When I write I depend on music to provide the emotional fuel for fire.
It’s a bit of a paradox, I’m a highly visual person but I need music to hold the visual images steady. When I write I try to hold the images in mind as if I were seeing a movie or directing a cinematographer and use dialog as the script.
I’m actually a bit stingy with my character’s dialog. I cut them short and don’t allow them to finish a thought in its completion if a visual description or body language could be used instead. If my characters have any complaints against me for doing this to them, they’ll just have to settle matters in pantomime behind my back.
I loop music and can listen to a single track hundreds of times in a row. I apologize up front to my imaginary people for putting them through this but it can’t be helped. That’s just how I work.
I actually prefer to write my first draft in complete silence. I want to hear and feel any subtleties that might be trying to get my attention but after that I need music to finish to work. Love scenes are especially demanding. They require moody, complicated music even if the mood of the scene is playful and light.
While I was finishing “Noblesword” I chose Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite composer Bernard Herman. I looped the soundtrack to “Vertigo” and listened to it continually. The obsessive undertones in the music helped keep me in a rising sense of tension, especially the clicking castanet passage, which I played until the folks around me went mad.
I could not have completed “Blue Apples” without Ry Cooder’s gorgeous slid-guitar playing on the Paris Texas soundtrack. This week I’m completing a long-belabored WIP that required I bring out the big guns of emotionally conflicted music. I won’t say the name of this soundtrack because I’m still working with it and this week it’s my lover.
It’s also true music that is moving to me may not please you at all. For a mental soundtrack to be a good match there must be a special alchemy of randomness, personal preference and the music’s emotional tone. Songs with lyrics are a no-no for me. I have to use instrumentals or else the song lyrics will work their way into my dialog or descriptions. I’ll think I’ve got something great and realize I’m quoting the Rolling Stones or John Lennon.
What I find interesting is the fact the music and the stories pair themselves in unpredictable ways. I do not go through my music collection looking for something appropriate to listen to while I write. The music chooses me. I’ll hear it in the back of my mind while I write or wake up thinking about long forgotten music or as was the case with the current soundtrack, a casual friend on Youtube sent it to me at the moment I needed it most. I obsess on certain tracks until I have to go through the formality of buying the music on iTunes or go looking for an old CD. Then I loop it and start writing.
Does anyone else out there in the digital domain, obsess on or loop music while they write?