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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Words and Music

I write to a soundtrack.

I'm sure that doesn't make me unique or ground breaking.  I'm sure quite a lot of writers have at least some background music going when they create.  Music helps clear the mind in some instances and can be very beneficial to just about any activity that requires focus.  But part of my process is that I score my own work.  For instance, my last published novel, The Favorite, had a soundtrack that was one part driving hip-hop (down and dirty to power the fight scenes), one part 90's East Coast Gangsta Rap (for the more criminal scenes), and one part Emo Rock (for the reflective moments).

Some of the music I used to write The Favorite

That mix of music helped me direct scenes and make more sense emotionally of the movie that played out in my head.  The music helped me express what was going on beneath the narrative, and even if that stuff never makes it onto a page, anything I can do to better understand my characters as they navigate the world and problems I placed them in is a worthwhile enterprise.

But that was a general soundtrack, toying with the idea of writing to music.  Since then I've settled on using certain songs on repeat to write certain scenes.  In my current work-in-progress, titled Open (for the time being), a man and his wife have an ugly confrontation after they catch each other cheating.  That confrontation explodes in dish-shattering, fridge shaking sex in their kitchen, where they lose themselves in the heat of the moment.  The song that played (on loop) while I wrote it?

Yep, that's right.  Come Together by the Beatles.  Besides the pun, it seemed to fit the mood perfectly, given their circumstances.  No shortage of irony, I guess.

I've taken the approach one step further for my next project, a vigilante crime story called Urban Legend.  I've crafted individual soundtracks for the protagonist, antagonist and "sidekick" characters. I'm using the individual character songs to form a mood when I'm scene building and these characters have to interact.  I'm using songs like "I Am," by Eminem, "Animal I Have Become," by Three Days Grace, and "(Rock) Superstar" by Cypress Hill. This is an experiment that may cause more trouble than not but the easy way is not the way to grow.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Anyway, where do my fellow writers stand on using music to set the tone on their writing?  How do you use it?  Comment here or on Facebook.


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