Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Epic Relationship Between Music and Writing

Ah, the daunting topic of music and writing. *sighs in satisfaction and leans back comfortably* There are a few different opinions on music and how it can tie in to your writing, so I'll just tell you my own thoughts. I believe that music, as long as you know what works for you and your writing process, can definitely help your writing along in several ways.

Music can inspire you.

This is true whether you're searching for fitting music for a work-in-progress or whether it's happened the other way around and the music inspired a story. 
To inspire, the music can have lyrics or not. What matters is that it leaves an impression on you or makes you feel something as you listen to it. There are songs with lyrics that do this (a few examples for me include "Angel With a Shotgun" by The Cab, "Everybody's Fool" by Evanescence, "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay, "Laura Palmer" by Bastille, "Shatter Me" by Lindsey Stirling, "Say Something" by Christina Aguilera, and "War" by Poets of the Fall), and then there are songs that accomplish this without lyrics ("This is the Future" by Epic North, "Good Morning, Jack" by Gabriel Hudson, and "Heroes May Cry" by Stefano Mocini are a few favorites). Some of the artists on Youtube even accompany their music with neat little videos or pictures which can aid in the plot-bunny creation. 
I was browsing Youtube for new writing music to accompany a character who has a fantasy Middle-East sort of background and came across a song which inspired a full-blooded scene. Its lyrics were in some Arabian language, but it sounded like the kind of music a tribe of Bedouins would sing together at a celebration out in a desert oasis around a campfire. I could picture where all my characters would be, what they would be doing, and I even could picture the character with the Middle-East-ish background singing a certain section of the song and the expression on his face as he did so.
If you are searching for music to create your own little playlist for your WIP, then I'm afraid I can't help you. You know what music will best help you write.

Music can set the tone of your scene.

Do you realize why movies have soundtracks? It's because sometimes setting and dialogue and action can't convey enough emotion to give the movie sufficient punch. The music can make you feel uneasy in a way that a dark room and a scared-looking actress can't. It can make you lean forward in your seat during that fight scene, which would be pretty boring if it was just a bunch of actors banging swords around.
I have no idea who to credit for this. Oh well. I tried.
Now I ask: how often do you feel emotion as you write? Are they the emotions that you want your readers to feel as they read your novel? If you aren't feeling those emotions as you write those words, how are your readers supposed to feel them? Get yourself into the emotion of a scene by finding a song or soundtrack that could be used a background music for that scene if your novel was ever made into a movie. 
I usually use instrumental music, simply because I find that lyrical music can distract me from actually writing ("when I thought that I fought this war alone, you were there by my side on the front lines. . ." whoops, sorry, listening to a song as I write). That being said, lyrical music is sometimes too perfect to pass up as writing music. The lyrics perfectly summarize a scene, and the melody conveys the emotions beautifully. Perfect. As long as it won't distract you, use it!
I've put together an entire album of music in ITunes as a sort of "soundtrack" for my next work-in-progress. I assigned each song to a scene that I thought it fit best with, and then ordered them so that I could "listen" through my book. Each song also has a specifically chosen cover art (I raided Pinterest) which is either a quote summing up the message of a scene, a picture of something happening in that scene, or a picture which conveys the emotions in that scene. I also added parenthesized titles of my own to the original title of the songs, so that I could quickly identify which scene I assigned the song to. Now I have a beautiful musical representation of my novel. Whenever I play it, I instantly become excited and inspired to write that project. 
My "album" for my new WIP, Shadows & Light

Music can act as a tool to end writer's block.

I read it on another blog post about breaking writer's block a while ago. The theory is that your brain will respond to recognized stimuli by automatically shifting into "time to write" mode. If you have a certain song you listen to every time you sit down to write, after a while that song will become a trigger for your writing groove. Having issues with writer's block? Play the song and see if it helps. I have an entire album of music, as mentioned above, which automatically puts me in the swing of writing when I start playing the first track. 

Music can block out distractions.

I don't know about you peeps but sometimes there are too many distractions to seriously focus on writing. Your dad has the TV on, your baby brother is screaming and running around the house in circles, or the Starbucks guy has a voice that sounds like a guy narrating a commercial. Anything can be a distraction (especially fluffy cats prancing into the room, purring, then coming to stomp all over your keyboard and power button - still purring). Obviously, music can't help with the visual distractions (you'll have to figure out a solution to that yourself) but it can block out the audible ones if you've got a good pair of ear buds/sets/phones/whatever. Even if you think the music will just be another distraction, I find that it is easier to block out a single noise than a crowd of them. It's gotten to the point where I don't even think about it; I just open my laptop and plug in my ear buds and turn the volume up loud enough so that the music is all I can hear (don't do that if you have a baby you're supposed to be watching, or you're waiting for the cookies in the oven to finish baking and they'll burn if you don't hear the timer *firetruck sirens wail, getting louder, coming down your street. . .*). I hope not.

What are you habits in regards to listening to music while you write? How has it inspired or helped you?

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