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This Writing Life: Music and Writing, Part 2

14 August, 2014

In my last post, I talked about music as a means of helping you to write, using it as a distraction, to improve concentration, or as a timer. Today, I’m looking at the other side of the equation: using specific music to help in the writing of specific projects.

It’s not uncommon to come across authors, particularly those writing series, who use music as inspiration or mood-setting. Certain songs will be associated with certain scenes, characters or locations – playing those songs immediately sets the tone and mood for writing about those things.

Now, I can’t tell you how to go out and pick a specific song for your protagonist, say. I’m not even sure you should. This is one of those situations where a song is much more likely to come to you at random, either because it gets stuck in your head while you’re writing said character, or reminds you of them when you hear it. Once you’ve found that song, though, listening to it can help you return to that character’s personality and thoughts, particularly when you’re struggling to capture them.

In the same way, music is a great tool for setting a mood more generally. I talked about Spotify playlists in my last post, and whilst I was referring to improving concentration for writing in general, there are several that set a much more specific mood. Perhaps your characters are going to a party and you want to hear what they’d be hearing and feel the same surge of adrenaline; perhaps you simply need to write a scene that’s joyful, or melancholic, or dark and angry. Finding music that evokes these emotions can be one of the quickest ways to translate that same emotion onto the page.

And then there are songs that are an inspiration in themselves. Songs often tell a story of their own (more on than in a future post!), and sometimes that story can spark ideas for your writing. As an example, the music and song titles from MONO’s ‘Hymn to the Immortal Wind’ album inspired me to write a short story filled with angry ghosts and snow-bound peaks; for some reason, those images simply popped into my head whilst listening to it (and it’s an entirely instrumental album, so that really was images conveyed through music). Other songs tell stories through their lyrics: certain lines from Vienna Teng’s ‘Blue Caravan’ send a shiver through me at every listen, and frequently make me imagine the world in which the featured character lives.

Music is just as personal a form of creativity as writing, and the same goes for listening to it. The emotions created in one listener will be entirely absent in another, or will call to mind something completely different. Learning which songs or artists trigger particular moods for you, or evoke certain characters, or simply tell stories that move you, can be invaluable for writers – they can be windows into worlds we wouldn’t otherwise have visited, and ways to revisit them when they otherwise seem lost.

One Comment
  1. 14 August, 2014 12:31 pm

    Reblogged this on roehilldotnet.

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