April 16, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Hitting the High Notes in your MS through Musical Numbers

via wikia.disney.com

So I finally watched FROZEN the other day. And then I had Let It Go stuck in my head for pretty much every second until I was forced to watch it again. (That song! It’s like, get it out, get it out! But now I need to watch again! Am I right?) (And now it's probably stuck in your head. Sorry.)

The next time I watched it, I thought about musicals, and the impact of the musical numbers (beyond wanting to smack your face against a wall to get them out of your head).

In Disney movies, and in any musical, the musical numbers are the high points of the story. In FROZEN, we see songs at major plot points, at emotional moments, at big character turning points, and especially at places where these three things collide. Also, importantly, the musical numbers are spaced pretty evenly throughout the movie.

And I, of course, thought about what I was writing. Where—and what—would the musical numbers in my book be? What would the beginning look like, where we learn about the heroine’s old life? What about a turning point somewhere in the middle? The big evil closing in? The romantic duet? (All my romantic duets will definitely have a snowman now, btw.) Were my important moments having the impact they needed to have to carry a musical number?

I realized this looked more than a little like the Blake Snyder Save the Cat Beat Sheet (which I’ve previously blogged about here: http://www.yamisfits.com/2013/02/writing-club-wednesdays-beat-sheet.html), and that’s not surprising. Musical numbers, like the Beat Sheet beats, are turning points of some kind, which, if they’re skipped or not spread out evenly or not big enough, can make your story feel like its timing is wrong.

So if I’m ever worried about the timing or impact of my Big Turning Points, this is my new go-to solution. Where should I place the scenes that, in a Disney movie, would happen in a song that will drive millions of dollars of merchandise sales??

What about you? Do you have a strategy for making sure your manuscript hits the high notes?


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