In the movie world of La-La Land (incidentally, hello to everyone in L.A.; I’m heading your way this weekend), screenwriters, when pitching their scripts, often describe their work in relation to other successful movies. “My script, One Dead Bluebonnet, is like In Her Shoes meets Crash.”
That type of association game is creeping into the book world, as well. “If you liked Geek Love and You: The Owner’s Manual, you’ll love my science fiction novel Beyond Copacabana.” Incidentally, this type of comparison rarely works unless you’re writing is really, really good and your book actually does combine central elements or emotions from the works you’re invoking.
For me, though, if I were going to compare a manuscript to other works, it would probably be songs. Whatever I’m writing, I seem to find relevant songs. I don’t look to songs for inspiration, though. In other words, I don’t hear a song and say, “That’s what I’m going to write about.” But I do hear songs and find in them bits of my own book’s story.
At times, a song will really resonate with me and I’ll listen to it over and over. If possible, I’ll rip it to my music player or laptop, then put on headphones and feast on it, singing along with it, trying to make sure I know every word (not easy with some songs), letting the emotions of the song wash over me.
While no one song parallels my work, when I find songs that reflect emotions or characters or settings in my book, I listen to them and begin to think of them as the theme songs for the book. Right now, for the manuscript I’m working on, the soundtrack includes:
1. Sunny Came Home by Shawn Colvin
2. Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
3. Suicide Alley by Shawn Colvin
4. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
The soundtrack will probably grow, but those four are currently on my hit list.
5 months ago