Friday, July 18, 2014

While You Were Dancing - The Sight & The Sound

I have so far explained the influence that went into much of its construction, but I have yet to explain the images and sounds in my head that helped get it all into shape. Yes, that's a bit of a trickier explanation to get across, I admit, but I'm still going to give it a shot.

You see, I was born in 1984, and as such, there are certain stories that have influenced me more than others, just as there are for those born in the 1970s or 1990s. The difference is that the images put in my head when a story starts to bubble up there is much different than one born in another era might expect. I grew up on "Unsolved Mysteries" and not "CSI", on "Rocko's Modern Life" and not "Spongebob Squarepants", on S.E. Hinton and not Stephanie Meyer, and on "Akira" and not "Avatar" like the current generation.

When a story comes to my head, it tends to be filtered quite a bit differently than several stories of similar styles. I simply don't come from that place. You won't find the common element in suspense stories nowadays by lingering on a build up for a dozen pages in my stories, you'll find action sequences that slide out of the background and into the forefront that might catch you out of nowhere and end as quickly as they began.

Now, this isn't really a bragging point. It's just to say if you're expecting me to write a thriller, it isn't going to happen. My brain doesn't work that way.

I found "Unsolved Mysteries" one of the scariest TV shows of all time. It was not explicit, it was not violent, and it wasn't loud or full of high octane action. But it had an atmosphere that I stick with even now when I think of stories. The old film type it used for reenactments, the echoing music, the terrifying voice-over from Robert Stack, and the lack of any lighting or special effects made it all hit that much harder when presenting cases like the Kurt Sova murder (still unsolved to this day) and the  Stanley Greyziec murder (also unsolved) which are still terrifying to watch now even over two decades removed from its original airing.

Why is that, you might ask? Because it pulled no punches and wasn't afraid to show evil exactly as it was. No Hollywood filter or big budget effects, no sanding off the edges to  soften the blows. It is what it is. It presented an unseen world that was very unpleasant, and that still remains there to this day. They're called "unsolved" mysteries for a reason. The show wasn't always perfect, but the presentation is still unmatched by any crime shows today.

So when I imagine my stories, I tend to use bases like that as a way to frame my story and try to get it across. It's the same when I think of comedy, my version of comedy goes back to 90s show Rocko's Modern Life and its portrayal of modern life through a cracked lens. . . and since I'm already not much of a fan of the modern world, it works doubly well.

And finally, my character interactions are more influenced by Hinton than Meyer, yes. My characters are more prone to being honest and being assertive instead of clingy and obsessive. Of course, that's not where my influences end.

My version of the future is not much like Avatar's "if only everyone listened to this group of people, the world would be a magical candy land of love and dancing" but closer to Akira's "human beings as a group lose sight of goals and what made them who they are and need to do something before they destroy themselves" style. There's a big difference, as you no doubt notice. Akira's is more true to life even if a bit too grim, while Avatar's is patently false by anyone who knows anything about basic history.

I'm not the type to say that it sure was better when I was a kid, so I'll stop there.

On the other end of this spectrum is the sound. Yes, the Unsolved Mysteries music is creepy and all, but for this story, I sort of had a soundtrack in my mind.

No, not like a "Scene 1 - Act 1" soundtrack, but a general "mood" soundtrack. Two Tone is a fan of a specific brand of dance music and was a part of a crowd I knew all too well when I was younger, which lead to a lot of shaping of his character without me really noticing until the story was done. If you would like to know the soundtrack listing, then I would be happy to oblige. I believe most of these songs are on iTunes, but keep in mind that the subject matter of some of the tunes wouldn't be appropriate for younger listeners.

Here it is:

While You Were Dancing Soundtrack

1. Chuck Berry – School Days 
2. Buddy Holly – Down the Line 
3. Carl Perkins – Boppin’ The Blues 
4. Little Richard – Keep A Knocking 
5. Dick Dale & His Deltones – Surfing Drums 
6. The Beach Boys – I Get Around 
7. The Kinks – All Day All Night 
8. The Who – Leaving Here 
9. The Sonics - Psycho 
10.  Flamin Groovies – Somethin’ Else 
11.  New York Dolls – Lookin’ For A Kiss 
12.  The Jam – Takin’ My Love 
13.  The Specials – Blank Expression 
14.  The Knack – My Sharona (Album Version)  
15.  Madness – Believe Me 
16.  Stray Cats – (What’s Goin’ Down) Cross That Bridge*
17.  Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself ("Don't Stop" Version) 
18.  Wang Chung – Dance Hall Days 
19.  The Ramones – No Go*
20.  George Harrison – I Got My Mind Set On You

*These tunes are not on iTunes, but are highly recommended. The Stray Cats song is not even available on CD to my knowledge, so I used the song "Fishnet Stockings" in place of it.

If you have much knowledge of old rock n' roll music then you notice that (most) of these tracks are in chronological order starting from the mid-'50s and spanning to the mid-'80s. I was trying to form a sort of narrative with Two Tone's preferred genre of music while keeping in character with him. It starts innocently enough and then goes on logically from that point, much like Two Tone's life. All to some pretty kicking dance music that beats out anything on pop radio today.

The sounds we let into our head do help influence what we think about, though not always in the same way. While Two Tone would listen to this music to make him feel good, I mostly use it for atmospheric influence and a catchy beat. It varies from person to person, but its fairly obvious that music has a certain power to it other forms of art do not.

Anyway, I can't speak much on sounds, but I can say that if you enjoy older dance music and you can deal with rougher language (but no swearing), then you would probably find more than a few of these fun listens. I recommend them otherwise.

That about covers all the aesthetic influences as I can describe them. I hope you enjoyed this entry and will stick with me next week. 

It'll be fun, I promise.

Next week is the final entry, which makes me a bit sad. It should hint toward what the future holds, so be sure to keep an eye out!

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