Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How writing is like Chasing Cars

Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol is one of my favorite songs. Like the kind of song I listen to in the car at a volume totally inappropriate for my ears, letting the words and the music wash over me until it's done, then I click the back arrow and do it again and again.

My absolute favorite part of the song is from 2:51 - 4:04. The song is at its most powerful then, with all of the instruments and the full emotion of the lyrics pressing together to create an atmosphere that eclipses almost anything else (and everything else, if I close my eyes). And I tried to cue the song to start at 2:51 and just listen to the minute plus that I love.

But it wasn't the same.

So I started to look at the rest of the song, how it begins and ends, and I had some thoughts. Bear in mind I know little about music, so I'll just talk in my terms and those of you who know the real terms can talk right.

The song opens simply, three instruments and one voice talking about a young, immature love where we'll do it all, everything, on our own. We don't need anything or anyone. The music reflects the emotion of the narrator.

The chorus comes in and brings some more instruments with it. The narrator wants them to lay together and "forget the world."

At 1:00, there's a shift, an upgrade. The relationship between the narrator and his lover has changed. He loves her. He doesn't think that just saying it is enough because of how trite "I love you" really can be. The amplification of the music is in the depth--bass added and though the narrator's voice doesn't change, listeners can tell he has.

At 2:16, the narrator has shed his initial "we'll do it all" attitude and instead confides in his lover that he needs her grace to remind me to find my own. At this point, 2:51, the narrator lets it all go. This confession of need has brought him to the edge. All that I am and all that I ever was is here in your perfect eyes, they're all I can see. I don't know where, confused about how as well, just know that these things will never change for us at all. He has found the words that say so much more than 'I love you' can say, he give her a vow, tells her what she has done for him and what he will do for her.

Without the beginning of the song and his journey from 'child love' to 'adult love', the power of those words from 2:51 on wouldn't have the layered meaning that they do. Sill pretty, the music still good, but the explosion of the instruments and passion of they lyrics would be inappropriate--they'd be too much.

The song closes out with a bookend of how it began, but the listener has been through an experience with the narrator and rather than the simplicity of infatuation, we, narrator and listener, are relieved to rediscover the basic, fundamental idea of attraction as a building block to something more.

How does this relate to writing? It hits on all of the workshop questions: Earning behaviors, escalation of plot and emotion, a different place for the narrator at the end than at the beginning, even if he's in the exact same physical location.

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