When I was writing The Keys of Death, here’s something that really helped me: a playlist.
Why? Because music is emotionally evocative, and when combined with lyrics that told the story of a character’s heart or fit the mood I was trying to convey, the writing went more smoothly and I was able to maintain the emotional through-line of the book. My Keys of Death playlist included:
- the classic Andy Williams rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (to get me into the yuletide spirit, since the events of the book occur at Christmastime, and it was summer when I did much of the initial draft)
- instrumental Irish music (reels and jigs) by Altan, plus “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “October” by U2 (to make me feel like a rebellious northern Irish youth caught between happy-go-lucky “Irishness” and the anger of The Troubles)
- the hymns “You Raise Me Up” and “Be Still My Soul” (to express the spiritual yearning and anguish of the main characters)
Four songs in particular, though, I returned to over and over again, because each one matched up perfectly with one of the characters.
BTW, when I published the book in 2016, I put all the members of my mailing list into a virtual hat, stirred them around (virtually), and drew two lucky winners to receive those four songs from the Keys of Death playlist.
When I went to the music site to collect the four songs for the lucky winner, I found this:
Excuse me a moment while I rant about one of my pet peeves: I gave the songs to the lucky winner. I did not “gift” the songs, because gift is a noun, not a verb. This verbing of nouns, and vice versa, drives me batty. For example: I did not “author” The Keys of Death. I wrote it, and I am its author. If you say a person is “gifted,” are you trying to say that the person possesses rare personal qualities or talents, or that he has just been consigned to a life of indentured servitude?
Another example: you may invite me to things, or you may send me an invitation, but please, please, puh-lease don’t send me an “invite.” Or worse, “gift” me an “invite.” Why do people do this? Why do people say, “This assertion I’m trying to make is evidenced by the following facts.” Evidenced? Since when is evidence a verb? Do you mean that your assertion is “proven by the following facts?” How about this one: “Clare Walker guested The Late Late Late Show.” You mean “Clare Walker served as guest host for The Late Late Late Show?” Or “Clare Walker substituted for the regular host of The Late Late Late Show?” Argh!
If you are okay with this crazed
use abuse of the English language, please visit Grammar Girl and get your head right. Sheesh.
Where was I?
Oh, yes. My four favorite songs on the playlist are:
Can guess which song applies to which character in The Keys of Death?