Clyde Barrow: The Boy Who Wrote Bonnie Parker a Doggone Song to Show Her How He Cares

This week the Debs are talking about music and its impact on our writing and our life. 

As Amy said on Tuesday, we like it quiet when we write. No distractions, please (besides kids, social media, and those voices in our heads…).

Even though music doesn’t get any billing while I’m writing, I still incorporate music in my writing life–as motivation. Prior to my book deal, almost on a daily basis, I would go for a run. My half way point was a Barnes and Noble. I always touched the brick. I always said a quick prayer my book would someday be on its shelves. And, more days that not, the same song Big Bang by Rock Mafia would come on Pandora. The song was laced with energy. The vibe always quickened my pace. When I got home, I was motivated to start writing and my characters would often start speaking to me before I even got out of the shower. I also find country music very inspiring, thanks to how the lyrics so wonderfully build scenes. Way back in October I did a post on it, featuring Lettin’ The Night Roll by Justin Moore.

I also incorporated music as a (I hope) fun element of my novel BECOMING BONNIE. Being both Bonnie and Clyde were musically inclined in real life, I eagerly made them musically inclined in my story. There are moments where Bonnie is standing on stage, gripping a microphone, under the lights, singing her heart out to actual 1920s lyrics. There is also a moment where Bonnie is looking at Clyde all awestruck and confused and intrigued as he plays his guitar and sings lyrics he (aka I) wrote. I thought I’d share that scene with you all 🙂

He runs a hand over the slight stubble on his chin and cheeks, and I scan the room further to distract myself. My gaze stops on the spine of a poetry book, then his guitar.

“You going to make good on your word and play for me?”

Clyde settles himself on the couch, then the instrument on his knee. He pats the spot beside him, pauses with his fingers ready to strum. I sit and fold my hands in my lap, watching as he clears his throat, swallows, clears his throat again. Clyde’s head tilts down, and he looks up at me from under his lashes.

“I started this here song a while ago, but she ain’t done,” he says. “Was hoping you’d help me finish her.”

“Me?”

His fingertips slide down the strings once, letting the soft sound vibrate ’round us. “You’ll see.”

He goes back for more, a dark melody forming with each stroke, and moistens his lips. Clyde says, more than sings, “Death is a five-letter word, with a five-finger clutch.”

His head stays down, his jaw relaxed, eyes closed. “It cornered him, pitting him against the bigger man . . . By the throat, edging closer, nearing Death’s final touch.”

The rhythm quickens, the beat an unexpected surprise.

Then there she was, light in the dark, defying Death’s plan . . . She stared it down, held on tight, fired off a shot all her own . . . Ohh”—he draws out the word, as if taunting Death—“Oh, oh, oh, death for the boy has been postponed.

Clyde’s fingers shift to a higher pitch on the guitar. He smirks and sings from the corner of his mouth, “’Cause lean closer, listen close . . . How the story ends, no one knows . . . But one thing’s clear, you’ll see . . . Bonnie and Clyde, meant to be, alive and free.

That last line, that last note hangs between us.

I forget how to breathe.

“That’s all I got for now,” Clyde says softly. “Thought maybe we could do the next verse together.”

“Together?” I wring my hands, staring into the eyes of Clyde Barrow, the criminal, the charmer, the . . . boy who wrote me a doggone song to show me how he cares.

“Yeah, Bonnie. You and me. What do you say?”

FYI, those lyrics are about how Bonnie saved Clyde’s life earlier in the book. I bet you can guess how Bonnie answered Clyde’s question 😉

 

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Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. One of my favorite scenes! Oozes with voice. I can hear Clyde’s Ohhh as clearly as if I were the one on the couch. Thanks for sharing!

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