Monday, July 18, 2016

Guest Post with Shannon Lee Alexander!

Music and Writing

Years and years ago, back in the day when I had cable, there was a funny Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant movie called Music and Lyrics. It used to come on All. The. Time. And of course, it was adorable (because they are adorable), and so I’d end up watching it All. The. Time.

I haven’t thought of that movie in ages. But when I made a note to myself about this guest post, Music and Writing, it made me think of it. I seem to remember that Hugh Grant’s character was a musician from an old 80s band or something, and he needed to write a comeback song, but he was crap at lyrics. In comes Drew Barrymore. Actually, she came in to water his plants because he was apparently too lazy to do this himself? I don’t know, whatever. I can’t sit in judgment because I killed a cactus once (and then made a cute felt one to replace it because I’d really liked that cactus, but obviously couldn’t be trusted to keep plants alive). 

Okay, I swear, I’m getting to the point!

So, my point is that you should watch this movie because—no, sorry. My point is that sometimes music can unlock words within us. Hugh Grant’s character stunk at writing the lyrics until he met Drew Barrymore and realized he had something important to say. And sometimes writing is like that—we end up stuck in a rut because we’re not sure what we really want to communicate. Music is great at giving us the boost we need to get out of the rut.

I can’t actually write and listen to music at the same time. I generally need quiet or white noise (I love to burn wooden wick candles because they hum and pop while they burn and make great white noise). But when I’m stuck in my writing, I take a break and listen to music.

I’ll do something mindless like fold laundry or walk the dog while listening, and before long, the music has unraveled the knot in my mind and I’m flooded with new ideas for my story and characters. I’m sure there’s science behind it (when doing research for LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES I remember reading about the ways music and other forms of art can affect our brains), but what’s important is that it works. Every. Time.

I like to make playlists for various characters, settings, or moods to go with whatever I’m currently working on. Listening to a certain character’s playlist before writing a tough scene with them always helps me jump right into the character.

I struggled for a while finding Becca’s voice in LIFE AFTER JULIET. Becca had changed a lot from when I wrote her in LAOUV, so finding the new Becca, the after-Charlotte version of Becca, was difficult. I had LAOUV readers help me put together a Spotify playlist of songs for Becca.

The list is entitled “Defy the Stars,” a theme from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet I was trying to help Becca incorporate into her own life. Anytime I felt lost writing in Becca’s voice, I’d take a break and listen to one of the songs on her playlist. Something about the familiar songs would take me right back to where I needed to be—the perfect mindset for capturing the essence of Becca Hanson.

Take a listen to Defy the Stars and then let me know if you have any other songs you think sound like Becca. I’d love to add them to my list. An unexpected benefit to keeping playlists like these is that when I get lonely for my old characters and stories, listening to their playlists takes me right into the heart of my memories.


I want to say a HUGE thank you to Shannon Lee Alexander for taking the time to stop by and give us a little insight into her writing prep. And I know I posted my review of Life After Juliet a few days ago, but I just want to say again that if you haven't read it, please check it out now! I mean, I gave it 5 stars! Also, that playlist...there are some great songs on there and I implore you to take a listen :)

Please please please check this book out! You will not be disapointed!


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