Saturday, November 15, 2008

Does your work have a soundtrack?

I've been experimenting with giving my novel-in-progress a soundtrack.  This is not an uncommon thing- many writers do so, often posting what they've been listening to so that you, the reader, can listen in and see how it all fits together.  Or so you may become even more of a Rabid Fan if you are in to such things.

I don't usually listen to music when I write, at least not lately.  For awhile now my life has been loud and noisy and chaotic, and music often seems like just one more layer of noise and chaos.  It's hard enough to get my mind into the writing place without a distraction like music.  When I do listen to music, I'm rather picky about it - it needs to have a defined mood, and that mood has to fit the scene I'm working on.  It can't have words, or at least not so many that they interfere with my ability to write words (some of you will understand this conflict, some will not).  

While it's chaos and noise that drive me away from listening to music in general, it is actually those same elements that are driving me toward a soundtrack for this novel.  Specifically, because my writing happens in fits and starts, fit in between other things, I wanted to find a way to get my brain to the writing place as quickly as possible, no matter where or when I was writing.  I want the music to be a grounding force for me - a marker on the path that gets me oriented and moving forward.

Music also helps with other things - there's the aforementioned mood of a piece that can reflect and amplify the mood I want for my scene.  Pairing the music to the setting or the style of the story, like a movie soundtrack, can help to anchor you within the world and remember how it should feel and sound.  The energy of music can feed into the most tired of minds and propel them forward through clouds of fatigue.

I've also found another interesting use for music.  To start my soundtrack, I'm assigning my major characters a theme song.  This is helping me to three-dimensionalize  them in ways I hadn't thought of before.  For instance, my serial killer's theme song is Schism by Tool because the line "I know the pieces fit 'cause I watched them fall away" says exactly the right thing about her mental state.  The second I realized that, I knew how to tell her story.

How do you use music in your work?

1 comment:

Laura Bradley Rede said...

I always think writers who sound track their work are cool. I heard that Stephenie Meyer has a play list of songs that she associates with the book which she posts to her website, but readers are encouraged to read the book first because she says the songs may give too much away! Personally, I see the wisdom of using specific songs to get you into the right headspace to write. I think good writing requires a slightly alterd state of consciousness, and humans for thousands of years have been using specific drum beats, etc., to get them into trace states, meditate, etc. I have "trained" my one year old daughter to sleep when I sing a specific song, and I know that, when I studied massage therapy, just hearing the music I played during massage sessions was enough to make me zone out-- I couldn't drive to it, for example! My characters don't have a sound track yet, although there is a pop song, "I Could Get Used To This," that I associate with Cicely at the start of the book. I love the line "If there's a dark side of you, I haven't seen it..." Yet... :)