Anatomy of a concert…
Two weeks ago, my wife told me that she had a surprise for me. Saturday night, I found out what it was. Her friend Suzanne’s family was going to see a concert of Shinedown, The Days Grace and POD, my wife went in and got us two tickets. I am not a huge fan of any of these groups and would not have bought a ticket to see any of them. However, all they all did a great job and it was a fun show.
POD opened the show. They played the short set, about 45 minutes. High energy and hard rocking, they were really good. My only problem with them, was the acoustics were poor. Over the course of the night, the sound got better and I think this was a product of the guy running the board, figuring out the arena.
Three Day’s Grace was next playing for about an hour. I did not know until after the next day, but they just replaced their lead singer. The new guy did a good job. He has a descent voice but made up for it but running around the stage, pumping up the crowd. Their drummer Neil Sanderson (I looked him up later), is exceptional. Through most of the show, I thought he looked bored. Later on I learned that he was under tasked. He did a five minute song with the keyboard player and another five minute solo. That was one of the best drum solos I have ever seen.
Shinedown hit the stage just before 10. They played about an hour and a half. They played every popular song in their catalogue. Just from satellite radio listening, I knew all of their songs. The guitarist, Zach Myers is a Memphian. He wore a Memphis Grizzly shirt for the encores and tossed it into the crowd at the end of the show. I have a story about him, that I can’t tell online because it is from a third source, I don’t have permission and because it would fall into the category of rumor/gossip. You can ask me off line and will relay it. The lead singer, Brent Smith has an amazing voice and is a madman on stage.
Unlike most of the concerts I have been too, I thought about the performances as it related to a writing a novel. I think there is something to be gained when analyzing a rock concert and applying it to the novel writing process.
At a rock concert, there is a perceptible energy that accompanies the event. I am spending my money to watch these guys play a musical instrument. I think that I need to treat my readers the same way. Until I make a name as a writer, that energy must be generated by the cover and the book synopsis. Recently, I attempted to design a book cover. This is something better left to a professional, not a pilot who wants to be a writer and dreams about being a rockstar.
Before Metallica hits the stage, they open with a scene from the movie ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ The song “The Ecstasy of Gold” has been the standard opening since 1983. It is as familiar to any Metallica fan as any other song. It brings a excitement and energy all alone. When they hit the stage, the crowd has worked itself into frenzy. Shinedown, had an opening that was some guy talking. I don’t remember what he was saying or what the point of it was other than to distract the audience’s attention to the video.
I do not have a prologue in my work, some people do. I don’t have an opinion if they are effective or not. Either way, if you decide to do one, it has to be good, relevant and important. If not, why do it?
The first song is extremely important. Shinedown opened with their newest song “Enemies”. They had a second stage in the back surrounding the sound stage. The singer, guitar and bass player all hit the stage in the back. The drummer was on the main stage. Behind the drummer was a video constantly playing clips. Each video was relevant to the song that was being performed at the time. In the middle of the opening song, the band stopped for about a minute. The three band members made their way to the main stage and when in place, they picked up at the exact spot of the song. Like hitting a pause button. It was cool and did not take away from the performance.
As a writer, the opening has to be strong and compelling. On the website “Flogging the Quill” Mr. Ray Rhamey, insists that a writer has 16 lines to hook the reader. If you don’t compel them to turn the page, you have missed your first, best chance to impress the reader. I agree. Concerning the prologue, I don’t have one because that is another opening that has to be written and needs to be compelling. To me it is a high profile opportunity to bore the reader. I don’t see the risk worth the reward, but would love to hear your thoughts on it.
As Shinedown played, they stopped between each song. Most of the time the singer was speaking about something. Most of his comments were to introduce the next song, giving some context or telling us what it was about. Other times he pumped up the crowd or asked for some type of crowd participation.
This is fine, but to me the music sets the tone, just as the writing sets the story. I don’t need to tell the reader how to feel about the story. I need to tell the story and get out of the way. It is about the story, it is about the music. I am not paying the singer to give a speech; I am paying him to sing songs. They wasted about 15 minutes pausing between songs. I know that they were interacting with the crowd, but after a while, it got old.
As a writer, I have a tendency to ramble. I know you all are already wondering when this post will be over. In my novel, I need to remember this and cut with brutality. When I am finished with my work, there is probably ten percent more that can cut and should cut. Every word either has a purpose or should be removed. I have read that before and I hope I can remember it later.
During the fourteen songs that Shinedown performed, I am sure it was tough to keep the energy up. At some point, they are playing a song for the one millionth time. I get that, but at the concert I saw Saturday night , I never had the impression they were bored. They did a great set and somehow found a way to make it fun and exciting for everyone. That is very impressive to me.
I need to find a way as a writer to keep it fun and high energy. The way to do that is to enjoy the process. If I am not having fun telling the story, I think it will translate to the reader.
End strong. The encore is the most anticipated part of any concert. The last four songs are the ones the audience is most looking forward to. Shinedown did not disappoint. They ended well, strong and powerful.
The ending of the book should be just as strong. At that point of the story, I think it should be all story, no character development, no flashbacks and no pauses. Grip the reader by the throat, and never let go. Short paragraphs, quick dialogue and fast pacing. As of today, I don’t really like how my work ends. After reflecting on it, I have come to the conclusion that is because I am still developing the characters and even having some flashbacks. I am bogging down the story with things that belong in different places in the work and with some things that need to be cut.
This is my first ever post about the art of writing. I hesitated to write about writing because so many of you are much more accomplished at the craft.
I feel like the baby that is just learning to eat. “Mom, applesauce tastes good!”
If you think that I have something wrong please let me know. If you have some advice for me, please let me hear it. All comments are always welcome. Until next time, keep on rocking!
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