Feeling the Arpeggio Resonate in Your Chest

No doubt at one time in your life you encountered an artistically-composed photograph or painting that deeply resonated with you.  You may have only looked at the portrait for thirty seconds but it felt like you completely lost track of time as conjured emotions and memories swirled across your mind’s eye.

Something similar happened to me a few days ago while driving and listening to the song And You and I from the album The Ultimate Yes – 35th Anniversary Collection.  At the 0:07 mark I heard an acoustic guitar arpeggio – low E, A, D, G, B, and E.  This got me thinking about my own experiences playing an acoustic guitar, specifically holding the guitar firmly against my body and feeling the resonance within my chest.

Now if you’ve ever played an acoustic guitar, you completely understand and can feel the words of that last sentence resonate in your own chest.  But if not, likely you still appreciate the words on the page without any sort of emotional connection.

Upon having this realization, it hit me why I’m not enjoying a current fiction novel I’m in the middle of reading.  Basically there aren’t any details in the entire novel I can relate to, specifically whenever we (the readers) are sitting and traveling in one of the protagonist’s vintage collector cars.  All we’re told is “the car started” or “we pulled out onto the road” or “the motor growled as we picked up speed.”

As a “car guy” this upsets me.  Where’s the gurgling of the exhaust or the chatter of the door handle or the sun glimmer off the chrome clock bezel for such a key aspect—the cars—to the story?  It may be a 1968 Aston Martin DB6 I’m traveling in, but the words on the page are conjuring images of a more modern, tame car – like I’m a passenger in my neighbor’s Toyota Corolla!

My takeaway in these recent experiences is that I’m not going to hesitate adding in specific sensory details that may only appeal to a small handful of my readers.  If it’s interesting to me, I’ll add it with hopes it will strike a chord with a small percentage of my readers.

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6 thoughts on “Feeling the Arpeggio Resonate in Your Chest

  1. Go for it!

    There’s sheer agony in finding oneself in the middle of a read and wondering, where’s the color, the volume. After all, an investment has been made, with ‘my’ time and space.

    I agree, let’s define and sharpen, highlight and reverberate the calibration to feed our senses.

  2. Exactly. Write the story which your heart narrates, and the world will listen.

  3. The snick of a knife opening (for us thriller writers), a dog bark. I sit and imagine what my character might hear.

    Good reminder, Matt.

  4. I think that this is a good reminder, too, of how we can be better readers, which, in turn, makes us better writers. When we’re in a book (or poem or short story or) and we start thinking about new paint colors for the splash wall or what dinner was last Tuesday we need to ask ourselves why we faded out, why we keep reading the same sentence three times over without it taking and root. If we read as writers we can notice elements that lose us and ones that set the hooks. Matt shows us this in his post here and while some may not agree that on the inclusion of the same level of sensory details, that doesn’t matter; we can all, should all, agree that close reading and reflection on our readerly awareness will help us as we sit at our own desk with pen and paper.

  5. I like to read sea stories-fiction and non-fiction. It is a genre in which a lot of value is placed on adventure as well as believability. (or in the non-fiction category, truthfulness.) Writers who stretch the truth are maligned as frauds.
    But I’ve read too many truthful accounts that are simply boring. Veracity does not make writing “true.” If one writes about the beauty, danger, atmosphere of sailing with lifeless prose it is false-whether it adheres to facts or not. It is the colorful, multi-sensory images and details that make it engaging and real.

  6. I think you’re addressing the authenticity of experience that a writer should convey. The multi-level sensory elements that place a reader into a story can also build a relationship. I enjoy learning something new from a book and I really enjoy getting a sense of what a particular thing feels like, especially if I am unlikely to ever experience it for myself. I’ve never played guitar. Now I know that a guitarist feels the notes as much as plays and hears them. That would be a powerful experience.

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