Weirding the Chord
Posted on May 28, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a beautiful concert of Orthodox Church service music. During a hymn about the birth of Christ, I was stunned into chills of joy by the ongoing dissonance in the middle voices. The harmonies never resolved for the entire middle section of the work. That weirding made me hear as though for the first time how strange a story we tell at Christmas. It’s usually so familiar that I hardly think of it. I mean, I think of it, but it doesn’t get to me much. Shepherds, angels, manger, blahdeblah. The Nativity was just background noise to my daily life. It was as ubiquitous as Santa in late autumn. But those unresolved chords caught my ear and through it, my heart.
Writing is the same. Why is this cup of tea special to the character? Why describe it instead of a thousand other small actions a character might act out in the course of a day? As writers, we highlight actions that tell about a character or advance the story; preferably both. If I tell you that she holds the sugar cube over the steaming cup and bends forward to watch the tea reach out for it, watches the cube absorb the heat and liquid gold before dropping the soaked sugar into the swirl of her silver spoon, you know something about her. She is no longer just drinking a cup of tea. The chord has been weirded.
What everyday truths or habits have you come to ignore? What story might they tell if you heard them askance or askew? Have you experienced a weirded chord?