Writing and the Perfect Soundtrack

Posted: January 10, 2019 in Ennid the Havoc, fallout, Fantasy, Games, Novels, Post-Apocalypse, Science Fiction, Umbra

Perhaps you need to set a tone for a scene that’s a  little dark, a little hopeless. Maybe your characters are starting to feel each others’ chemistry, and you find yourself trying to write something subtle and seductive. Or is it a case of writer’s block, where nothing seems to stimulate your fingertips into their keyboard dance and light up the page?

How can you get there with a little help from your friends? In this case, make music your friend. But just how can they help?

Songs and music influence mood. Picking the right songs can get you into the right groove for whatever scene you happen to be writing.  Years ago when I was still in grade school (more years than I would prefer to admit), I played a computer game on my Commodore 64 called Wasteland. It was fantastic but, like many other games of its age, it lacked something that is so ubiquitous in games now you would miss it if it wasn’t there–a soundtrack. So I made my own: Alice in Chains’ Facelift, Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and that gem-of-a-lifetime Pink Floyd’s The Wall. To this day, I can listen to The Wall and instead of seeing the movie (which is fantastic in its own right), I am right back there with my Desert Rangers in the warhead-riddled American Southwest.

Consequently, when I started writing my novel, Umbra: A Post-Apocalyptic Mystery, I turned back to my Wasteland staples and found the same gritty, dark influence I needed for certain scenes. That’s not to say I didn’t turn toward more modern music, and that was when I tripped over a serendipitous find.

Have you ever listened to a song that struck so close to the mark that you would swear the musician crawled into your head and took your own thoughts and feelings to turn into a song? That happened with the same novel, Umbra, when I was finishing up the revision. I’d already named my main character ‘Vera’ after the (real-life) woman in the Pink Floyd song from The Wall * (she’d been ‘Vera’ through about ten iterations of the lone woman in a post-apoc world until she finally emerged as the mystery-solving protagonist in Umbra), when I saw there was another song with the same name by Ebba Forsberg. I couldn’t believe how much the song’s theme hit on the same themes and happenings my character was going through. That impetus really helped me finish my revision and get it out there, and Forsberg’s song became Vera’s theme.

Sometimes the lyrics themselves can inspire the story. I have an as-yet-unpublished science fiction romance based on Cinderella-meets-Enemy Mine, which all stemmed from two dancing-themed songs: Celine Dion’s Refuse to Dance and macabre humor of Heads We’re Dancing written by the brilliant, quirky Kate Bush. (Apparently, Pink Floyd held some sway over Kate Bush too. I just looked up the wiki on her post-nuclear song Breathing and it says she cites The Wall as an influence! David Gilmour also did some production on her album The Kick Inside). The Omen-Eyes short story collection and The Opal Necklace (in revision) had Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerard as their soundtrack. For the SHARC collection (also in revision), I listened to a lot of electronica, dubstep and Imogen Heap. For the current draft of my new Ennid the Havoc story, I discovered Thrice’s The Alchemy Index (particularly Volume II, covering the element Water).

Whatever your writing dilemma, try listening to some tunes to spur your creativity or set your mind at the right tone.

*There are quite a few Pink Floyd and popular culture references in my novel. I’d love to know which ones you found, so post them here (with spoiler alerts where necessary).

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Comments
  1. Greg says:

    Last article I wrote was listening to Corrosion Of Conformity. And “Der Kommisar” needed some 80’s lol.

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