Monday, January 19, 2015

Create52: #3 -- Voice of Chunk

Here's the question for today:

Have you ever used a piece of music as inspiration for writing?

Today is the third Monday of 2015, and for this week's Create52 entry, I've done just that -- twice.

But first, if you're a new visitor to my blog, let me say "welcome!" and explain what I'm doing here. This is the third entry in my 2105 blogging initiative -- to create something new and offer it here on my blog each and every Monday of 2015.  My creative offerings have been writing and music so far, and you can read more about the thoughts behind my Create52 goal HERE, in my 1st post of 2015 if you'd like.

For this Create52 post, I'm using  another artist's music to inspire my writing. Let me first start with the song:
Voice of Chunk I -- The Song

In 1988, John Lurie and his band, The Lounge Lizards released their third album The Voice of Chunk. A cool mix of New York attitude, punk-meets-jazz sensibility, wry humor, poly-rhythmic funk grooves, sensual sax, and angular guitar by Mark Ribot, it is an album I really like, and I find it holds up well even today, 25 years after it's release.

The album is filled with a lot of songs that I like, such as the second song of the album -- the hard-edged grooving titular cut, Voice of Chunk. I love the haunting horn lines over the funk groove with the driving bass and piano riff. The way the two saxes and trombone blend is mesmerizing, and the guitar solo is edgy and fun.  I also love the way it dissolves at the end into the floating horn riffs over the piano.

Here's the album cut:

It may sound like there's a lot of unstructured off-the-cuff improvisation in the song, but surprisingly, it is pretty tightly arranged.  HERE's another video of the band playing the song live on TV -- notice how closely they cover the song part-by-part and yet still make it feel fresh and in-the-moment?  I think that's pretty awesome.

Voice of Chunk II -- The Short Story

I find that there's a lot of potential for interpretation and creative thought in the music of Voice of Chunk, but that's not actually what ended up inspiring me.

It was the title.

"Voice of Chunk" -- just what does that mean???

I really have no idea what John Lurie, his piano-playing brother Evan (musical creator behind "The Backyardigans"), and the rest of the band had in mind with the title, but when I listened to this song last week, the words "Voice of Chunk" kind of turn root in my mind and planted seeds.

I came up with a short story that may be a bit different than what the Lounge Lizards were going for.  It's about 2,500 words and is currently being shared with my critique partners in preparation of final polishing before being sent out into the world in submission and -- hopefully -- eventual publication.

So, unfortunately, you won't be getting the whole thing here. Sorry to disappoint you.  But in order to meet my guidelines for my Create52 bloggy-thingy, let me at least offer you a sample.

Here's the opening (as currently written):


Voice of Chunk

     The Anderson place next door was on the market for less than a month after they moved to Florida. When Marge and I noticed the "Sold" sign in front, we weren't surprised -- Tom and Dotty had been dedicated about maintaining their home and it was one of the nicest houses in our cul-de-sac. Throw in good schools, a quiet neighborhood, and motivated sellers and we figured we'd have new neighbors pretty quick. They might not grow to be as close as the Andersons had been –- our kids had all grown up together, after all –- but we were still eager to meet the new arrivals.

     The moving truck came on a Saturday morning. Marge was weeding and I was starting to mow when the semi pulled in with three men in coveralls. It was almost four hours later before a black SUV parked next to the moving truck.  A burly man with bulked-up shoulders got out of the SUV, gestured at the boxes stacked in the driveway, and then swore loud enough for me to hear over the trimmers I was using. I shut them off and waved at the guy, but he turned away without responding.

     At the time I thought that maybe he just hadn't seen me.

     "They damn well shoulda been done by now," I heard him say. "C'mon, Chunk. Get your ass out of the car."

     He stormed into the house as a woman climbed out of the passenger side. She was heavy-set with stringy hair, wearing an over-sized sweatshirt that was much too thick for the warm, muggy afternoon.

     She glanced around like a mouse expecting a cat to pounce at any moment before her gaze eventually came to rest on me. Her eyes were pretty, but her face was a mask of fear and sadness. I waved again.

     "Hi!" I called.

     She briefly raised her hand in my direction before lowering her eyes and rushing into the house.

     The moving men took another hour and a half to finish up and then the truck left.  We didn't see any more of either the man or woman, although Marge said she did catch a glimpse of the SUV pulling into the garage before the door closed for the evening.

     Our new neighbors didn't seem too interested in being neighborly.


Voice of Chunk III -- The 10 x 10

But the short story wasn't all of it...

"Voice of Chunk" was still on my mind when I made a post last week on the resurrected Creative Copy Challenge, website, and there, I went in an entirely different direction with the phrase.

I enjoy the CCC -- it was a website I spent a lot of time writing at several years ago, but the guy who'd started it (Shane Arthur) had to step aside and, despite some valiant efforts from several people (like Mitch Allen), it faded away. Well, evidently someone named Anne is trying to revive it and it's up and running again, with new prompts posted every Tuesday.

Each prompt gives ten words -- you just write whatever you want and share it in the comments, using the ten words in your entry.  I used to do a thing I called "10 x 10:" Ten lines of ten words each, using the ten prompt words in order AND in the proper spot within each line (the first is the first word of the first line; the second is the second word of the second line; and so forth). It may not always result in a very cohesive story, but it's a fast way to generate some writing and a fun way  to stoke the creative juices.

I used the words from last week's prompt to create a 10x10 also entitled "Voice of Chunk." I even made it rhyme, but it's definitely not what I'd call poetry.

HERE's the link to it at the CCC, and I've copied it below (the prompt words are highlighted):


Voice of Chunk

Tricks and schemes buried beneath soft words and smiled platitudes;
No limit to meaningless things he says to influence attitudes.
Like a telephone marketer selling empty dreams at outrageous prices,
He speaks to jiggle your phobias and stroke your vices,
and thrives on rallies, driving crowds of rabid followers wild.

No sound bites for the multitude to elicit their wows;
He serves up heaping piles of crepe papery, fragile vows.
In TV interviews, he’ll sit behind the desk and grin,
his voice of chunk spewing sugar coated promises, wafer thin.
But it works — just like giving candy to a child.


So thee you go -- Create52 number three:  "Voice of Chunk" in three parts. With both my thanks and sincerest apologies to John Lurie and The Lounge Lizards for any misuse of their title.

Thank you very much for stopping by and reading!


  1. The second one is really intriguing.
    A man would call his wife Chunk? How rude.
    You already know my upcoming book is the direct result of a song. I think music is very inspirational.

    1. Thank you Alex! And you're right -- it is rude. But I can guarantee the guy is NOT the hero of the story.

      And looking forward to finding out about the Kargrandes!

  2. I've used music quite a bit in my writing. It gives a soundtrack to that bit of story I'm working on. When I need edgy I can always find the music that invockes it, ditto on anger, sadness, and fear.

    I've always believed that if you need inspiration surround yourself with creative people, or their work.

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

    1. Great advice, Sia!

      Music does help me evoke emotions and it can help when I have it in the background for my writing, but this is the first time I actually a specific song title to generate stories from. I don't really see myself doing that too often.

  3. Music is endlessly inspiring. It would be easier to name things NOT inspired by song.

    1. That is true, Cherdo. And I know it goes the other way, too -- there have been countless songs inspired by literature. :)

  4. >>... wafer thin

    Made me think of Monty Python. What was the movie? 'And Now For Something Completely Different'?

    Very interesting, Chris.

    The only music I've ever found that I can listen to and write something serious at the same time is 'BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB PRESENTS IBRAHIM FERRER'. Don't ask me why, don't know.

    Otherwise I will simply not hear the music that's playing while I'm writing or it will actually interfere with my so-called "thinking".

    However, I did used to like drawing while listening to Pink Floyd albums, particularly 'Ummagumma', 'Meddle', and 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. The music created images in my mind which I would then try to put on paper.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. "The Meaning of Life" is the Monty Python movie. And being an old Python fan, it's sheer reflex for my mind to take the prompt word "wafer" and instantly generate the John Cleese waiter "wafer thin" response. I'm glad you caught it. :)

      I can use music as background for writing, but it's not usually something I take 'inspiration' from, and this is the first time I can recall ever using the song title itself. But it's such a weird phrase. :)

      But I do like the song, and truthfully, I was actually hoping you might offer some feedback on the song itself -- I was curious if you were familiar with the Lounge Lizards or John Lurie and what you thought of it.

      Am totally unfamiliar with "Buena Vista Social Club" or "Ibrahim Ferrer" -- I had to Google it. Ry Cooder, I've liked what I've heard. I'll have to check more of it out.

      As always -- thanks for visiting and commenting! I greatly appreciate it!

  5. Haven't we all had that experience! Actually, I'm trying not to be the anti-social new neighbors who are glimpsed every couple weeks in passing, but it's dang hard while taking care of family, writerly responsibilities, the kids school and this pregnancy. I need a back-up energy supply. Know what I mean?

    1. I do know, Crystal -- you amaze me with how much (and how high-quality!) writerly stuff and blogging you do on top of all the family activities AND the new bundle of joy on the way, too!

      But I'm afraid the new neighbors in "Voice of Chunk" are a wee more than just "anti-social." I think it would take much more than just a busy schedule for you to be anything like them -- thank heaven!

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  6. Interesting music. The horn interplay put me in mind of some of the work of the group Earth Opera. Your story did fit the music.

    I know I've written blog posts inspired by songs. I've written stories with an inspiration driven by classical music. In fact if I'm writing fiction I'll usually have classical music playing in the background.

    Tossing It Out

    1. Hi Lee, I'm not familiar with Earth Opera -- I'll have to check them out, too. The Lounge Lizards were a band that I like and that I'd considered for a BOTB post when I was posting BOTB stuff, but they don't have any covers, really that I could find. But I guess EVERY BOTB post is one that's inspired by a song, right? :)

  7. Well heck. I let myself get pulled into that story knowing full well it was just a piece and now I'm feeling all frustrated because it stopped in midstream. I hate it when that happens.

    1. I'll take your frustration at not getting to read on as a good sign, LD.

      ...and pssst: I know how you can get a peek at the whole story... ;)

  8. I definitely get inspired by music. Or sometimes I've already written a scene and find something that fits it perfectly. Voice of Chunk - I'm glad I'm not the only one wondering what the heck that means! Nice song, though. Jazzy. I like your two short pieces, too.

    1. Thank you, Alexia!

      Yeah -- it's a weird title. I wonder what the band was actually thinking about it. My imagination got tugged in two radically different directions.

  9. Hey Chris, sorry it's taken me so long to comment here. I id listen/read days ago, but just wasn't up to making a rational comment. Please excuse my being...a girl. I do thank you for the kind comment left at my 'Closed' blog post. I hope to have something new up there on Monday and I plan on getting back on track with BOTB on Feb 1. 'God willin' and the creek don't rise.'

    I enjoyed the music. Not at all what I expected from the title (I know that's a little crazy, but you know me). I loved the short story snippet. I read the last reply you left and please tell me how I can get a peek at the whole story. I'm hooked.

    I also thought your poem was exceptional. Only an engineer would take that writing prompt to the limits you did. 10 X 10 what an excellent idea. I may need to stop by that site and see if I can participate. Heaven knows I need something to motivate and excite (in a good way) me.

    I do use music as inspiration. I tend to take it a bit farther (like just about everything else I do) and each of my characters has their own music/song/genre, that way when I sit down to write 'them', I crank up their tune and it's a bit easier for me to get into their heads. Scary, huh?

    I'll be checking back here on Monday. Please, keep up the great work.

    1. Hi FAE!!! I'm very glad you're out and about and well! I was a little worried by your blog.

      I made that reply to LD because I've taken the story and submitted it to my critique group for feedback, and LD is in the group. ;) The story is still in a very rough state and I already have some plans for revision, but if you want, give me your email and I'll send you a copy of it.

      And I don't think the "tune for a character" is crazy at all -- I think it's a great idea!

      Thank you so much for your comment and support -- I really appreciate it!

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. Thanks for the email address, FAE! And you know -- I think I actually had it already, lol. But I've deleted the previous post just to keep it from any unwanted wandering internet eyes...

      I've sent you the story. ;)


Don't be shy -- feel free to comment. I really appreciate your thoughts.