Music for Phoebe

Anyone who has spent time around me knows that music is very important to me, despite not being able to play a lick of it. I listen to it all the time, though my car stereo is currently broken, which is a major crisis in my life.

Naturally, I have a playlist for writing. Actually, I have several of them: a general one and then a specific one for major projects. Becoming Phoebe is one of those projects; I have a very specific list of things to have playing while working on it.

The first thing to note is that Phoebe would hate just about everything on that list. She likes punk and industrial, especially some of the more esoteric and non-melodic stuff. Bands she likes include Coil, Throbbing Gristle, and Einstürtzende Neubauten. Props if you’re at all familiar with them (I wasn’t until halfway through the rough draft.)

The things in my Phoebe playlist, in their current order:

Marillion: “Brave” – I confess that I’ve never listened to the lyrics closely enough to really figure out what this album is about (which, for me, involves reading them as I listen) but it projects a mood that matches how I feel about Phoebe.

Sylvan: “Sceneries” – This album came out about four weeks after I started writing the rough draft. Here, some of the lyrics really do fit. That’s especially true in “The Words That You Hide, Pt 2,” which features breathing. In the book, Phoebe learns to meditate and uses Caityn’s breathing as a focus. The rest of the album matches what I want well, but hearing that piece for the first time as I was getting going was serendipitous.

Coldplay: “X&Y” – It’s schmaltzy. It’s . . .

(My prog rock cred just jumped out the window and ran screamng down the street.)

. . . simple. It’s corny. Nevertheless, I really like it and it really fits this story. It’s only the first half of the album I listen for Phoebe, but a song like “Fix You,” as sappy as it is, is just appropriate. The line, “I want to love you but I don’t know if I can,” from “Talk” is also very fitting.

Gabriel Yared & Others: “The English Patient Soundtrack” – The English Patient is my favorite movie and it’s influential on “Becoming Phoebe” in several different ways. The soundtrack is powerful, though, again, some will find it over the top. “Read Me to Sleep,” the track that plays when Almasy returns to the cave where he left Katherine is shattering.

Coldplay: “A Rush of Blood to the Head” – Again, only about half of the album is in this playlist. I have no idea whether it fits lyrically, but it also produces the right feelings to work on the story.

The Alan Parsons Project: “Gaudi” – This is my favorite Parsons album, which most fans find strange; they generally pick either “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” or “Turn of a Friendly Card.” This album is in almost all of my writing playlists, because it is about the process of art and how it develops meaning and speaks to me as a writer rather than as someone writing a particular set of characters.

Marillion: “Happiness Is the Road, Part 1” – This album is about the process of finding happiness. While Phoebe takes a different path in that direction than the album does, finding happiness is one of the themes of the novel.

Peter Gabriel: “So” – It is a lot like the last album in terms of how it works for me. My only regret is that I have never been able to pull a decent copy of “In Your Eyes” from the VHS concert film “P.O.V.” to slip into the album version.

Sylvan: “Posthumous Silence” – The premise of this abum is a father reading his daughter’s diary that he finds after she commits suicide. It won’t take reading very far into “Becoming Phoebe” to see the comparisons. It’s powerful, to the point that the band had to have another project (their album “Presets”) that they were working on at the same time because they couldn’t work just on it.

Queen: “Made in Heaven” – While Queen pretty much never made an album I don’t like, this is my favorite. It was assembled as Freddie Mercury was dying. While the specific theme of dying doesn’t match Phoebe, the overall attitude about the world does.

Phil Collins: “. . . But Seriously” – I just shot whatever was left of my prog credibility. This is another one where only half of the songs are in my list.

Marillion: “Beautiful” – Just a single song, from their “Afraid of Sunlight” album. Very appropriate to Phoebe.

Antonio Vivaldi: “Gloria in D Major: Et in Terra Pax” – This is the version from the soundtrack to the movie “Runaway Train,” another one of my favorites, an existential action movie with no gunfire. It’s slower than most versions and very haunting.

Coldplay: “Viva la Vids or Death and All His Friends” – Yes, yes, I really like Coldplay. Give it a rest.

4/21 Update

I don’t usually outline my stories, either before or during the process of actually writing them.  Overwhelmingly, I just let them flow.  Sometimes I don’t even have a specific ending in mind and I find out where it’s going as I write.  In one case (“The Sacrifices of Company B”), the second most important character did not in any way exist until I had started writing the paragraph in which he is introduced.  Other times I know where the story is going but let it find it’s own path to get there.  In rare cases, generally with the much shorter stories, there’s something like an outline in my head when I start and there isn’t much deviation as I write.

<i>Becoming Phoebe</i> started life as a character sketch that turned into a bunch of unconnected scenes that turned into 150,000 words that more or less formed a coherent whole.  I knew the ending fairly early on, but only because it was one of the first bits that I wrote.  There were all sorts of things I wrote after that that surprised me as they came out.  Then I rearranged the pieces and added another 50,000 words, still not operating with a plan.

I say that all as a preface to admitting that I am currently outlining what I plan to do with Part II.  I’m listing each chapter, and 3-4 things that will happen in the chapter.  It’s an uncomfortable process, to be honest, but I think it’s also how I need to approach it.  The alternative would be to just start over and write the whole thing from scratch, possibly just importing some scenes from the last revision.  In the end, stopping and plotting it out, eliminating some scenes, and moving others to different places seems like it will be less work.  We’ll see.

By Polaris Bright

Slightly off topic, but I write other things besides novels about hockey players.  Most of the rest of my work to date is fantasy short stories with a real world setting.  My first published story just came out in the anthology By Polaris Bright.  It’s a collection of stories by members of the Minnesota Speculative Writers.  My story is “Peaceful, Colorado.”  You can find the anthology here, at Alban Lake Publishing’s store.

4/20 Update

If one subtracts the large contribution from my parents from both the amount raised and the goal, we’re about 15% of the way to the goal.

My current focus is on the second half of the novel.  The first half needs to be edited some more but mostly just at the margins; the final version will bear a lot of resemblance to what’s there now.

Part II is not so fortunate.  It needs massive revision because Phoebe is just too passive as it is currently rewritten.  I have the broad plot outline for how it will go but there’s all sorts of decisions to be made as well as a lot of fresh writing to be done.