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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

Writing with Rhythm

The radio comes on with Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. Warmth fills me as a solo violin sounds the opening notes. After a few minutes, Max questions, “Well, this is nice. What is it?”

“I thought any Englishman would be familiar with Vaughan Williams.” I hate that I sound so priggish.

“I doubt that the whole population of the British Isles listens to classical music,” he retorts, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Cress Taylor, At First Sight

Characters are created from choices that the author makes. Backstory, wounds, likes and dislikes, how they look, how they sound, where they live, what they drive, who their friends are, what they like to eat. All of it contributes to the tapestry of the story that the writer creates. Plot and character go together to create a world the author hopes the reader will love.

When I started writing this blog post, Largo al Factotem, was on the radio. Probably the best-known aria from the “Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini, it was sung by one of my favorite baritones, Simon Keenleyside. Fun and energizing, Figaro’s lament that everyone wants something from the factotem of city gave a boost to my writing energy.

Just before it was the theme from “The Magnificent Seven” by composer Elmer Bernstein. I’ve never been a huge fan of westerns, but I’ve alway made an exception for this one. It was another terrific choice.

Some writers need silence when they write. Others create playlists to write by. The songs fit the plot and the characters. Listening over and over sets the mood and sparks creativity. I write to music, but not quite that way.

A writer friend once told me that I chose the perfect mix of classical pieces. She asked for my playlist. The reality is that I don’t choose anything except to listen to classical music. In fact, it is the soundtrack to my life. From the time I get up until I go to bed, classical music plays in the background. The only time I turn it off is when I am on a video call or watching television. I watch very little television.

My soundtracks are courtesy of Classic FM, a London station that I listen to over my Echo Dot. They have just the blend I like.

In At First Sight, Max, adamantly insists that he doesn’t listen to music, any music, and that his family doesn’t either. Not exactly true. His mother trained to be a concert pianist and his cousin was a composer. His Scottish father is all about the pipes. Music upsets him. Brings back memories he’d rather bury. So he hides behind the lie that he just wasn’t brought up with it.

Cress is a classical-music person. She constantly pushes Max to listen and is tone deaf to his unease. What happens when Cress persuades Max to go to the opera? Music is one of many things that they have to figure out if they are going to make it as a couple.

Next week, Cress and Max have a musical challenge. Tune in to see how they do.

At First Sight will be available on October 22, 2021.

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