Today isn’t necessarily an exercise in seeing scenes while listening to music as much as it is appreciating said music. There are times when I get stuck while writing; happens to the best of us. Often we get up, we go for a walk, we fold laundry, wash dishes, watch a movie…anything to get our minds off of it so that, hopefully, an answer will come to us through something else. I often will listen to some music…and usually, it’s from a selection of video game soundtracks that I hold in high regard. Video game soundtracks can and often are a form of art. Growing up with Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Playstation… I’ve been introduced to several gorgeous compositions that have fully immersed me in the world of the game and often inspired me in my writing. If we’re being honest here…there are dozens upon dozens of game soundtracks that I own and adore. But, today, I’m going to share with you my top ten along with why I enjoy them. So…here we go!
It occurred to me recently that I have never fully explained why write these blogs. Sure, I love discovering new music and sharing my discoveries with people. I like to write and listen to them. But there is something more to it, something I hope you writers and readers will appreciate. I once remember looking at another author’s playlist of songs that she listened to while writing her book years ago. When she got to a certain song on her list, she put in parentheses next to it “Generic action music”. I remember being extremely annoyed by that. Not sure if it was a blast against the writing of action scenes in general or if it was against that genre of music (in this case it was Fat Boy Slim). The author has since changed the list, removing the random note. And while this author shall remain nameless (*cough*Stephanie Meyer *cough* *cough*), I would really like to take a moment and focus on just how important action scenes are in the books that require them and how a certain song can really fit in with the scene you have in mind.
When I listen to music as I’m writing, I’m not simply using it as background noise. It’s more than just a distraction from the world going on around me. I tend to visualize the scenes in my novels and, often, I will do this to the tune from a song whether it is instrumental or vocal. There are certain songs that I can close my eyes to and see everything that the characters are doing in time with the music. I suppose it could be seen as a form of synesthesia, although I wouldn’t say I’m seeing a specific color while listening to a specific song or hearing a specific voice. This generally happens when I’m writing an action scene more often than not.
When I find a band that I can really get in sync with and start writing to easily, it’s essentially a giant celebration. I am a fan of many different kinds of music and I write a lot of very different genres, ranging from comedy to horror. Just about a month ago, I was working on a side project from my Monstrum Chronicles horror series in order to kind of recharge my writing batteries. Sometimes taking a break and working on a fun and utterly different project makes you able to see things with a clear head once again. And that’s just what it did for me. While working on that project, I came across this drop-dead gorgeous band called Stateless and a bountiful collection of songs that I’ve had on repeat for…a while now.
Stateless is an English electronic band that was founded in 2002. These guys have thought-provoking lyrics matched with some great beats and incredibly balanced harmonies. What really stuck out at me were the levels of beauty and grittiness that songs peaked at, able to sound really dark and tragic but also hopeful and lovely. Got to say that they are probably one of my favorite bands now. I absolutely love their stuff. It got so that I listened to them not only for the break story but also for Memento Mori and my apocalyptic novel, Cold Walls. I was thankfully able to include my four favorite songs from them in today’s Inspiration Through Music, along with what scenes played through my head as I listened to them. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy.
I like listening to all kinds of music when writing. It all depends on the genre, the mood of the scene, and the characters and their chemistry in that scene. Most of all, I love it when I find a musician or band with a distinctive voice, really intriguing lyrics, and a great melody. Several years ago, I was given a taste of the work from a band called October Project. I had only ever heard one of their songs but I fell in love with the lead singer’s voice within moments. Through the years, I returned to that song, listening to it for several projects here and there. Only recently, was I introduced to Mary Fahl once again, now not a part of October Project and singing some fabulous songs, sounding as amazing as ever. I even missed seeing her by several hours. HOURS. Had I known that she was in the state doing a concert, I would have booked it down there to catch it. Unfortunately, I missed it. But several of my other writer friends saw her and are as equally in awe of her talent as I am.
A little over two weeks ago, I decided to rest my eyes a little from working on Book 3 of the Monstrum Chronicles and write something fun just for me. These breaks are cathartic and I’ll tell you why. Because when you have been pushing yourself to the limit on one project for so long, something that is dark and can really take a lot out of you, it’s healthy to take a step back, to not look at it for a little bit. When I come back to it, I’ll have a different view point. I’ll have a better idea of where I want to go with it. And it does work. I did this while working on one of my first books back in high school (an unpublished one). I wrote a 100 page fan-fiction (I know, I know. Don’t even start…) and after that was all out of my system, I finished up the project I’d been previously married to. So while I’ve worked on this little indulgence of mine, I’ve been listening to a lot of indie music, lots of stuff that I have previously not known about, including this brilliant band from the U.K., Daughter.
There has always been a part of me that really wanted to write a fairytale. While I can really lose myself in fantastical elements being twisted into our every day lives as seen in The Monstrum Chronicles speculative fiction series, I’ve never actually sat down and pushed myself to try something completely in the realm of magic. Several months ago, though, I was introduced to a weird and wonderful game called Year Walk by the company Simogo for tablets and phones. The game has since now been made available on Steam. In it, an unnamed protagonist leaves his young lover and goes on his year walk, an ancient Scandinavian ritual that is supposed to help the individual foretell what will happen to them later in life. The games atmosphere is deeply unsettling, fraught with strange mythological monsters and an eerie landscape of snowy woods. The combination of images and the incredibly creepy musical score by Daniel Olsén left me with a taste in my mouth for dark folklore.
Once again, we find today’s subject of Inspiration Through Music is a story-driven, emotional, and beautifully designed game. The Last of Us, which debuted last year for Playstation 3 by Naughty Dog, is among one of my top favorites in video games. The story of a childless father and a parentless girl as they cross a post-apocalyptic America, hiding from people and frightening creatures is portrayed so realistically that it locks you into the gameplay and immediately makes you care about the characters and their journey. And of course, like every other game I’ve mentioned, the music adds an extra layer of immersion to this stunning game. They couldn’t have picked a better composer than Gustavo Santaolalla, who can pinpoint even the most difficult human emotion to emulate through music and make it dig right into you.
Yup, you now know that I’m a Tomb Raider girl. I love absolutely everything about the series and I think that Lara Croft is one of the best feminine heroes ever created. And while the first five games were really iconic and featured lots of globe-trotting, cave-spelunking, yeti-tackling, and deep-sea diving adventure, plus the occasional tomb exploring, my adoration for the series really took off with the release of the sixth title, Angel of Darkness. Unlike most of the other games, Angel of Darkness takes place in only two cities: Paris and Prague. I liked having the chance to stay in one place longer and explore all the different facets of each city, the building tension, and uneasy atmosphere. This game played a lot darker than the previous titles and that also drew me to it. But one of the things that really made me sink my teeth into the game was the music.
Let us descend into another dark and utterly spectacular world given to us by Telltale Games, the creators of The Walking Dead Game. Inspired by Bill Willingham’s Fables comic series, the game “The Wolf Among Us” drops us into the seedy and sinful atmosphere of Fabletown and right into the shoes of our main character, Bigby Wolf. The characters are the real world versions of characters taken from popular fables and fairy tales, some of whom have moved to the city and others whom have remained behind in that other world.
As of late, I’ve been busy with thoughts about my comedy, “Night Time, Dotted Line” and the potential sequel for it that has been rolling around in my noggin. When I wrote this book, it was because these characters had been speaking to me since I’d started a book with them close to ten years ago. I knew that I had to write a book with them and that was this book. But, I’d expected them to stop talking to me once I’d finished the book. No such luck. If anything, they are more persistent than ever… I realize that this makes me sound a little like a schizophrenic. Writing does that. Dozens upon dozens of characters begging for attention and wanting to be voiced through you… To make a long story short (too late!), I’ve started brainstorming for the sequel to “Night Time, Dotted Line” and one of the bands I’ve been listening to pretty much non-stop to help with that inspiration is Amarante.
Amarante is a husband and wife indie duo from California that I was introduced to only a few weeks ago by one of the Youtube LPer’s that I follow. He used one of Amarante’s songs at the end of the video and since then, I’ve had their songs playing on repeat on my way to work, when I’m home writing, and even in my head while I’m at my day job. They really know how to get a tune into your head and make it stick. Catchy tunes with intelligent lyrics and a unique pairing of voices. They’ve really pushed thoughts of this sequel into the foreground and made me want to work on it (despite being committed to another project at the moment). They help to take me away from the cold and dark of Midcoast Maine’s winter and put me back in late summer, across the country, in the lives of two very different people who are more alike than they care to admit.Today, I’ll be sharing four of their songs with you and what it is that I see when I hear them. Enjoy!