Why I Fused Music with Storytelling

“In the end, how popular the song would become didn’t really matter. If her song wasn’t able to start a revolution or get all the hype many weeks after going live, she still wanted — no — she needed to write this song for herself.” — Chapter 6, No Longer Unwritten in The Reason Why

One way or another, we have all been touched or moved by a story that tugs at our heartstrings, gets us thinking, sparks an innovative idea or perhaps leads to our own transformation. It fuels genuine connection — human connection to be exact — bringing people closer together and allowing us to be seen, heard, felt, and valued. Stories carry messages, themes, lessons, and ideas with it. It’s a beautiful means of communicating and can give people so much more meaningful, purposeful direction, in their lives.

The same goes for music too.

Music has the ability to tell stories, regardless of genre (with lyrics or as an instrumental piece) and it engages all of our senses. Music makes you feel both emotions and thoughts. It brings people together — whether you’re sharing headphones with a friend on a train to listen to a new mixtape or watching a musician perform to a sell-out crowd in a concert venue. It’s why almost every movie has an original score, every television show has its own original intro music, why musicals and musical competition shows like American Idol, The Voice and The Masked Singer still exist and streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube are game changers. In fact, you probably haven’t gone a single day without listening to music — on the radio, television commercial, elevator music and birds chirping in the morning.

People have turned to music to feed their souls, to celebrate, to dance the night away, to cry after a break-up, to spark a call to action and to become their livelihood. It didn’t matter if you were listening to Beethoven, Frank Sinatra or Taylor Swift, every song or musical piece has a story to tell, a lesson to teach and a soul to cherish.

Storytelling in music engages audiences by dynamically linking them to their own imaginations and stories to make it an interactive exploration of one’s life experiences; that’s what it has certainly done for me. Recently, I have not only brought to centerstage the beauty of storytelling in music in my latest novel, The Reason Why, as a pivotal plot point for my main characters, but I also addressed how music inspired my storytelling abilities over the years, but especially now since publishing my two books.

Growing up, I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed music. Parents also played Genesis, Celine Dion, and Jon Secada on the CD player. During my late elementary and middle school years, I played flute. Alone in my room I would attempt to sing a little to the latest pop hit or pretend to waltz at a grand ball with the one before I heard one of my family members knocking on my door and I would stop out of a bit embarrassment. By late high school, Spotify was born, and I got to create and continually expand upon my curated playlists. Certain songs subconsciously drew me to instantaneously start tapping my foot to the rhythm, get up and dance and on a few rare occasions, even get me to sing a little with a less off-key voice.

I’ve never considered myself to be a musician or a singer by any means — I’m not that type of artist. Yet music always seemed to keep my heart beating strong and my perspective on life a little brighter — unveiling a part of my inner world, who I am — my authenticity. As an author, there has been times where music spoke to me when I didn’t have the words.

Undoubtedly, music has played a central role in my writing career and serves as a prominent role in my recent debut, The Reason Why, in several ways both explicitly and in ways that is a deeper dive into the lore of the coming-of-age story. Here’s how:

It didn’t matter if I was working on my novels, journaling in the evening, or taking notes for a college course in the library, I always listened to music, predominantly my movie soundtracks playlist or instrumental, ambience scores. I’ve never been one to study, read or relax in complete silence; having little music on the background has always channeled with me a calmer energy that sparks my creativity. I fused writing and music one step further when I created Spotify mixtapes for both of my novels, a curated list of songs that either inspired me to write those works, would be the music I would select for the film adaptation of my novels, or would be what my main characters would be listening to.

Perhaps after all those years of listening to music finally rubbed onto the very pages of my manuscript when for my primary character in the The Reason Why, Emma Cantor, I gave her the ability to write songs, sing and play two instrumentals: acoustic guitar and piano. Her passion once collecting dust has now been revived, serving as the backbone of the narrative. We get glimpses into her past regarding how her talent was discovered, her first time performing in front of an audience and how her debut song makes a splash during unprecedented times, becoming viral and receiving the title of an influencer. To write this story, I had to establish a solid knowledge base in the music realm — knowing the names of various chords, the rigorous process of getting a record deal and how someone learns to sing.

Fact and a little unique detail from my book: the definition of Cantor connects to music, referring to a person who sings solo verses or passages to which the choir or congregation responds typically in a worship or religious setting.

We learn very quickly in the narrative that writing music is what Emma has leaned into as her outlet to truly be herself, to document her life and feel everything. And one character of significant importance sees this about her, learning very quickly that at the core of Emma’s soul is her love for music and telling her life story through song: Maverick. Their bond over music keeps their hearts beating together as one unique pair.

Infatuated with music himself and a little bit of Emma, he collects records, reads biographies about famous musicians, always knows the right song to play at the right moment, and enjoys every genre with honorable mentions: Frank Sinatra, Michael Bublé and Mac Miller.

Another way I fully immersed music into my storytelling requires sharing a tiny spoiler but one intention I had ever since I had the idea for this story was that I wanted to write a song. Yes, you heard me — an entire song — lyrics, title, chorus, rhyme, and all! I never did that before and I thought to add another layer of complexity to my already grand endeavor of writing a creative realistic fiction novel, I’ll also write an entire song that becomes an anthem for Emma and the lives she touches with her music.

Photo credit: : https://www.pinterest.com/pin/Aa5nvT_xpdo2LA1ndZnjOLZtaU8VmwFnzo2QbsHYrkBIMBRyeqr-6N5CR9QIaxVXZi7gBmwi9gJiP0hUR1PujRk/

Finally, in my writing, I always want my readers to feel totally submerged into the narrative — feeling the full range of emotions, imagining themselves standing alongside the characters, and setting the overall mood of the moment, scene, conversation, etc. Using music and lyrical descriptors as my imagery vibrated people’s heartstrings to fully experience the moments with the characters, start to move or react to the music being referenced and set the stage for what might transpire: a romantic gesture, a meltdown, a conflicted heart, or a grand old time.

I’m overjoyed to know that I’ve been surrounded by many creative outlets in my life, but in my wildest dreams I never imagined that I would be combining the two together to tell a story. This is just yet another example of how remarkable the gifts of music and writing bring into our lives. They have for me and as you read my second novel, I hope you can see the reason why for their existence for yourself in your own life.

Stay tuned for more articles going in depth on The Reason Why which is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and where most books are sold in eBook format! Paperback is hitting the shelves on May 23rd. Check out it today and dive into your beyond!

Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZPWQFLX

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