November 9, 2015

The Magic of Storytelling: How an Indie Singer Helped me Bring a Story to Life.

Backside Flip Keeper. James Alby, Flickr

There is magic in storytelling.

That is what inspired me to become a writer at the age of seven, and then again at 25.

My favorite kinds of storytelling come from novels and songs, and so I fill my life with books and music to better my chances of being touched by the magic.

Years ago, I was working on my seventh novel when I was touched in a most serendipitous way.

Every day I sat at my computer writing about a character that didn’t yet have a home, except inside my head.

Carson had a story—quite a remarkable story—but where it took place remained a complete mystery. I tried out a few locations and even made up a couple, but none of them felt right. I just couldn’t figure out where he belonged.

One night, in what seemed to be a completely random moment, my husband showed me a YouTube video of an indie band singing a song in a cool little candle-lit bathroom.

The singer sat on a closed toilet lid in her pale pink nightie, while the guitarist sat beside her on the bathtub ledge. Aja, the singer, was captivating with her black hair, pale skin, cherry red lips and wistful eyes. She stared just to the right of the camera as she waited through the guitar’s achingly sweet intro. I had a feeling something magical was about to happen.

Aja slowly began to sing and the haunting, raspy sounds that came from her confirmed my intuition—her voice was magic. I couldn’t look away. She went deep and dark into the music, into her story, and somehow she brought me along.

When the song ended, I was convinced I’d just witnessed musical greatness.

Nico Vega was a small, emerging indie band, but I knew the world had to hear this song. They had to see this girl. I had to see her!

Though I hadn’t been to a concert in over fifteen years, as I was deep in the throes of motherhood, my husband discovered they would be playing at the Fonda Theatre. We bought tickets, booked a hotel and when November 5th came, we drove to Hollywood.

Waiting in line at the Fonda, we were entertained by a group of street kids, ranging in age from about 11 to 17. They took turns skateboarding off a wooden ramp. A glass jar was set on the sidewalk for tips, and occasionally a jump was impressive enough to incite applause.

It was after 8:00 on a Monday night.

It intrigued me that the younger boys were out on the streets on a school night. The mother in me worried about them, and yet another part of me, the free spirit that had come to Hollywood in search of a song, couldn’t help but notice the thrill that came with that kind of freedom. I witnessed the sense of family that these street boys seemed to share and I was drawn into their alternative world.

Watching for the half hour we waited in line, I was hit with clarity.

Carson was one of them! He was a boy from the streets of Hollywood. I’d finally found his home.

It hadn’t been enough to search my imagination. I had to see it with my eyes. I had to witness these boys to understand where he lived.

The next day I would explore the other parts of the streets—the tattoo shops, the head shops, and the motels that would also become part of the novel—but while still there in line, I kept my eyes on the boys as if I’d had a rare opportunity to observe Carson in the flesh.

Once inside the Fonda, I was completely entranced by the voice that had called me to Hollywood. She was even more captivating in person as her beautiful energy spread throughout the room. I danced along with Nico Vega’s gritty, raw, soulful music—the same music that would continue to inspire me throughout the entire process of writing my novel—and felt their stories as if they were mine.

Back home at my computer, Hollywood became the perfect setting for my novel—so alive, it felt like a character itself.

I don’t know how to explain the coincidences that came together to place me on just the right street in Hollywood, at just the right moment, so that I would find Carson a home.

I only know that storytelling is magical—in songs and in novels—and so I keep listening, and reading and writing so that my life becomes a part of the magic.


Relephant read:

Serendipity & the Kindness of Strangers.


Author: Candi Sary

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: James Alby/ Flickr


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