I like to listen to music when I write, sometimes at decibels that can cause hearing loss. I have even created playlists that I associate with certain characters; that expresses, for me, something about their nature, or inspires some scene involving them.
I find that, after a while, the song itself becomes an odd mixture of background noise and inspiration. I end up not listening to the words or individual notes, but my imagination still becomes hyperactive.
An All-Round Favorite
A short list of my favorite pieces would have to include All The Strange Strange Creatures , the trailer music from the new Doctor Who series. This is a terrific piece of music that just never gets old. It practically screams, “write an epic while listening to me”. I can listen to it and write almost anything.
Other songs are more tied to particular scenes, often ones that I have long planned.
The Ecstasy Of Music
Such is the case with another favorite of mine, The Ecstasy Of Gold by Ennio Morricone from the movie The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Not the version on the “official” soundtrack; that version just lays there and puts itself to sleep. No, to hear the version worth listening to you must rip it from the actual movie itself. (Or, click on the link I’ve provided above. It takes about 40 seconds before the song starts. It’s worth the wait.)
When the music plays I can see this scene as if it were being played in a movie theater. I can describe it in perfect detail, probably better than I will ever be able to write it.
I find almost anything by The Moody Blues great to write by, but Gypsy (Of a Strange and Distant Time), from their album To Our Children's Children's Children, holds a special place for me. Listening to it inspired a scene that struck me as so powerful, a plot twist so unexpected, I altered my story to include it.
The opening moments of the song made me think, completely unbidden, of someone hearing something that alarms them. For no good reason I decided it was Tara who was alarmed.
Then the drummer hitting cymbals in the background made me think she was hearing the muffled sounds a sword fight, perhaps on the other side of a door.
Then the music swells into a strong guitar rhythm, and in my mind’s eye she opened the door to see a room on fire. In the center of the room are two people locked in mortal combat. One, her beloved father, Morel Rihtwis; the other her closest friend and oft times protector, Artemis Arrowsmith.
I had never thought about having those two characters fight until I listened to Gypsy (Of a Strange and Distant Time). Afterwards, I realized that their diametrically opposite worldviews made their conflict inevitable, and the result of that conflict equally inevitable. I came to see their final clash as the pivot point from which to start bringing various plot threads to satisfying finales.
The list goes on, and on. So many pieces of music that have shaped my thoughts, and in so doing shaped my story. The point is not which music inspired what moment, but that music itself forms such unexpected connections within each of us.
What music do you listen to as you write? What scenes are synonymous with certain songs for you? What songs have inspired elements of your own stories?