Struck by Inspiration, or I’m So Freaking Genius!

Look, kids! Two blog posts in a week! Two in as many days! Get out the camera, it’s a Kodak moment.

There is nothing like a trip to San Francisco to get the creative juices flowing. The fog, the beach, the sushi. I’m like a suckling pig stuffed full of yummy goodness just simmering on the spit.

Last night (after a delicious dinner featuring sushi and Japanese home cooking), I returned to my motel room to unwind and write. I’ve been puzzling over my re-write. Parts are damned good, solid even, and the others… well, the other parts suffer from a malaise. I’m sure it’s fixable, but it’s going to take some serious pulling apart before I knit it back together.

I started my story with no outline, no concrete story in mind. I began writing and let my pen go on an extended road trip all over creation and back.

There’s a danger in doing this. One, you can easily get side-tracked. I was off on tangents that did not apply. Two, because you have no plan, while waiting for a stroke of genius you fill the void with words. A lot of them. An embarrassment of them. Many of them completely unnecessary. Like 75K worth.

I’ve been reading a lot of novels in the genre that I write, which is contemporary women’s literature. From two and a half years of work, I know my story has three distinct parts, three periods of time. I wanted to name them, but didn’t quite know how.

This is where last night I was so pleasantly struck by inspiration. My character’s name is ‘Cadence’ and there is a loose thread of music running throughout the book. Last night I had a novel thought: why not name my parts after a favorite composition? Composers name their movements, usually by the tempo or mood marking. Huh, just like my protag. Per-freaking-fecto! Why didn’t I think of it before?

So I spent a few late night hours on YouTube trying to find the perfect piece. My first stop was the Beethoven symphonies, all of which happen to be my favorite. Somehow, it just wasn’t right. My girl Cadence suffers an unbelievable and heavy loss in her first movement, discovers long-hidden emotional scars in the second movement, and emerges stronger yet slightly worse for wear in the third movement. Beethoven’s first symphony movements all seemed a little too happy to me.

I then headed for the old standby, Rachmaninoff. Instead of the symphony, I went for the piano concertos. I love all three. Bingo-bango! The Rach 2 was the unbelievably perfect backdrop for my story.

For one thing, the tempo closely matches the mood of my main character in each of the stages of her story. For another thing, my son loves Rachmaninoff, and he (and the composer) does figure prominently in the shaping of the character of Cadence’s son. But in researching the Rach 2 on Wikipedia, I discovered that this particular piece of classical music happened to suffer the most ripped-off riffs in the 20th Century.

For me to rip off the rip-offs, well, it’s poetic justice!

The first movement had a few piano measures stolen by Muse in Butterflies and Hurricanes. I have since learned that the theory the song was named after refers to the chaos theory. In it, it is said the flapping of a butterfly’s wings could re-direct the course of a hurricane since even small changes can impact the course of any action. This fits well in that one simple incident causes Cadence’s world to spin off its axis.

The second movement had the most famous riff-lift, that by Eric Carmen in All By Myself. Anyone who grew up in my (or Cadence’s) age of the mid-1970s can relate to this song, and poignantly it does reflect where my girl is during the second part of the book. And boy, is she alone here.

The third movement was co-opted in a song recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1945, just two short years after Rachmaninoff passed away. I’ve listened to Full Moon and Empty Arms and it accurately reflects the end of the book. A full moon of hope but empty aching arms not yet ready for love. Plus, gotta love the title, it’s absolutely delicious!

So here are my three parts:

Part 1 – Moderato – Butterflies and Hurricanes

Part 2 – Adagio sostenuto – All By Myself

Part 3 – Allegro scherzando – Full Moon and Empty Arms

Thank you, gods, divine intervention and Wikipedia. I am now energized to complete this thing!


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