Today’s post by Bonnie Grove of our sister blog, Novel Matters | @BonnieGrove
I’ve finished writing a novel this week. A three-year journey of frustration and hope. As I combed through one last time before sending it off, I lingered over the pages that contained song lyrics. There are lyrics from eight songs in the manuscript. Snippets mostly, the apt verses that fit the moment in the book, except for one song I transcribed in its entirety. The songs had to be included in the manuscript because they add a dimension of emotional expression unattainable through any other method.
Music and novels are, for me, two sides of the same storytelling coin.
When I was a kid, I had bemoaned the fact that a soundtrack did not accompany real life the way it did in movies. It wasn’t until as an adult, I looked back and saw that I had created a soundtrack for my life after all. Summers were Chicago’s power ballads on a sandy beach holding hands with a boy I’d met two days ago. And The Beach Boys singing oldies but goodies while I learned to waterski and windsurf (I was terrible at both). Grade 11 was the soundtrack to Purple Rain as my friends and I acted out each song. (I was a drama geek.) The stories in those songs became my story.
How does that happen?
I think part of the answer is that storytelling is the creative connection between people and life. Both the novel, with its long view of unfolding events, and the song with its explosion of emotion capsuled in a few verses, weave themselves into our life journeys and help us express a prism of meaning and depth we cannot articulate on our own.
The lyrics from the eight songs I included in the manuscript add emotional depth and dimension to the story. A mother holding her child sings,
Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
never to part, baby of mine
A fisherman faced with the daunting task of making an outsider understand how his life and livelihood have been wiped out sings,
They filled their dories twice a day
They fished their poor sweet lives away
They could not imagine then
No more fish, no fishermen.
The songs become something beyond language and usher us into the place of feeling and experiencing. Story weaves into story. A novel’s reach is extended by the songs ability to quickly touch the tender talon of longing, the ache in the bone, the explosion of hope.
I no longer bemoan the fact that life doesn’t come with a soundtrack. I’m convinced we create our own soundtrack thought the creative connection of storytelling both with the stories we read, and the music we listen to.
How about you? Which novels and/or songs have woven into the fabric of your life?