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Anatomy of a concert…

February 12, 2013

Hey Y’all,

rob phone feb13 186

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

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.

3 days grace 1

3 days grace

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 performs on July 6, 2012 at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.

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!”

baby

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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From → writing

14 Comments
  1. Rob, I love how you thought about the concert and your writing. Your points are very well-taken. A great visual that drives home your thoughts on the process of novel construction. You sell your writing “advice” short. Although, to be honest, it seemed less like advice and more like sharing your thought process. I’m glad you did. Much to learn there.

  2. Thanks Julie,

    I am not sure there is much in my brain that is worth sharing. Ha Ha.

    I learn from you and others like you. Thanks for all the support.

  3. That was an excellent post today. Thanks so much for sharing it. I
    really enjoyed reading it very much. You have a wonderful day!

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    Writing Jobs – Writers Wanted

  4. Karlene permalink

    Rob, this is fantastic. I think that the initial lessons and inspiration and ah ha moments from writers are the really important things. Every time I read, I learn how to cut back more. A couple must read books on writing to help with the ramble, are: Stephen King on Writing, and Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. But ramble and literary… I am reading the Lincoln Letter, and it’s fabulous… long, and there are paragraphs dedicated to the street. You know everything that is happening, the taste, scent… etc. Many words… but each word counts. That’s the key! There are so many parallels between writing and life…. this was an excellent one!

    • Thanks Karlene.

      I have both of those books and I have read many more about writing. I like to learn the lessons the easy way, by learning from other’s mistakes. But, I didn’t learn to fly from a book and I don’t think I can learn to write from a book. It is just spending time over target, dropping word bombs onto the computer until it makes sense.

      • Karlene permalink

        You’re right… but I am sure you had a teacher in that plane the first time, to teach you the principles or aerodynamics. I think writing is the same. And with flying, I love to learn from others mistakes… I listen to what they learned, and worked for them. I don’t fly enough to make enough of my own. But it compounds the learning process. Reading others books on writing does the same. But just because we can learn how to mix color, brush strokes, etc., when learning to paint…The artistry comes from within. The vision. The same with writing.

        I love the psychology of what makes a book good… a page turner. I find the subject of writing fascinating. And script writing… this in an entirely new world. It’s so dang fun!

      • Yes, I had an instructor, but at some point you either have to solo or quit. When you are solo, there is no one to rely on, no one to save your butt. Once you’re up there, you have got to get yourself back down.

        I think writing is like that. Once you start, it is all you. You can get on the radio and get some help but the issues that I face and struggle with are different what you struggle with. Steven King has forgotten more than you and I together may ever learn. His book is great, I have read it twice, but if he doesn’t specifically address something I question, I am on my own.

        POV for example. I really struggle with that aspect of writing. I have a problem with it and I don’t even know how much of a problem it is. Steven King gets POV, he is a master of it and when I seek his help, he approaches it from an experts POV, not a novice’s POV.

        I am not quibbling, just articulating. As an aside, I can’t wait to start working on a screenplay of my book. Even better will be watching it at the movies with a big tub of butter popcorn. I am proud of you and excited for you! Go Girl!

      • Karlene permalink

        I totally understand. I was having lunch with my writer friend, Linda Gray, and we were talking about this. She said the fun of writing is just putting words on paper. Writing the story. Getting it out. I’m seriously a do it person. I never read a manual on anything. So… quite often I don’t know how to use my MAC, my camera… well… just enough to get by. I just don’t take the time. Another fun way without reading the “to do” books… is just to read, lots of books. That’s what’s fun!

      • That is so cool. You have a writer friend to have lunch with. I need one of those. Here in West Virginia it is tough to find someone who can read. I have a friend who has most of his teeth. Does that count?

        You are a type A personality…ready…fire…aim. Me too!

  5. Egg permalink

    Fantastic analogy, and one worth mulling over while I write my daily quota.

    The prologue question is an interesting one. I’m not a big fan, and I agree, if you don’t need it, ditch it, yet after I finished the first draft of my my first novel attempt, I went back and wrote one. I actually think it’s better than my opening chapter, which says alot about the opening chapter, i.e., I’d get slammed on Flogging the Quill. Sigh. More work required.

    On a different note, you mentioned on Julie’s site that your novel includes scenes in Darwin. I was born and raised there, and know it better than any place in the whole world, so if you need a credibility check, you know where to find me.

    …and nice try with the cute baby photo. Not convinced, buddy, not convinced.

    • Eggie,

      Thanks for stopping in. I am glad that I can write something that would give you a minute to pause and think about it. That is rare because you are so far advanced in your progression as a writer. Or maybe you were being nice to me. That is probably closer to the truth. Either way, I always value everything you say.

      I did not know you were an Aussie from birth. And that you are from Darwin. What a small world, yes I would love to have any inside information on the town. Anything I can add that will give, extra texture to a reader is so valuable. Yes, please help me.

      Darwin became a central location in my work because it is the nearest Australian city to Thailand. From Bangkok to Darwin, it is approximately 2300 miles. Eddie and his team are in a stolen 727, with a maximum range of 2400 miles. They have a cargo of 27 abused children, the manager of a pedophile ring and the body of a Saudi Sheik. The best hope for justice is the Australian Federal Police. Their plan is to land the jet on a road on Lees Point, and escape into the ocean leaving the evidence behind.

      Erika, please e-mail me so we can continue this off line. robakers19@gmail.com

      Thank you again for your offer.

      • Egg permalink

        I used to work with the AFP. “The best hope for justice is the AFP.” I’m wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes. You get funnier and funnier, my friend.

        Hey, Lee Point Road is a great place to land a jet. I wish I’d thought of that. Will drop you an email.

  6. Thanks Erika.

    Looking forward to getting some real information about Darwin and Lee Point Road.

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