|An awesome book!|
“Bohemian Rhapsody and Me”
I’m currently reading “Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury” by Lesley-Ann Jones. It’s a fascinating and richly detailed intimate look into the life of the brilliant musician, composer, singer and entertainer, whose life was cut short by AIDS in 1991. By all accounts, the biography is fabulous, encompassing not only Freddie’s life, but also details on how the rock group Queen was formed, and provides history on the songs they wrote.
I recently read the chapter on the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was/is as Jones describes it, “an epic undertaking comprising an a cappella introduction, an instrumental sequence of piano, guitar, bass, and drums, a mock-operatic interlude and a loaded rock conclusion”. Yep, it’s strange, complicated and masterminded, incorporating a mishmash of ballad, opera and rock into one electrifying song.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” nearly didn’t make it onto the airwaves, however. According to Jones, “Elton (John) denounced it …as a surefire flop. EMI and the industry in general voiced misgivings. Radios stations wondered what the hell …to do with a six minute single. Even bassist John Deacon expressed his fears …that to release “Bohemian Rhapsody” would prove the greatest error judgment of Queen’s career.” More: “Even those who recognized its magnificence immediately were reluctant to go on record, so dramatic was the departure of “Bohemian Rhapsody” from any previous accepted convention of rock.”
Add to that, no one had a clue what the lyrics meant, although some had theories (Freddie never revealed what they meant). Some people say it’s Freddie’s “coming out” song. Jones suggests her theory, that the characters represented the band members… (i.e. Freddie being Scaramouch, the clown, Brian being the scientist, etc.) Freddie neither confirmed nor denied any of this. Some believe the song is meaningless. And yet, it sold. BIG, and even bigger when the video came out; and, according to Jones, “it hit number one again for five weeks after Freddie’s death in 1991”.
|Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango?|
“So what does this have to do with YOUR writing, Linda?” you may ask. “YOU, Linda, are no creative genius as was Freddie.”
My answer: “Yes.” Sigh. “I know.”
But what I related to in this chapter about this particular song was the myriad of reasons people felt “Bohemian Rhapsody” would never sell. Lots of naysayers on that one, baby. And yet, it still sold millions. Why?
Simple. It was genius. It was unique. It was different and someone took a chance on it. Isn’t that what we as writers hope, dream and pray happens to our work?
I’ve attended a lot of writing conferences, workshops, and meetings and listened to many different authors talk about their writing processes. I’ve read books on writing, taken classes and, yes, even wrote two, what I think are, pretty decent novels. It wasn’t easy. What’s easy is to stop writing. To listen to the naysayers who say your book MUST be written according to the Holy Grail of Writing Rules. “Stick to one POV (point of view), don’t use adverbs, don’t write too much back-story, don’t kill off your characters at the end,” etc. The list goes on and on.
Can you imagine Freddie sticking to rules as he wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody”? "Oh no, Freddie, you can’t write a song no one will ever understand. Oh no, Freddie, you can’t mix opera with rock." But Freddie did it -the way HE wanted.
So I guess what I’d like to tell others who are struggling with the writing process is to remember that writing out- of- the box can be a good thing. The hardest part of writing, I’ve found, is ignoring the naysayers, the ones who say, “that book will never sell because…(insert a myriad of reasons)" and they want you to completely change it. Don’t. (Oh, and btw, the biggest naysayer will most likely be you as you write the book! Be warned, and keep that Negative Nellie persona out of the room!) Wouldn’t you have liked to been a fly on the wall when Freddie was writing “Bohemian Rhapsody”? I wonder if he ever thought to himself “God this sucks. No one is ever going to get this. The critics will tear it apart. Why am I writing this?”
So go ahead. Write what you want. Write without fear. Don’t write in a genre because it sells well. Write in a genre you love and love to read. Mix your rock with your opera and let it shine! Throw in some clowns, some scientists, stir and mix. Make sure your work is as good as you can get it (but, um, good grammar IS a rule you should follow), give yourself a pat on the back when finished, and publish! Put your exciting and unique novel out there for the adoring public to judge. You just never know what you’re going to get!
Coming Next: What to Expect When You're Expecting Critique Partners