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Music: as a writer

I mentioned in my last post on music that I can't listen to music while I'm writing any more. (The only exception is really low-key instrumental stuff, which I usually only use if there's other noise around that I'm trying to filter out.) But I do still use music a lot--for inspiration, for mood-setting, for getting to know my characters.

Every story's a little different. With GIVING UP THE GHOST, I listened to a lot of Lisa Germano and The Dresden Dolls while I was brainstorming and outlining, because that seemed like the sort of stuff my main character would listen to. It got me into the right mindset for imagining her telling her story.

With POSSESSING LUCY, I made an iTunes playlist of songs by various artists that had the right feel, or seemed to relate to certain elements of the story, which I listened to while brainstorming. Mostly rock and alternative stuff, because that's mostly what I have. I also came across two songs that seemed to capture the core of the story really strongly, which I often listened to when I sat down to write to get me back into the story world. I'd close my eyes and let images from scenes in the story run through my head to fit the lyrics, as if the book had been made into a movie and then someone had made a fan music video for it. Always got me ready and eager to dive back into the story.

Strangely, I didn't really use music at all with THE HALFWAY HERO. Maybe because I'd been working on the outline so long the story and characters were pretty clear in my head, and then it came so fast that I didn't need to stop and get myself back into the story. If I need mood-setting music for the next draft I'll probably put on some fantasy and adventure movie soundtracks.

Where I use music the most, though, is when I don't have any one story I'm really set on. Often when I'm stuck I'll just listen to a bunch of my favorite music and let my mind wander. The lyrics and/or mood often give me ideas for characters and storylines, either completely new ones or ones that tie into existing ideas I haven't fully developed yet. One idea I've been playing with exists solely because of one line in one song that just struck me, and I thought, that would make an awesome story, and it went from there.

How about you? :) Do you use music while you're writing? Brainstorming? Ever gotten a story idea from a song?


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 4th, 2008 02:33 pm (UTC)
I do the same things. Almost exactly.
Mar. 4th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
We are music-writing twins! :)
Mar. 4th, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC)
And do you use songs up and have to go looking for new ones? I do. After so many scenes set to the tune of one song, that's it. It just won't work for me anymore. lol
Mar. 6th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
I don't use songs much for specific scenes (since I can't listen while writing) but I do use them up. Once I've used a song for a novel or two it's just too strongly tied to those ideas and I can't make it work for anything else.
Mar. 4th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)
I never listen to music while writing. It gets in the way.
Mar. 4th, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
Not even for brainstorming (pre-writing) or that sort of thing? *is curious* Because it completely gets in the way for me while I'm actually putting prose on the page, too.
Mar. 4th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
Nope. I don't do any prewriting/brainstorming stuff, and when I'm writing I need every brain cell available.
Mar. 4th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
No music for me. I like silence.

Mar. 4th, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
As I said to Sarah, not even for brainstorming (pre-writing) or that sort of thing? I like silence while I'm actually writing but I love it for all the other stuff.
Mar. 4th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
I always have an album for each book I write. They're either songs with the right rhythm, or songs with the right feeling- and I just have them to keep me on track. It's immersive; I don't really listen. They're just on and in the atmosphere.

Though I've found when I'm struggling with something, it gets distracting and I have to turn it off. So- I always have music for a piece, but I'm not necessarily listening to it. :D
Mar. 4th, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I used to always have music on when I wrote (as a teen) but I found more and more than I *had* to tune it out in order to focus, and that I couldn't always tune it out completely... so I stopped listening. But it is still lovely for getting me on track before I'm actually writing.
Mar. 4th, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC)
As someone who's worked in a newsroom - you learn quick to write under any circumstances. It was actually great training, and I'm grateful for it now.

I like to listen to music when I'm writing - generally, I try and pick out music that suits the project. But I can write with music, without, with people talking (or trying to talk to me), people yelling (at me or someone else). ;) Is it my favorite thing to write with distractions - no, but I've trained myself to do it.
Mar. 6th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
Definitely good training to have! ;) I can write with most distractions (including music) if I have to, though there are a few I find it really hard to tune out (really, anything particularly loud or piercing--so yelling is right out).
Mar. 4th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
I listen to music while I'm writing. As long as I keep it quiet, I can put on anything, as long as it's pertinent to the book. It helps me get in the mood and it also helps me write for a decent chunk of time, like I'll tell myself I have to write through an entire album at a time.
Mar. 6th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of using the music to set a time limit for yourself. I should try that some time!
Mar. 4th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC)
Strangely, I don't listen to music while I write. I love music at all other times -- especially when I'm reading a great book. But when I'm writing, I usually prefer silence...even household noises can distract me.
Mar. 6th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I prefer pretty much absolute silence when I'm writing, too. The less there is to distract me, the more easily my mind gets completely absorbed in the story.
Mar. 4th, 2008 08:13 pm (UTC)
I make playlists for every story. Sometimes for chapters even. I have to listen to music. It's a way for me to block out the rest of the world.
Mar. 6th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
It's interesting how different people's minds can work--that for you music blocks out the rest of the world, whereas for me I end up having to block out the music in order to concentrate. ;) It used to work for me the way it works for you, when I was in my teens. I always had music on then!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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