It may be a little old hat to say music is a great source of inspiration. You know that already. Or do you?
Maybe you’re a writer who absolutely can’t write without noise in the background. Or maybe you’re one who can’t write a single word unless you’re submerged in utter silence. Personally, I fall somewhere between the two extremes. I like writing to music sometimes, but it has to be the right stuff, usually instrumental or mellow. The Vitamin String Quartet is my current favorite for writing. It’s peppy and interesting enough that I don’t feel like I’m in an elevator or dentist office, and yet its noninvasiveness keeps it in the background instead of impeding my thoughts. (Pandora free online radio is my top method of listening since I can pick the music I want and skip any songs I don’t like. You should check it out, if you haven’t already.)
Style, Lyrics or Other?
Some writers are greatly influenced by the style of music they listen to: the feel of songs help them create scenes with a similar mood. Kind of like how a movie soundtrack helps drive the plot. Others are influenced more by lyrics. Courtney Cantrell has a book called Colors of Deception in which one of the characters, a demon, is obsessed with the lyrics of INXS.
Music influences my writing somewhat less directly. It’s during the development of a story, when the characters and plot are frequently on my mind, that I’m open to receive nuggets of inspiration – no, more that I’m searching for them like buried treasure. (And those nuggets are no less valuable than a chest of gold, I’m convinced.)
Inspired by Music
I’ve talked about Thinking Time in the past, and honestly, my most fruitful thinking time comes when I am “thinking” in the midst of…something, in one particular case, music. When I was plotting my novel for last year’s National Novel Writing Month (the second book in the Flawed series), I got a key piece of the plot from listening to Snow Patrol. My protagonist needed a big event. I had determined he needed to get hurt. But I just hadn’t pinpointed how. I heard the song “Headlights on Dark Roads” (click to listen to a sample) one day when I was in the car pondering my story.
For once I want to be the car crash
Not always just the traffic jam
Hit me hard enough to wake me
And lead me wild to your dark roads
Headlights before me
So beautiful, so clear
Reach out and take it
‘Cause I’m so tired of all this fear
Bam! Suddenly I knew what had to happen. Not just what, but how. It was perfect. Not only that, but the song so well captured my protagonist’s emotions . I won’t tell you what happens in the story. You’ll just have to read the book. (I know. Evil, aren’t I?)
I’ve realized that when I’m working on a writing project, it’s beneficial to expose myself to many types of music, to get outside of my own iTtunes library bubble. I enjoy searching for connections between songs and my stories. And sometimes when I’m stuck, the music is that little push I needed to get things moving again.
How has music influenced your writing? Do you get inspired in your writing time or in your thinking time? And what artists are you listening to that I should check out?