Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing Soundtracks (Motley Monday)

Happy Monday, Dear Reader!

I hope your day is full of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.  Or at least a few cheerful smiles.

If you didn't catch it last week, Mondays are henceforth reserved on this blog for anything and everything--a blanket description which is conveniently (and intentionally) vague.  I'm calling this vagueness Motley Monday, which you can read more about here, if you feel so inclined.

Today I want to talk about music.  Specifically, music you listen to while writing.  (Or, if you happen to not be a writing type person, music you listen to while you're concentrating on something important.)

A few weeks ago, I participated in a #kidlitchat discussion on Twitter, which slowly evolved into a rabbit trail about writing with music.  Within this rabbit trail, an intriguing idea surfaced.  Several people voiced enthusiasm for tailor-made musical playlists for their projects.  Most of these writers listed bands and vocalists that particularly appealed to them depending on what they were writing, and the idea was that they created their own soundtracks for their books, assembling  a group of songs that enhanced the feeling of the story they were writing, while they were writing it.

Now, I personally cannot concentrate on my own words if someone else's are coming through my speakers, so I tend to avoid music with lyrics while I am writing.  I stick exclusively to classical music and orchestral movie scores.  But the concept remains the same, regardless of the type of music you are listening to. 

Create a soundtrack for your story to listen to while you write.

I've only done this once, while I was writing a short story set in Celtic Britain.  I pulled from the Tristan + Isolde soundtrack, the Braveheart score, and some Enya albums (who I do not find distracting), and thoroughly enjoyed the result.  But I haven't done it since, and now I begin to wonder why.  It's an enthralling idea.

So tell me: have you ever created a playlist for your WIP?  Have you found it to be a helpful excercise?

And if not, what do you listen to while you write?  Words or non-words? 

Here are a few of my favorites:

This is just one of the many mysteries of writerdom, and I think it's fascinating to hear what other people do.  Share yours! 


  1. I'm afraid I can't listen to music when I write. I need silence. I also don't create playlists. The reason is, because I am also a musician, and LOVE music and singing. If I played music while I wrote, I'd start making up harmonies and playing air guitar ... um, yeah, a bit distracting, and I'd never get any writing done! :o)

  2. Inspiring Post!

    I always wondered what other writers listen to while composing. I know some need complete silence, and some can write through a thunder of noises, which always amazes me. I'm envious of the scribes at coffee shops writing away. I don't have the power to shut out the world and go to town on my keyboard. Sometimes I need complete silence, but most times I have classical, soundtracks or jazz in the background, the sound to fit the mood I'm writing. In addition, I have found the great tango pieces by Astor Piazzolla are excellent for dramatic exotic moods.

    Like you, Hanna I can not listen to lyrics most times unless I'm writing something light/fun/comical aka-rom/coms. My muse and I have a limited attention span and if there are any distractions I must use headphones to shut out the world. And there are those times when I need complete silence, no people, no eletronics, no gadgets buzzing, flashing, or beeping. We do what we must to make our solitary creative world as pleasant as we can so we can forge on.

  3. Our concentration tastes are eerily similar. I have a "film score" station on Pandora that rarely lets me down, but when I am on itunes I tend toward a mix of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart,Notes on a Scandal,Narnia, and Sleepy Hollow. Now that you have mentioned it, I am definitely going to try out Tristan and Isolde. I absolutely CAN NOT concentrate without music in the background. Silence terrifies me. And nothing gets me through the day like epic movie soundtracks.

  4. This is great. :) I love listening to soundtracks while I write; I think I can hum the entire scores to Ladies in Lavender and Girl with a Pearl Earring now...those are definitely my favorite with my current WIP.
    But I'm certainly going to check out a bunch of the ones your recommended, as about half are already on my frequently-played list. :)

  5. Jessica: Haha, I think your reason for silence is the best one I've heard yet. I can see how music would be enormously distracting if you are a musician. :)

    Laura: I totally agree. It's a little ridiculous how finicky our Muses are, but I guess they know that we'll do anything for them. I've tried the coffee shop approach several times, and the Muse simply does not respond well. Ah well. We do what we must. Glad to hear mine isn't the only Muse who likes to be a diva.

    Katie: Oohh, Notes on a Scandal and Sleepy Hollow? I haven't tried those, but if our tastes are similar so far, I'm guessing they won't disagree now. I'll check them out. I agree about the epic movie soundtracks. They serve as wonderful pick-me-ups. (Though I do find they can occasionally increase the tension in a scene I'm writing if I'm not careful.) And definitely check out Tristan + Isolde. It's gorgeous.

    Faith: Did Alexandre Desplat do Girl with a Pearl Earring? I know I remember seeing someone familiar had done it. It must be good if you've memorized it! :) I still haven't seen the movie, which tends (oddly enough) to be one of my requirements for buying a soundtrack. I need story context, even though I usually re-assign my own anyway. Still, sounds like those are worth looking into. Thanks!

  6. This all depends on what novel I'm working on. The deep routed characters are one's that I find work even better with music, the slow and spooky music playlist keeps me in that mood. For the light and cheery novels I have no problem doing it without music because that's my regular mood!

    Great post!

    BTW - You've won something over at my blog!!! Stop by and give me your email address so I can snag your physical address!!