Soundtrack for a Novel   4 comments

I am not a peace-and-quiet sort of writer. I grew up in a small house where my mom operated a daycare and Brad and I lived for several years, with the kids, in a small cabin. I can write anywhere and ignore the noise level.

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But sometimes music helps to set a mood that the general chaos of living cannot. Often we remember a great movie by its soundtrack and writing a novel sometimes has the feel of writing a movie. The soundtrack is only for me, but it has its place in my art.

Daermad Cycle was inspired by songs by Enya. Makes sense, right? Celtic music inspired a Celtic-flavored novel. And when I’m feeling distracted when I’m working on Daermad Cycle, I still listen to Celtic instrumental music or songs sung in Gaelic.

Big bold instrumental music inspires battles in my imagination, so often there’s a Manheim Steamroller song behind the ringing of swords in my fantasy books. Holst’s “Mars, Bringer of War” is currently my go-to for writing a complicated naval attack scene in Fount of Wraiths. The Verdi Requiem has a similar effect as does the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

Prokofiev’s “Death of Tybalt” is a murder scene from Romeo & Juliet) that is fraught with tension, great for scenes where I might want people to distrust one another, so it gets used a lot.

When my characters start winning battles the 1812 Overture will probably be behind it.

Other types of scenes call for jazz or blues, but I might also plug in some big band, or even zydeco. Often, I just scan through lists looking for something that matches the mood of the scene I’m trying to write. I don’t need music for every scene, but if I’m having trouble getting into it, I head over to my music lists for some inspiration.

You might have noticed — I prefer to be inspired by music that has no words. I’m not a classics snob. I LOVE contemporary music and listen to it a lot, but I don’t want the words telling me what I should think while I’m writing. That isn’t conducive to writing my own story. Enya didn’t count because she was singing in Gaelic.

That “no words” goal makes it a bit more difficult to find music for contemporary pieces, but I don’t seem to need the musical inspiration so much when I’m writing in this world. As I’m moving into sadder and sadder times in Transformation Project, however, I’m starting to look for minor-key classics to inspire those scenes. Brad has suggested that I might need to find some Tchaikovsky or Mozart or zydeco or ska to lighten some scenes. He’s worried I might depress my readers, but the third book in the series, A Threatening Fragility, is about the breaking of our society, so sad and heavy is appropriate. Don’t worry. I’m not a naturally sad or depressed person, so my characters — most of them anyway — will not stay down long, but Brad is probably right that I might need some Vivaldi to lighten my writing mood when those scenes roll around.

 

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4 responses to “Soundtrack for a Novel

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  1. It would definitely be easier to write whilst listening to instrumental music as you say, although I like complete silence. How you could write with the noise of children in the background is beyond me! Four years ago we went to Canada with our son, his wife and then 15 month old toddler. I took a notebook, but didn’t manage to write anything in it!

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    • Grew up in a daycare center, so I learned to screen it out, then worked as a reporter in a bull pen where you had to write with distraction or go find another job. I love to go to a public place and write crowd scenes, but sometimes I get into the zone and can screen the crowd out so well I can write an intimate scene. It’s a skill, honed with practice. It amazes my husband too. On airplanes, I can read a novel while he’s distracted by the conversation four rows back.

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  2. Though our style of music is different, I agree that the tone and mood of my writing can be set by the music in the background.

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