The Influence of Music on Writing
Do you write to music? Do you have a soundtrack in mind when writing a scene? What about using music to enhance an emotional beat in your story?
Let's discuss how that influence can help and sometimes hinder your creative/writing process.
Starting with the basics, I typically do NOT write with music playing, unless it's a score without lyrics. Something about the words in my head or my inability to keep myself from singing along keeps my writer's brain at bay. However, I'm not a stranger to listening to a song as I pace around the room, in between bursts of writing or in an effort to brainstorm the best way to convey a feeling or tone that the song/music is generating within me.
For my first series, BINARY GRAY, I anchored and titled each issue with a very specific song. It was an afterthought of the creation of the series, but once I was on the path, I found it enhanced my writing experience quite a bit and several readers mentioned their appreciation of this as well. The intro for BG was a four-part series titled "Welcome to the Machine" (thank you Pink Floyd) and the lyrics tied into the story more than I had realized when the title finally came to me.
"Welcome, my son... welcome to the machine."
The series is about a man (Alex Gray) who has the power to communicate with electronics, and he finds (around issue #8) that his father had passed this ability down to him genetically.
"Where have you been? It's alright, we know where you've been."
Alex's father worked for a government Agency that hunted super powered beings in the 1970's, which they had created in an experiment that backfired spectacularly. His job was to track down people like him and you can be sure that after his death, that same Agency never lost track of Alex. This coincidence in the music felt so powerful that I couldn't fight the urge to use it.
These are examples of happy accidents, but it's something that was fun for me, and coming from a musical background (15 years with a couple of bands in Cincinnati), it was a real pleasure to incorporate. The series moved on to include many of my favorite songs and once I had that spark, it became important to find the right song - something that melded story-wise, with lyrics that touched in some way on the evolution of Alex Gray as a character. Everything from Peter Gabriel to Ministry. Finding the right song became it's own journey and its own source of fun in the writing experience for me.
With BLACK OF HEART, it was a slightly different process. Rather than playing a score in the writing room, I found myself listening while driving to and from work, constantly churning the story and making notes, even when I wasn't sitting at my desk, scripting. This type of assimilation is something I've used several times and it's been especially effective when brainstorming or taking notes away from the desk. ***For those that are curious, I listened to John Ottman's score for "The Usual Suspects" (a go-to for me for years and years) and the soundtrack for the L.A. Noire video game by Rockstar Games to really vibe on the era the book was set in.
There's more than one way to work with/to music and no way is wrong unless it's wrong for your particular experience. There have been many stories I've written without music and I've loved them just as much. If you prefer to write to music, but find yourself bogged down with finding the right music, stop and ask yourself if you're only distracting yourself or finding a reason to delay the actual work. I'm absolutely guilty of this, but awareness is a beautiful thing.
Personally, I love writing AND music, so when I can incorporate them both into the creative process, I really enjoy it. After all, writing lyrics was how I learned to get what's in my head out onto the page. It can be a great way to set a rhythm and pace, or to help drive home a scene, but it's not necessary every time I work on a new project. It's a tool, like many others, that I know is there if I need it.
The next time you're stuck, take a moment and think what kind of music might be playing. Is it sad? Upbeat? Heavy? Turn it on and see what it opens up for you and your story.
You might be surprised!
Thanks for reading,