When I’m writing I sometimes like to have a soundtrack playing. No, not the score to a movie but music that matches the mood I‘m trying to convey in the scene I am writing.
I was recently watching a new sitcom by a writer/director I love. I am a devotee from when he put out plays on the urban theater circuit. (Please Google for an explanation as giving one here would kill my flow. ;-)) His new sitcom is everything I was used to from him but I felt slightly removed. What was the issue? There was no background music to match the scenes. There wasn’t a laugh track, either.
No, I’m not a mindless drone; I just think sound can make some things better. I believe sound can influence mood. Don’t get me wrong, I often write in complete silence or with life with two energetic children and a very exuberant parent as my background noise, but when it can be arranged or I’m struggling with a scene, I need to be pumped first.
What do you mean, Stormie? I’ll be happy to tell you. Thanks for asking. (Okay, I know you didn’t really ask. Just humor me.) Except for romance, which is real I don’t care what anyone says, what I write is mostly chimera. I know you’re going to be shocked but I’ve never been on a space ship in my life. Escape a world invasion by aliens? Not me. So I set the mood when attempting to write difficult scenes with the feel I get from music.
If I need to feel heartbroken I may play songs similar to Seether featuring Amy Lee, “Broken” or “Someone Like You” by Adele. If I must write a scene where the characters feel confused by their out of control addictions to each other, I choose songs like “Bad Habits” by Maxwell.
Am I writing an intense strategic or aggressive scene? (Okay, I mean a fight. Don’t judge me.) I may play something like “Cryin’ Like a B**ch!!” by Godsmack. Maybe I don’t actually write to “Cryin’ Like a B**ch!!” but rock out for the duration of the song and laugh. I have a strange sense of humor. Regardless, I think you get the idea.
Sweet and tender scenes require music like “Misty Blue” by Dorothy Moore or any R&B love song from the nineties. (Again, please don’t judge.) All of these scenes can be written without music on a day when I don’t need writing motivation. I mean, I’ve been in love. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve fought. (No judging.)
Surprise, surprise, I have never been trapped on a battle ground during an alien invasion of Earth, so writing about it and getting the intensity correct required some help. I returned to heavy metal, alternative rock, and hard rock like Godsmack or “What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park.
Let me show you what type of scene I mean. I’ll start with the blurb then give you the excerpt.
Camryn is taken captive after Earth is invaded by hostile aliens. She is sold as an exotic, an expensive sex slave. Camryn is willing to do anything to survive and escape captivity. That includes convincing her master that she enjoys his touch. Then she is purchased by the sexy warrior Venn. Now she must convince herself that she can resist a male whose every caress ignites a passion she has never known.
Venn is an empathic and hyper-sensitive tribal lord from planet Ordan. He has never owned a slave, yet he cannot resist the beautiful Earth woman. She teases his heightened senses and pushes past the control he has over his emotions. Venn struggles to own Camryn’s body with scorching sex and a firm hand. And when his possession of her body is complete, he’ll try to claim her soul.
The following excerpt is for those readers who are 18 and over only.
Copyright © Stormie Kent, 2011
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
“I got a call from Brad before the alien transmission was cut.” Brad was his brother, who worked at the Pentagon.
“I don’t go without Niki,” she said. She and Niki would figure out another plan if he couldn’t handle that.
“Hurts, doesn’t it?” The look Niki gave him was pure devilry.
“Hell, get in the Land Rover.” They climbed inside the black all terrain vehicle. Mark turned the key in the ignition. A loud boom sounded and the row of townhomes across the street exploded.
Camryn screamed. Car alarms blared. Flaming bricks and debris rained down around them. Fear gripped her, paralyzing her momentarily. She had a normal life. This was the stuff of movies or newsreel pictures of some war-torn part of the world.
“Drive, fool,” Niki said, leaning forward between the seats.
Mark backed up swiftly, dodging burning wood and lawn ornaments. The earth shook and the SUV skidded on the rapidly cracking ground. A portion fell away under the back tire. Mark accelerated and they cleared the hole.
She exhaled a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. Camryn had never been so scared in her life. For once she was glad her ex liked to maneuver like he was a race car driver. He maneuvered the car expertly as he dodged holes and obstructions in the road in order to navigate out onto the main street.
“Better not take the highway,” Camryn said, gripping the dash. “Too many overpasses.”
A five-story office building had collapsed in on itself to the right. Gray and black dust coated every surface, including the car. The windshield wipers left dirty grayish black streaks as they swung back and forth.
They weren’t the only drivers about. Cars swerved around each other in near misses. Camryn flinched as a red minivan narrowly missed sideswiping her door. There was a blur of brown and green. The SUV careened to a stop, the tail end flying up into the air before crashing down jarringly. They were all propelled forward. Camryn’s head slammed against the dashboard.
Hands pulled her out of the vehicle. She blinked up at a bloodied Mark until she could focus. “Niki?”
“Here.” She climbed out, clutching her own head.
Camryn turned. She couldn’t believe the size of the tree crushing the steaming hood. A whiz and a boom sounded fifty feet away. A crater opened in the ground, swallowing a truck. She looked up in time to see a streak of black wink out in the sky.
“Can an airplane just disappear like that?”
“We have to go,” Mark urged.
They grabbed their packs out of the car. She reached for Niki and, hand in hand, they began walking. Her nose stung. She kept herself from crying, but just barely. People milled about, some crying, some screaming, others appearing dazed. Families clung to each other.
What in the world is happening? The air was quiet now. Everywhere she looked there was debris. Cars were crushed in or just smoking steel shells. Gigantic craters dotted the ground. It would be dark soon, with the darkness’s own set of dangers.
“Niki, I think we have to assume these aren’t terrorists. Hairy, beastly men, aircraft faster than anything I’ve seen before…” she whispered, unable to finish her thought.
“We just need to keep moving and find someplace safe to hole up and regroup,” Niki stated calmly.
They passed an ambulance set up on the side of the road where paramedics were performing triage. There was a long line of injured waiting. Their minor injuries could wait. They needed to find safety. The first sheriff’s deputies she’d seen that day were directing people in cars and on foot.
Camryn glanced at Mark. He had probably saved their lives. He had come for them immediately after the broadcast and gotten them on the road fast. She was slightly ashamed of the resentment she’d felt when he appeared at her door. She still couldn’t forgive him for attempting to come between her and Niki. Mark had told lies to force Camryn to hate Niki, not realizing that nothing would make Camryn hate her. When her former husband confessed to a supposed affair between the two, Camryn turned her back on him, not Niki.
He glanced up and caught her staring. He moved closer and touched her back. She stiffened but did not pull away. She wanted to.
Whoop. Whiz. Boom. Holes opened up all around them. Camryn screamed. Why is this happening? Niki pulled her along and Camryn struggled to keep up. Mark pushed her from behind.
More people and cars disappeared, swallowed by holes or incinerated in blasts. What were they supposed to do? The confusion caused people to bump into each other, accidentally pushing each other into craters or the line of fire. They weren’t safe. Everything was too loud, too fast and too confusing. Suddenly, all firing ceased. They stopped moving. Camryn looked around. Out of the hundreds of people who had surrounded her before, fifteen were left.
Breathing heavily, she hugged Niki to her. “We survived.”
“We survived again. Now we have to keep doing it. We have to find shelter or help. Someone who knows what is going on would be helpful,” Niki replied.
Camryn pulled away. Her entire body shook and she felt fuzziness in her head that she was very sure meant she was going crazy. But they were alive. That’s all that mattered.
“Where are you taking us, Mark?” she asked.
“There is a hidden barracks about twenty miles from here. It is bunkered underground, so maybe it is still secure.”
They all looked at the tractor-trailer-sized holes in the ground. The ground shook and she let go of Niki, falling to the ground. She forcefully pushed the thought away that they weren’t going to make it to the underground bunker alive. Thoughts like those wouldn’t help her keep walking.
Camryn climbed to her feet and they continued. The going was rough with the ground shaking almost constantly.
They all stopped. There was a thunderous cracking. It sounded like stone falling and the clamorous roaring of a demolition. Camryn looked back. The ground was splitting.
Camryn ran. The shaking was severe. She stumbled. She got up, balancing with her arms straight out to the sides.
The roaring grew deafening. She was flung back. She landed on her back, her ankle twisted.
Winded, Camryn lay still until the shaking subsided. She crawled, dragged and pushed herself to her knees and gasped. She knelt at the edge of a fourteen-meter-wide fissure. The earth had cracked in a jagged line as far as the eye could see. Across from her, tugging on her hair, stood Niki. Behind her hovered an equally distressed Mark. She knew what they were thinking. She was the least likely to survive on her own.
“Don’t worry. Follow the crack. It has to stop somewhere,” Camryn called. “We’ll meet there.”
“If you see anyone, get out of sight,” Niki called back.
“You can do it!” Mark yelled.
At that moment, something inside her wanted to give up. It all seemed too hard. Whatever was attacking them could destroy buildings and eighteen wheelers. It caused earthquakes. She was just one flesh-and-blood woman.
“Camryn,” Niki called.
Camryn focused. Niki looked as if she would attempt to fly across the gap if necessary. It was the first time in a long time that Niki had let her feelings show. Camryn always put Niki’s feelings above her own. Always.
Giving up wasn’t an option. Trembling, Camryn stood and limped away. She limped until nightfall, crying softly, glad that Niki and Mark were too far away to hear. Both of them were ex-Army. They would be okay, just worried for her.
The area had fallen silent and still. The people she passed were dead. She averted her eyes where possible. She stopped checking for pulses after the tenth corpse. She was thirsty and exhausted. The crack widened the farther she walked and what appeared to be an entire copse of trees was overturned in her path. She would have to go around. She pressed dirty palms to her eyelids. Her body wanted to shut down.
“In the morning,” she whispered.
She could no longer see Niki and Mark and she needed to sleep. Camryn pulled herself behind a fallen tree and settled against it. Finally she allowed herself to open her pack and take out a bottled water. She only drank half because she needed to ration her supplies. Who knew when she would find help? She also needed to sleep or she wouldn’t be able to go on. Camryn rested her head against the bark and waited for morning.
* * * * *
She awakened to daylight and the feeling of her hair being pulled out by the roots. Pain exploded through her head and her eyes watered. She punched and kicked. Her eyes opened and she screamed. A man had her by her long hair. He pulled her to her feet. She was in the clutch of full-blown horror. The man who held her was different than the man from the terrorist broadcast but just as terrifying.
He was huge, muscled and his features reminded her of museum waxes she had seen of the Neanderthal man. He wore a khaki jumpsuit. He leaned in and sniffed her, then gutturally yelled into the distance. Men similar to the Neanderthal came running. Camryn watched them in terror. She couldn’t fight that many men. She tried to scramble away despite still being held tightly by the hair. She pulled at the Neanderthal’s hands, scratching and kicking.
“Let me go!”
Behind the men, a craft that looked like a gray delivery truck hovering over the ground drew closer. She turned her face away as dust flew up. The craft pulled to a stop in front of them.
Another man emerged. He wasn’t like the others. He was corpulent, but it looked more like water running under the fleshy rings of his skin than fat. He was bald, pale and seemed to be sweating profusely.
“Let me go!”
He looked at her and smiled. The man spoke to the Neanderthal holding her in a language she didn’t understand. It smelled her again and seemed to reply. Then the man from the truck did something that sent chills down her spine. He rubbed his hands together.
The man pushed some buttons on his watch.
“Get off me!”
“There we are.” He stopped pressing the watch as Camryn stared. “The Trogo have captured a real prize in you, slave. This planet is an exotic treasure trove.”
She watched in fear as he pulled a syringe out of a pouch and uncapped it. She had thought herself afraid before. It was nothing to this. These men were not human.
The situation wasn’t like the black aircraft that swooped in and destroyed everything around her and then disappeared. She could talk to the man. Maybe she could reason with him or talk her way out of whatever he wanted with her. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out but a gasp. Fright had frozen her vocal cords. Was he going to kill her with whatever was in that syringe or just dope her up? Make her more biddable?
She looked around at the salivating men still snarling and snapping around her and then back at the watery blob of a man. The Neanderthal eyed her with lust. The blob simply looked delighted. She’d rather die than let them rape her. Better a swift death than a slow painful one.
“Kill me,” she managed to gasp.
The man laughed. “No, you will gain me many credits at the slave auction. I need you healthy and alive.”
“No!” She redoubled her efforts to be free.
Someone grabbed her kicking legs. The Neanderthal holding her grabbed her arm and extended it outward. She struggled. All Camryn got for her trouble was her head completely pulled back.
“You stay away from me.” Her voice was so small, she wondered if he even heard her.
Even though she’d known it was coming, the pinch of the needle was a shock. “Ah.” She lost control of her body by degrees until finally her consciousness winked out.
I really needed pulse pounding, head rocking beats for this scene from Enslaved in Desire. Do you listen to specific types of music when you write or read? Do you hear the soundtrack to the book? Maybe you have songs that feel like the soundtrack to your life. What do you hear?
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Adele. “Someone Like You”. 21. X Recordings Ltd, 2011.
Godsmack. “Cryin’ Like a B**ch!!”. The Oracle. Universal Republic Records, 2010.
Linkin Park. “What I’ve Done”. Minutes to Midnight. Warner Brother Records, Inc, 2007.
Maxwell. “Bad Habits”. Blacksummers’night. Sony Music Entertainment, 2009.
Moore, Dorothy. “Misty Blue”. Misty Blue. Malaco Inc, 1976.
Seether featuring Amy Lee. “Broken”. Disclaimer II. Wind-up Entertainment, Inc, 2004.