Songs in the Head and Songs of the Heart

I have been meaning to write about the little moment on the streetcar a few weeks ago and then time just seemed to pass and here I am with some time at my disposal and now I can tell you what it is…well, sort of…And there might be clues within what I say, but I won’t tell you if you are right.

I am purposely cryptic about what I am writing about because I think there are a few things that I like to keep to myself in a public way. (However, if you sat me down with free beverages I think that I might give a few things away.) Thus, it makes it slightly difficult to explain to you exactly what my epiphany was. However, given that this blog is about the writing process, or at least my writing/creative process, I think that I can give you how I the realization of who my characters were occurred.

I know what you are thinking, shouldn’t I know my characters are? And you might be right. I know that one is sexually confused. I know that one is more than she seems – even to herself. I know one makes me laugh and another makes me weep. I know what they look like and I can tell when they want to say something because I have no choice but to let them speak through…sounds crazy I know, but this is how it seems to me these days.

Yet, I wanted to get at their story. Who were they? What made them so special that something would happen to them. What could it be? Were they ghosts? Vampires? Werewolves? As fun as writing a zombie book might be right now, not quite. So, what were they?

I was looking over my notes and a song came into my head. It was a song that was suddenly popular in the 1980s because of a hit movie. You know how that happens, a song comes into your head and it sticks there for hours (sometimes days) whether you like the song or not. I don’t particularly love this song. Actually, I don’t think I have actively listened to it even after it was in my head. But, once I considered what it was about, I knew who they were.

How many times have I seen something or heard something and it just gave me exactly what I was looking for. All I know is that the next time that I sat down to write, I wrote out the last four pages of the first book. Whether or not these remain the last four pages is hard to know. But, what I do know, is that it helped me set the stage for what is to come.

In other news, I helped R. write a song. This was fascinating because he had asked me to help him figure out the words to a piece of music he had written. He had a few words, but he didn’t quite know how to move it forward. I thought about my inner poet and the girl who wrote words to an orchestral piece from The Breakfast Club movie when she was fourteen (that girl being me) and said, “yes!” Because it scared me so of course I needed to do it.

My friend sent me the mp3 of what he had mixed and I put it on my ipod. He had discussed with me what he felt that the song was about and so I had an idea of the kind of song I was going to write. I walked around the city listening to it and jotted down notes or ideas when they came to me. Still, by the morning of the night we were supposed to meet, I had yet to write anything cohesive. Somehow though, when I sat on the bus and put my headphones on, the words came. They were not perfect phrases, but they were a start.

When I write, I know that I am writing from my experience for me to express myself to others. It is the only way that I know to write from the heart (right now.) But, here I was writing lyrics for someone else, so I know that whatever I wrote had to be something that was more from my friend’s perspective, that he would feel comfortable singing. So I thought about my friend and his stories and what he wanted this song to say, and somehow the words came.

When I showed R. the lyrics that night, he was quite happy. We tweaked and twiddled with the rhyming and rhythm of the words, but it gave him what he needed, a start. And it gave me what I needed to…the little poet girl in me a chance to sing.


About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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