Friday, March 10, 2017

You Were the Song Stuck In My Head

I picture my stories as movies in my head. I've said this before. It's not so weird. But I also picture them as little fan-made YouTube videos where someone took a bunch of clips and set them to music. And maybe that's a little weird. But it's because I'll assign certain music to certain things.

That's nothing new. It's called a leitmotif. A piece of music represents a person, place, concept, whatever. Darth Vader has "The Imperial March," the Shire has "Concerning Hobbits," Davy Jones has that music box/organ piece, Jaws has, you know, the thing. The idea is, they make you associated the music with the person, place, or whatever, and then when you hear it again, you think of the thing. Basic mind control.

Well, I like to have soundtracks for my stories. It helps me get into the right mindset. If I have a song that I associate with a certain scene, I'll listen to it on repeat while I write that scene. When I was finishing last year's NaNo novel, Cold Blooded, I was down to the last day, 4,000 words to go, just trying to wrap up some loose ends. And I think I listened to Secondhand Serenade's "Goodbye" on repeat for an hour while I dumped all the stuff I hadn't resolved onto the page. And it helped. I figured it out.

I'm not good at conjuring up emotions. The appropriate music is like an injection of artificially bottle emotion. It tells me how I'm supposed to feel. Hopefully, that makes it onto the page and tells the reader how to feel. Intermediate mind control.

So sometimes (often, even), when I'm creating plots and characters, I'll hear a song that just… fits. Sometimes it makes sense. Sometimes not. It doesn't matter. Take the… thing that I'm working on now. The Nightingale, as I keep calling her, has Simple Plan's "Save You" as her… theme song, if you will. That makes sense. That's kind of her… thing. The Psychic (boy, do I need to name these people), on the other hand, has Breaking Benjamin's "Never Again." That might not make sense, but trust me, it suits him. And it does make sense, if you think about it.

So what have I been doing since Tuesday? Listening to music, apparently. I know I need to conjure up some more characters, but I'm feeling resistant to it. Like if I rush in, I'm going to it wrong. Picking the wrong characters would make the whole thing fall apart, apparently. What I should do is make a whole bunch of characters, with different backgrounds and goals, and then pick a few from the list that seem best suited to this particular tale. If I was smart, that's what I would do.

But am I smart?

Stay tuned and we'll find out on Tuesday!


  1. For you, how often do the lyrics tend to have an impact on the scene?
    Do you try to work in more of an entire song if it inspires, or will you hone in on a single piece of song that creates that mental image/feeling?

    1. I'm big on lyrics; I hardly ever listen to instrumentals. So the lyrics tend to be what makes me pair a song with a given scene, and in turn, what I get from the song adds more to the scene, if that makes sense.
      For the other question, it totally varies. Sometimes I can image a whole song playing over the scene, sometimes it's just that little piece.
      I have a story called Unknown Soldier, named for a Breaking Benjamin song, and pretty much the whole story has song influences in it.
      On the other hand, when I had Secondhand Serenade's "Goodbye" on repeat, there's a part at the end that was really what I needed, and the rest of it was just along for the ride.

  2. Interesting, I find that I listen to more instrumentals and rarely to the lyrics. Though I agree with it sometimes being an entire song, sometimes a piece of it.
    I wonder if listening to a song as an emotional supplement is to feel an emotion stronger or to stave off emotional ADHD...
    They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I'd take a song any day.