Music to My Ears—Five Years A-Bloggin’

I was sitting at my desk the other day, contemplating what I would have for breakfast, when I suddenly realized, Oh my goodness! My blogoversary passed!

As of February 19, I’ve been blogging for five years. I didn’t think I’d last five minutes, let alone five years. But here I am. Like the proverbial bad penny, I keep turning up. I’m grateful to all of you who discovered this blog and keep coming back. Rest assured, the weirdness will continue. (Or, run away while you still can.)

On with the show. Recently, a friend who is taking a writing class shared the following video with me.

In case you elect to avoid spending almost eight minutes watching the video (though it was well done), its creator, Nerdwriter1, discusses the recurring musical themes (leitmotifs) of the Lord of the Rings movie soundtracks, composed by Howard Shore (movies directed by Peter Jackson, based on books by J. R. R. Tolkien). These are my favorite soundtracks of all time, so of course I had to take a look.

I was already well aware of Howard Shore’s genius. But the video was a lovely reminder of what you get when a powerful musical score is wedded to a powerful story.

   

See, kids? These are CDs. We used to play these back in the day.

On many days, I had the soundtracks playing in the background while I wrote. I can remember writing scenes that matched the tempo of Shore’s compositions. These soundtracks made me want to write the kind of story that would merit a skillfully written score played by an equally skilled orchestra.

So yeah, I love those soundtracks. But not just Howard Shore’s. I love the soundtracks from Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) (movies directed by Christopher Nolan), which were composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. These soundtracks, with their edgy orchestration, are an interesting contrast to the Lord of the Rings soundtracks. But they all have an epic quality that evokes emotion. (If you look at the list of musical selections on the Batman Begins soundtrack, you’ll note that each was named after a bat genus. Also, BATMAN is spelled out.)

    

    

I have music in my head, even as I write this blog post. I’m hearing the horns from The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack. Being a blogger is a kind of fellowship. You post something and hope someone will read it. And when someone does, and you get to know that person, relationships are forged. I’ve met many great people through this blog. People like you. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Kitty and her interns. Somebody’s gotta get the coffee.

Batman Begins movie poster from geekynerfherder.blogspot.com. The Dark Knight movie poster from popcritics.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Snow-Fro and Kissy Boo Shoppets are registered trademarks of Moose Toys.

Planned Unpredictability

Today I missed getting a photo of the Feral Cat meatloafed on a knoll in a field next to my car. (Yes. There are a ton of prepositional phrases in that last sentence.) I was too slow with my phone, hence this cat-less photo.

001

The place where everyone trespasses and litters

If you’re reading this blog for the first time, you might wonder what on earth I mean by the Feral Cat. I’ve written about him before. He’s an orange tabby sadly abandoned by a previous owner (I assume) and left to fend for himself. He has chosen to hang around my apartment building, which unfortunately for him is a no pets building. But fortunately for him my neighbors and I have fed him.

So there he was, meatloafed and looking very photogenic. By meatloafed I mean he sat with his legs and tail tucked underneath—like a meatloaf with a head (ala this cat’s pose).

Orange Tabby

A meatloafed cat. This isn’t the Feral Cat, but a cat who looks like him.

MeatloafThis is a meatloaf with bacon. Mmm. Bacon.

Anyway, the moment I pulled out my phone, the Feral Cat found his legs and oozed into a tall weed clump in search of birds and mice (again, an assumption). As he did, I thought of his appearances—how unpredictable they are. Even when I discovered his winter hiding place—the bike shed—regular sightings of him were not on the menu. And planting food failed to draw him out. He showed up when he showed up. Oh the parallels I could make to ex-boyfriends. But this post is not about them, but about characters who show up sparingly in a story but nevertheless make an indelible impression. Like the Feral Cat.

Let me tell you what I know about him. He survived a brutal Illinois winter living outside. He’s a fighter, judging by the scars I’ve seen on him from time to time. He’s an excellent mouser, a fact I witnessed thanks to his creative use of my parking spot one day. (Curious? Click on the link in the second paragraph for the post describing that story.) He doesn’t like attention. Trust issues, I’m sure. He does what he wants, when he wants.

Quite the character, huh? He’s beloved for his unpredictability. He would make a great breakout character in a book—possibly the hot loner. Or, thinking outside the box, perhaps he would be the megalomaniac who thrives on chaos, like the Joker (played by Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s tour de force 2008 film. In a narrative, however, authors need a certain amount of control. We can’t let characters wander in and out without knowing when and where they’ll show up—or even why they do—and how they’ll behave when they appear. Letting a character like the Feral Cat or a wildebeest run wild and free without purpose could make a story seem like the weed-choked field in the photo below the first paragraph—totally out of control. (Like my use of multiple prepositional phrases in a sentence.)

           The Joker Wildebeest

The Joker and a wildebeest

We can allow characters like this to have a planned sort of unpredictability. Sounds like a conundrum, doesn’t it? This planned unpredictability needs to be a believable aspect of the character’s arc and also fit with the main character’s arc somehow. In that way, it won’t come off as contrived nor will it take over the narrative. A little bit of a breakout character can go a long way. But careful planning allows a character to be himself/herself, even if he or she causes chaos everywhere, while we maintain a firm grip on the reins of the story.

Readers will rise up and call you blessed if you can pull off a character whose actions they can’t always predict, but who delights them all the same.

As for the Feral Cat, well, I doubt I’ll see him again anytime soon. I’ll see him when I see him. I’m just glad I will.

Orange tabby photo from commons.wikimedia.org. Meatloaf from susan-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com. Heath Ledger as the Joker from batman.wikia.com.