As a writer, I think it’s easy for me to get bogged down in my head, on the black font on the screen or on the page, and to forget the power our words have when they are vocalized. When I listen to music, I remember that language has texture and rhythm and density. I’m going to link to a few songs and artists who change the way I think about prose. Whether or not you listen to them, I hope you will consider and respond to the following:
What techniques or tricks do you use to help you discover your narrative and your characters’ voices?
What do you think are some of the most distinctive voices in music, film, history, or fiction? How do they inspire or influence your writing?
The first singer that comes to mind when I think of distinctive voices is Tom Waits. Love him or hate him, Tom Waits is a powerful storyteller, and he is his gravely, smoke and whiskey-stained voice. Imagine how our experiences of “And The Earth Died Screaming” would change if it were voiced by Paul Simon? Or Regina Spektor? Or how Waits might transform Tori Amos’ “Crucify” or “Cornflake Girl”?
Amanda Palmer has a range of storytelling voices, but one that she does really well is someone who is struggling with her sanity. I’ve used “Runs in the Family” to inspire a frenetic narrative voice:
The vocalist I’m most fascinated with right now is System of a Down’s Serge Tankian. In “Chop Suey” you can listen to him jump from a whisper to a yell, from syncopation to ballad-like segments. Someday, I’d like to experiment with the texture and rhythm of prose in similar ways.
For the last example, I’m going to link to three performances/covers of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” It’s the same song, note how the three distinct voices completely transform it:
Sad Kermit (warning graphic and disturbing NSFW muppet imagery!):