Friday, October 15, 2010

Music – Can It Convey Mood?

Please welcome my guest, author Kat Cantrell!

Thanks for having me here today Jeanne – I’m excited to talk to your readers about what I’ve been working on. I’m a top ten finalist in the Mills & Boon New Voices contest, which is pretty amazing considering there were over 800 entries. Thigh Noon is the story of a jilted entrepreneur whose ex holds her thigh-shaper product patent hostage in exchange for another shot at their relationship.

The hero, Jesse, is Black Irish, President and CEO of a company he built with his own two (clever, capable, and callused) hands and one sexy alpha male who will do anything to get what he wants. I’ve never written an alpha male before but I know what I like in one and infused as much of that into his character as I could. One thing I knew about him – he likes music. Loud, obnoxious, soulful, sensual; all different sorts. He’s also in the habit of wearing his concert T-shirts almost 100% of the time. That’s the benefit of owning your own company – you can wear whatever you want to work.

I hit upon the idea that the heroine, Alexia, gauges his moods based on what he’s listening to at the time. For example, in the first scene, he’s wearing a Metallica T-shirt because he knows she’s coming to confront him about stealing her patent. It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out dirty fight. Metallica fits that mood perfectly. Many readers have commented how much they like that aspect of their relationship and its sparked some interesting debate.

So I started thinking. Can music really convey your mood to someone else? What if that person has a different emotion attached to a song, like because it was an ex’s favorite or it was playing during their first kiss? What if your mood changes during the song? Also, I’ve read some things the artists say about what inspired them to write particular songs and honestly, I didn’t see that feeling in the lyrics or the tone of the music. Sometimes, I think artists correctly leave songs open-ended for your own interpretation because at heart, music is a personal experience.

A lot of writers listen to music while writing and will switch up the sound based on the type of scene it is. Heavy guitars for fight scenes, soulful for the black moment, sensual for a love scene, and so on. To me, this is kind of the opposite idea – taking a mood and transferring it into your scene – and is loaded with the same potential for misfire. Do readers really get what you’re trying to do with the undertones of a scene?

I personally cannot write with music playing, but I recognize the value in it for some people. Regardless of which side you’re on, I want your opinion! Is it really possible to express mood through music and vice versa?

Thanks again for the opportunity to take over for a day Jeanne! Please vote for my entry in the New Voices contest. (requires easy and painless registration but I appreciate it!

About Kat: Kat Cantrell grew up enthralled with Star Wars, Buck Rogers and Starblazers, and read her first Harlequin in the third grade, which gave birth to a life-long obsession with the infinte beyond and eternal romance. What else would make sense but to combine the two? She suffers from genre ADD to this day and writes both contemporary and science fiction romance.

She majored in English literature, officially with the intent to teach but quickly realized the mistake when faced with twenty-five pairs of high-schooler's eyes. After twelve years buried in middle management at Corporate America, Inc., Kat began a new career aspiration: published romance author. And lived happily ever after in North Texas with a fantastic husband, two kids and no cubicle.


Paul McDermott said...

If I were not completely convinced that music is ESSENTIAL to creative writing, well over half of my scribblings would never have seen the light of day!
I'm not referring to background music while I sit and write. I abhor and detest the 'muzak' played in supermarkets to persuade the sheep to remain in the aisles and spend more money. I don't even mean the (very BAD!!) C&W currently being played at FULL volume by a neighbour who lives FOUR apartments further along the block where I live (wish I could avoid THAT!)
Music is a theme in many of my stories, and I use it to suggest a mood, or to underpin a plotline.
One of my current WiPs is a cross-genre romance-saga-thriller-legend set in contemporary Ireland but with constant historical references, and the most important of these is the music written by Ireland's most famous harp composer, Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738). His music weaves in and out of the plot all the time: it's possible to think of it as a 'ghost story', at least in parts!
If this has piqued your interest, watch out for "The Chapel of Her dreams" later this year. Music is an INTEGRAL part of ALL creative writing!

Anonymous said...

Paul, thank you so much for coming by and leaving such a heartfelt comment. I adore Irish music in any form - it's haunting regardless of the time period and I could see it lending that mood to a tale easily. Your story sounds awesome. Best of luck to you on it. Slainte!

Kimberly Farris said...

I do think it's possible to express mood through music. I think in order for readers to get the mood the writer intends there have to be other things in the scene to support the music. Some songs may not need this support or as much support.

Interesting question.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts Kimberly. :) I agree that some may need more or less and I hadn't considered that.