Story Inspiration Sunday

It isn’t just pictures or poetry or the critters who share my yard that inspire me.

It’s also music.


Like many writers, I can’t listen to music with words while I’m writing. I need pure sound, that inspires me to write faster, or draws me in with its mood. While I sometimes write in silence, just listening to the wind in the trees, or the rain pattering the roof, or the birds in the backyard, sometimes I listen to man-made noise.

So — some links!

I listen to a lot of soundtracks while I’m writing. Different soundtracks for different novels or stories, of course.

One of my favorites is Tron Legacy, by Daft Punk. It’s electronic music, and when I’m writing fight scenes, or any kind of chase, this is one of my go to pieces.

For more moody writing, I frequently turn to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. This has some good fight music, but also more atmospheric pieces. Stirring, is what I call it in my head.

One of my favorite CDs is Orbital: In Sides. I’ve often described this CD as a soundtrack looking for a movie to highlight. It’s another electronic piece. Lots of action and movement.

Then of course there’s the super hero theme. For smooth jazzy lounge music that’s just fun and gets me bouncing along on crazier themes, I have The Incredibles. This is really upbeat music, that I find evocative, setting the mood for James Bond type fights on mysterious islands.

I write a lot of things that take place south of the Mason Dixon line. One of my absolute favorite CDs is by The New Orleans Nightcrawlers: Slither Slice. I had the great fortune of seeing this band play a couple of times while I was in NOLA. They’ve got a great brass section, and a good beat.

As you can tell, I work with a lot of energy. That’s frequently the first thing people notice about me. (Some say hyper — I say high energy and focused.) Caffeine is my drug of choice, particularly for writing, not alcohol. But there are times when I like a quieter, slower piece of music for writing.

One such piece is the soundtrack to the film American Beauty. This is quirky, interesting, but also much quieter than the things I generally listen to when I’m writing.

Another is the entire trilogy from The Lord of the Rings. I am such a LotR geek. I watch the extended DVDs probably once a year. I know the music and the images so well, I can always see the scenes when the music plays. I haven’t learned The Hobbit music as well, but it also has a special place in my heart.

The other source of quiet music I listen to are instrumental. I’ve tried classical music, but it doesn’t work for me. So instead, I listen to George Winston, and Adrian Legg, Patrick Ball, and others.

And then there’s the jazz music, and swing, and country, and zydeco, and…well, you understand that the reason I have a large harddrive on my laptop is so that I can store all my music on it.

So what type of music do you listen to? What do you like to write to? What inspires you to keep your butt in the chair and your fingers pounding on the keyboard?




Story Inspiration Sunday — 4 Comments

  1. I found some years ago that soundtracks work great for writing to. Like Amistad, for one.

    A couple of times I’ve been able to write to classical works (The Ring Cycle for a huge space opera project in 1980, and Madama Butterfly for an earlier one); generally if I put on classical music, I tend to get drawn into it. Oh, wait. Rimksy-K.’s The Invisible City of Kitezh also worked for one project.

    I can sometimes have singing playing, if I don’t understand the language (Alan Stivell, Hindi music) but other times the accent and rhythms work, like listening to the Corries singing Jacobite songs. Choral music also works, especially complicated polyphonics.

  2. I’ve never had an issue with reading or writing to songs with lyrics as long as the songs are familiar. New music gets listened to while doing something else.

    I think it’s a link to the ADD in the family, though I don’t seem to quite qualify as having the condition myself. If I try to work in too much silence I get distracted and restless, but visual stimulation pulls me away from the text (so music videos are out), spoken dialogue, even real world conversation, is a strong distraction, and anything resembling a plot would jar. (I cannot comprehend people who can write with the TV on.)

    I think every book I write has a base soundtrack I go to when I need to pick up a particular mood again, but I’ve also just been known to put my MP3 player to random and hope for serendipity. While I may also skip things that are too far off-mood, mostly, the only time this has ever felt like an issue is if something comes up that is deeply attached to another story.

    Genres range from classical to electronic to country, but tend to centre around folk and world beat (LOTS of Nordic stuff, some African, some First Nations), with forays into some kinds of pop and rock.

    A couple of specific recommendations: For singing most people wouldn’t comprehend, I’m very fond of Swedish folk-rockers Garmarna. Peter Gabriel’s Passion works very well as an all-around any-story stimulus, and the only tracks with anyone singing are in no language whatsoever.

  3. IIRR, Sherwood, I wouldn’t let you play Wagner as much as you wanted. I’ve never developed a taste for him.

    Classical music is my go-to for writing, but many of the recordings you mention, Leah, sound like they’re worth checking out. I still enjoy driving to Tangerine Dream (and remembering my BMW Z3).

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