I’m listening to a Michael W. Smith CD Wonder, and the last song is “Take Me Over.” Most of it is like a contemporary worship song, until the 3:15 mark or so, and it moves into something almost classical, a building and swelling theme that peaks and then subsides, followed by a final chorus.
I play the song again, keying on that section again. And again.
I listen to the music, and images begin to form. The more I listen to the song, the clearer the images become. And then at some point, usually days later, the story begins to emerge.
Two people, a man and a woman. They’re young. She’s walking with her mother on the lawn behind a large house (similar to what’s pictured above, but not as big). He comes down the steps from the house. He’s limping, and using a cane. He begins a running hobble toward the two women on the lawn. The older woman puts her hand on the younger woman’s arm. The young woman sees the hobbling figure. She begins to walk fast, and then breaks into a run towards the young man.
That’s the central image, framed by the music. I begin to build out from there. How did they meet? At the theater. She was on stage, in a play. There’s something slightly scandalous at the idea of her being in a play. He’s not limping when they first meet, so where does the limp come from? And who is he? He’s in a kind of exile, something of a black sheep. Why? He gave a speech, telling the truth.
Still, where does the limp come from? I play the song again, and the answer becomes clearer. An explosion. On a road. He’s in a jeep with three others, sitting in the back. No one realizes the road is mined. The jeep hits a land mine and is capsized in the explosion. Stories filter back, but communications are difficult – all phone and internet service has been taken down, and most cellular towers disabled.
For three months, they will not be able to communicate with each other. She will hear rumors but nothing can be confirmed. She’s in London, out of harm’s way. And where is he? I listen to two more songs on Wonder, and then return to “Take Me Over.” And the rest of the story falls into place.
I didn’t expect this when I listened to the CD. In fact, “Take Me Over” was not my favorite song (it still isn't; there's another one I like more). I’d often finish listening to the song before it and switch to something else. Until the day I let the CD play through, and found that wonderful two minutes of music.
My novels Dancing Priest and A Light Shining originated in a song, heard on an in-flight program while I was flying to San Francisco. I worked the story in my head for three years before I began to write it down. I’m still working this story in my head, and I know who the characters are but I’m not ready to write the story down. Not just yet.
I play the song again, and listen.