Sunday, March 17, 2013
Music and Fiction: The Vegas Shark; You Are My Sunshine
I often use music in fiction to show how characters relate to events and situations around them. I don't always do it because it's not always needed. In The Virgin Billionaire I used a web site to show how Luis feels about great art and artistic male nudes. But I used rap music in Four Gay Weddings and a Funeral to show that some gay men...me...like rap music and don't like torch songs and show tunes. I'm doing it again now with The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal, which I'll post about soon.
In any event, most writers use music in fiction sometimes to make a point or to show something about a character. Music is fundamental to all of our lives and readers can relate to this. The trick is to not become too self-indulgent. In other words, if I were to write a novel like Four Gay Weddings and a Funeral and I were to give a detailed playlist that went along with the novel with all my favorite rap songs I might come off as self-indulgent and amateur...or unhinged. I think it would be overkill, unless the book is all about rap musicians.
The one time I've used music more often than not was in The Vegas Shark. The main character, Treston, truly has a love for life, he believes in all that is wonderful and good, and he's always making the best out of a bad situation...in spite of always getting knocked down each time. He gets right back up and continues through life as if there's a miracle around the next corner. There's nothing he won't do for the man he loves. He is the most positive character I've ever written, and the most vulnerable as a result. And one of the things that helps get him through life is the old song You Are My Sunshine. It was something from a childhood that most of us can't even imagine.
I won't give out any spoilers, but I can say this about The Vegas Shark. I don't always write books that have moments that will bring readers to tears. It just doesn't always work that way for me. But on those occasions when I have books like that, and I'm brought to tears while I'm writing the book, I know it's going to work. It can't be forced. If I'm not feeling it the reader won't feel it. In this case, at the end of The Vegas Shark there is one scene that brought me to tears the moment I started writing it. It's at the very end and it has something to do with the song, You Are My Sunshine.
And this time I planned it. I think I've posted about this before, but just in case I didn't I'll repeat it. When my partner, Tony, was on life support in the hospital six years ago I bought him a felt sunflower. The entire thing was felt...the brown fake pot, the green stem, the yellow sunflower itself. It looks a little like the one in the photo above, but not exactly. And when you pushed a small button at the bottom, a music box started to play You Are My Sunshine. I'd never seen anything like it before and I bought it without even asking the price. When I got to the hospital and played it for Tony it was one of the first times I knew he was going to recover just by the smile on his face. And you should have seen the nurses have fun with it. It was an interesting summer, 2007, and I'll have to post about the praying hands sometimes in the future. One publisher has been asking me about a memoir of that year, and I've been putting it off because it still too soon to write about it.
If anyone would ever like to purchase one, here's a link I found. I got mine at a small local gift shop. But they aren't easy to find. And trust me, they will put a smile on anyone's face. It's like a kitten: you just can't be depressed around one of these things.
The photo below is the actual flower I bought six years ago. This is one of those times when I realize that I have to get my act together with webcams. I would love to have shown what it really sounds like.