Whenever I’m suffering casualties from The Old Battle (the conflict between me and the Inner Critic) or on top of the world after a great writing session, I turn back to one thing: music. Song has the power, like reading, of escape. Whether I’m in need of a pump up at the gym or just on a pensive walk through campus, I usually have my earphones in and the track of my choice coursing through me. Music compliments my emotions, amplifies them, which is what I need when it comes to my writing. If music wasn’t available to stimulate my creative juices, it might not be as easy to generate the emotionally charged narratives to connect reader to story. Does that mean that I can only write well with music? No, but it helps immensely.
During the creation stage of story development (when I’m not getting words on a page merely getting a feel of the world), I’d tap into my library on iTunes or browse YouTube in search of something to accompany the newborn story. Often times, I am successful in my efforts, and those songs help me play out certain scenes of the tale. Now I am an auditory learner, so this habit makes sense for my method. I can understand others who may detest noise of any form during work, seeing it as distraction. I respect your preference so please disregard me nodding and swaying in the seat next to you as I get musically inspired.
I am amazed sometimes at how the tracks I select go along so well with what I write. A character will throw a punch, jump from/toward danger or turn dramatically at the precise moment in the crescendo song. Some scenes even write themselves. I just have to concentrate and be there as it happens in my head. Really, it’s scoring story not film.
And speaking of film, people don’t give enough credit to the soundtracks. I find classic themes from films such as Harry Potter, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and the Dan Brown film adaptations: The Da Vinci Code and Angels&Demons define the spectacular visuals and conflicts of the stories. Try watching any of those movies without their iconic themes. Not the same is it? It shouldn’t be. It is so easy to sit back, close your eyes, and envision the moments that go along with what you’re listening to. I borrow many film and video game scores and use them for developing my own stories. Sometimes I will use the same song for multiple scenes of completely different stories! It just makes it that much easier for me to connect because I associate those famous tracks to my own creations. That’s one of the privileges of art. We usually operate, or get started, operating apart. We can learn so much by connecting the strands of the arts by putting painters and photographers, costume designers and directors, even writers and composers together (to name a few pairings) to create something inspiring: a story worth sharing.
Scoring a story, be it sporadically selected scenes or the whole thing, brings whole new possibilities to creation. In the story code-named Project Beacon, I play songs from the Witcher III and Skyrim OSTs (official soundtrack) and just think about them, put myself in the thick of the action and visualize what happens according to the song. I find new things, new emotions I didn’t before with every listen. I take those discoveries and store them, making sure they’re up for consideration to become cannon for when I eventually write the scene down.
If you’ve never tried it before, I highly recommend getting inspired by music. There’s much to be said about writing in silence, but so much can be gained by getting outside and on your feet as you listen to music. Please don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself nodding or swaying your head or staring off into the distance. That just means you’re letting the folds of partnered creation take you away. But don’t become consumed by it. Master the practice of thinking with music. As soon as those headphones go in, I’m at work; it might as well be a subtle ‘do not disturb’ notice. If you do this, try, and commit to the experiment, you won’t be disappointed.