Music is a popular tool for writers. The right music can set the mood for a scene, inspire, or simply put one in a less busy mindset and allow them to better focus. Many writers create playlists on their computers and music players, tailored to fit their story. These songs can be anything: instrumental scores for scene setting, the latest hits that give the writer a mood or energy boost, songs that make the writer think about the character they’re about to write. Music holds some powerful sway over the imagination. This week, I’d like to talk about my personal playlists.
Now, my songs aren’t actually organized right now. It’s something I should really get to. I don’t really listen to music while I write because I find I’m more interested in the song than the words on the screen. Instead, I prefer to load my old iPod nano with songs that inspire me. I listen to it while I’m working out, taking the bus, or walking to work. While the music plays, I find myself thinking in rhythm with it and my imagination plays out scenes.
As a Steampunk writer, much of what I listen to is tailored to fit the world I’ve created. I’ve got Steampunk bands like Steam Powered Giraffe and the Clockwork Quartet. I find SPG songs to be fun and full of character, playing more with the adventurous side of my world. The score sounds like something that might play in the background of a pub where the characters are drinking at or being performed at a technological exhibition. Clockwork Quartet—an exceptional group, despite only having three songs—speaks to a grittier side of the world. To places where characters make amoral decisions and murder and mayhem are abound. They’re themes to the types of people that inhabit these portions of the world, and I love the stories woven into each note.
My playlist is not wanting for non-Steampunk bands though. My music library has a lot of songs I enjoy, of course. However, as much as I love Uptown Funk, Bruno Mars and company don’t inspire me into a writing mood. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, on the other hand, has this epic, trailer grade quality to it. While it’s blaring in my ears, a movie trailer is racing through my mind and it gets me excited. I have songs devoted to certain characters or to relationships between characters. Loud, rowdy, tavern song style music makes me think of goblins. Slow, sad music makes me think of ghosts and broken alchemical constructs. Songs in different languages take me to different parts of the world or characters from that part of the world.
But sometimes words aren’t needed or wanted. Though I’m not a great listener of pure scores, I do have several video game and film soundtracks in my collection. Music from the Ezio trilogy of the Assassin’s Creed series brings me to rooftop chases in a fictional country meant to mirror Italy. The soundtrack for World of Warcraft’s Mists of Pandaria intones a fictional China in its notes and makes me think of sky-bound adventures in flying machines shaped like festival lanterns. A tense soundtrack brings battles and hopeless chase scenes. A more upbeat one brings images of coastal towns and children having harmless adventures.
The arts are a very interdependent group. Writers inspire painters and digital artists. Music helps a writer create a world. An inspiring piece of art spurs a musician to match it with the perfect notes. We inspire and are inspired by each other. It’s a beautiful relationship, visual, imaginative, and lyrical.
Find the songs—and the words and the art, of course, but this is a post on music—that inspire you, my friends. Find them, order them, add to them and play them on a loop. And then put the words those songs bring to the page.