I started reading on my own when I was four years old. I remember that feeling of being able to look at lines of letters and understand what they meant. First, it was cereal boxes and hairspray cans. Anything with words caught my attention. I didn’t spend hours in the bathtub playing with toys like other children. I read shampoo bottles and soap boxes and toilet paper packages, anything I could get my little hands on.
My parents bought me a record player along with the soundtrack to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and a whole new world opened up to me. Sure, I’d heard songs on the radio in the car but this was my own music with words I could understand. It was another form of storytelling. I would close my eyes and listen to the lyrics and see pictures in my mind. This was how the tie between music and stories began for me.
Someone recently asked me what kind of music I like. My response was simply, “I like it all.” I can’t pinpoint one particular genre that moves me more than another. I grew up listening to country, Motown classics and 50’s and 60’s rock and roll, including Elvis Presley. Lots of Elvis Presley.
When I hit my teenage years I went through phases where my mood dictated what I listened to. My taste ranged from Duran Duran and Tears for Fears to hard hitting punk like TSOL and the Sex Pistols and into the beats and rhymes of The Beastie Boys and Run DMC. I never subscribed to any one type of music. Every song tells a story and either it speaks to me or it doesn’t. My likes were, and are, mostly artist motivated.
As I sat down to write this, I realized how significant of a role music has played in my life. With today’s technology, we often hear, “There’s an app for that.” In my mind, I think, “There’s a song for that.” So it goes with my writing. There are songs that can reduce me to tears or make me giggle like a school girl and I use that.
In Giving Up the Ghost, I really had to dig deep to grab a hold of the emotion and sorrow I wanted to convey to the reader when the main character loses her husband in a tragic accident. I read somewhere that some of the best writers are those who have suffered. They know what pain feels like and when you write what you know, it’s authentic.
It wasn’t hard for me to pinpoint my most profound pain. I lost both of my parents in a three year period. As morbid as it sounds, I listened to the selections from my mom’s memorial service while I wrote the first chapters of Giving Up the Ghost. I needed to feel that kind of pain to write that kind of pain. And, once my character moved on to a happier place in the book, I segued into more upbeat music like Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. Yes, I like Miss Swift and I refuse to defend myself.
My latest story came to mind while I was reading about the untimely death of Type O Negative’s singer and bass player, Peter Steele. I had the urge to listen to the October Rust album. Love You to Death came on and a new character popped up and insisted on telling me a story. A ghost story. The music I play while writing isn’t always for my benefit either. This ghost happens to enjoy not only TON but Nine Inch Nails, The Pretty Reckless, 30 Seconds to Mars and Five Finger Death Punch.
At the end of the day, I don’t really have a formula for how I use music in my writing. It serves different purposes for me. Sometimes it forces me to feel something deeper in order to convey a particular message, sometimes it makes me happy dance in my seat while typing like the wind and other times it sparks a new idea. I can only say it’s important to my process in one way or another.
In closing, I’d like to share one of my all time favorite songs. Closer to the Edge by 30 Seconds to Mars. This song makes it onto all my writing playlists because it touches me on so many levels.
To learn more about Melissa, please visit her website www.melissaecker.com and her Amazon Author Page You can also follow her on Twitter @MelissaEcker and like her on Facebook