I’m just about to start on a new book, and I need musical inspiration. Most of the time, I have one or two songs that let me know what genre the playlist will be, but it doesn’t always fall out easily.
There’s a few ways that I find new songs. One is just random listening. I’ll start writing, or even just working on promotions or other business fun, with music in the background. The catch is that it can’t be music I’ve selected. I’ll toss on the music channel on my television, or I’ll click on Pandora or Spotify and just randomize the music. Usually, it becomes background noise until suddenly a phrase or lyric will jump out at me . . . at which point I scribble down the name and artist, add it to a list of potentials (and usually look up the lyrics, too).
I’ve discovered not only new songs, but new bands that way, too.
Another great source of new muse comes from my kids. When I drive my daughter to work, she’s always playing brand-new, cutting-edge music. I frequently say, “Who is that? Send me the name!”
I’m in that stage now as I write The Plan. I know a little about Emmy’s taste–she loves her some country–and I just discovered that Cooper is still wrapped up in the hard-rock of the ’80s . . . so I’m listening to an odd mix of both right now.
How do you find new music?
Over the last few months, I’ve shared with you all the playlists for my books and why each one is the way it is. I hope you’ve gotten some insight into how music affects my process.
But how does a playlist come about? This is a question we discussed at Coastal Magic February at the panel on the same topic. I was fascinated that so many of us who write so differently come upon our musical muses in the same way.
For me, the type of music a character enjoys is part of his or her definition. In The King Series, Tasmyn enjoyed alt rock while Michael liked oldies. Rafe’s musical taste was closer to Tasmyn’s; it was one of many things the two had in common, which frustrated Rafe to no end. He felt that their similarities should’ve given him an edge over Michael. Sadly for him, he was wrong.
In The Posse, Jude adores her 80’s tunes. In The One Trilogy, Sam uses sweet country music to woo Meghan, who is decidedly not a fan before her time in Burton. In Just Desserts, Frank Sinatra is the theme of the day.
So that’s where the playlists begin. One character and one style of music. I usually start off a new book with a huge list of songs, and I listen to it almost constantly while writing–and even while not actively writing. I also try to tune in to stations on Spotify or iTunes radio that dovetail with the same genre, so that I can possibly find new songs that fit the storyline.
As the plot develops and refines, I’ll nix some songs and add others. And the ones that are particularly compelling or poignant end up on replay. A lot.
In this way, the music not only inspires me; it also gives me insight into characters and situation I might not be able to quite wrap my mind around until I hear a lyric or a stanza. And in the years that follow, hearing that lyric takes me right back to that story. . .and those characters.
MUSIC is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your
horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.
I love the quotation above because it is so true. Music is one of those transcending experiences for me. When I’m sad or mad or frustrated or stuck, music makes the difference. It can change a day, tell me what happens next in a story, or give me hope.
In every book I’ve written, there’s been a playlist that inspires me and/or relates to the characters. The King Series tended toward angsty songs, because let’s face it, teenagers often bathe in angst. The most pivotal song was Come Back Down by Lifehouse, which told me what was going to happen in Restless, which is arguably the most controversial of the four books. (I still get reviews of people yelling at poor Tasmyn.) That song was one hundred percent what Michael was feeling, what he was going through. Finding that song changed how I looked at music with my books.
The Posse had a play list of all ’80’s songs, because those are what Jude listened to. They defined her generation and her character. In Best Served Cold, all the music was revenge-oriented. Just Desserts was 100% Frank Sinatra music, since he was Ava’s favorite artist. And in The One Trilogy, it’s country music, all the way.
What’s exciting about the book I’m writing now–I Choose You–is that it’s all wedding music. All the best marriage-centric tunes! I’m having a blast listening to it while I write.
I’d love to know what wedding/marriage/proposal song is your favorite.