WORDS & MUSIC – AND INSPIRATION…. By ROSEMARY LORD

                     

We writers write to express ourselves, to share an idea, to inspire – to give a glimpse of another life. We write to take people on a journey that they might never take in reality; journeys to places they might never see, in a time or a world they may never inhabit or discover. But, if it’s written well, our readers feel they have been there, maybe have lived that life, fulfilled that ambition – vicariously.

After finishing a good book, readers know more about that distant place or country, that time in history – or even the fictional future. Our audience has had the opportunity to have learned something new about people, their work, their pursuits and more about the world – vicariously.

Reading books is a way we ‘meet’ new people that we would normally never get to encounter and the chance to have wonderful, or perhaps scary, or even exotic, or romantic adventures, without ever leaving our armchair or couch.

Within these stories, the writer skillfully creates characters and plot lines that touch on parts of our own personal qualities and idiosyncrasies that we, as the reader, can identify or empathize with. Or perhaps the characters brought to life are those we recognize as someone we know or have met along the way.

The books that readers immerse themselves in are a wonderful escape from the humdrum and the stress of everyday living. They broaden our horizons and sometimes inspire people to make changes in their lives, to try something different or find a new perspective.

Inspire: there’s that word again. So, what inspires us writers to spend such long hours composing in our notebooks or wrestling with words on our computers?

Writers – Where do you find your inspiration when you’re stuck?

For me – music often inspires me. As I’m driving or when I’m washing the dishes or cleaning up, and I hear a particular song or piece of music, a story idea often pops into my mind. I find the inspiration for maybe a new twist on something I am writing. Sometimes it’s simply the title – often, the lyrics – and the music brings it all together. Songs can inspire perhaps a new character to solve a plot problem or a change of scenery that will move my story along.

The lyrics of some of our classic songs tell a story. When you think about it, just as poets have that special skill to say so much in a few (usually rhyming) words, so lyricists have a special gift of creating characters and a scenario, which they edit down to just a handful of words that say so much. Those carefully chosen simple words meld seamlessly with the melody and can touch on a story that we novelists can fill in, color, investigate, enlarge upon. We can be inspired to creat a whole world around a brief stanza that we then nurture into many thousands of words of a completed novel. That is our writer’s talent.  

As a scribe, we can change the names and places, (to protect the innocent and the copyright!) but the plot line in some songs is already set out. So, when you’re stuck for what to write next, think of, say, the Beatles song Eleanor Rigby. What a poignant story for us creative minds to fill in the gaps. Or the dark storyline in Mack The Knife. Johnny Mercer’s Moon River is a more whimsical tale of “Two drifters off to see the world…” And how about Cole Porter’s 1934 facetious tale of the hanging of a society woman after she murders her unfaithful lover – the song made famous by Ethel Waters and later Ella Fitzgerald: Miss Otis Regrets, she’s unable to lunch today

Take George Gershwin’s An American in Paris – inspired by his time in the City of Lights in the 1920s. Apart from the lush musical score, what story could that simple title inspire?  Glenn Campbell’s Wichita Lineman, “I am a lineman for the county, and I drive the main roads…” could be the start of an intriguing tale. Barry Manilow wrote about showgirl Lola’s ambitions stymied by a jealous admirer in his disco hit Copacabana: there’s a tale ripe for embellishment. 

What about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Memory from his musical Cats, based on T.S. Elliott’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats? Or Elaine Stritch’s signature song, Here’s To The Ladies Who Lunch, from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company. Perhaps a more whimsical tale could be based on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Girl from Ipanema.  You get the idea.

Today, even traditional world-famous book titles can inspire us. I notice that some of the new books now use old and borrowed titles anyway. When authors had worried about their ideas being stolen, someone pointed out that if ten writers were given the same assignment, their styles and experience would be so varied that the ten books would turn out to be totally different.

And so I pondered: what if we wrote our own version, inspired by just the title, of A Tale of Two Cities, The Man Who Came to Dinner, A Caribbean Mystery or Witness for the Prosecution? The results would be as varied, as creative and fascinating as befits our own individual talents. Some scribes’ version would be a romantic comedy, or a hardboiled noir, others would produce a thriller, a cozy or a charming escapade.

Today I see inspiration everywhere – and am frankly open to ‘borrowing from the best’ when I get stuck. I like to channel their inspiration. I enjoy any way I can to write and to perpetuate writing for all of us. To paraphrase Pinocchio’s chanson – “Hi-diddle-dee-dee – A writer’s life for me….

14 thoughts on “WORDS & MUSIC – AND INSPIRATION…. By ROSEMARY LORD”

  1. Rosemary, thank you for your exceptional post. Several of the points you make can inspire an author to issue a press release (are these still in existence?), write a blog, and create a new comment to one’s web site, and author page.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm – Press Releases do still exist, but I think they are now Tweeted, posted on Instagram and Face Book as well as the usual outlets. Always glad to inspire new ideas! Thanks for dropping by…

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  2. Again, Rosemary, you carry us far from the humdrum of sitting at a computer in our pj’s, with a cup of coffee and a blank mind. I wonder what books have so recently inspired you? (Mine is the reading of the full version of Dorothy L. Sayers, THE NINE TAILORS. Wow.)
    And the tunes you mentioned… oh, man, the memories, situations, and times that immediately sprang into my mind were… bodacious!! What a fantastic idea to take the first line of the song or chorus and write a story!! The same could go with classic book titles!
    Rosemary, I think you have just brought back the inspiration I’ve been lacking since the beginning of February 2020. Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jackie. You’re right about the songs – it’s not just the lyrics, but where we first heard it and what was happening in our lives at the time. Hmm – even more inspiring memories…
      I’ve been reading Kristin Harmel’s The Sweetness of Forgetting, and several from Rosanna Ley and Victoria Hislop. Also re-reading Mira Kirshenbaum’s The Gift of a Year – encouraging women to promise to follow their heart for a year…. And glad we’ve opened up your inspiration stream!

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  3. I actually used your idea about using things around me in a story and now have a path for Chance McCoy to take in the latest short story I am writing. It all centered on a hidden zipper. Thanks, Rosemary.

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    1. Aha! The plot thickens! Since we’re lacking regular face-to-face conversations at the moment, I think our minds have begun to close down. Glad to help open things up!

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  4. Wonderful post! (I’m monotone(actually three notes) hubby says) and tone death, had to mouth songs in school, but hearing just the right song, sung by the right artist…well, nothing better or more inspirational. In fact, my latest(still unfinished, but close!) was inspired by “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and particularly as sung by Johnny Cash! Loverly post, Rosie.

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    1. Always glad to put a smile on your face, Mad! I thought of you when I heard that Glenn Campbell’s Wichita Lineman… it reminded me of your Route 66 books… I can’t wait to read your soon-to-be-finished “Battle Hymn” novel…

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  5. I really enjoyed this post! I’m always looking for inspiration and ideas, and I love the idea of finding them in music. Just recently, “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks has begun going through my head again, as it has a lot in my life. The Fantasticks was one of the shows performed at my high school (not by me; I can’t sing! I was script girl for it, though) but it has always inspired me–finding love in difficult situations, sometimes contrived. And of course I write romances, and mysteries with romantic interests.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s tough to get Jerry Orbach’s version of ‘Try To Remember…’ out of your mind, once it’s in there, isn’t it? And for a romance writer, such as you, these songs are an untapped source of ideas… Glad you enjoyed this, Linda! Write on!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If you aimed to inspire us with your post, Rosemary, you succeeded. Reading it reminded me of how little things around us can rouse ideas, such as your example of music. Lyrics can propel story ideas while melodies can create mood. For me, certain songs are so inherently tied to an event in my life that whenever I hear them I’m transported back in time to another place.

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    1. Oh yes – how the music takes us back to another lifetime, doesn’t it. I’m glad you find it inspiring, too.
      As you say – the melodies inspire the mood: good point. And just think where our imaginations spring to when we hear any Glenn Miller and the Big Bands – or conversely – the Gladys Knight and the Pips!!!
      Thanks, Miko.

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  7. Hi Rose, You certainly inspire me, and I’m your brother! Whenever I hear Nature Boy, Nat King Cole, or Mr. Bojangles, Sammy Davis, I stop what I’m doing, close my eyes and go on a journey. As with good writing (like yours m’dear, like yours), I forget I’m looking at a piece of paper with a string of symbols on it. I’m transported into the world created by the writer, and oblivious to my immediate surroundings.

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