We all know that music is inspirational. That is why every movie has a soundtrack and every couple a love song. However I never really thought about how what I listened to affected my writing until the last few years.
To start out my story I will tell you that I was in a writing slump. I had lots of great ideas but I could not seem to get anything down on paper. I would write something, reread it, and erase it in disgust. To say I was frustrated was an understatement. What changed things? Well, it was a combination of a great song and a strong character.
You see I had this idea. It was a simple cop drama, nothing spectacular. In fact, it would be a short piece, just something to get me writing again. I got it all set up. The scenery, the main characters, even the tone I was going for. And then, as one of my secondary characters started speaking a song came on. It was not the lyrics that moved me, for this song was instrumental. It was the sheer power of the music itself. It was like it spoke in the character’s voice, prompting me to write lighting fast and then sit back in awe to reread the words that had just come forth.
If you read that section of the story now and compared it to the beginning you would be shocked that it came out of the same person. The secondary character went from mild mannered and shy to a dynamically flawed personality, full of er own foibles and follies and just as fully formed as the lead. In fact the rest of the story started to twist and turn around her, the main character yanked along for the ride.
From the moment that song came on I know it was something special. Called “Ora” by Ludovico Einaudi, this powerful piano piece inspired my character and my writing to new heights. I went from a short one shot to a four part novel of over 100,000 words.
I know that instrumental songs are not the only ones that have moved me wither. There have been many times when an appropriate song came on when I was writing and inspired character changes. In fact, that is something I watch out for now. I try to create a song track, of sorts, when I write. If I am writing action and drama I put on faster paced songs. If I am writing romance I put on love songs. If I am writing the slow sections that make up so much of writing I put on slower paced music. This helps me to pace my writing appropriately.
Believe it or not, pacing really does matter. How many times have you written a love scene and thought it was too choppy and fast? Or an action scene that seemed to go on for far too long? That is all about the pacing. Unlike in film and music writer cannot change the speed at which things happen. People read as they read. However the way you set up the sentences can affect the pace they are read in. Short, choppy sentences are fast. Long, colorful sentences are slow. Long paragraphs are weighty, short ones quick and to the point. In that way you too have an effect on your reader’s response.
Another thing I have learned to watch out for is music with lyrics. Yes they can inspire you at times but when you are actually writing you have to be careful not to end up writing the lyrics! I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me. I have started to listen only to instrumental or nature sounds as I write to avoid that very thing.
Another thing that I discovered is that sometimes it is better to write in silence. Especially when I am not feeling well I find that even low music can throw off my train of thought. Writing is all about getting into the groove and you don’t want to throw that off.
However like I said music can also help me to move forward when I am stuck. Sometimes all it takes is just starting out. I put on a fast paced song and just type madly until something comes to me. I might be typing gibberish or song lyrics or just a rant on how I have nothing to write, but it gets my brain and fingers in gear and helps to get me started really writing again.
Music can also help your memory. I know when I have been away from something I wrote for a long time it is hard to get back into the groove of things. That is why I have started to label each chapter of what I write with a song that inspired me in that section. Not every chapter is inspired, of course, but if they are I want to remember it. Then when I come back to edit it or finish it up I play back that song. It takes me back in that same frame of mind and allows me to Reagan my balance in the story without it coming out like a choppy, tacked on mess.
When I have particularly strong characters they sometimes take on a song. Like in a movie when you see a character come on screen and a tune plays. Similarly my characters take on the characteristics of their songs. Some are sad and hopeless, others mad and full of fury, others loving and calm. When I need to get back into character with them I simply play their song and am reminded of their central aspects. This can help to keep them in character during hard to write scenes.
The relationship between characters can also be inspired by songs. The main character and the secondary female character‘s relationship was inspired by the song “Sometimes When it Rains” by Secret Garden in my mind. The cello and violin together represent the two characters and their longing for one another, even in the midst of the chaos surrounding them.
As you can see, music inspires my writing in many ways.