Inspiration Through Music: Craig Armstrong

Connection to characters when writing is integral. Without that understanding, being able to feel their emotions and how they are thinking, we have a very hard time predicting where a story is going to go… or even writing one for that matter. Typically, I tend to write about characters who have faced some kind of an emotional hardship, something that has damaged them on more of a mental level rather than a physical one. Being able to identify with frustration and pain is something that every human goes through. It makes us care about them more. And therefore, when I write, I have a tendency to feel as though I’m in some of the same situations as my characters are in when I’m writing about them. Half the battle is also finding a way to make that initial contact with your character. I do this through music. Craig Armstrong’s music has been a recent inspirational gold mine while working on a number of projects dealing with emotionally-scarred characters. The simple beauty in his violin and piano compositions enables me to get into my character’s shoes with ease. Today, I’ll be sharing six of Armstrong’s pieces with you and talking about what I see when I listen to them.

Finding Beauty: This is my favorite piece by Craig Armstrong, hands down. I’ve been listening to this piece for some time now and every time I hear it, I always see a montage scene, the scenes leading to the climax of the novel in which all of the characters are unwittingly drawn together although they don’t know one another. The violin in this song really is the core of it. It grips you and pulls you along as you listen to it. Though I’ve listened to this many times, I can never distinctly picture any certain character’s faces while listening. I’ve tried to picture the characters from The Monstrum Chronicles here and it just doesn’t have the right atmosphere. This piece is really much more tragic and endearing. There’s something about it that seems to be based more in reality than in science fiction or fantasy for me. I’m hoping that one day, I’ll be able to picture these characters more clearly. Until then, I’ll enjoy this piece and continue my search for the story that fits it.

Morning Breaks: Snow, falling very lightly. It’s a grey day and there’s hardly anyone outside. A little girl watches the street from her window. She watches the bare trees in the front yard, the small red ribbon that was blown by the wind and has wrapped itself around one of the branches… It’s calling to her, asking her to step out into the frigid world, asking her to leave the safety and warmth of that building behind. She glances behind her at the closed door. These people wanted to keep her here. Why? She doesn’t really know. But she can feel deep inside that something isn’t right. She goes to the door and listens. Footfalls resound far off, nowhere near her door. She opens the door a crack and peeks out. No one. She spies the door to the stairwell down the hall. In desperation, she makes an attempt for it. The knob sticks. It’s locked. She quickly retreats back to her room before anyone can see, back to the window where the ribbon beckons for her. There must be another way to get to it. She’ll find a way.

Amelia’s Song from “The Bone Collector Soundtrack”: Having just re-watched this movie recently, I fell in love once more with the deep and enriching soundtrack that Armstrong composed. I remember having seen this film a long time ago and loving it’s darkness and the complex storyline (Jeffery Deaver, you rock!) But the track that really spoke to me the most was the theme for Amelia, a character who is dealing with her own fears of where she will eventually end up and the type of person she doesn’t want to become based on her father’s death. Likewise, in this piece, the violins really lend to the desperation and the emotion that’s locked away within this character’s subconscious, something they try to hide behind a tough exterior, something that is constantly scratching and clawing at them from the inside. The protagonist in my apocalyptic novel has a very similar outlook. She’s faced a lot of tragedy and instead of embracing those who want to help her and going with her instinct, she hides from them, wanting to block everything out. She relies on this inner strength to comfort her, something to assure her that she only needs herself to survive. Little does she know that she’s only being tested and there’s many more terrible things to come…

Opening from “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”: A fall day. The wind is violent. The colored leaves are being pulled from the trees, caught up in the gusts as they spiral up toward the sky. It is a day of change. Something is going to happen, something that will have direct consequences. She doesn’t see it though. She’s stepped out onto her back deck, excited about the prospect of autumn, loving the sounds and she smells and the chilly temperature that invites her to pull on a sweater. It’s her favorite time of year. But with the wind, there comes something else… something she wasn’t expecting. The chill races up her spine and she stiffens for a moment. In that moment, she gets the strange feeling that confirms something is about to change.

In My Own Words: He sits down on the polished wooden stairs in the other room and listens quietly to the piano music. It hasn’t even been a week since his father died. And ever since he walked back onto the estate, strange things have been happening. Rooms he never knew existed filled with items he never knew his father had owned were appearing right and left. Never before had he felt so powerless, so confused about someone he thought he knew so well. What would tomorrow hold for him? Or the next day? He puts his head in his hands. He doesn’t want to find another room. The secrets that his father kept are continuously stacking up. There seems to be no end to them. And with them, everything just gets… strange. Things that shouldn’t happen, that can’t happen, are happening. What was he going to do? (This is from a currently untitled project of mine.)

Niente: Honestly, I can’t say too much about this piece as it inspires scenes from the final book in The Monstrum Chronicles. No, I haven’t written it yet. But, I have quite a bit of what happens already plotted out in my head. Have you ever talked with one of those people who just sees what’s going to happen in their book before they’ve written it… who knows how they want the rest of the series to go. That’s kind of how the Monstrum Chronicles is for me. I have certain details worked out, the basic plot down. And then there are things open to interpretation and to change based on where the characters lead me. Sometimes, characters and locations will alter. Niente is an intense piece that I felt really spoke to me about both Reid and Torrent. The relationship between these two characters has always been very strained and they’ve always been kind of unsure of one another. The gap between them will only get wider as the series goes on, leading to several situations that will have the readers completely shocked. There’s a sense of foreboding and tension present in this song, too, that really plays well here. *Sigh* Only two more books to write until I can get to book 5…

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll be checking out Feist and some of her brilliant tracks. Stay tuned!


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