Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nailing the Soundtrack

Have you ever had a moment when you hear a song and think, "How did that singer know what my character was thinking?"

Or have you ever heard a song lyric that sparked an entire scene, subplot, or entire story idea?

I'm one of those writers that NEEDS music to write a story. Whether each song acts as inspiration, encouragement, or support for what the characters do and why they do it hardly matters. The songs and my scenes are so closely linked - whether by emotion or concept - that I can't remember, for most of them, whether I wrote the scene first, and then added the song, or heard one line of a song that sent me into a writing frenzy.

For me, the work of building a book's playlist is just as slow, thoughtful, and full of heart as the writing itself. I add a bunch of songs, take most away, listening over and over, feeling them out to see what rhythms, lyrics, melodies, and progressions make my heart soar or ache. I add songs and write according to what rings true.

It's not unusual for me to write a scene, song blasting in the background, with tears streaming down my face. Sometimes when I'm completely lacking inspiration, I get in the car and speed down a long stretch of highway (you can do that in Ohio,) soundtrack blasting, and then pull off an exit to pour scenes into my netbook.

The mood of the songs changes according to the part of the book I'm writing. Sunshiney happy love songs may be on endless repeat for weeks while I'm writing first kisses and joyful discoveries, but when the character's Black Moment comes up? You can bet the songs coming out of my computer speakers reflect her  fears and, at their core, her determination.

Now that I'm revising ONE, I've fallen in love with its soundtrack, in its entirety, all over again. Here it is:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

And just like there's one grand, sweeping theme for every novel, one song always comes to the fore of my head and heart as a book's "theme song." Here's that one:

What about you? Do you write to music? What does it do for you and your book?


  1. YES. Yes. Definitely yes. I don't think I'd be able to even get a page down without music. Music not only keeps me in touch with the characters but also makes it so I can block out (I turn up my music REALLY loud) any negative criticism I have towards myself. (Otherwise, I'd be like: Hahahaha this page sucks. *deletes the entire page* *gets nothing done, really*)

    I seriously couldn't have written Nocturne/How to Kill Your Demon/whatever I'm calling it now without the playlist I have on my iTunes. I usually just use my Anesidora to get songs from it (Anesidora is basically Pandora without ads)...Chessie and I had this whole email conversation about this. Haha :)

  2. I go back and forth with music. When I'm writing an action scene, I like hard fast paced music.

    But I agree when I have heard a song I'm thinking that's what my MC is feeling right now. Music is good in can convey something words cant at times.

    There are times, though, that I need complete silence to write. I suppose it depends what mood my MC is in. ;)

  3. Absolutely! I always have a 'theme tune' for each book, and then a complete playlist, which I listen to obsessively while I'm writing. Each playlist takes a lot of building - like you I add and take away until it's as perfect as I can get it… a bit like the writing itself, I guess!

  4. Not really. I usually have a song or two that reminds me of the characters/story, and I'll use it to get myself back into the tone of the novel if I haven't work on it for awhile. But I prefer silence when writing.

  5. I love music to spark my creativity, but like silence when I'm actually writing. Great playlist you have. Happy to be in NaNoReviMo with you! :)