Monday, January 18, 2016

Discussion Time: How Does Music Affect Your Writing? (Or Does It?) with Sample Tracks

I had a whole lineup of posts to get to, and then . . . the muse struck. I have been feverishly trying to finish my draft of The Last Coffee Shop, and guys, I'm almost there! I was stuck in a giant writing rut (for TLCS) since October- I knew what I wanted to happen, it just wasn't, happening. If that makes sense? 

Also, I tend to get a little down at the beginning of the new year - I know, I know, that's stupid - but there it is. Instead of seeing potential or a fresh start, I get overwhelmed by all the things I need to do, plans to make, and everything I didn't accomplish the year before. Being buried by all the snow we didn't have in December did not help my energy levels (who wants to go to work in blizzards or freezing rain?)*

But you know what, things turn around so quickly when you're a writer. One minute you're afraid you'll never write another coherent sentence (this can't just be me), and the next, your fingers are flying to the moon and back with new ideas. 

As some of you might have guessed, I'm what I call a "musically affected"writer. I consume copious amounts of music while writing, and make extensive, elaborate playlists for every book, and major characters. Since I have an enormous amount of trouble concentrating on anything for long, the playlists really help to get me "in the zone,"and stay focused on my story and its world/characters.

Sometimes, getting through a difficult passage (writing wise) can be the difference between the "right"song and the "wrong" song. I have zero musical aptitude, but there is a lot of talent out there ( which is a boon for anyone in my boat). With a little digging, I can usually find just the musical cue that I need.

Which leads me to the overall theme of this post (sort-of): 

Have you ever noticed musical impact on your writing, and how so? 

I find this subject endlessly fascinating, and I'd like to hear from other writers. Has a particular song/cd ever influenced the way you wrote something, or given you a plot idea? 

I know that things work the other way around - one of my all-time favorite bands, Dutch symphonic metal greats Within Temptation, have songs (and whole cds) inspired by the novels they read. And they aren't alone (it does seem more prevalent with metal bands).

I have stumbled across bands inspired by everything from Lord of the Rings to fairytales to Batman. And if writers inspire musicians, you know that it goes both ways.

So what are some bands/songs that have inspired your writing (good or bad!).
How do certain songs/types of music influence your writing?
Has a song ever "saved" your plot, or pulled you through writer's block?

Now that I've asked you to weigh in - I'll share five diverse tracks that helped me through my recent writing slump. All of the songs are linked to the artist's websites, for more information. I also added explanations for why I picked each of the songs, and links to the character descriptions! (All images, songs, and lyrics are copyrighted to the linked artist, and posted here to share - no money is made from them or from this blog)

Note: If you read this post, you have to watch at least Exhibit B, or I will find you . . .**

Exhibit A: "Little Games" by The Colourist

I write character-driven novels, so the intricate relationships between people figure deeply in how my plot progresses. I love this California band's lush pop sound, and the clever, wry lyrics about a relationship gone sour. While I'm not writing about a romantic relationship, the lyrics are ambiguous enough to apply to other scenarios, and both the sound and the words fit the situation so well. It also has that dance-y feel that has shaped so much of TLCS's soundscape.

Exhibit B: "Hurricane" from the Korean production of Death Note: The Musical, performed by Hong Kwang-ho as "Light"

I found this video completely by accident (I was looking for stuff from an unrelated musical), and was intrigued - Death Note, a musical? Straaaange. But I watched it, and I couldn't have cared less if it was about space puppies or organic corn farmers - Hong Kwang-ho is. that. good.

The way his voice conveys the intensity of the lyrics (and Light's character arc, which makes more sense if you're familiar with Death Note) left me speechless. I attached the subbed video for that reason - just listen to how he manages to communicate, even if you don't understand a word.*** Good music (especially in theater) has no real language barriers, and this is a perfect example.

So how did it help? As I said above, the drama and power of the vocal made a perfect emotional background for writing some dynamic rising action. It's unrelated subject matter - but that's beside the point. Now if I could just buy a download somewhere . . . (growls faintly in frustration)

Exhibit C: "Roundtable Rival" by Lindsey Stirling

Lindsey Stirling has catapulted to popularity in the last year, and for good reason: her music is unique, and her personality is vibrant and fun. I love how this video is a steampunk showdown. The confrontational but playful nature of this piece worked very well for the constant tension between my main characters and their interests. It's a bit like a showdown every time Luc and Mads have a conversation!

Exhibit D: "Trade Mistakes" by Panic! At the Disco

Jupiter Jive, the elusive yet strangely pivotal dancing thief, could be summed up by Panic! at the Disco. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of PatD (though I love Brendon Urie's voice and quirky sense of humor) - but for whatever reason, they quickly became JJ's voice throughout the writing of TLCS. And while many of their recent (ish) songs suit him well, Trade Mistakes is a song with intriguing lyrics and a beat you can dance to. Again, it's a song with a playful sound, but a very guilty note to the lyrics!

Exhibit E: "Let's Not Fall in Love" by BIGBANG

While there is a lot of K-pop on my Jupiter Jive playlist (in addition to pop-punk, Latin pop, and well, an abnormal amount of pop****), few bands ran away with my ears like BIGBANG. From their flamboyant on-screen image, to their intriguing songwriting and catchy music (and talent), they have quickly lent tracks to most of my playlists. However, it wasn't till I heard Let's Not Fall in Love that one of their songs clicked with what I was currently writing. About 30 repeats later, I found that I'd not only written past the part where I'd stalled, I was almost done. I feel like I owe someone a thank-you note - I was that stuck!

So there you have it: a mini taste of The Last Coffee Shop's writing soundtrack. While every song might not directly relate to the action, each piece did something for me while I was writing.

 Feel free to share some of your favorite current tracks in the comments, and don't forget to answer the questions (if you don't write books, do you listen to music while blogging or doing writing-related work?)

*If I got to stay home during said weather, I wouldn't be so grumpy about it, I promise!
**Just humor me here.
***In related news, my Korean studies are . . . proceeding. I'm a very faithful student with zero natural aptitude, but that's never stopped me from trying things before!
****And hip hop. I don't normally do hip hop - but apparently Korean hip hop is an exception? And I don't have anything against pop music, per se, I just don't listen to the actual radio, so I'm not normally up on what's playing :P

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