Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mood music and earworms

Yesterday was rough.

I don’t mean that in the “if it’s not rough it isn’t fun” way, either (though I’m kind of impressed with myself for combining my dog’s death with a raunchy Lady Gaga lyric).

I’m a fiend for music – even Lady Gaga, though that’s not generally my first (or second, or twelfth) choice of ear candy. I can’t stand to be in a car or at my computer without music playing. If someone cut off my access to Pandora, I’d probably never write another book again.

I’ve seen authors who compile soundtracks for their books, and while I haven’t gone that far, I definitely have songs that capture the mood I’m trying to create in certain scenes.

When I wrote the final love scene in LET IT BREATHE, I played Patty Griffin's "Change" over and over again. I must have hit replay 25 times before I had things nailed down just the way I wanted them (note the clever use of the word “nailed.”)

The Push Stars’ song “Claire” became my unofficial theme music for the budding relationship between Drew and Violet in BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

And every time I hear Joseph Arthur’s “Tattoo,” I’m back in the early chapters of MAKING WAVES, trying to capture the rhythm of a boat crashing through the ocean.

For me, it’s about mood more than lyrical content. “Change” isn’t the least bit romantic if you’re only paying attention to the words, but it set the tone I wanted for that scene in LET IT BREATHE. There’s no character named “Claire” in BELIEVE IT OR NOT and no one ever utters the phrase “I would die for you,” but there’s still a certain vibe to the song that captured the relationship between those two characters.

I was curious if my idea of vibe would match someone else's, or if it’s one of those subjective things. I whipped out the iPod in the car one afternoon and made Pythagoras listen to “Claire” first, then “Change.”

“So based on that,” I said. “What sort of mood would you guess each of the two love scenes might have?”

Pythagoras laughed. “Why do I think that last one is something I don't want my mom reading?”

Pretty much.

Do you listen to music when you write? Do certain songs catch in your brain when you’re reading scenes in books?

Please share. I need to go download something new to scrub that Lady Gaga earworm from my brain.


Summer said...

I definitely listen to music while I write, though I don't really have a playlist, per se. My pandora channel is more thematic, I guess--everything from an AC/DC station to Brand New, Delerium, The Shins, and epic movie soundtracks. In fact, music is such a part of my writing ritual that I can actually remember the one and only time that I wrote without music--it was 2:30 in the morning, I had someone sleeping on my couch, and my desk was right behind them. Nice and courteous-like.

Can't say I ever get songs in my head while reading, though.

Tom M Franklin said...

Great minds, thinking alike:


-- Tom

Patty Blount said...

I follow Laurell K. Hamilton, author the Anita Blake and Meredith Gentry series, on Twitter. She regularly posts her play lists for getting into the story. Anita Blake is a kick-ass vampire hunter and favors heavy metal. Not sure what Meredith prefers, since Hamilton isn't writing a new novel in that series until at least next year.

I've always found this topic interesting. It came up in a #writechat uh...chat one afternoon, too.

I'd never tried until SEND. There's a song called Come on Get Higher by Matt Nathanson became a theme for SEND. There's a line in the song that goes, "If I could walk on water, if I could tell you what's next, make you believe, make you forget..." it just sort of summed up the story for me.

I despise rap music in all forms but the latest collab between Eminem and Rhianna helped me write the end of SEND, when Dan discovers how deep Julie's lies go. Rhianna sings the chorus, "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn. That's all right because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and hear me cry. That's all right because I love the way you lie. I love the way you lie."

I used a Bon Jovi song as a theme for my previous project. And for Nanowrimo, I have a new project I can't wait to jump into, but no sound track. Sometimes, finding "our song" is as much fun as writing the story.

Great post!

Linda G. said...

Very rarely. I can't keep music in the background when I write--I keep stopping just to listen. To experience the music fully. Granted, I suck at multitasking. ;)

Shainer said...

It really depends what I am writing. Sometimes I need techno, yeah techno, weird huh, but it helps me keep the pace of the scene going. Some scenes are very detail crucial and during those periods the room is quiet or I end up having to reread sentences over and over.

Delia said...

I'm one of those compilers you mentioned (was just talking about it today, in fact). I do it with everything I read or write whether I want to or not. It's involuntary. As to music vs. lyrics, it depends on the song and the character/scene I'm trying to evoke. I generally use both.

I find soundtracks useful for times when I need to step away from the story. Listening to the sountrack has a way of putting me right back into the story.

Karla Nellenbach said...

I don't really listen to music while I'm writing because well then I wouldn't be writing, I'd be singing...and probably playing Rock Band on the Wii :) HOWEVER, music does inspire the majority of my stories. My current WiP was inspired by "Savior" by Rise Against and "Sorry" by Buckcherry...both because of the tones of the music and the lyrics. I've listened to them both so much, I'm pretty sure I could sing them in my sleep :)

Laura Maylene said...

Music can be playing in the background when I write -- like if it's on in a coffee shop -- but then I tune it out. I prefer quiet when I write or read or do anything that requires mental focus. I've always been that way, but sometimes I do wish I could listen to music while I write.

I once had a writing instructor who claimed that listening to music when you write messes up your own internal rhythms and will affect how you write. I never really bought that...I just know that my brain can't seem to handle music + writing/reading at the same time.

My mental weaknesses are staggering.

Indigo said...

I'm forever grateful I wasn't born deaf and I'm late deafened. Simply because I had those years to appreciate and enjoy music.

Sad songs for me are: Jane Siberry's "It Can't Rain All the Time." and Kansas "Dust in The Wind."

However, I do go look up lyrics when someone suggest more updated music, to get an idea of what's popular now. If someone suggest a certain band sounds like something I may have heard before, it's pretty easy to put the beat to the words.

Believe it or not I do keep song journals - lyrics, to go with each and every book I've written. Deaf doesn't mean you have to live silently. (Hugs)Indigo

Anonymous said...

I totally listen to music while I write. Mostly P!nk (Sober, Funhouse, Who Knew) but I also love Jeremy Camp and Adie Camp. Their lyrics are inspirational. Toby Mac and Sanctus Real work well, too.

I haven't tried Pandora...but I hear tons about it. Might have to go check it out.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I don't know how you can listen to music with lyrics in it while you're writing. I need to practice that, because I listen to only classical. Doesn't quite work when trying to write a modern day chick lit.

Danica Avet said...

I'm a 24/7 music person. I sleep with it, write with it, even read along to it. There are very few moments throughout my day when I'm not listening to something.

I don't set a soundtrack when I'm writing, but if I'm writing a fast-paced fight scene, I have to play fast music (Prodigy usually). On the other hand, some songs tend to fit the story (or my writing fits the music) without my realizing it. In one case, I was writing the dark moment when hero hurts heroine's feelings then realizes he loves her when she's walking away. REO Speedwagon's Can't Fight This Feeling came on. It was so cool.

A couple of weeks ago, I had Aqua's Barbie Girl stuck in my head...and it gave me an idea for a story, so sometimes earworms are good things.

Douglas Morrison said...

Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl, Live" with Crazy Horse, seems to have been the theme song for my current novel.


Candyland said...

I can't listen to them when I write, but there are some songs that inspire me TO write.

LR said...

Listen to some good ol' Rush. Beats Gaga.

Brenda Sedore said...

I usually don't listen to music with words when I write because it distracts me from the words I'm writing. But, I also can't have silence. So, I usually listen to classical or Latin music. I speak Spanish, but I have an easier time tuning out the words. It's perfect for romantic scenes.

I do like that you have a theme song for each book, though. That's neat. I wish I could do that.

My husband listens to Metal when he writes, which, since we share an office, doesn't work well for the days we're writing together. :)

Dawn said...

Oh yes. Every book has a soundtrack...every character has a favourite band / musician / song. But I admit, there are days I must write in silence.

Malin said...

Music often triggers scenes, characters or even full stories for me. I don't do soundtracks for my novels (although I have a playlist ready for NaNo) but I have a few songs that can get me right in the mood for this or that WIP. It's very handy when you don't have the time to slowly seep your mind into the story.

lora96 said...

I listen to music more while THINKING about writing than during the actual process.

I listen to a lot of Augustana, Pink, Train--which means I'm emo and maybe a little angry :)

Jan Markley said...

I pretty much need complete silence when I'm writing. If I was thinking of the characters in my middle grade Megabyte Mystery series it would be really motivational music about saving the world!

inkgrrl said...

I love the music you listed - and I wasn't familiar with any of it so THANKS!!

I definitely need music to set a tone or remember a character for me when I'm off wandering aboot in other characters' heads. But can't listen to anything with words while I'm actually drafting - once I'm revising words are ok again. Funny how that works.

Tawna Fenske said...

Summer, too funny about remembering the one time you've written without music. I try to be courteous, too, if Pythag is in the room, but I go bonkers pretty fast without the music.

Tom, ha! Left a comment on your post as well.

Patty, I love that Matt Nathanson song. Very sexy :)

Linda G, I read a study that found introverts have a tougher time writing with music. We can learn to do it (I'm an introvert) but extroverts have an easier time dealing with the added stimulation.

Shainer, techno, huh? I should try that sometime.

Delia, I probably could assemble a soundtrack for LET IT BREATHE. I've got at least 10 songs that have been key parts of writing that story.

Karla, gotta admit, I find myself singing along on occasion!

Laura, see my comment above to Linda G...maybe the prof was referring to that study and how music affects introverts' ability to focus?

Indigo, that's fascinating. I'd never thought about what that might be like to lose your hearing but still remember music. You always have such an intriguing perspective!

lynnrush, I'm addicted to Pandora. Can't get enough of it. It's introduced me to so much new music in an "if you like that song, you might like this one" sort of way.

Suz, for some reason I've never been a fan of classical music. Used to play cello, but I never really loved the music.

Danica, I love REO Speedwagon way more than is healthy.

Douglas, I'm not a huge Neil Young fan, but that's one of the few songs I like.

Candyland, like "Let's Get it On?"

LR, I should post a photo of our Rush collection. We have 2 copies of many of their albums since Pythag and I both came to this marriage as raging Rush fans. It was one of the things that drew us to each other :)

Brenda, LOL, I can see how the metal would be distracting!

Dawn, do you include the characters' favorite songs/musicians in the story, or is it just one of those things you keep in mind to help you develop the characters?

Malin, I need to get better about making playlists. I never think to do that, though I often use the Genius feature in iTunes.

lora96, hey, emo is hot right now! :)

Jan, the silence drives me nuts, but that's partly because I have tinnitus (a constant ringing in my ears that makes me bonkers if I find myself in a silent room).

Inkgrrl, I credit Pandora with introducing me to both Joseph Arthur and The Push Stars!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Sierra said...

I definitely listen to music while writing and working. Lately, it's been The Pierces. They've got this haunting quality that makes it almost impossible for me to pick something else to listen to.

roxy said...

Great post! I love listening to music while writing. Sometimes it's Breaking Benjamin and other times Ray Charles. Nice to know there are other writers like me out there.

Hannah Hounshell said...

Um, would it be wierd if I said I listen to movies? I mean, I listen to music too, but I have a stack of DVD's next to my computer for when I'm writting.

No joke.

Melissa Gill said...

I never thought I'd be able to listen to music and write, but as long as I can't understand the words and start doing impromptu kareoke I can concentrate. So I listen to opera.

Claire Dawn said...

A million and one points for the song named CLAIRE!!!! And you totally need a character named Claire.

I'm a musicaholic. SO far, I haven't used any specific songs for specific scenes though.

Claire Dawn said...

PS, WOW!!!

Just listened and wishing someone would actually sing that song to me. It's amazing!

Jessica Lemmon said...

Absolutely! Like soundtracks capture the feeling of the movie, I think that certain songs capture the feel of the book. I play my iPod on random (I have VERY ecclectic taste) while I'm writing and if I hear a song that makes me think - oh, that is SO this book - I slide it into a playlist with the same name as my MC. But that's as organized as I get.

Matthew AT Banning said...

Hell yes!!!!

I only listen to Movie scores without lyrics. I can't consentrate when we have words because I start focusing on the words.

The Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack always helps me finished that next chapter. Particularly if it's very, very, very, very dry! So does the How To Train Your Dragon Soundtrack :D

Disney works well too.

Taymalin said...

Evanescence seems to cover just about every scene I write...hmmm, what does that say about my books?

Dr Vicky Williamson said...

These are all such great reports of earworms, we would love to have them for our scienctific study! We are the earworm research group and we are based at Goldsmiths, University of London (http://www.gold.ac.uk/music-mind-brain/earworm-project/).

We have an online questionnaire about earworm experiences which takes about 15mins. Please, please pay us a visit; contribute to the understanding of what earworms mean about how our brains work and please also pass it on! Thanks!


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