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.
In my Monstrum Chronicles series, I’ve written several action scenes and with each one, I listened to a specific song that I felt followed the movements of each character based on the tempo, instruments, and mood that the song evoked. In “Vox”, I vividly remember listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s Primavera for several hours and imagining each action that Torrent and Eileen were taking in the scene, timed with when certain instruments would begin. The scene takes place in an opera house, and is the first moment in the novel in which we see our protagonist, Torrent, do something for someone else. He had up until that point been self-involved in his own goals and ambitions. That idea that he deep-down cares for the human race can be seen here. Primavera uses a combination of sweeping violins (which I connected with Torrent’s character) and a light enchanting piano solo, which I connected with Eileen.
It was very much the same way with a scene that I wrote for “Aequitas” while listening to Cascade by Hyper and a particularly horrific scene in the upcoming “Memento Mori” with Gyorgi Ligeti’s Requiem. There is nothing “generic” about either one of these songs. Each has a different beat, different rhythms, and a different tone in mind. And each one fits their own scene and the different characters in it. When I write these Inspiration for Music blogs, I am not only trying to raise awareness to some fantastic musicians, I’m also trying to get writers to think outside the box a little bit. Most often people listen to music while writing for distraction and nothing else. And while it can be used that way, music can also be a fantastic writing tool in so many other ways.
Inspiration Through Music is, in a sense, more like a writing prompt. It’s an opportunity to take the songs you find here and listen to them while thinking about your own writing projects. Or maybe you’re trying to come up with a good idea for a new project. Maybe you’re just waiting for the right song that will give you the right spark for a scene you’ve been having trouble with. Whatever the reason, that’s why this is here. And I do this blog for myself as well. I do it to challenge myself, to see just what strange and incredible things I can come up with when given a certain piece of music. There are SO many songs out there (especially original score and instrumental songs) that are inspiring to no end.
When I listen to a song, I tend to think of three things and in a specific order:
1.) What is happening in this scene? It’s usually a gut feeling for me. The first thing that jumps into my mind when I hear the music. It might happen to me the minute the song starts playing, somewhere in the middle, or even toward the end. (That’s why I usually listen to the song on repeat).
2.) Examine who is in the scene. Now it’s time to take a step back. Who is doing what in the scene? Is there one person in particular that I am focusing on more than others? What is it about them that the music brings out?
3.) Where is it all happening? Now take a look at the surroundings. It’s like I’ve focused on a target and I’m gradually zooming out, examining everything going on around me in greater detail. Note any peculiarities going on behind these characters, anything they might be distracted by. How does this place make me feel?
You may have your own way of seeing the scene in the music that works better for you. This is just how it works for me. And it may be a while before you find a song that really strikes you or gives you the particular feeling that you’re looking for while writing a scene.
When it comes to writing and listening to music with lyrics…that’s a different story. Often lyrics can identify with a character perfectly. You might sit there in awe and think “This musician wrote about my character! This is him/her!” But, the background music, the vocals, and the very mood it evokes might not be anything like what you’d imagined for your character. For this reason, I’m a little more adverse to listening to music with lyrics for some scenes. To each their own.
Conversely, sometimes having no music while writing is best. There are scenes that don’t require music in order for us to see everything that is happening. Sometimes, the lack of music during an intense scene makes things that much more real and frightening for us.
I know that readers aren’t listening to the music while they are reading. A very select few do, but most don’t. I understand that. My point is that music can be used by writers to help us visualize our scenes in a clearer way– in a way that will help us translate these images to words in a better way. I want to be able to write the scene and make the reader feel the way I felt while listening to that song. It’s a tough goal, I realize. But isn’t that what we are here to do? Aren’t we here to pour our thoughts out on paper, to evoke the feelings we’ve had with these characters and make a connection with the reader by allowing them to feel the same? I realize that I may sound a little kooky. It’s just how I work and I just want to share how I work with you.
So there. I have permission.
I’ll return with a new Inspiration Through Music blog next week!