Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Music on the Page

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – One of my favourite phrases in my writer’s toolbox. When I see those words, I automatically equate it with emotive music that deftly portrays specific scenes – key emotional moments, up on the silver screen. Turn the volume down, or if it was possible, watch the same scene without the orchestral accompaniment and see what would happen…
I’ve done exactly that. If you’re anything like me you’ll find that the previously powerful (read: gut-wrenching; ominous; light-hearted; soul-crushing; action orientated…) moments in the film becomes rather less satisfying (and formulaic) than its former whole. Scenes that had you blubbering into your tissues, or howling with laughter, or even gripping your armrest in fear, all becomes an obvious exercise in storytelling that is blatantly evident to the viewer and thus removes them from the epicentre of the action. Once you are aware that you are watching a film - or reading a book, you are no longer emotionally invested in it, and with that, any chance of empathy or a raw emotional response is destroyed.

As a writer, I find it extremely beneficial to pop my headphones on and cue specific soundtracks in order to establish a mood. This tends to be during the rewrite where I am trying to inject realism into the world I’m creating – not when I’m doing a technical rewrite. Initially I was dubious about being distracted by the music, but once I’m in the throes of the scene, I find the orchestral rhythm very helpful in establishing a sense of place and tone that influences the words that come bubbling forth from my brain.

At those crucial points in the story, where you want to reach out and grab your reader to make them feel – and make the experience as real or as visceral as possible, such a tool is a welcome addition to the writer’s arsenal.

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