Nostalgia. The recollection of all the times passed that leaves us with a warm and fuzzy feeling in our chest. There are plenty of examples of this. Childhood memories, romantic trysts, great jobs, vacations, etc. Lately I’ve been hit with a case of wistfulness. The cause?
Cigarette Daydreams by Cage the Elephant from the Tell Me I’m Pretty album.
I’ve always been a fan of this band. Their eclectic and somewhat unpredictable sound always kept me entertained. I’ve never been bored of them and that’s saying something for me. While I was on the road a few weeks ago, this song came on and despite it having come out in the spring, I’d never heard it before.
Add to the fact that I was on the highway and had nothing to do but drive straight and listen, this song cut through me. To this day I can’t explain why, but I just got this ache in my chest. It reminded me of so many of the people, especially the women, that I’ve known in my life.
Part of it was the general nostalgia of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that’s been a time for reflection for as long as I can remember. The other part of it was the way Matt Schulz (the lead singer) sang the lyrics directed at a woman. When I got home I immediately looked up the video to the song and was met with this:
It was so well done in my opinion, as I always loved when movies/books/music videos/ whatever always left the details up to your imagination.
The imagery makes it look like the girl is killing her twin sister terribly, but it the lyrics laying over it show that it’s more as if she’s killing a part of herself.
A part that didn’t serve her anymore? A part she felt that was weak? Maybe killing the piece of herself that still had strong ties to her past?
There’s no way to know, and I like that. What I really want to comment on is that feeling. That, oh so relatable feeling that strikes all of us. This is something we need in our writing. These are the types of emotions that we need to evokes with our plot devices, story lines, heros, villains, all of it.
While there’s no point in making it all focused on nostalgia, you definitely need to pull the emotion out of people in your work and I think part of that has to do with the ambiguity of the details.
The audio and visual components to that video paint a pretty clear picture, except one tiny detail is missing. That’s the detail they want us to draw for ourselves, and that’s where the connection comes in.
It forces us to mine our brains for our own experiences and beliefs so that we can interpret it, and through doing that, forces us to put a little personal stamp on it in some way.
It’s led to the success of many things like music, movies, books, poetry etc. It’s the thing that keeps people coming back again and again, even when they know what happens from to back.
Because of that simple reason, those are the things we need to inject into our writing in any way possible.
Maybe a little Cage the Elephant will help you along the way?
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think I’m nuts? Whatever you think please leave it in the comments below.
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