Friday, December 15, 2017

Roles and Soundtracks

I've find this week's discussion fascinating. As someone who is an introvert and inclined to be a worrier, I am more negative than positive. But because I need to interact with people and connect -- and because I've become convinced I do no one any good by acting negative -- I've learned to engage in mood-shifting. This goes to sociologist Erving Goffman's theory about the roles we play in everyday life. As I experiment with showering the world with positive vibes, I've been dressing for my performance. This week, on a day when the weather was cold and raw, instead of dressing in all black and gray (my winter comfort colors), I put on a blue top and added a big blue and white silk scarf under my jacket. Sure enough, several people I met during the day glanced at the abstract scarf with its moon face and smiled and commented.

What I find as fascinating as people who create beauty or act in pro-social ways while being vile human-beings, is how much time we as humans spend engaged in impression management. We may feel gloomy or negative, but when we become socially savvy, we learn how to stop when the horrible tale we are telling the strangers we're chatting with at the holiday party is leaving their faces blank or an uncomfortable silence has fallen. We may not be a natural at chatting with people in check-out lines, but -- if we're lucky enough to grow up in a small town or in the South -- we learn what a social lubricant a comment can be. I saw this in action on Tuesday afternoon when the students in my class were standing at their stations waiting for people to come in and see their exhibit. The student nearest where I was sitting turned to me and asked about my cat -- Harry, the rescue Maine Coon who I had mentioned in class one day. It was a quiet exchange, but we started talking cats. And the other students began to join in with their own stories of cats and dogs. Our laughter floated down the hall. Hearing the laughter, the people coming to see the exhibit walked in smiling.

This brings me to what I've been thinking about my protagonists. Both Lizzie Stuart, crime historian, and Hannah McCabe, police detective, are introverts. They are self-protective. But Lizzie has learned to laugh, and Hannah appreciates humor. She can make a joke. But I'm finding that in my 1939 book, both my protagonist (who starts out believing in democracy and all of the virtues) is sliding toward the negative and my villain (antagonist) is wearing a mask of civility. But somewhere in that dark soul of his there is pain and sadness.

Last weekend, I made the mistake of beginning the day with the news. Luckily, as I was flipping through TV channels, I happened to re-discover all of the music channels (TV radio) at the top of the dial. I spent 5 minutes and then 10 and then half an hour dancing to reggae.
Now, I not naturally coordinated. I can only waltz well (because I imagine myself in a beautiful gown at a ball). But bopping around the room to reggae brought me right up.

As I was dancing, I also started to think about soundtracks. What kind of music would shake my characters in my 1939 book out of their gloom? What would make them smile? What would inspire them? And what is the soundtrack of the book itself? I don't know the answers to these questions yet, but it has shaken me out of my own down mood to think about it.

Does anyone else have a soundtrack for your book in progress? For your protagonist?


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Oh, interesting. I don't have a soundtrack for my novel(s), or my protagonist but what a good idea to use music to explore the true character of my protagonist and the theme of my novel. Hm? You've made me think!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Let me know if the idea works for you. I'm trying to apply to characters in 1939, so really requires me to think about the impact of the era they're living in.