Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Middle - Songs As Chapter Titles

The Middle by Jimmy Eat World was my personal Rocky song, keeping me going while I worked on Strong Enough. Every time it played on my iTunes, I steadily tapped the keyboard with a rhythmic tempo like a boxer at a speed bag. 

During the writing process, I described chapters based upon scenes such as 'First Phase 3' or 'Sadi & Marc Second Meeting.' And sometimes, I used a song as a summary--usually when the scene revolved around the song. However, in this instance, it was a literal note. The Middle was shorthand for the Midwest as well as Sadi and Leah's relationship with Whitney. 

So even though certain songs initially found their way into the table of contents due to their importance to me and my writing playlist, I was surprised to discover how many of them were a natural fit. 

It wasn't immediately apparent how this song and chapter connected until I had to finalize the ToC. Concentrating on the lyrics (headphones on, my arms crossed, eyes squeezed shut), I realized that my shorthand was on the nose. 

This is another upbeat song, excellent for the early tone of the story. It accentuates the good feelings of Sadi as she begins another day at the heart of Sundown. But more importantly, this song underlines the fact that Leah is at the middle of all the stories by introducing her as the real estate agent for Marc and Todd's restaurant. She is Whitney's old roommate and new landlord, Sadi's cousin, Marc's means to an end, and Todd's female double. 

As with the novel, Leah is at the center but she doesn't have a voice. She is the "bitter heart" who believes she's above everyone. So this stanza is about Leah, but dedicated to Whitney:

Beyond being the third chapter theme, this song does for Whitney what it did for me--cheers her on to believe that everything (everything) will be alright, (alright). It is one of the many songs that transcends its limited role in the novel to convey an entire arc of the first half. The Middle is exactly where Whitney discovers herself to be after she decides to rent a real apartment and commit to Sundown. It's been months since she exited stage left adorned in dramatic mourning. She has a job at a radio station and feels pretty damn proud so she climbs out on a new limb to test her courage. 

Subconsciously, she feels that Leah looks down on her but knows, without a doubt, that Sadi does. It's easy to feel like a new person in a new situation. It's when patterns set in, or history catches up, that change is proven true or superficial. Engaging with these women tests the validity of Whitney's new, improved self by putting her in the middle of their tug-o-war personalities and making her confront the next half of her story--the completion of change.

It just takes some time, little girl you're in the middle of the ride.