Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Soundtrack to the Novel

Many of the people I know who write novels say that they listen to specific music during the writing process. Specific to that novel. When the novel is finished and they move on to a new story, the music changes.

I also listen to music. But I also collect small objects associated with the story. I keep them on my desk and when I am looking for inspiration, I pick them up and turn them in my hand, feeling the weight and texture. Right now I am thinking about a story that concerns a locksmith. So I have a couple of padlocks on the desk, and a couple of bits of metal that I can use as lockpicks.

One of the questions that I am often asked is about how I do the research for my novels. I used to feel embarrassed about that question - because I was not aware of doing any research. But having thought about it, I have realised that I am constantly researching. My research might be described as persistent curiosity, or nosiness.

I go through my life asking questions of the people I meet, listening to what they have to say, and all the accumulated information is somehow regurgitated as a novel.

This morning offers a good example. We are having a couple of windows replaced and the man who is doing the work turns out to be a locksmith. Facts are comparatively easy to find on the Internet. I have mentioned in an earlier post that YouTube has a comprehensive range of instruction videos on lock picking. But attitudes are illusive things. Listening to a real locksmith talking about how he felt about the job - this is precious indeed.


Amanda said...

I've heard the same thing about people creating a "soundtrack" for their novel, but I just can't write with music in the background.

I love the idea of you having locks and stuff around while writing this story. Quite inspiring! I'm writing a novel set in Bratislava and have a poster I made up of photos I took there on the wall, but nothing more concrete - I think I'll dig out some stuff I got there and add it to my inspiration collection. Thanks for the tip!

Rod Duncan said...

Hi Amanda,

I couldn't write with lyrics in the air. When I was writing Breakbeat, I listened to a load of old punk tracks, the Clash, the Pistols and more modern techno trance stuff - as this was what my main character was into. But it would be in bursts between the actual writing.

As for objects - I once made a poster to help me write a novel - with a big sheet of blank wallpaper on which I wrote key words, phrases, quotes from lyrics etc, and to which I stuck objects.

But I like to hold the objects really.

Thanks for the comment.

Kiamo said...

Yea, music is wonderfully inspirational, as are many other things. It's really quite important to surround ourselves with the things that inspire us. And a big part of the art of living.

I have some proper lock picks I can happily lend you if you want some more genuine bits for lock pickery inspiration.

I hadn't thought about it much before but I guess I too like to hold and fiddle with objects while I'm thinking, I hadn't thought of tayloring those objects to help keep me focused on a topic...

I flick pens around constantly, or pillows, when im typing the need is satisfied, but during the pauses for thought i often fiddle with this part of my chair that has a hard smooth texture, and slides in and out of its socket, or i just rattle the keys on my keyboard. I used to have an old lock pick set and lock that I would fiddle with while at my computer, which eventually gently fell apart in my hand due to massive over use, haha.