Sunday, June 9, 2013

Musical Notes & Lyrical Lines: Building the Soundtrack to Your Story

Today marks the beginning of my music series here on YAStands. I will be writing about anything related to music for/about/involving YA. Some my be a little more generic about integrating music into your writing process, but I will try to throw some YA specific ones into this series as often as possible.

So off we go!

Music has been and always will be a great inspiration to me. Music can drive me to tears or get me pumped up or mellow me out when I'm stressed. It is a mood changer or creator. So, when establishing mood in your story, what better way to do it then by selecting jams that match the mood?

I have developed a few different kinds of strategies for getting the right kind of playlist to match the mood and dynamics of a writing piece. Before you try any of these methods though, do yourself a favor and download Spotify onto your desktop (www.spotify.com). This is the best invention known to man since the Twinkie (now extinct, apparently).

1. Listen while you work or play: I have playlists already created on Spotify for my enjoyment. They are mixes of songs that I have collected over the years that really inspire me or that I just like in general because they are good songs. I usually find myself writing while listening to music, unless the scene is too intricate to have any distractions. I also listen to music at many other times of the day, whether it be while I'm running or in the car or cleaning the house. Every once and awhile a song will come on that makes me stop and I just know it would be the perfect song for a scene. OR, the song makes me think of a whole new scene. What I will do then is go into my manuscript and just write a note for the song for those scenes and then play it back when I'm actually working or reading through the scene and make adjustments according to the feelings that the music inspires.

2. Search for your theme: I just tried this method with my current manuscript and it worked out really well. I am focusing on the theme of redemption and "saving someone", so I searched for songs with "save me" or "lost" or "hopeless" or "redemption" and listened to the list that Spotify spit back at me. From this, I chose songs that sounded like they fit with the mood of my story. Now I play that playlist while I write and it helps amplify the feelings that I am trying to put into the story and the mood that I want to create.

3. Listen to songs by character: This is helpful in developing your character's personality as well as making sure they are established in the story the way they should be. I go through and try to find songs that my main characters would listen to and that helps me get a feel for what they like. If a certain character of yours was sitting in his/her bedroom, what would they be listening to? Would they listen on an iPod, a stereo? Would they be MAKING the music instead of listening to it? I think music plays an important role in lots of people's lives, including your characters. Knowing what they listen to can help shape the scene or the mood. My two characters bond over the band Muse, so you will notice in the playlist I share that Muse is on there a lot. I need to understand the feelings that come from this certain band if it bonds my characters so closely, don't I?

4. Songs ACTUALLY in your scenes: There are a few scenes in my work-in-progress where the characters reference actual songs being played. I made them older, classic songs but still, they are actual songs that I'm sure most people will know. I played these songs over and over again while I wrote the scenes ..then I READ my scenes over and over again with the song playing. It's amazing how much emotion can be drawn from knowing this exact song is playing while my characters dance/talk/argue. It really helps solidify the scene for me and find parts that don't work or need more touching up.

So those are my theories in using music to help shape your novel. I have included the playlist for my current work-in-progress, Keep Your Eyes On Me, below and hopefully it gives you a feeling of what the book will be like!



Anyone else use music for inspiration during your writing sessions? Any tips or tricks on how to use music to help set your mood or establish scenes/characters?

7 comments:

  1. I will be following this series because I'm 30 pages into a novel that music plays a big role in.

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    1. Glad to hear it! Music plays a major role in mine as well! I will be trying to cover lots of different aspects so do let me know if there is any specific questions or advice you are looking for and I will try to include it! Thanks for stopping by :)

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  2. I had no idea you could search for songs on a specific theme. I might have to give that a go. Great post.

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    1. Well I didn't really ...I search for the song title and kind of went through them that way. But most people name their songs pretty close to theme so it's kind of like that! Also, Spotify has an app for "moods" that you can use as well called moodagent. You can put in a song and it can create a playlist with tracks of a similar mood ..or use pre-set ones for sensual, angry, happy, or tender.

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  4. Self-admitted music hoarder here, I can’t live without music. I have it on 24/7 regardless of what I’m doing, but never really gave it much thought when it started bleeding into my writing. J.A. your words could not have rung truer for me when it comes to my own writing. I, sadly, must find songs for scenes, characters, chapters, over-all novel themes, etc before I can proceed and then I spreadsheet them. It’s kinda crippling when I can’t find the right song – often driving me to distraction. But if I’m patient the perfect song usually comes to me and me and the writing are better for it.

    Thank you so much for the post! I’m going to link it to my own blog today as it helped inspire what I’m going to write about today :)

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    1. Awesome, I'm glad it could help! Yes, I make a playlist and play it through my car so I'm constantly still in my story's world wherever I go. It really helps to stay connected and think up new scenes, dialogue, ideas when you're away from the computer :)

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