Thursday, December 15, 2011

Set the Mood! Music and Writing

Time for another little writing tip from A-P's arsenal (assuming, of course, you don't mind taking advice from some weirdo over the internet). I've been doing this for years to help get in the right mind frame for a particular scene. But what exactly am I doing? I'm listening to music.

Let me get specific. I'm listening to music that inspires the same emotion I'm shooting for with whatever I happen to be working on. Think of it as putting together a soundtrack...use a song to enhance the mood of the piece. A reader won't be able to hear the music, of course, but wherever that bit of music takes you can show through in your work. I'm firm in the belief that the right music can take you to another place and call up a particular memory or feeling. Why not use it to your advantage?

At the moment, I'm working on a project I've got a playlist for. I've found a handful of songs that bring on the right emotions, and I listen to them as I write. Odd as it sounds, it really helps. Say your scene is an intense, suspenseful confrontation; try some really angry music. It's not enough for the music to just sound angry, it needs to make you angry as well to put the words you need in your head. Before you pick up a pen, you need to get into character, or in this case, into the emotion. Have you tried writing something sad while you yourself were in a happy mood, or vice versa? It doesn't pan out so well.

You don't really need the music to get in the right mood, of course, but it speeds the process along. For instance, I recently had to write a rather intense scene between my main characters. After years of neglect and abuse, one was finally reaching out to the other. I needed to convey a sense of pain and desperation with a bit of hope mixed in. I put on "Broken" by Seether, as it seemed fitting. After a few minutes, it had brought up enough of my own memories of those very emotions, and it made it easier to find the right words.

Understand, now, the piece has to guide the music, not the other way around. In my experience, when you try to fit the scene to whatever song you feel like listening to, it will come out awkward and won't connect with everything else you've written. As always, the story has to be able to move on its own, and that won't happen if you cram it into a box.

It's a weird practice, but it works for me and it might work for you...

Your pal,

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