Sometimes it’s like being the conductor

Image courtesy of Sound! Euphonium

Sometimes when I’m writing a novel, especially when it’s a larger one like Theadia where there’s a lot going on and the cast is extensive, it feels like I’m keeping my eye on several different things at once, and it’s up to me to make sure it sounds like a Tchaikovsky symphony rather than a discordant mess.

For instance, right now I’m writing a brand new chapter that I’m inserting near the beginning that introduces not just a main character (from her own POV) but her own subplot that helps underscore one of the major themes. And to choose where to insert it, I focused on how it would fit musically.

Musically? Well, here’s the thing: I see the writing of my novels like I’m writing a symphony. I’ve got all these themes and motifs and melody repetitions (and even the occasional variation on the theme) that I have to put in a specific order that not only makes sense, but is also brings pleasure in its execution. Which means my brain isn’t just thinking about how this current scene I’m writing will play out…I’m also thinking about how it will affect other scenes further along, how I can use the motif (and the melody, and even the pace) further along in the story as a nod to its original appearance.

So in this new chapter, I couldn’t just insert it at the end of a plot arc, I had to find the best spot for it. In this case, a point where all the main characters I’ve introduced so far have had their initial introduction on the stage and established what their initial roles are going to be. The smaller rise-and-fall arcs of the plot so far have all temporarily settled. This gives the reader a moment to breathe, and a moment for me to bring in some new information that isn’t exactly part of the main plot arc — yet.

All this focus on the right pacing and flow are what makes my stories the way they are. I’ve always said that music is deeply influential in my creativity — there’s a reason I always have some playing when I write — and over the years I’ve learned that writing and music have quite a few similarities in how they come together to form a larger cohesive piece of work.

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