Friday, April 13, 2012

Does Music Move Your Characters?

copyright 2012, aaron paul lazar

Yesterday I was listening to some audio book tracks from my newest Sam Moore Mystery, entitled TERROR COMES KNOCKING, freshly recorded by my actor/narrator, Mr. Robert King Ross. Mr. Ross is doing a wonderful job of representing Sam Moore in this book, and also has a great way with dialog. The audio book won't be available for a few months, but I'll post a link at the bottom so you can listen to this chapter if you wish.

As I drove home along 390 South, headed in the direction of home, it struck me that writing about a character listening to a singer, or playing a piano, or being engulfed in an opera can be quite challenging. I  love music (who doesn't?) and try extra hard to describe my own reactions to listening during some of these scenes. I also find that it can be an especially nice spot to insert a little poetry, for those of us who try not to be too flowery within the bulk of our prose, but who love describing flowers dripping down a stone wall or the heady scent of essential oils wafting through the air.

In chapter 20 in TERROR COMES KNOCKING, Sam's wife Rachel just received surgery for two dislocated and fractured shoulders. (that really happened to my wife, Dale, a few years back... long story!) The segment was short, describing their ride home from the hospital.

Let me know what you think of the musical aspect of this mini-scene - and see if you can tell what I was trying to emphasize by using it, as well. Sam reveals a lot about his marriage and life with inner thoughts, and I find passages like this help to clarify the character of ones characters!


excerpt from Chapter 20, TERROR COMES KNOCKING

Rachel closed her eyes. “How about some music? I just want to rest and listen to something nice.”

Sam nodded and leaned forward to switch on the CD player. Ella Fitzgerald was in the number one slot of his six-CD device, singing from "The Best of the Songbooks". He selected track three and prepared to be transported.

Her velvet cream voice prowled over him, enveloping him with its sensual tones. He went limp inside and let the notes glissade, massaging his soul in sugary splendor.

He and Rachel had danced to these tunes in their youth. They’d seen Ella several times as teenagers. In ‘62, they’d seen her twice. His collection was extensive. He owned every song ever recorded by the jazz queen, including early works from her first recordings. The music trickled over him like soft rain falling on petals…molasses poured over pancakes. It reminded him of days gone by, particularly nights gone by. With Rachel. In their most intimate moments.

She remembered, too. She opened her eyes for a minute and slid a sideways glance at her husband. “You’re remembering, aren’t you, Sammy?”

Sam grinned, slow and lazy. He hadn’t felt like this in a long time. “Yeah… What times we had, hey, darlin’?”

He dropped his hand from the wheel and touched her knee. The hospital gown had ridden up mid-thigh.

She laughed out loud. “Now don’t get any ideas, you devil.”

Sam shot a glance at her. The bittersweet knowledge of their life together now hit him hard. They hadn’t made love in years, probably wouldn’t, either. He had to make do with memories. Wonderful, passionate, amazing memories. He saw her in that light now, with her long dark hair rippling over her creamy white shoulders, her dark eyes smoldering, her fluttery fingers touching him in that way…

“Sorry, Rach. Can’t help it. You still drive me wild.”

Her eyes puddled, full of the stark knowledge that Sam accepted with equanimity. He exchanged smiles with her, patting her again. “We were blessed, weren’t we?”

She nodded. He plucked a Kleenex out of the dispenser and leaned over to dab her cheeks.


Here's another scene from the next book in the series, book #3 in Moore Mysteries, entitled FOR KEEPS (June 2012). In this case Rachel is trying to get Sam to open up to a new style of music, quite unlike his favorite, Ms. Fitzgerald. I also use my books to cross pollinate between my own series (see reference to Gus LeGarde's radio show in Sam Moore's book) and to give free plugs to writer friends whose books I want to promote!

In this segment, Sam has just come in from an unsettled meeting with the local coroner, who seems to have a crush on him.


from chapter 11, FOR KEEPS:

“How’d it go, sweetie?”
Sam slumped against the doorframe. “Pretty much like you said it would. But it’s still damned uncomfortable.”
“Oh, poor baby,” she said, patting the sofa beside her. “Come listen with me. Japanese Melodies, by Camille Saint-Saëns. They’re so pretty.”

Reluctantly, Sam shuffled to the couch and dropped beside Rachel. “Okay. Maybe for a little while.” Sam’s usual tastes ran to Ella Fitzgerald’s crooning and Duke Ellington’s band. But he tried to maintain an open mind as he slid close to her and slipped an arm around her shoulders. She snuggled into him and closed her eyes.

The cello and piano duet invaded the room, soothing and saddening Sam at the same time. The music glided into his heart, plucked at his emotions, and tantalized him. The piece Professor LeGarde analyzed was particularly evocative, with searing melodies that sounded mildly Japanese and Spanish at the same time. Sam imagined a Japanese tea garden with a flamenco dancer poised on an ornate bridge. The next time he saw Gus in Wegmans, he’d have to thank him.

When it was over, Rachel clicked off the radio with the remote and sighed, almost as if she were about to burst into tears. They sat for a few minutes in silence.

He finally broke the spell. “Wow. You were right.”


Okay, it goes on from there, of course, to pick up on the original thread of the chapter. 

Thanks for stopping by today, and if you have time, let me know what you think of this topic in the comment section, below. 

Here's a link to some sample audio book chapters from this book, and if you'd like to read an excerpt, you can do so at my lazarbooks website, here.

Remember, if you love to write... write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

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