Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Friday, April 13, 2012

L for Leitmotif and Lang, as in Jonny

Leitmotif is defined as 1. an associated melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person or situation, especially in a musical drama.
2. a dominant recurring theme
In novels, a leitmotif serves as a threat, a promise, a reminder of the high-stakes, and also as the theme encapsulated.
Here are two well-known ones from literature:
From The Hunger Games: "May the odds be ever in your favor". It's very similar to "May the force be With You." (Star Wars). This leitmotif is repeated as a scary reminder that the odds are hardly ever in one's favor, thus it amplifies the impending danger and possibility of death.
From 1984: "The future lies in the Proles". Ironic because the proles, or proletariats (peasants) are illiterate, poor and ostracized. Ironic also because their inherent power lies in those very same flaws. If they cannot read, they cannot be brainwashed, if they are not a part of Big Brother's inner or outer Party, they have total freedom to see the world as they like. And they happen to be in the majority. So, in this case, the leitmotif is used as a promise, in the midst of soul-killing fascism, that someone, even the little guy, if made conscious, could rebel.
Jonny Lang, Blues Master

Jonny Lang, blues musician extraordinaire is my favorite male vocalist and guitarist.
He started playing guitar at 12. By sixteen he was playing with BB King, and had recorded his first album. He sings with his entire soul. Blues runs in his blood. Mostly, he can be found on the west coast, but he does play around the country, and in true embodiment of the creative life, he tours a lot!

Who's your favorite musician? Your favorite example of a person who is living the creative life? Do you have a leitmotif in your novel? Your work-in-progress?    (A to Z Link)


  1. I never knew that's what it was called. I even have one in my current MS. "Vigilance is key!" Thanks for the great post.

  2. A Leitmotif is an amazing thing to have. Although I've not experimented with one yet, I think I'll think about adding one to my next Sci-fi. Your examples are great. 1984 is a terrific novel and I'm a late comer with the Hunger Games novels, but I'm starting them this weekend.

  3. Hello, Catherine! I don't have a leitmotif in any of my current projects. I like the idea of one, though! Maybe I'll put one in and see how it works! :)

    Have a great weekend and happy A to Z!!

  4. Catherine, love these things to think about! In my current novel my leitmotif its "love remembers" and "we all have something redeemable in us, no matter how small." Now you got me thinking about one for my new novel...hmmm...thanks for the brain work. One of my fave musicians is a little known Vermont musician, Spencer Lewis. His instrumental songs represent the events of my life, and I connect to them.

  5. I had no idea what that word meant. LOL. Thanks for teaching me. :)

  6. Oh, very interesting. Leifmotif. I hadn'teven thought about one. I'll definetely think on for my current WIP.

    Thanks for stopping and commenting on my L. Following you back. :)

  7. Lietmotif - it's such a beautiful word!!! I'd heard it before, but never really thought about it. You gave two amazing examples. I'm definitely going to see about adding a lietmotif to my WIP. Tweeting this!

  8. Re: favorite musicians . . . Eric Clapton is pretty close to the top of my list, though once I say his name, I think of Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, and, in the jazz world Renee Rosnes and Fred Hersch so I'd better stop now. And in the novel I just finished, I may well have a leitmotif: 'It's not supposed to be this way.'

  9. Margo, thanks for tweeting this! Deb, just got your mother's day sale eBook, so I'll be on the lookout for "It's not supposed to be that way."

  10. I think mine theme might be, Things can Always get worse.
    Nice to meet you.

  11. "May each footfall keep the beat of the song in your heart."

    Would this work as a leitmotif speaking to staying true to oneself?

    I loved what I learned in this post-and enjoy your excellent writing.

    My favorite musicians are Carol King (she was my strongest influence in singing/songwriting, and Andrea Bocelli, who can summon my depths with a single note.

  12. ChaiLicious, I love your leitmotif! Yes, it's like a mantra, whether repeated over and over in a novel, or to self.

  13. That picture of Lang looks like Arnold Schwartzenegger in Total Recall.

  14. :) Seriously, though. This is a great post. I have actually seen Charles Portis and Tolkien use this kind of device.

  15. That's very interesting. I never thought of the peasants in 1984 in this way.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy A-Z.

  16. I understand the theory of a Leitmotif, it appears in many places. But had never made that connection with the proles of 1984.

    I enjoy your writing and you've given me yet more to think about.