Displaying items by tag: novel writing, composing

Tuesday, 08 December 2015 03:41

Characters - The Notes of My Symphonies

Following on from my last post, I’m reflecting more on the similarities I’ve found between music and writing.

Whether it’s a symphony, a novel, or even a painting, when you get down to it, it’s the relationships at work in a piece that make it interesting. It’s only when you put two notes or colors or characters together that they begin to play off one another and different aspects of their nature are revealed.

A single note in music is like a single character in a story – on their own, they don’t mean very much. But put that note in a chord with others and it instantly acquires a function.

The root of the chord (like a protagonist) is literally ‘key’, around which all others revolve. The other notes serve to establish tonality and either work in harmony or create various degrees of dissonance (conflict).

Harmonic relationships within a chord are like characters interacting within a scene. But, taking the analogy one step further, it isn’t till you put your chord in a series that you actually begin to make music.

In the same way scenes create a narrative, chords arranged in a meaningful progression create musical phrases. And these phrases arranged to the requirements of form, give you the various types of music: gigues, waltzes, minuets, etc.

Like a well-written story, classical music is all about tension and release – building to high points, followed by periods of relative calm. With music, contrast is vital in both tempo and dynamics – the literary equivalents of pacing and tension.

In both writing and music you have themes and motifs. Constructing a melody is much like constructing a sentence. There’s rhythm and articulation, the music of the words themselves, whether sharp and percussive or lyrical and soft.

With all these comparisons running through my head, is it any wonder writing a novel sometimes feels like composing a symphony?

Published in On writing