Question for you: when you write—if you write—do you do so with music, or without? And if you listen to music, what kind of music drives you, inspires you, takes you from one point in your narrative to the next?
I’ve seen various conversations and posts on tumblr and twitter and the like discussing the preference or ability to write while listening to music. It seems, based on the comments and conversation captured in those threads, that one is either a music writer or a silence writer. Personally, I fall into the music camp.
I hear too much in the silence.
Writing for me is an escape. A way to slip my skin and climb into the mind, the life, of someone else. Someone I love, someone I hate, someone I really couldn’t care less about but find necessary to move the plot forward. Someone other than me. I find that next to impossible to do without the benefit of music.
I even use music when I’m writing for work—which requires a different kind of escape. When writing for work, I need to escape the mundane of the current action, rather than escape the noise of life. Music helps me do both, almost effortlessly. It’s why I tend to complete all my writing-heavy tasks after the work day is technically over so that I can climb inside the melody and, as Dobie Gray would say, get lost in the rock ‘n roll and drift away….
I am a bit of a chronic eavesdropper—which alternately exasperates and amuses my husband. Sitting in a coffee house or crowded restaurant, I can’t help but pick up on the bits of conversation around me, my mind immediately working to piece together the half-heard sentences into a complete and plausible story. I travel a great deal for my job and an airport is rife with possibility for an eavesdropper. This can be entertaining when one is merely trying to bide time, or to amp up whispered dinner conversation, but it’s detrimental to a writer like me.
Lacking any formal writing instruction—beyond what’s offered through the basics of public schooling—I’ve taught myself through the practice of simply doing how to construct a plot and balance dialog. Fanfiction helped me polish my personal approach through the benefit of real-time reviews where readers would tell me what worked or what didn’t. I realized rather quickly that I basically wrote the movie in my mind—describing how I saw the characters move, transcribing what I heard them say—and as any movie buff knows, a soundtrack can make or break a movie.
There are times now when I’ll hear a song I had on a particular story playlist and I’m immediately transported back to the moment when I wrote that story, picturing the characters in the situations I put them in, remembering the emotion I made them feel. Almost anything by Staind takes me back to the early days of writing Supernatural fiction and captures Dean Winchester’s anger and angst. “Center of Attention” by Jackson Waters makes me think of a White Collar one-shot I wrote once as it seemed to perfectly capture Neal Caffery in that moment.
I create a different playlist for every story I write, but there are often songs overlapping each list. I tend to get swept up into the music—sometimes its due to the lyrics, sometimes the melody. I put in my earbuds, turn up the volume to drown out the background noise, and escape into the sound. There are some songs I know will draw a certain level of emotion from me and so I play them when I want to write particular scenes, transferring that emotion to the characters and, hopefully, through the characters to the readers.
There are songs I need to write fight scenes, to write exposition, to write love scenes, to write death scenes. There are songs for pain and songs for healing. There are songs that hurt in such a specific way that when I’m finished writing the scene I quite literally need to walk away and go stand in the sunshine or hug my daughter (the human equivalent of sunshine). And there are songs that draw joy from the characters in such unexpected ways I have found myself re-reading the scene surprised it came from me.
I’m currently building the playlist for Kill Creek Road and I would love to know, if you’re a music writer, what songs inspire you? What songs do you include on your must-have playlist? Are you one who listens to lyrics, melody, or both? I’m always looking for fresh inspiration.
Here’s the playlist so far:
5AM - Amber Run
Glass Heart Hymn - Paper Route
Sorry (Acoustic) - Nothing But Thieves
Where’s My Love (Alternate Version) - SYML
The Born King - Daniel Pemberton from the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword soundtrack
Carry Me Home - The Sweeplings
Silhouette - Aquilo
Keeper - Pace
Black Flies - Ben Howard
Forgotten - Lorne Balfe from the 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi soundtrack
Waves - Dean Lewis
Hero (feat. Mike Maine) - Tommee Profitt
Hold On For Your Life (feat. Sam Tinnesz) - Tommee Profitt
Shell Suite - Chad Valley
Midnight - Coldplay
City of Angels (Piano Version) - 30 Seconds to Mars
<3 (Help Japan) - Thomas Bergersen
Interstellar Theme - Follow the Compass from the movie Interstellar
Coming Up for Air - Signals in Smoke
Breathe - Fleurie
Carry You (feat Fleurie) - Ruelle
Walk Through the Fire (feat Ruelle) - Zayde Wolf
The War - SYML
Now We Are Free - Dueling Cellos (Margaret Hinds)
Vor i Vaglaskogi - KALEO
Paint It, Black - Ciara
I Know How to Speak (Acoustic Version) - Manchester Orchestra
Time - Tina Guo, Gavin Greenway & Czech Philharonic Orchestra, composed by Hans Zimmer from the Inception soundtrack
Leave No Man Behind - Hans Zimmer from the Black Hawk Down soundtrack
This Is My World - Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL from the Batman v Superman soundtrack
Count Me In - Early Winters
I Found (Acoustic) - Amber Run
(Aftermath) - Vancouver Sleep Clinic
See What I’ve Become - Zack Hemsey
Si Tu Veux - Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal, The Very Best & Beatenberg
Home Movies - Radical Face
Never Coming Back - Big Giant Circles
Warrior Princess (feat. Julie Elven) - End of Silence
Vengeance (Instrumental) - Zack Hemsey
Brother (Acoustic) - Kodaline
Ashes of Eden - Breaking Benjamin
Bonny Portmore - Loreena McKennitt
Above and Beyond - Audiomachine
Ashes of Time - Audomachine
Looking Too Closely - Fink
New York - Snow Patrol
The Night King - Ramin Djawadi from Game of Thrones, Season 8 soundtrack
Atascadero (Denouement) - Carlos Rafael Rivera from the Godless soundtrack
Always looking for more…inspire me!