It probably isn’t a surprise that music plays a big part in the creation of my novels since I talk about the two constantly, but I’ve never really elaborated on exactly how music helps my books come alive.
Typically when I’m putting together a playlist for a book, I looks for songs that fit the mood of a scene or that come from a band my characters would likely listen to if they were real people. For example in Dreamsters, Harper’s favorite band is Mindless Self Indulgence, while Milo’s an all-out post-hardcore fan – there are a lot of both on the playlist as a result.
And while it is more common for my book playlists to have an eclectic mix of musical styling’s (much like my own taste in music), there are some books that have one particular sound throughout. Take Summer Novel for instance, it is strictly mellow, easy going, indie music.
More times than not, the songs on the playlist really have nothing to do with the actual story itself. So you might understand why it makes me crazy happy and excited to write ALL the words when I come across songs with lyrics so perfect, it’s like my characters whispered them to the band. For Dreamsters in particular (since it’s my current WIP), lyrics like:
I'm not scared, but this is happening.
I'm not afraid, but this is real (this is real).
It all comes at once; from every single direction.
This time I'm not (I’m not) sleeping at all.
How could this be real?
(A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine by Underoath)
How can I sleep, if I don’t have dreams, I just have nightmares?
(Staying Up by The Neighbourhood)
When I wake up, I’m afraid somebody else might take my place.
When I wake up, I’m afraid somebody else might end up being me.
(Afraid by The Neighbourhood)
I can’t help it.
I won’t let you bury yourself.
(Dancing on a Tightrope by I The Mighty)
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a song fits on entirely different books playlists, like there are quite a few of the same Underoath tracks on both Dreamsters and Crack the Sky, but they impact the story differently because of the way the character hears the tracks.
It’s also becoming common practice for me to use movie scores or other wordless tracks to write against, especially when I’m seeking a particular feeling that can’t be interrupted with lyrics. Since Dreamsters is a horror/thriller novel, I’ve used a lot of “spooky” tracks by Kevin MacLeod like Gloom Horizon to set the tone for the nightmares, but also to create just a general dreary or creepy demeanor in the day-to-day, tracks like Very Sick Girl from the movie Side Effects’ score or The Alchemist by Black Light Burns.
Funnily enough, there is even music that I can listen to no matter what I’m writing, but to date only one band has succeeded in this and I seriously have no idea what it is about them that makes them so universal. Wide Eyes, Sun Hands, Black Balloons, and Wooly Mammoth are all tracks by Local Natives that just make me want to write, write, write, no matter what it is.
So writerly people, do you listen to music while you write? Does it matter what you’re listening to? Does the music bring your story alive? I’d love to hear about it!
P.S. All track titles are clickable!