coldplay (this song undoubtedly made the list because of a very touching and inspirational weight-loss video posted on YouTube)
  • The Climb by Miley Cyrus
  • It’s a Miracle and Looks Like We Made It by Barry Manilow
  • Defying Gravity from the Wicked original Broadway cast soundtrack
  • Freak Flag from the Shrek original Broadway cast soundtrack
  • I Dreamed a Dream, sung by Susan Boyle (what better lesson in triumph than Susan Boyle’s rendition of I Dreamed a Dream on Britain’s Got Talent?)

2. Pacing

Baby Grand is a contemporary thriller, which means one very important aspect of the book is its pacing. I was very conscious of keeping a certain pace – almost like a perpetual drum beat – throughout the writing of the novel and then ratcheting things up toward the end, as if riding a train that was traveling fast and suddenly accelerates until it is speeding out of control. And because writing a novel is all about stopping and starting and picking up where you left off, I found there were times I needed some zippy songs to get my toes a-tapping and to return me to that ‘train’ mindset, particularly for the chase scenes that are inherent to most thrillers, Baby Grand included. Here are two of the many songs I’ve turned to in order to help me keep readers alert and on the edge of their seats (interestingly, these both come from films):

  • Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler and featured in Footloose (this one, I find, is particularly useful for chase scenes – is there anyone out there who doesn’t visualize Kevin Bacon with his shoelace caught on a tractor pedal during this song?)
  • Neutron Dance by The Pointer Sisters and featured in Beverly Hills Cop

3. Character development

Occasionally, I’ll use music to help me get into the mind of a character. I also use movie clips for this purpose, particularly when a character is loosely based on the physicality of an actor. I did this for Baby Grand’s villain Don Bailino (whose appearance is based on a younger Robert De Niro), a handsome, charismatic ex-war hero/successful businessman in his late 40s. Bailino hails from Brooklyn, and having grown up around Brooklynites my entire life, when writing Bailino’s scenes I tended to channel lots of family favorites from the 1950s , 1960s and 1970s, such as Frankie Valli or Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin (who happens to be the person I was named after—my parents were big fans):

I call these songs ‘the soundtrack of my grandparents’ and they stir up in me fond memories of summer vacations spent shopping on Nostrand Avenue or at Kings Plaza and playing at the Buddies Arcade. I think in this case, though, it’s not necessarily the songs that inspire, but the memories that they invoke.

In the end, whether it is inspirational or helps me develop a scene or character, music enables me to reach a deeper understanding of myself in some way. And from there, I am able to find the confidence to explore a deeper understanding of my characters and of my story and the courage to fight through another round of that ominous self-doubt. Cue Theme from Rocky.

A freelance writer for over 15 years, Dina Santorelli has written for Newsday, First for Women and CNNMoney.com, among other publications. She served as the ‘with’ writer for the well-received Good Girls Don’t Get Fat and most recently contributed to Bully, the companion book to the acclaimed film. Dina is the Executive Editor of Salute and Family magazines for which she has interviewed many celebrities, including James Gandolfini, Tim McGraw, Angela Bassett, Mario Lopez, Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon. You can follow Dina on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and on her blog. Baby Grand, her first novel, is available on Amazon.

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The Undercover Soundtrack – Nicola Morgan

‘If I’m writing fiction there must be music… invasive music to kick me in the heart’

The Undercover Soundtrack is a weekly series by writers who use music as part of their creative process – special pieces that have revealed a character to them, or populated a mysterious place, or enlarged a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by prolific YA novelist Nicola Morgan @nicolamorgan

Soundtracks by Beautiful South, Belle and Sebastian, Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, The Kaiser Chiefs, Muse, The Police, R.E.M., Sting

Music and I have an odd relationship. If I say “There was no music in my life until I was eleven”, you’ll think I’m being melodramatic or metaphorical. No. My extremely unusual childhood was full of amazing freedoms, but no music. Or rather, we didn’t listen to it at home, ever, and since home was school, I didn’t listen to it at all. There was a school choir and I sang in it, but that, being for chapel, was somewhat narrow in its tastes. Anyway, it wasn’t till I went to boarding-school that music appeared, and by then I lacked the musical parts of my brain. (Confirmed when I tried to learn the oboe as an adult.)

Yet, if I’m writing fiction, there must be music. And I’m pedantic about the choice. It has to be just right for that piece of writing. Once I find the album, I play it over and over. And over. Sometimes I have to play it through headphones because my family shout, “NOOOO!”

A kick in the heart

It’s not background music. It’s not just to block out the real world – though it must do this, too. But it must be more invasive. It needs to kick me in the heart, make me sing – sometimes literally. It needs to take me to a place where fiction dwells and worlds can be created.

What music? The word my family use to describe the music I write fiction to is “anthemic”. They will suggest a new band or album and say to me, “You could write to that.” It must have powerful melody, rhythm and emotion, in both the music and the words. And there must be words. I think as well there must be colour. And music with colour – an aspect of synaesthesia – is something that’s hugely a theme of Mondays are Red.

Losing my religion – in yellow

So, exactly what is on my Undercover Soundtrack? When I was writing The Passionflower Massacre (Hodder, 2005) it was R.E.M., mostly Around the Sun, though in fact I quite wanted to call the book Losing My Religion. R.E.M.’s music is rich and golden, warm and vibrant, mysterious and with odd meaning. And The Passionflower Massacre is a book like that. I think the book is more yellow, more summery than R.E.M., though, but the Around the Sun track is perfect.

Sleepwalking (Hodder 2004) was Sting. Sting and the Police are cold, thin blue, the wail of a heartless future. That’s how Sleepwalking feels to me. The Highwayman’s Footsteps (Walker 2007) was Franz Ferdinand, rich with reds and blues and excitement;  The Highwayman’s Curse (2008) was Franz Ferdinand again and The Kaiser Chiefs, harsh, cruel, jangly, angry, steel grey and blood red with the horror of religious hatred.

Wasted was a strange mixture: Belle and Sebastian, Muse (Uprising – love it!) and Beautiful South. With smatterings of REM again. It’s not a violent book, more thoughtful, and if it had a colour it would be an impossible blue lilac disappearing at all its edges. (For your interest, the main character is a girl with music-colour synaesthesia.)

Everything I want for a dark book

And the novel I’ve just finished, Brutal Eyes, is pure Coldplay – mostly Viva la Vida but with the recent revisions written to Mylo Xyloto, especially the phenomenal Us Against the World and Every Teardrop is a Waterfall. Those two songs are everything I want in music for a dark book. You can hear every rasp of Chris Martin’s breath, every squeak of finger on string. You can hear his eyes close, his shoulders move. It has enormous emotional heart. I’d like to hope it lends some of that to the book. Funnily, Brutal Eyes doesn’t have a colour for me.

What did I write Write to be Published to? Nothing! I couldn’t possibly write non-fiction while listening to music!

Nicola Morgan is an award-winning author, with around 90 published titles, and a growing list of self-published titles. She is well-known to aspiring writers for the honest advice on her blog, Help! I Need a Publisher! and a book – Write to be Published – published by Snowbooks. Notable works include her famously gruesome novel Fleshmarket; the Aventis shortlisted Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed; and Wasted, which was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and won or was shortlisted for many awards. Mondays are Red was originally published in 2002 and Nicola has now created a new edition for ebook format, including some extra material such as creative writing by school pupils. This time, she is publishing it herself, with the help of her agent. Follow her on Twitter @nicolamorgan

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