Thursday, October 10, 2013

On Listening - Writing as Fugue State - Frazer Lee - Biggest 'Aha' Moments in Writing

I was struggling through the first draft of my first novel (The Lamplighters). I'd spent an enforced leave of absence away from the work due to other (paid) work and personal issues. And when I returned to the desk I was dismayed to find I just couldn't access the emotional state of the main character, Marla Neuborn, or the mood of her world - Medetrine Island. The umbilical was cut, I was bereft. Then I remembered hearing a song the same day that Marla came to me, fully formed. It was a Ladytron track called "Soft Power" from their lovely "Witching Hour" album. On impulse, I popped it on the headphones and before I'd even arrived at the first chorus I was back in Marla's head and standing on that island. The song became her theme tune, and I often prepared for the day's (or night's) writing by listening to the track as a kind of overture.

I then started building playlists (music sans lyrics - words are too distracting) that evoked certain moods and environments, and used them as fast-track access to the scenes or sequences I was writing. I used them again during rewrites to overcome the severed feeling of distance that "time away" creates. This technique served me well during the writing of the screenplay for the feature film "Panic Button". I often use film scores in my writing process, and again built thematic playlists (action, love scene, brutal bloody violence) to help me segue into writing at a moment's notice. It really helped. Then, when I was commissioned to write the movie novelisation of the film, I was able to use Mark Rutherford's fantastic score along with dialogue and atmos tracks from the film itself. This really helped with such a tight deadline.

A "fugue" in music composition is said to be two thematic elements working together. That's how I see the relationship between character/story and the music that, for me, drives them and becomes the beating heart of the writing. A "psychogenic fugue" or "fugue state" is a form of post-traumatic sleepwalking, during which another identity is created and amnesia can ensue. That's how I see the best horror writing. For when you're in the zone, writing becomes like cruising, and for me there's no better way to switch off and fly than via a killer soundtrack.

 Frazer Lee’s first novel, The Lamplighters, is published by Samhain Horror and was a Bram Stoker Award Finalist. His latest works include the novella The Lucifer Glass and forthcoming novel The Jack in the Green. His short stories have appeared in anthologies including the acclaimed Read By Dawn series.

Also a screenwriter and filmmaker, Frazer’s screen credits include the award-winning short horror movies On Edge, Red Lines, Simone and the horror/thriller feature film (and movie novelization) Panic Button.

Frazer resides with his family in leafy Buckinghamshire, England. When he’s not getting lost in a forest he is working on new fiction and film projects.

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