These Are My Confessions. Not the Usher Kind. (The Writey Kind.)

By Michelle Andreani

So, remember when Mindi wrote that fun post about listening to music to help channel her characters? And you know how lots of authors say they like writing to music? That some even create their own playlists for their books?

Confession #1: It all makes me very jealous.

Confession #2: Because I can’t really write to music.

I know! What a burden to bear, feeling so different. Like being the only person you know who’s never been to Disney World. (Confession #3.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love the connection between writing and music. There have been many times I’ve listened to a song and thought: “CHARACTER THEME SONG!” And those songs are always fun for dance breaks in between writing. (Excellent caffeine substitute, btw. Lately, it’s been this for me. You may borrow it.) But for the times when I’m actually writing, it just doesn’t work. (Maybe I’m not listening to the lyrics? Or maybe I’m listening too much? FRUSTRATED!)

Whatever the reason, I’ve found I’m most happy with the authenticity of my character’s voice when (Confession #4) I write to TV shows.

Does that sound weird?

It certainly doesn’t sound as cool and artsy as writing to music, so there’s that, is something you might be thinking.

Okay, true! But allow me to explain. You can’t just choose your TV-shows-to-write-to all willy-nilly, so that’s why there’s a method. A fun method, even. (Fine, fun-ish.) You’ve got to play matchmaker. And your goal? True Character/TV Love.

For instance: When I was spending my days on a previous WIP, I wrote to one of my faves, Gilmore Girls.

So much bouncy energy, right? And you see, my main character was kind of a babbling, awkward (and hopefully endearing) mess of a girl. I knew the rhythm of her voice so well — it was snappy and kind of non-stop. So, listening to Gilmore Girls, with its own insane and rapid-fire flow, helped me settle into her head even more. (Plus it made me smile, which came in handy when the writing DID NOT.)

Character/TV Compatibility: Perfect Match!

Now that I’m in Cloudy’s head, and she’s a different kind of gal, I can’t very well write to Gilmore Girls. (See? Method!) Instead, I wanted something with more bite, something a little feistier. So, I’ve been running episodes of my beloved Veronica Mars on loop. In case you’re not familiar (and oh goodness, I can’t even think about that, get thee to Netflix post-haste!):

Oof, that scene. ANYWAY. While I’m still getting comfy with Cloudy’s voice, Veronica Mars has the tone I’m liking for her. There’s a sharpness, a toughness to the characters, but they’re also spectacularly vulnerable, and it all comes across onscreen and in the dialogue. That’s what I hope for in Cloudy.

Character/TV Compatibility: TBD. But the outlook is good!

So, I’m not totally out of line, right? I mean, I’ll admit that cueing up isn’t as romantic-sounding as clicking play on the perfect song. And I’ll also admit that writing to TV can be dangerous:

Beware: Your cat may try to sabotage your efforts by breaking your Gilmore Girls DVD set.

But when it comes to your character, I’m all for doing what works best for you – music, TV, silence, whatever! It’s just lucky that what’s been working for me is spending quality time with Logan Echolls. 😉

6 thoughts on “These Are My Confessions. Not the Usher Kind. (The Writey Kind.)

  1. Sarah says:

    I am the same way with work. Television is my soundtrack when I really have to hunker down and get something done–I rewrote a client’s entire website while re-watching season two of FNL, actually. 😉 It kind of make me feel like an ingrate that TV is what works for me, so it’s oddly comforting that I’m not alone.

    • Michelle Andreani says:

      It IS comforting! I feel so uncultured when I admit it. It’s so not artsy! But there’s something about music that can distract me while I write. I like the background noise of voices better, I guess. Ah, whatever works for us, right? 🙂 (Thanks for reading!)

  2. Mindi Scott says:

    I really think this is cool, Michelle! It honestly makes me want to try it and see if it might be more effective than music. I just don’t have a TV upstairs where I write. Hmmm.

    • Michelle Andreani says:

      You should totally try it! I actually don’t even use my TV. I just pop a DVD into my laptop or stream videos from (or wherever). 🙂

  3. Diana says:

    You and I have something in common. I cannot write to a music either! I need the TV in the background – depending on what I am writing – I watch a show or movie with the same theme. When an essay was due for college, let’s on China (early civilizations), I’d have “Memoirs of a Geisha” or The History Channel, or something else like playing. If I’m concentrating on fiction and it’s fantasy, then that’s what’s playing on the TV. It works!

    • Michelle Andreani says:

      It does! I think TV and movies can really set the right atmosphere, just like music. There’s something about the tone of it, I think. I don’t know!

      I was at a book signing last week, and Gretchen McNeil (a YA novelist) said she loves writing to sports on TV. She said she likes the background noise of it; how you really only need to pay attention for a few seconds, then can go back to your work. So interesting!

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