Sita Brahmachari's Song Diary
Published on: 03 September 2018 Author: Sita Brahmachari
In Zebra Crossing Soul Song Lenny learns important life lessons from Otis. On the surface Otis is an unlikely teacher (as you'll discover, he has hidden the fact that he had never learned to read or write) but I hope as you read the book you will see what important lessons Otis teaches Lenny as he crosses the road from home to school. In my mind the crossing is also the road of life.
Like me and many of my characters Lenny is a daydreamer... his mind has a tendency to float off from reality into random thoughts. Since my first story, Artichoke Hearts, I have begun my books by creating a doodle page of what the story is about.
Otis used to be a singer and there are (in my imagination) recordings of his songs out there in the world and he shares his favourite music with Lenny. I imagined what those songs were...
I began this story by listening to music. I had a playlist that evoked strong memories for me and I thought these too could also be memory prompts for Otis and Lenny. Here's the playlist that inspired me... and Otis and Lenny too!
Otis has inspired Lenny to be a songwriter by sharing his knowledge of music and his life lessons, but he has also inspired him by the lilt of his lyrical voice. Lenny speaks a refrain in the story...
'Even when he was still the Ferry Man
His words used to lilt through my head
Just stuff like this.
He would say....
'Man can learn a lat about hu-man nature right here on the crossin', Lenny...It all about de way you cross...all about de manner of crossin', Lenny son. Why else you t'ink I pass me life as a ferry man? It important work you know!'
In my work I too am inspired by the musicality of how different characters speak in the English language, what they have brought from their different journeys to enrich the language. I spend a lot of time working out how to convey those voices on a page. I am always searching to capture the music in a voice. For every central character I've written I've given them song-tracks that somehow belong to them as a way of accessing their character... but in 'Zebra Crossing Soul Song' I made the music of a voice and how it is formed the subject of my story.
A song diary is a powerful thing! To write down playlists that you love... but also the memories that the songs are attached to. It's incredible how a song can change the way you feel... can evoke emotion, colour and smell and transport you back to the moments in life you'll never forget... just like Lenny's song diary does for him.
Write your own....
Here are a few suggestions to start to write a story based on a song diary:
Think of a character who speaks differently to you. Perhaps you know them well or only aspects of their lives (like Otis and Lenny)
Try to capture the rhythms of their voice and their 'manner of talkin'. Experiment how you lay out your words on a page... like a poem or a song... or prose... or a mixture of all of these like Lenny does.
Ask yourself (or them!) what the character's favourite song tracks are?
Place yourself in the story.
See where this musical crossing takes you as a song writer, poet or novelist.