Friday, May 23, 2008

Soundtracks and Substitution

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday while I was trying to finalize my playlist for this book and when I looked at all the recommendations. I was going about it the wrong way and missing the point of the exercise.

I wasn't creating a soundtrack for the book -- the songs that might play over particular scenes in the movie version. I wasn't doing a Moulin Rouge-style musical using existing songs, so that the songs had to be what the characters themselves would sing. These weren't supposed to be songs that the characters would know or like. The whole idea was triggering in me the emotions I wanted to convey in the characters -- and that might involve totally different music than might be used for any of the above reasons. I think I've actually been doing that all along instinctively, which is why I always hesitate when people ask me if there's a soundtrack or playlist to go with a book. The songs on my "soundtrack" will make no sense whatsoever to anyone but me because they're so specific to particular emotions or images that go with them. I've been re-reading my college acting textbook, and Uta Hagen calls this "substitution." You think of some event, idea or image that triggers in you the emotion or response your character needs to show. It may have absolutely nothing to do with the situation in the story other than the way it makes you feel or the way it makes you react. She even discourages talking too much about what you're using because it will affect the other actors -- they won't be able to see the character's emotion for what it is because they'll be thinking about your personal substitution, which takes them out of the moment.

Yeah, one of my better writing resources is a book on acting, but in a sense, writing is acting on paper.

So, I was on the right track with my 80s mix tape or even my deeply romantic playlist, since what makes me feel like I'm falling in love isn't women singing about being in love, but rather men with nice voices singing things that I dream of having someone say to me. I can go through the phases of "I wish he'd say this to me/Could he be saying this to me?/OMG! He's saying this to me!" Listening to Survivor puts me right into that state. I remember that around the time I was learning to drive, "The Search is Over" was playing on the radio all the time. That song triggered a lot of wistful romantic fantasies when I was 16.

And now some follow-up to topics from earlier in the week:

I do have plans for THAT birthday. I'll be at WorldCon (Denvention) for my birthday, so I'll be around not only some of my close friends from home, but also probably some other people I know from around the country. What I'd really love is if they deign to put me on a panel (I've sent in info to be considered for programming but haven't heard anything) to be on a panel with some of my writing icons, or to at least meet some of my writing icons, that day. Then I can remember that birthday as the day I met someone cool. I'll have to look at the list of attendees to see who my targets are, as I've already met a lot of the people on my list of people I want to meet. I guess some of the Doctor Who writers will be there, as they're up for Hugos, so meeting Stephen Moffat on my birthday would be memorable. I don't know what I'll do for an actual celebration. I imagine I can round up some friends to go out for dinner, and I've considered bringing my tiara, getting some kind of "Hey, it's my birthday" button and maybe a package of cheap party favors and going to all the room parties, then declaring upon entry that the party has now become my birthday party. Lots of Dr Pepper may be required for me to get the nerve to do that, though. I'll probably be helping at the SFWA suite at times, so maybe I'd feel better about temporarily declaring that to be my birthday party.

As for my fitness goal, the ballet school near me is doing a six-week summer session with an adult beginner class at a reasonably convenient time, and I think I may go for it. I took some dance as a kid and again in college, plus doing dance-based fitness programs, but I think I'm still best starting as a beginner. That would force me to do at least one serious workout a week, and as competitive as I can be about these things, I'd be more driven to practice, stretch and exercise during the week so I can keep up with the rest of the class (or be better).

That brushing your teeth with the opposite hand thing is more difficult than I thought. Not the action itself, but remembering to do it. Brushing your teeth is such an automatic action, so probably what helps rewire the brain is the fact that you're turning something automatic into a deliberate action. Going back to acting techniques, using your opposite hand for daily tasks was one of the exercises we had to do for class, because by doing so, you were conscious of your actions, and that was important for being able to be conscious of your actions as an actor. I'm also using my left hand on the computer track pad, but that's because one of my bad habits about how I hold my hand is making my wrist hurt. It's not bad if I'm actually typing, but when I'm doing revisions, there's a lot of clicking on the scroll bar to page down, and I tend to keep my hand tense and hovering instead of relaxing between clicks. Staying off the computer some over the weekend will help with that, too.

Speaking of the weekend, have a good one! I'm off to visit the parental units, as it's Dad's birthday.

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