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The Playlist Plot

14 Mar

It started as a game over dirty martinis. I’d pick a song, then Charles would pick one, but with two writers playing it lasted all of one round before we had characters and a story playing out before us, one song choice at a time.

I started with “Bang, Bang” by Nancy Sinatra and Charles answered with “Rock On” by David Essex. So: Nancy  killed someone and she and her boyfriend David took to the road. Sure, the lyrics can literally tell the story but it was the music even more than the words that drew us on.

When words are your medium, I think it’s inevitable that you feel the enormity of possibilities offered in other intense, emotional, but inarticulate art forms like music, visual art – even film, as much a visual as it is words in a script. In writing you are tied to the linear lines of the sentences used to draw characters, plots and scenes. But the music, the image – so much can be communicated in that fraction of a second it takes the brain to interpret light or sound and so much more directly and open to interpretation of the viewer, listener.

Of course there is a voice when it comes to music or images – someone decided which notes in what key, someone decided which object and the depth of light and shadow – but the voice is so much more overt in writing where there’s a narrator (even a disembodied, omniscient one) telling you what and how things are happening. No matter how subtly you write, the voice is the mediator between reader and story. And I could write reams, grinding the narrative to a halt, and still miss some of the wordless connections that are communicated in just one frame of film, the blink of an eye.

But the fact is, the viewer, listener, reader supplies their own narrative over the image, sound or prose in front of them. For the writer, the challenge is to tell the story so as to leave enough room for the reader’s own parallel story as they process the words in front of them. As the playlist grew, it was exciting to see how we layered our stories, our characters’ stories, over the lyrics and music.

In the end, we’d decided to work out a screenplay which should prove to be an interesting exercise in collaboration. I’ve read some of Charles’ work and am excited to get a window into his process.  Until then, here’s our raw material. It makes for good, atmospheric listening and trust me, it is gonna be a great story.

“Bang, Bang” by Nancy Sinatra
“Rock On” by David Essex
“Dancing in the Moonlight” by The Smashing Pumpkins
“Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen
“Never Let Me Down Again” by The Smashing Pumpkins
“You Said Something” by PJ Harvey
“Milton Road” by Mice Parade
“I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses
“I’m Your Man” by Leonard Cohen
“Hamlet (Bang Bang Bang)” by The Birthday Party (Nick Cave!)
“Love Is Blind” by Alicia Keys
“My Sword Hand’s Anger” by Apostle of Hustle
“In Spite of Me” by Morphine
“Becoming” (the piano version) by Nine Inch Nails
“Strange” by Patsy Cline
“You Were Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley
“Club Foot” by Kassabian
“Long Snake Moan” by PJ Harvey
Three different songs, all by the Black Keys, for three different endings (for now you’ll just have to guess which one we went with):
“The Go-Getter”
“The Sinister Kid”
“Ten Cent Pistol”