Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February prompt: Inspiration

As in, what inspires you... me... well, you know.

Anyhow, in a word: music.

Go on, those of you who know me, look surprised.

Really, it's okay. I know.

Actually, though, anything artistic has the power to inspire me, from music to visual art to dance to theatre to sport to food. All you have to do is look at my three published YA novels to see what kind of influence the arts have had on me: AdiĆ³s, music; Accent, theatre and graphic arts; Stars, dance, music, and art. In the more than half dozen unpublished manuscripts, there's generally something artistic involved as well—I can't seem to help myself. But of all the pursuits, music is and always has been my constant. My personal touchstone. As I compose this blog, I'm listening to the score for the television miniseries East of Eden—big, bold, dramatic music that's weaving its way into the seeds of a story idea I've been toying with for the last couple of weeks. It happened by accident. Both the story idea and rediscovering the music. I'd been outlining the idea, putting down notes and key points, then this past weekend, I was watching the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships (see above for artistic inspirations...) and Rachel Flatt came out and skated her short program to the finale theme to East of Eden. Oddly, this was not the first time I'd seen this piece used for a program: Michelle Kwan used it several years ago as well and I remember thinking at the time what a gorgeous piece it was and I couldn't believe I'd forgotten about it, since East of Eden is a) one of my favorite Steinbeck novels and b) I loved both the original 1955 film version and the 1981 miniseries which was able to incorporate the totality of the book's plot. (As an aside, does anyone else miss miniseries? Like the really big, lush six to eight-part events they used to show back in the day?)

Anyhow... I don't know what magic plotbunnies went to work in my head, but all I can tell you is that that piece of music suddenly felt very important. It brought a pair of characters who'd existed on paper as mere outlines—even to the point of lacking names—into fully realized existence. I knew their names, I was able to see a scene between them, I could even hear their voices.

Weird? Probably. Especially when you consider that the music for East of Eden was designed to evoke a family saga set amidst the lonely grandeur of the Salinas Valley, circa World War I-era and my story is a contemporary with horror overtones taking place in New Orleans. Yeah, you know, I couldn't even begin to tell you, except that it worked. And so it's with that piece of music that I'll begin crafting the soundtrack(s) that will accompany the creation of this story. Because yes, I do work with music in the background. It my thing. Every story I've ever written has not just a soundtrack, but generally multiple soundtracks, each designed to evoke a character or scene or setting.

Not that this is the first time this has happened to me, while watching a figure skating program—I've got another story inspired completely by watching Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto at last year's Olympics where they skated to Caccini's "Ave Maria" and Rossini's "Amen" from the Stabat Mater. In that case, I didn't even have a nebulous story idea I was playing around with—nope, I just was innocently watching the Olympics, this program came on and four minutes and forty-four seconds later, I had an entire story idea in place.

Go on, those of you who know me, look surprised.

I know.

At any rate, I'll leave you with the latest inspiration: East of Eden, in this case, as performed by Michelle Kwan, since her skating is art on ice.

4 comments:

  1. Music inspires me too. And I could watch Michelle Kwan skate ALL DAY LONG. So lovely.

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  2. I want to put my head on Michelle Kwan's body and watch myself skate like that.

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  3. Lisa & Jenny, isn't she just absolutely magical? Truly, the last genuinely artistic ladies skater we had, I think, who really married music and movement in such a seamless manner.

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  4. Barbara, thank you for a very interesting view inside your process. Music always feels like a "story" to me, so I find it really inspiring too.

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