Practicing Prose – Jonathan Benton

fae-comboI’d like to write a fantasy novel inspired by music – I have an idea but it requires some developing. The challenge is translating something as abstract as music into words. There’s no point writing a novel about music without being able to hear music in the prose.


I love Beethoven. Some consider his Ninth Symphony the greatest piece of music ever written. The legendary composer introduced voices to the final movement of the Ninth because he’d taken the instruments as far as they could go in the first three movements. He needed something more. The soaring choral finale inspires even the most uninspired.


Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 provided me with a slightly more realistic test. The Emperor already has a story – I just needed to write my interpretation of the music. The following paragraph is that interpretation. The characters are simply ciphers used to hone my technique. Brad (POV) is a young man searching for something deeper in life. By chance he meets a brilliant, similarly-aged concert pianist called Michael. Michael invites Brad to the Sydney Opera House … This paragraph is an exercise in writing and isn’t likely to appear in the novel. Please forgive any looseness.


The grand piano shimmered black under the Concert Hall lights. Michael stepped on stage and moved towards the piano. He looked like a cat stalking a warm spot of sunlight. His black pants were pressed, his equally black shoes, polished. A silky blue shirt danced over his lean torso. He sat at the piano and flexed his long, slender fingers. Magic fingers.

The conductor nodded at Michael.

The hall quietened; a vacuum of anticipation.

Like a wizard with a wand, the conductor cut the air with his baton, and the orchestra roared three mighty chords. Between each chord, Michael’s fingers rippled over the piano keys, impossibly fast, a hummingbird’s wings, and Brad was sucked into the story of The Emperor.

The piano dominated the composition like Napoleon dominated Europe. Trumpets marched inside the music and horns blared triumphantly. Gradually the fanfare faded and the piano took control. A gentle, weeping melody became a thundering waterfall of notes. Brad’s heart pounded like a kettle drum. Music forced its way into his pores. He was alive!

The first movement ended. It was time to search one’s soul in the second movement. The battle was over. Lives had been lost. Victory had come at a cost. A drum beat quietly, in memory of the battle, and drew the audience into the coda. A final victorious flurry of notes ended the story of The Emperor.

Copyright @ Jonathan K Benton 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *