How Music and Song Influenced
My Daria Fanfics
Text ©2010 The Angst Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daria and associated characters are ©2010 MTV Networks
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Synopsis: Music has more of an influence on fanfic writing than is sometimes thought. Some examples of this are given from this author’s own Daria works. (This essay has been greatly expanded from its original form.)
Author’s Notes: Not much has been said online about music and fanfic writing, as far as I can tell. Perhaps this will spark a little thought or help people enjoy my stories better.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to all who produced the music that inspired my writing!
The first Daria fanfic I ever did was woven around a song. “Nine-Eleven and Counting” was, of course, about the terrorist attacks against America on September 11, 2001, and how it affected the major characters of the Dariaverse. As I wrote the story, a particular song kept going through my head—the Peter, Paul, and Mary version of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” (I can hear it inside my head as I write this.) Certain lyrics jumped out of that song and came to life, waving in my mind like a flag in the wind, and I borrowed fragments of those lyrics and made them into chapter titles for the story. “Nine-Eleven and Counting,” like every author’s first story, is badly flawed, and I am fond of saying it will be revised one day—but when it is, the chapter titles will stay. I cannot imagine the story now without the song, or the song without the story. [The story has been revised since this essay was written, and the chapter titles were kept—TAG]
Since then, I’ve written a few other Daria fanfics and am surprised at how many of them were influenced by particular songs or musical works. The Daria show itself made extensive used of background music by alternative bands, and some fans of the series find the DVD versions of the show sadly lacking because the music tracks were removed for public distribution, for royalty reasons.
Daria and music are thus joined in my mind, and for whatever interest this topic has among fanfic authors and readers, this essay on music and writing is offered. It is hoped that the reader will forgive me if I ramble a bit. Music is a separate language, and I was never very good with languages other than English. Talking about one’s own fanfics is also sort of icky, but it is hoped this essay will have redeeming value anyway.
Sometimes music forms only a small part of a Daria story, a background element to a particular scene. I don’t recommend certain songs be played during every scene, as some fanfic writers do, but when it’s appropriate I mention it. For example, Daria Morgendorffer and her father Jake listen to Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” during a father-daughter dinner in “A Midsummer Nightmare’s Daria.” I was looking for something that a hotel restaurant would play on a special evening, and Mozart came to mind, as I am a big fan of the play/movie Amadeus. Daria, I thought, would appreciate classical music as well as alternative rock.
Another scene in “A Midsummer Nightmare’s Daria” uses the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” which is especially good for this tale as Daria is changed by supernatural forces to become angrier and more aggressive, the constraints on her mild behavior suddenly removed. People around her thus need to seek shelter from her rage and desire for revenge. The connection with the documentary movie of the disastrous Altamont concert (“Gimme Shelter”) is echoed as well. I thought about using “Sympathy for the Devil” in that scene, but “Gimme Shelter” worked better.
A lyric from a Kid Rock song, “Fist of Rage,” arises in a scene between Daria and Jane in “Nine-Eleven and Counting,” right before they discover news of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. The lyric talks about the singer’s negative view of the world and his struggle to get through it: “I see the future and it’s looking grim / A lake of fire, looking like a long swim” described exactly how I felt about life after 9/11, and I used it here to foreshadow what was to come.
In “Winter in Hell,” Sandi Griffin reveals that she once took piano lessons until she dumped them in favor of running the Fashion Club. In a mall’s piano store, she sits down and plays a selection of pieces that I took from various piano CDs. Neil Young’s “Old Man” was reflective of Sandi’s trouble with her father, who has abandoned her, and of Quinn Morgendorffer’s relationship with the neurotic Jake. The Beatles’ song, “Yesterday,” was similarly linked to events in the story, and Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” echoes Sandi’s fears that her best (and probably only) friend, Quinn, will soon head for college and leave Sandi to an uncertain and lonely future.
The short, humorous script “Quinnisqatsi” includes a musical soundtrack from the movie Koyaanisqatsi, though altered in a ludicrous way by Jeffy, Joey, and Jamie to fit their home movie about their worship of Quinn. This was the only time I recall using a song in a humorous way in a story, though you could easily read the farce “Luuuv Story” to a selection of 1970s Barry White love songs.
Other examples of songs having cameo appearances in various Daria fanfics include, in no particular order:
· “Fortunate One,” with Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”;
· “Potential,” with various (ominously predictive) songs by R.E.M.;
· “One More River to Cross,” with the old Christian spiritual of the title appearing halfway through;
· “Smoking Mirror,” with Dusty Springfield’s version of “The Windmills of Your Mind” in Part Three;
· “Summer of the Hot Lake,” with Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”; and
· “Gone,” with various popular songs from 1962 being sung by Helen and Rita Barksdale on their nightmarish adventure to rescue their sister Amy.
In the alternate-history “Pause in the Air” series, Daria and Jane are gay. They become lovers and get married, then go so far as to have a baby. In a scene in “Shock and Aww,” the fifth in the series, Jane hums the tune to Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” a 1980s song that Jane would to have heard as a child or seen on MTV as a music video. “We Belong” is actually the theme song of the entire PitA series, and the lyrics reflect exactly what goes on in their stories as they struggle with personal doubts and real-world troubles in an effort to make their marriage and family work.
What’s in a Name?
A song’s title or lyrics can strike me as inspiration for a story title. “Click Click Boom” (from Saliva’s song of the same name) worked nicely for an alternate-history story in which Daria and Jane meet because they are both camera bugs—which they are to a lesser extent in the regular Dariaverse. An alternate-history story about Jane’s older sister, Penny Lane, was titled “There Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies” after a line in the Beatles’ song, “Penny Lane” (probably the source of Penny’s name). “Fortunate One,” “One More River to Cross,” “Silent Night,” “The Thong Remains the Same” (a twisted take on a Led Zeppelin tune), “Almost Strangers in the Night,” “Like a Circle in a Spiral” (from “The Windmills of Your Mind”), and “Could Someone Turn Down the Sun?” (from the theme song to the Daria movie, Is It Fall Yet?) are also in this category.
Behind the Scenes
Sometimes a song serves as the inspiration for certain scenes in a story, but it is not mentioned in the tale itself. “April Is the Cruelest Month” begins with Daria and Jane driving through the Rocky Mountains, which are majestic enough in themselves, but I wanted a particular feeling to go with this scene and found it hard to write without something to help the emotional tone along. That feeling was supplied by Loreena McKennitt’s “The Mystic’s Dream,” from The Mask and the Mirror. This song perfect captures the eeriness of that overcast day, the mountaintops wreathed in fog, reflecting a certain loneliness of spirit and a pending meeting with destiny. I must have listened to “The Mystic’s Dream” fifty times while writing the opening to the story.
Several other Daria stories I’ve written have had strong musical elements and inspirations that are not mentioned in the stories themselves. “Darius” is a prime example. This tale has a very dark theme, being my take on the difficult life Daria might have had if she had been born a boy, and it helped to play music as I wrote that reflected this darkness. As was noted in the story’s introduction, “Rachel’s Song,” from the Vangelis soundtrack for the movie Blade Runner, fits perfectly the way I saw Darius and Jane as a couple—music that is bittersweet, painful, and beautiful. I think of it as Jane’s song. Darius had his own theme song: “Movement I” from Vangelis’s El Greco. While writing the story, I frequently played Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” and “Going Under,” by Evanescence, which kept me in a very angsty mood.
“When the Torrent of That Time Comes Pouring Back” (the sequel to “Nine Point Oh”) tells of Sandi Griffin’s return to Lawndale after her family is killed in a horrific natural disaster. Vangelis supplied useful background music for my writing, once again found in the soundtrack of Blade Runner: “Tales of the Future” and “Damask Rose.” These well reflected the emotional quality of the tale’s events. (Note: The words in the agonized “Tales of the Future” are neologisms, part of a fictional language. This was useful because I saw Sandi’s internal torment as being impossible to communicate to others, incomprehensible.)
AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill” (from Back in Black) came to mind a great deal during the writing of “Where No Light Breaks, Where No Sea Runs,” an angst nightmare story in which Daria becomes a double murderer. In the realm of the strange, Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra was the perfect background music for “Who Once Was Lost” and “But Now Is Found,” two eerie tales of an alternate-universe Daria. “Drive,” another SF tale, was done to Brian Eno’s Ambient 4: On Land, particularly track two, “The Lost Day.”
An incomplete story now posted on the “Lawndale Leftovers” website was helped along in part by a song by Kid Rock. In this story, “Buried Alive,” Quinn becomes trapped in her car under a tractor-trailer following a long chain-reaction Interstate pileup. The scene in which the accident develops came vividly to mind while listening to Kid Rock’s “Fuck Off.” The opening chords of that song have a harsh, screeching, metallic edge to them, followed by a hard-driving rhythm that fit Quinn’s panicked and futile efforts to steer clear of the unfolding disaster around her. If I finish the story one day, I’ll probably rewrite the crash scene—but keep it choreographed to the music of Kid Rock.
Heard Only by Me
I’ve tried a couple of times to write lyrics without music—rather, the lyrics are to music locked inside my head, music I can’t write down. Lyrics to unique songs appear in the stories “Go Ahead and Dance” (a song Trent Lane was to have written), “Meet the Fashion Club” (an alternate history in which the Fashion Club forms a rock band), “Daria Dance Party” (a silly song), “Dear Whoever” (a song from an AU Stacy Rowe), and “Snow Ball in Hell” (my version of an MTV rock video with Daria characters).
Music is thus an integral part of many stories I write, though I cannot predict when or control how that happens. You hear the music, let it inspire your imagination, and see where it takes you, hoping all the while that it makes for a better tale in the end.
Original: 07/30/03, modified 09/08/06, 10/05/06, 07/26/08, 05/19/10