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New Voices! Emilia Joyce Plater: A Guide to Musical Nirvana

To celebrate the holiday season, (well, besides giving away tons of books) we're sharing our
239 (and counting!) followers with some fantastic guest bloggers. Next up in our New Voices series is Emilia Plater, who believes writing and music are kindred arts.

A little about Emilia:

Emilia Plater is an aspiring novelist and token angsty teenager who listens to classic rock along with this crazy modern junk. Her novel-in-progress, After Cameron, tells the story of a cynical girl who's getting texts from her dead boyfriend's number.

Also, she's sixteen. (16!!)

A Guide to Musical Nirvana

Recently, I drove home from New York City late at night with my parents. I had some new music on my player begging to be heard, so I lounged across the back seat for a couple hours and just felt it - felt every beat, riff, and lyric washing over me. It was pure nirvana.

As I thought about what made these songs so great, I realized that a lot of those elements could apply to great books, too.

So how can a book, full of paper and noiseless words, reach musical nirvana?

It's gotta have...

1. The addictive riff.

AKA: The hook.
Listen to the opening of Supermassive Black Hole by Muse. After hearing that first riff, or short musical phrase, how impossible is it to shut the song off? Pretty impossible. In a book, the hook can be anything - the premise, the first chapter, the first sentence - but it must be instantly addicting. If I shuffle to a book with no hook, there's a high probability I'm going to hit Skip. And unlike with a song, which I can listen to over and over until I do love it, a book needs to be catchy the first time.

2. The pounding drums.
AKA: The plot.
The beating of drums drives a song and serves as a cradle for everything else. In O Saya ft. MIA from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, the drums are exciting, intricate, wild and varied. They speed up during high-energy areas and keep your heart racing the whole way through. In YA, a book either has a similarly great plot, or it's out. A fast pace, though not totally necessary, helps keep the excitement going.

3. The unforgettable lyrics.
AKA: The theme.
The theme of a book can be defined as an idea that flows through it and states something about life. The lyrics of a song serve as a plain authority on what the song's all about. Just listen to the lyrics of Electric Feel by MGMT: "All along the eastern shore/ put your circuits in the sea/ This is what the world is for/ making electricity." Not only are they inspiring, but they make me think about the world and how I could change my life for the better. By taking advantage of teenage open-mindedness - we might act pessimistic, but we're still kids at heart - a great YA book does the thing.

4. The emotive vocals.
AKA: The voice.
At 0:42 in No You Girls by Franz Ferdinand, singer Alex Kaprano sings without any background noise for one line: "I'd love to get to know you." To me, Alex's voice is so distinctive and irresistible - he makes every song he sings, and I'd never mistake a Franz Ferdinand song for a song by anyone else. Voice is one of the most important elements of a song - and of a novel. If I don't like a singer's voice, or if there's nothing special about it, I probably won't get into a song. The same goes for books.

5. The electrifying chorus.
AKA: The climax.
The chorus usually appears three or four times in a song. In the same way, a book should have defined areas of high-pressure greatness: a shocking revelation, a car chase. But it's the last chorus in a song into which musicians usually put the most energy. The whole song leads up to it, and if I don't feel like dancing yet, I do now. Case in point: 4:05 in Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. The melody, the lyrics, the beat, and the voice all smash together to create a really powerful chorus. The hook, plot, theme, and voice do the same with the climax of a great YA book.

When I find a song with all five of these elements, I crank up the volume and let the whole thing course through my veins. Just like I'll sacrifice my eardrums for a great song, I'll sacrifice my whole afternoon for a great book.

So as you write or edit your novel, don't forget to reach musical nirvana. Turn up the volume on all your ideas - and write the night away.

~Emilia Plater
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. Emilia! FANTASTIC post.

    I love the comparison of musical elements to storytelling - particularly the drums-to-plot one (being a drummer myself, lol). It's amazing how all of the arts, music, writing, acting, painting, anything, have these key points in common.

  2. Wow, great post Emilia! I'll have to check out your suggestions.

  3. Such a great analogy! I love music as much as I love writing, and reading about the two combined makes me grin like a medicated idiot. :) I can't believe you're just 16!

  4. Love it, Emilia! What an awesome analogy.

  5. This post is so awesome that I've officially developed a girlcrush on Emilia. Not that I didn't already have one...but now it's OFFICIAL.

    (And you have great taste in music. :D)

  6. Thanks for the wonderful comments, everyone!

    Michelle - I totally agree. You could draw analogies between painting & music, acting & writing... some of them might be a stretches, but they would definitely work ;)

    Kristin - *swoons* Requited love!

  7. Love this post! Music is such an important part of my writing process, but I never concerned how music and books are similar until now. It's amazing how much they share in common! (And I couldn't agree with you more about Supermassive Black Hole. That's one of many Muse songs I'm addicted to!)

  8. What a great post Emilia!
    Thanks for sharing this, I'll keep everything in mind!

  9. I like that song from Muse. Very catchy. They don't play it enough on the radio. Great post. I never thought of the books and music analogy, but it's so true. And I, too, could waste a whole day--and have--reading a good book. I've also been known to crank up anything by Linkin Park.

  10. I am absolutely in love with your blog post! This is a great way to think of novels- just like music. I also love music and can't get enough of the really, really good music that takes you to that enlightened state (if you have not heard Snuff by Slipknot- get on that- NOW!). Wonderful post!!!!

  11. Hi - I'm bookmarking this post. Because it is made of awesome. Really, really, made of awesome. :D

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  13. Wow, amazing post. The analogy is really clever!

    And <33 your music :)


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Item Reviewed: New Voices! Emilia Joyce Plater: A Guide to Musical Nirvana Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard