Writing to the beat
Guest post by Cassandra O’Leary, author of Girl on a Plane
One of the unexpected things I’ve enjoyed since getting back into fiction writing about three years ago, has been exploring a character’s unique voice and personality. It’s a magical thing as a writer, when the ordinary words you’re tapping into a keyboard suddenly start coming out in character. When a distinct voice or turn of phrase emerges that’s not really my author-self speaking.
Something that’s helped me find that character voice has been music. It may be a cliché to talk about a song being part of the soundtrack to your life, but I think there’s truth to the idea. Everyone reading this blog can probably think of a particular song or album that can send them hurtling back to a moment in the past, complete with emotional reactions attached to that memory.
I’ve found a similar thing when hanging out with my characters. I know I’m on the right track with a story when I’m writing and out of the blue (or the murky recesses of my mind) I can picture my heroine walking down the street or sitting in her apartment…and there’s a song in the background. A real song that I know is the type of music she’d listen to.
This is exactly what happened when I began writing my debut novel, Girl on a Plane. The story centres on the character of Sinead, an Irish flight attendant. She’s quite a bubbly, hopeful person with a strong backbone underneath the glamorous surface, as she’s tackled difficult personal issues in the past.
A few songs that popped into my mind reflected Sinead’s character:
- It’s Beautiful by Spiderbait, with an ethereal, floaty sounding female vocal and pop beat which I could imagine her listening to on a plane
- Nothing Compares 2U by Sinead O’Connor, about woman who has loved and lost, who may eat her dinner in a fancy restaurant or do whatever she chooses, but she’s still blue
- My Angel Gabriel by Lamb, the perfect song for evoking Sinead’s feelings when she finally falls in love with our hero, Gabriel.
I ended up keeping an open file of songs that I thought suited the character, and started building a playlist in Spotify to listen to when writing specific scenes. In the end, I had playlists for both main characters. Sinead’s has a pop rhythm. Gabriel, the gruff but gorgeous Aussie CEO who she meets in First Class, has quite a different emotional feel.
Gabriel was a tough character to write, because he hides his emotions. He even hid them from me, the author of his story! By finding music I thought Gabriel would be drawn to, I actually found a window into his character. He’s also had a difficult path in life, but being a man, perhaps is angrier and more determined to succeed career-wise than Sinead. His songs come from artists including Nirvana, Hilltop Hoods (Aussie hip hop group) and the moody Nick Cave.
Following is an excerpt from Girl on a Plane where music was important in the scene:
“Not bloody Kylie,” he whispered. The singing budgie wasn’t his favourite Aussie export. He rubbed his temples with both hands.
Sinead was centre stage with a microphone in one hand, doing the weird dance from the music video. Even though he wasn’t a fan, it was the type of song your brain absorbed by osmosis. She wasn’t wearing the famous white jumpsuit with the plunging neckline, but he pictured it anyway. She already looked damn fine up there, shimmying and shaking, even sexier than when she’d danced to the Macarena song back on the plane. The Kylie outfit would be the icing on the cake though.
“La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la… ”
She launched into the song and as she started on the lyrics, he had to admit she wasn’t half bad. At least she was giving it everything she had.
Gabriel’s ears pricked up at the words of the song. Could the lyrics be meant especially for him? She couldn’t get some guy out of her head, and his loving was all she could think about.
This song wasn’t so bad after all. Sinead strutted across the stage like a real rock chick. Her tight jeans gave him a fine view of her assets, along with every other bloke in the bar.
One guy yelled out. “Hey Kylie! Wanna do the locomotion with me?”
Laughs broke out from the punters near the stage. A jolt of jealousy struck him like a punch in the gut. He couldn’t stand the idea of these guys looking at her, let alone laying their hands on her. Weird, seeing as he’d never experienced anything like it. Ever.
Sinead seemed to be oblivious to the effect she had on the guys in the crowd. She was in the zone. Now Sinead sang about wanting the guy every day and every night. Asking him to stay.
I’m interested to hear from other writers about whether music plays an important role in your writing. And readers, do you ever imagine a soundtrack to go with your favourite book? Comment on this blog and let me know!
You can check out my complete music playlist for Girl on a Plane on my website – cassandraolearyauthor.com/extras and click through to listen on Spotify.
About the Author:
Cassandra O’Leary is a romance and women’s fiction author, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things.
Cassandra was recently nominated for Best New Author in the AusRom Today Reader’s Choice Awards, celebrating excellence in Australian romance fiction!
In 2015, Cassandra won the We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK. Her debut novel, Girl on a Plane, was published in July 2016. She was also a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star writing contest, Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America, and a 2014 finalist in the First Kiss contest, Romance Writers of Australia.
Cassandra is a mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she’s also travelled the world. If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting ‘research’ trips, that would be splendiferous.
Proud member of Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of America, Melbourne Romance Writers Guild and Writers Victoria.
A sexy, sassy, summer read, perfect for fans of Rebecca Chance and Lindsey Kelk.
CLIMB ON BOARD . . .
When feisty Irish flight attendant Sinead Kennealy locks eyes with sexy Australian CEO Gabriel Anderson in First Class, sparks fly. But as they jet across the globe from Melbourne to London, it’s clear that they’re in for a turbulent journey . . .
Stressed-out Gabriel doesn’t do relationships. And Sinead isn’t about to be fooled by another bad boy after escaping her stalker ex. Then a storm hits, causing the plane to land unexpectedly, and Sinead and Gabriel are thrown together in Singapore.
The pressure rises as Sinead’s unhappy past threatens to catch up with her. But might Gabriel be the one to heal her heartbreak? If he could open up about his troubling secrets, maybe a relationship could actually get off the ground. Fasten your seatbelts – this WON’T be a smooth ride . . .
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