Case in point: last week I saw Celtic Woman in concert. For those not familiar, they are a group of beautiful and talented ladies from Ireland. The girls have fantastic voices and great stage presence. The musicians behind them are stellar. But here's what sets them apart from others in their genre: arrangements. Musical director David Downes is a genius. His arrangements and compositions are out of this world. Whether it's a new song or an old standard, when he works his magic on it, it becomes uniquely Celtic Woman. It's the way the melody flows, where the vocals begin and end and style and selection of the lead instruments. It's really quite something. I recommend taking a listen to them. The emotion will grab and pull you in, transport you to a happy place. You'll be amazed.
I play five instruments, and often listen to their recordings to try and pick up little tidbits that will make me better. I also do this with other singers and pickers who perform rock, folk, gospel and country music. It's fun to hit a lick or phrase a song like someone who has entertained millions. I do the same thing with writing. Let me clarify: I do not copy the way my favorite writers craft their stories. I have found my own voice. Rather, I look at their style and incorporate it into my work.
I've read many how-to books on learning the basics of composition. Once those were grasped, I began reading, not just for fun, but to critique what my favorites were doing that made them bestsellers. I've learned so much just be reading. It's amazing how the most profound statements can seem so simple. One sentence, two sentences, can have a huge impact on the story. Words are powerful. When strung together properly, they literally sing from the pages. They also have the ability to grab you emotionally and transport you to a special place. And that's the point. We want the reader to feel something. We want them to remember the story after they've completed reading it. Much like a fantastic concert will stick in our minds long after the last note is played.