Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rebels of the Sacred Heart - Songs as Chapter Titles

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Rebels of the Sacred Heart by Flogging Molly is a raucous ride. Every word in the title is meaningful to this chapter--as well as the rhythm of the song, the energy level, the fearlessness, and even the album title Drunken Lullaby. It's possibly rebellion against keeping the heart sacred but is definitely the sound of a turning point. 

If you read Internet comments on the meaning of this song, many people suggest religion is the central theme. There are plenty of religious ten-cent words, but I believe they are as literal as they are a sweeping generalization. As I see it, the primary push is guilt and a "to hell with it" response--emotions universally understood. The story behind the words may be the Irish Immigration, but the particulars don't inhibit its accessibility to everyone. With wisdom it begins:
Now bless me father for I have sinned
But it's the same old story again, and again, and again
Ah well, such is the bread of everyday life...

I won't lecture on archetypes (oh beautiful, beautiful archetypes), but most of us know the general gist of a story without reading a single word simply based upon the genre. What makes us read the same old story again and again and again is how the author handles the details, the nuance, the poignant points of shared experience. 

Sadi is definitely a "to hell with it" woman. The reader fully meets her in all her unapologetic glory when she invites Whitney to join her. Within the song is Sadi's epitaph:
Now I'm aimin' for heaven,
But probably wind up down in hell 
Is including Whitney an act of kindness 'without a net?' Is it giddiness and a devil may care attitude? Or is it indulging malice by putting Little No Peep on the spot? 

Over the years, I wrote many incarnations of Whitney being 'three sheets to the wind' while out with Sadi. It was an essential experience so I had to set her up for it because the outing provides so many opportunities. The scene challenges preconceived notions through the brutal honesty of alcohol. Liquid courage fortifies Whitney to challenge Sadi, while it's Sadi who actually includes Whitney. 

Denying the power of guilt (or at least throwing a middle finger at it) may be a driving force behind Flogging Molly's song, but both song and chapter wrestle with stereotypes and universality. Said another way, it simultaneously explores presumptions (above) and complementary traits.

The most unexpected detail that emerged from this chapter was the moniker "The Amazon." It appeared as I hammered away at the dialogue. When Leah's nature is openly criticised for the first time, an inebriated Whitney throws defensive punches--mostly within the safety of her own mind. Regardless, it's during this interaction that a feisty Whitney fights back and establishes a common trait with the Amazon: nicknames. 

Trust is also tested--trusting a non-friend and trusting one's own intuition. Both Sadi and Whitney do something unlike themselves for very different reasons. The only person who knows exactly who she is, is Meredith.

Let's tangent to a favorite minor character introduced in this chapter. Meredith was molded through the revision process. At first, she was simply a blunt instrument, an unguarded giver of truth willing to ridicule Leah (she's flogging Molly, herself!). 

Once I realized she was only a convenient character, a prop, I developed her storyline. Her criticism of Leah remained a major characteristic, taking pressure off of Sadi, while her role was to offer tough kindness. From this character Carl emerged (insert miraculous rib explanation) and I had the most fun writing this couple. They lack drama because they're comfortable with themselves and that frees them to love each other.

The sound and lyrics of Flogging Molly underscores Meredith's funny, ribald, and even rough personality. It isn't Sadi who shakes up Whitney's illusions so she can discover the sacred heart.
Ah, no ball or chain no prisons shall keep
We're the rebels of the sacred heart