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How playing the blues is like writing a novel

In TV-land, actor Hugh Laurie plays Dr. Gregory House, a drug-addicted medical genius with the bedside manner of Attila the Hun who speaks perfect American English. In real life, Laurie hails from England and speaks with a British accent.

He is also a comic and gifted musician. If you listen to him sing with your eyes closed, you’ll swear he’s a great African American blues singer. (As my cousin did when she heard his CD “Let Them Talk” playing in my home).  The multi-talented Laurie sings, plays a mean guitar and is a stunning pianist. (In TV-land, House has a wall of guitars and a piano in his apartment).

After experiencing Laurie and The Copper River Band play Seattle recently, I’ve decided the blues is my new favorite genre of music.

Listening to the blues reminds me of putting together a novel. I love the way the different instruments—guitars, sax, bass sax, drums, piano, bass fiddle, etc—riff back and forth and talk to one another. It reminds me of different aspects of a novel—dialogue, plot, characterization—and how they all work together. Sometimes there’s dissonance which brings a certain friction to the piece and other times there’s harmony. Through it all there’s a sense of passion that drives the entire work. 

In writing a story, character pushes plot and plot often helps define character. Add in setting, themes, objects, dialogue and all the other aspects of writing a novel and you have many different voices or aspects working together.

The next time you want to feel what’s possible with your writing project, close your eyes, sit back and listen to some blues. Feel how all the voices fit together and lift you out of the mundane. Imagine your story doing the same.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great post. The comparison of writing and blues is very interesting. I love the blues, too, and often listen to it when writing. Depending on the subject, setting, characters and situation, it can help me get the right mood and tone. In fact, it works in most situations that I write about.

    I can think of few things worse than trying to write with Katy Perry playing in the background.

    June 14, 2012
    • Yes, it’s an exciting genre of music. I agree with your last comment, too 🙂

      June 14, 2012

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