Or in this case, Nita’s soundtrack.
I do soundtracks for my books for the same reason I do collages: to look at the story in a different way. I start by making a playlist of any song that seems right–Chesney’s and Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” songs were a no-brainer–and trying to find new things–that would be Lenka’s “Trouble is a Friend” recommended by CateM here–and then putting them in a rough order. Then the soundtrack usually sits for awhile as I write.
But when I’ve got the plot pretty much blocked out, I circle back to it. Which of these songs fits in what act? Which of these songs is a scene? Which are character themes? Which just don’t fit any more? Where are my gaps and what kind of songs do I need to fill them? The point of this is not to make a playlist which I will forget once the book is out anyway, any more than the point of a book collage is to make a poster. The point is to think about the story in a new way.
Example: I’d started the list with Imogene Heap’s “Spooky” because that’s how Nita’s introduced. Months later, the list now starts with Lenka because that’s Nita’s theme. I can hear it playing while she sits in that cold car with her new partner, knowing things are very wrong and trying to cope with reality, which within twenty-four hours is going to get very bent. So no problem, just move Heap to the bar scene sequence where Nick meets Nita. Except that Heap is female and the whole song is really about Nita understanding Nick, which doesn’t happen until the third act. So Heap drops down to the third act. But now I need “Spooky” sung by a male, and the classic version isn’t doing it for me. Too upbeat and affectionate; we’re talking about a dead guy here.
So what did I get from that bit of musical brainstorming? For one thing, that I want Spooky in there twice, which reminded me that I have a bit of dialogue between Nita and Nick that gets repeated but reversed. Nick says it to Nita in Act Two and Nita says it to Nick in Act Three, which are reversed dynamic acts already. Nick’s still in charge in Act Two and Nita’s on the ropes, trying to cope with the changes forced on her, but in Act Three, Nick gets hit with massive changes and Nita’s in charge because she’s on her feet again. So maybe Heap’s “Spooky” stays in Act Three and I put the original “Spooky” in Act Two, when Nick is less dead.
Or there are the sex scenes. I do not like writing sex scenes, but if your characters have sex and it makes a difference to the plot, you’re a coward if you don’t show what happens. And because this book is kicking my ass, there are three sex scenes. Not extended scenes, there’s a limit, but scenes that go on long enough to show how different they are because Nita and Nick keep changing and their relationship keeps changing. Trying to figure out the music for those is another not-there-yet part of the soundtrack. I know “Such a Night” is the second one, but for the other two, we’re talking some specific mood music I haven’t found yet. It doesn’t matter because the soundtrack has already done what it’s supposed to do: told me the three moods of the three sex scenes, something I hadn’t thought about before.
There’s a lot more–that soundtrack goes for two hours and it’s not finished, I’m still rearranging and filling holes in the playlist–but the good news is that the music is doing what it’s supposed to do, helping me see Nita and her story with new eyes. Ears. Whatever.
The Extremely Tentative, Still in Progress Devil in Nita Dodd Soundtrack
First Scene: “Trouble is a Friend,” Lenka
Scenes in Bar: ??
Scenes at House: “Demons,” Chesney
Investigation: “Busy Day,” Gooey
Scenes on Demon Head: “Suddenly I See,” Tunstall
Arguments: King of Anything, Bareilles
Scenes w Family in Bar: “Master of Disaster,” Hiatt
Aftermath: Have a Little Faith in Me,” Hiatt
Investigation “Together,” She and Him
Smite: “Ghost,” Henderson
Aftermath: “Lullaby,” Mullins
“Not a Love Song,” Lewis
“I Can’t Decide,” Scissors Sisters
“Strip Me,” Bedingfield
“Alone Together,” Fall Out Boy
“Such a Night,” Elvis
“Human,” The Pretenders
“Too Lost in You,” Sugababes
“You’re the One,” Chapman
“Will You Remember Me?” Cash
“Somebody Knows You Now,” Paisley
“Demons,” Imagine Dragons
“World on Fire,” McLachlan
“Only Human,” Cash
“Bleed to Love Her,” Fleetwood Mac
“No More Tears,” Streisand and Summers
“What Love Can Do,” Hiatt