Music has always been a great source of inspiration for me. Songs have planted ideas, helped me out of writer's block, and kept me moving through a scene. Below are some of the songs that have inspired me and how.
“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS. The way the Michael Hutchence delivered the words, the music—those are the things that entranced me about the song. The song stayed with me for days after until I saw two people in my mind, brought together almost instantaneously but torn apart almost as quickly. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was a connection that didn’t go away. And so, that is the song that initiated the story I’ve been working on for a while, now. My inspiration didn’t stop with that one, though—
“Beautiful Girl” and “Disappear,” also by INXS. When I first heard “Never Tear Us Apart,” again, of course I had to revisit my entire INXS collection. The former stayed with me because it made me think of the male protagonist thinking of the female, and “Disappear,” well, just gave me an exhilarating feeling. I’ve replayed that one a lot.
“Carefree Highway” by Gordon Lightfoot. I heard this song on the radio and immediately had to down load it. Lightfoot’s calm, soothing, poignant voice perfectly tells the story of a man remembering a woman from long ago, one who was not his but who he cannot forget nonetheless. It has that lasting effect I want to capture.
“You’ll Accomp’ny Me” by Bob Seger. I heard this song after dropping Lydia at the babysitter’s on my way to work one morning and immediately turned it up. I listened to what Seger was saying to this woman who had to take off and leave and I loved his knowledge (not hope) that even though he accepts and lets her go, he knows they will be together again because they were meant to be, even if it’s not now.
“Ordinary World” by Duran Duran. This song created a feeling of longing, one that I felt my characters did for one another, particularly during the time they are kept apart by unforeseen forces. I credit the lovely music but also the lead singer’s powerful yet retrained emotional way of delivering his words.
“After All” by Peter Cetera and Cher. Okay, can I just say the power of Peter Cetera’s voice harmonized so well with Cher’s? I love how the title phrase is repeated several times in different ways, but is also a theme, one I feel my story is traveling towards, if I can find the way.
“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. This is a duet I have long loved, one that I feel is actually one of the best out there. There’s a lot of history between the speakers, some anger, but passion as well, and when I heard it again recently, it was like my characters singing to one another. Strange, I know, but my characters are performers as well and when I heard this again, I heard them in my mind.
“Sea of Love.” There is a lot of dancing in this story, though it’s not about dancers. It’s about musicians and singers. I’ve always been intrigued at people who work together (especially creatively) and are in a relationship as well. And so, that is what I explored here. But, like I said, there is dancing at two major parts of the story. In the first part, my two characters meet and before they even say more than a few words to one another, they are drawn into a slow dance to “Sea of Love.” Again, I heard this one on the radio as I was writing and I took note of how the speaker asks the listener if she remembers when they first met. Like my book, this song deals a lot with remembrance and recollections and it also addresses an instant connection between two people.
“My Girl,” by The Temptations. Another song I selected is when the central character teaches her love how to dance the shag on the beach. There needed to be a song to go along with that, a good shagging song. Not only is “My Girl” a good shagging song, but it communicates what has just happened in the story. Almost at this exact point, she has become his girl.
“Mandolin Rain,” by Bruce Hornsby. This is a song that pushed me forward when I felt a little blocked. I heard it in my car one morning and again, heard the lyrics for the first time. I became encapsulated with the speaker’s story, which Hornsby sings with just the right amount of poignancy and passion. He has lost a woman he loves, though we don’t know exactly why. We are only given hints in that we know she “runs away” and there was a “choice” he made that we are meant to believe led to this loss. And as I listened to these words, I began to see parallels again in my story. And to top it off, he describes a quiet dance the two share that closely resembled the dance my characters did near the beginning.
“Silver Springs,” (live version) by Fleetwood Mac and “Hello,” by Adele. The characters go through a lot of mental and emotional anguish. Though they love one another, they hurt one another and there is no shortage of songs on that subject. But, the ones that stayed with me and that I felt described my characters were “Silver Springs” (the live version) by Fleetwood Mac and “Hello” by Adele. I’ve always been a fan of Fleetwood Mac and when I heard this song again, I immediately zeroed in on the truthfulness with which Stevie Nicks communicates the sentiments one feels immediately after a breakup. Notice how she goes back and forth in her feelings (natural after a breakup) toward, as we know, is Lindsey Buckingham. Also, the way she describes to him that he won’t forget her is lovely. What’s even more powerful is the live version they did of this song on their album The Dance. Watch it on Youtube if possible!
I damn near cried the first time I heard Adele’s “Hello.” Against the backdrop of a phone call (or an almost phone call) to a former love, she confesses her regret, mistakes, and the love she still feels for him despite it all. Her voice in the chorus is almost a lift, high and away as she is nearly filled with hope and then brought deep down when she realizes it’s too late to continue their love, but not make things right. I heard it, and I had the last scene of my novel.
And so, there it is—the inspirations and motivations that helped me see and feel what my characters were going through. I finished editing it last week. And, what song did I randomly hear on the radio the day I finished editing? You guessed it: “Never Tear Us Apart.” A fitting end, indeed!