And it’s summer! I’m in the middle of rewriting “Becoming Light,” which, I have to say, has changed completely since its first draft. Emma works so much better in first person. It’s amazing how much more of her I can see in it, whereas before it seemed Ambrosius and all his manic antics stole the show.
So I came to the part where she has a dream about her ex, which was inspired by a particularly heady Florence & The Machine song called “Heavy In Your Arms.”
Creepily wonderful, isn’t it? Now you can see why it made writerly me so giddy. But the scene initially only took inspiration from the story of the song and inserted Emma and her ex into it. Today, feeling a little brave, I decided to push it a step further: match the rhythm of the scene’s words with the song.
Now I’m not the most musical person in the world, but I figured using the syllables from the lyrics was a good way to start the process. The main part of the chorus — “I’m so heavy, heavy, heavy in your arms” — is eleven syllables. Armed with that, and giving myself a little leeway by taking some 5- and 8-syllable chorus lines from the song, I decided to attempt making each clause stick to only these syllable counts. Kind of like a loose haiku, but a little more Florence-y (which, of course, makes it ten times better in my humble opinion).
It wasn’t easy and surmounted to a lot of finger-counting, but I think I came up with a halfway decent draft. True, there are a few places where the sentences just couldn’t match up to the syllable counts without completely losing their impact, but most of them do stick to the rule.
I’ll include the setup (first paragraph) for context-sake:
“Sleep crashed over me that night despite suffering a pillow with hardly any stuffing and a cot better suited for a goat. My dreams pushed me off a cliff and I was falling, falling down a tunnel of smoke. I tried to scream but no sound escaped my lips; all breath in my lungs was gone. Then I was lying in a meadow of blue grass, looking up at an alien yellow sky. Huge, menacing birds flew above me. I sat up and looked around. Everything was moving slowly, gracefully, as if this world existed beneath an expansive sea. The thick trees swayed in the warm cranberry-scented wind. Unfamiliar creatures danced in the distance. As I attempted to focus on these figures, a familiar voice sounded from behind me.
“Ems, you can be so clumsy,” he laughed sweetly. I knew that sound; charming, bitter. I turned to face him. Richard broke a devastatingly deep laugh. He picked me up, wrapping my arms over him. My weight slumped his spine, while my hands grasped dry air. He fell, grunting at the growing heaviness. Only one way now. He took my cold hands and began dragging me.
Grass and pebbles passed slowly beneath my back, burning the bare parts of my skin. Above us the birds grew larger, angrier. The sky turned crimson. A crackling boom filled the thick atmosphere, and the fiery sun glinted off the birds’ wings.
We came to a rapid river. My head fell back into the frigid water. It thrashed into my aching ears, prickling my eyes. I needed to say it once more, so I lifted my head long enough to whisper, “I love you.” My final confession before drowning.
Richard smiled as he pushed me under the river. From beneath the water’s curling, I watched his distorted shape mold to that of a girl with long brown hair and pale, ghostly skin.”
Despite the syllable match-up, I still don’t think it fully captures the strong rhythm of the song. Apart from going into full on “Word, word, word word word word” format for some of the sentences, I’m not sure what else to do. This may or may not be an option, unless one of my dear readers has suggestions!
2 responses to “A Little Creative Experiment”
Boy, you’ve definitely given yourself a challenge! Besides have a certain number of syllables, the song also uses some syncopation, and some syllables are stressed more than others. To do that with your writing, you’d almost have to analyze how each word is said (which part is emphasized and how long it’s held). You could do it, but it’ll take a bit of time/effort. The passage is strong enough now that I’m not sure it needs the extra emphasis. 🙂
Thank you so much for the insight! I didn’t realize how difficult this would be until I started trying it out. You’re right, I’d really have to go into deeper analysis of each word, and I do worry that it’ll take away from what I already have. Thank you again for the feedback 🙂