Rambling Review: A Quiet Place

This is — obviously — not a book review, but I just saw A Quiet Place this weekend and I want to tell everyone about it.

It was SO good. I DO NOT do horror movies — my imagination is over-active enough as it is, thankyouverymuch — so believe me when I say everyone should see this movie (yes, Mom, even you). Sure, it is suspenseful. There are a those sudden “jump out” scenes. There are flashes of gore (very brief, and I’d say almost tastefully done). So much of the movie is spent feeling a chill creep up your spine, feeling each tiny hair on the back of your neck stand up in that delicious anticipation of terror. Don’t get me wrong, this movie definitely has those elements that make great horror movies (I assume, as like I said: NOT my thing).

But there is such a depth to the story as well. The premise is fairly simple: sound = death. There are creatures who hunt solely by sound, so the family has to live in silence. Because of this, the viewer gets to interpret the story in their own way, more so than in most movies. Actions truly do speak louder than words, and the beauty of the story is found in the facial expressions, in gestures and sign language. A life lived on mute makes everything more profound — both the joys and the pains.

I was afraid I’d be terrified to make noise the whole time, but there was a comfort in the crack of popcorn kernels and the seat shifting going on around me. There were times when I breathed into my sweatshirt, trying to convey advice to the characters on the screen. And I audibly gasped, empathizing with them. The movie made me stress-sweat, wondering if I could bear what they do without making a sound. And my admiration for them all grew with each scene.

I’ve said it many times, but I love for my entertainment to also move me. This movie did that. I cried, I rejoiced, I feared, and I cheered. It lingers in a way that doesn’t make me need to keep a light on to sleep, but makes me appreciate the little things like being able to swear loudly when I stub my toe — and the big things, like how much my own parents love me.

It is suspenseful without being horrifying, sweet without being trite, sad without wallowing, and triumphant without being cheesy. A Quiet Place is so well done, and so worth seeing.

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Writing Soundtrack

I’ve read so many books and articles and blog posts full of writing tips. Tips to focus, tips for time management, tips for character development. So many of them recommend silence while writing. If you must listen to music, it can’t have words, or if there are lyrics, they should be in a language other than one you speak.

I’ve made playlists on Spotify for every work-in-progress, and some for specific characters. If I hear a song that evokes a certain feeling or perfectly describes something a character is going through, I save it to the playlist and use it for inspiration later. Most of the time, I listen to these playlists while I’m driving or sunbathing or cooking or packing. They enhance the story I’m working on and help me see characters and events in a new light, the same way music changes my perspective in my own life.

I prefer to write with one of my playlists going. Usually, I’ll start with whichever song most recently spoke to me to jog my memory of all the pre-writing I’ve done in my head, and the rest of the songs fade into the background as my writing picks up. Then I’ll hit a snag and search for a new song to prompt another scene.

It’s worked for me as long as I can remember. Sure, I catch myself singing along sometimes, but I don’t think the lyrics are as distracting as the pros warn about. I mean, I’m also the type of person who needs to mindlessly rap along with T.I. or Eminem while driving through a snowstorm or torrential downpour or other traffic situation that makes me uncomfortable.

I’ve tried listening to the soundtracks of epic movies and shows and games like Thor and Game of Thrones and Assassin’s Creed. I’ve tried creating my own mix of lyric-less songs pulled from soundtracks and classical composers and string quartet covers of popular hits. I’ve tried the Russian Rap playlist I found through Spotify to give me the sound of human voices without the words I understand (although my four semesters of Russian come rearing up and cause excitement when I do recognize a word or two).

What it comes down to for me is this: I have a lot going on in my mind. Maybe it’s quiet, constant anxiety that makes my brain spin in a thousand directions at once. Maybe everyone’s mind runs things in the background and foreground at once. All I know is I need the lyrics to pull the background focus. If the behind-the-scenes-processing part of my mind is stuck in familiar songs, the rest of my thinking can focus outward. Whether it’s keeping control of a vehicle on an icy road or pouring my heart into a half-formed story, the music — with lyrics I can learn by heart — is imperative to my writing process.