Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Like A Virgin - Songs As Chapter Titles

Is Like A Virgin too obvious, no matter how tongue in cheek?   

I know a professor who would claim it's too conspicuous. As I've mentioned before, long ago, in a version very different than the published Strong Enough, I included lyrics in various scenes.  

After lecturing the entire class to never use lyrics in their manuscripts, our professor then called me out not only for doing so, but for using a song that lacked subtlety. It was like I'd underlined the paragraph, highlighted it in yellow, and then underlined it in red ink--basically, I was bashing the reader over the head and saying, "See it? See? Huh, huh? Did ya' get it? Ain't I clever?" 

I understood his point but sometimes metaphorically underlining a moment adds the right amount of emphasis. It doesn't have to be Vegas lights pointing "Wit, here!" But to that instructor, the song dressed the scene like a Midwest Liberace--all matchy-matchy glitz, blinding the reader with a bejeweled floral skirt, blouse, vest, shoes, purse, and headband! Yowza! 

Never one to easily give up what I want, I fought to keep those scene for years. Eventually, I found the solution by cutting the lyrics, writing several improved drafts, and infusing music into the story through my character and songs as titles. This changed music from set decoration to Greek chorus. The decision was particularly important for a song so overt as Like A Virgin. 

Why did I choose LAV? Admittedly, one reason is quite literal. In this chapter, my virgin DJ hosts her first solo radio show and becomes a woman. Is she excited? Check. Adrenalin pumping? Check. Nervous? Check. Sounds like a virgin to me! 

But Whitney wasn't the only person with a first. Marc, one of the few secondary characters with his own POV, stands upon the precipice of opening a restaurant. Nervous? Sure. But being the curmudgeonly thirty-something that he is, he won't confess whether he's excited or scared shirtless. Regardless, this is a significant commitment for Marc and a critical juncture in his life.

Yet, the song choice isn't entirely about 'first times.' It was essential that Whitney's show reflect her lack of experience and eagerness by being a tad trite. Here's an excerpt to explain the show's theme:

     A death grip on her chair, [Whitney's] eyes clinched shut, she takes another deep breath to soften her voice as she leans into the microphone. Shivers of excited energy race up and down her spine when her lips brush the cheese grater texture. "Thanks for joining me and KFXT on your Friday night. Tonight's theme is Black Box Songs and we're paying tribute to our desires with titillating songs that appeal to our more deviant sides—sex and death.
    "It's your night, so call in with any request—and don't worry if someone else hates the song. I'm indulging you." 

Because the chapter title genuinely fits into "Black Box Songs," it adds an additional layer to this particular choice for a title.

Last but not least, why this version by Killer Lords? Because covers are a wonderful acknowledgement of local bands and entertainers. Plus, I learned from my professor to use the unexpected. Listen to a sample and tell me, wouldn't it be fun for Whitney to play on her show? *

*Again, not promoting Amazon. Just the easiest place for to find a reliable sample to play without posting a link hosting a virus or other computer cooties. Unlike, When Pigs Fly, though, there are plenty of places to find this cover.