Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Night Time Is The Right Time

As a writer I must say the first lesson I learned when thinking about Ray Charles classic tune The Night Time Is The Right Time is how important a title can be. Without listening to the song or reading the lyrics I am immediately thrust into a mood. Sultry, sensual, romance, and innuendo are a few words that invade my mind before any notes erupt.

Like many chapter endings this title also leads us somewhere and leaves us with a cliffhanger. What exactly is the night time the right time for? In order to find out one must listen to the tune.

Another important writing lesson that we can learn from Ray's song is point of view. The song starts out with Ray on main vocals with a spattering of back-up singers in the background. Ray could be considered the main protagonist, while the back-up singers are the supporting characters. However, later in the song, Ray passes the vocals to Margie. She can also be considered a protagonist, although I wouldn't consider her the main protagonist. Without Margie's vocals the song wouldn't be as effective. In fact the song might not work at all. Can you imagine this tune without those vocals?

While Margie's vocals are needed to keep the song interesting (the song lacks certain song writing structures to keep it interesting i.e. bridge etc.), her vocals do not overpower or outshine Ray's. Yet, her words are essential. They bind the song together. Many stories need a second pov in order to work. Writers must be careful when deciding to use multiple povs. Ask yourself if it is absolutely necessary to utilize multiple povs? Will my story lack mystery, intrigue or tension if I switch povs? Who is the most important pov out of all those I am using? One will usually edge the others out, if only slightly. You need to know these things before your beta readers or critique group get their hands on your material.

Although critiques and beta readers can be helpful, they often only have a portion of your story at a time. This limits what information they get and often they want to know everything right away. Because of this they might tell you that your pov switches aren't working because they haven't read the rest of the story. I'm not saying don't listen to those who can help. I'm saying be careful and know how you want to execute pov switches before you have written yourself into a mess. (Your readers might be the ones to tell you you are in a mess.)

Sometimes your story might not need to switch pov at all. It can be hard to know when and where to switch pov or if the switch should even happen at all. Harry Potter, a book written from a 3rd person limited perspective, works because we only have Harry's pov. We learn things as Harry does. Yes, Rowling does some cool stuff to escape Harry's perspective. She introduces the pensieve or newspapers and such, but the point is that she knew what pov to use when weaving her tale.

Not all of Ray Charles' songs have multiple lead singers. Not all books work from multiple povs. However, if you look at the structure of your story, and maybe listen to Ray's song, you can learn whether or not multiple povs will work.

And just because I can't listen to this tune without thinking about Bill Cosby, I've added the clip for your viewing pleasure.

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