The Power of Music – Rock on, Sistas!

Do you listen to music while you write?  It is my opinion that music is a great way to set the stage either before or during a writing session. It pumps up the volume to your creative talent. Heck, music can be used after a writing session like a victory lap. Think Chariots of heels guitar

Music is a great way to get your muse in the mood. Not unlike how sultry tunes rouse some couples into a romantic mood. Bow chicka wow wow.  The harmonies act as an accompaniment to any scene being written.

Take a moment to conjure up a favorite TV show. Theme songs like Law & Order, CSI, Friends, Cheers, and even SpongeBob immediately sets you in a disposition for what you are about to watch. You settle in expecting serious drama, quirky comedy or mind-numbing cartoonish entertainment (a guilty pleasure).

What would movies be without music stealthily layered into each scene?  Would the tension of hiding under the bed from an axe murderer be the same? How about swimming in the ocean, a showdown at noon or that first desperate kiss after nearly losing him/her? Music adds to the tone of the action on the screen. Star Wars, Titanic, The Lion King, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. These are blockbuster movies with music that evoke strong emotions.JAWS

Listening to music can stir your muse and put you in the right frame of mind for any particular scene you are committed to write. An adventure or high-anxiety scene requires a fast beat. A tender, poignant moment needs a softer melody. The music prepares you as your story unfolds with its own tracks playing in the background.

Those of us who use music with writing presumably have their preferences for what works. Some write while listening to an iPod. Some use music as background noise. I cannot write at all when I hear my favorite tunes. I spend far too much time singing and rocking out. Head banging or waving a lighter overhead is just plain counterproductive. I really like to sing and it’s not pretty. Instead, I listen to movie soundtracks from epic motion pictures such as The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. These songs reflect the overall tone of my manuscript and keep me centered in the action. It’s a bonus that I don’t bust out into a karaoke moment.lord-1-1

Authors will have their favorite musical genres to get them in the mood. Me – today’s alternative and hard rock music gets me revved up to write. Some of my favorite bands include Breaking Benjamin, Theory of a Deadman, and Shinedown. Generally, I  have 2 or 3 songs that I consider theme songs for each story. I know of authors who create whole soundtracks for their books. I can’t stress enough how music that means something can ramp up your excitement for a project.

For my first manuscript, The Dolphins Cry by Live fit perfectly as the novel’s theme song. If I ever had this novel optioned for a movie (hey – don’t laugh at my fantasy), this song would play at the end when my hero holds tightly to his heroine tucked under his arm. Whispers in the Dark by Skillet and What Have You Done Now? by Without Temptation are dueling theme songs for the second book in my pirate series. These songs define the emotional climate between the hero and heroine. The videos do not, but my impression of each song gives me the chills.guitar rose

There are many types of music to choose from as a companion to your creative endeavors. Here, I’ve listed a few possibilities. By no means is this list comprehensive, either in writing genre or type of music.

Adventurous – Soundtracks, Rock

Break-ups – Pop Rock, Adult Contemporary, Alternative, Rock, 80’s

Comedic – Adult Contemporary, Pop Rock, Broadway Musicals

Exotic locales – World beats, Tropical, Reggae

Historicals – Sub-genre specific music, i.e. Celtic, Classical, Soundtracks

Paranormal – Alternative, Rock, Goth, Metal

Single Title – Adult Contemporary, Pop Rock. Dance, Hip-Hop

Steampunk – Alternative, Rock, Grunge, Goth, Metal

Sultry Love Scenes – Latin, Jazz, Salsa

Suspense, Mystery – Alternative, Rock, Soundtracks

Sweet romance – Soft Rock, Love songs, Pop Rock, Easy Listening

Westerns – Country, Blue Grass, Folk

Young Adult – Teen pop, Alternative, College Indie, Pop Rock

Mix and match, the possibilities are endless.

Everyone has their own idea of what puts on the groove. Does music give you inspiration or is the sounds a distraction? What do you listen to?

24 responses to “The Power of Music – Rock on, Sistas!”

  1. Liz Talley says:

    I don’t listen to music while I write because it distracts me. I figure I’m at least slightly ADD.

    But I do often hear songs and imagine they belong on the sound track of my books. I like the idea of putting a song list to go with the book on my website. I guess I could create that. Think it would be fun to come up with the song that would fit each chapter. Good challenge. I actually got the idea when I was listening to Boz Scaggs “Love, Look what you’ve done to me” I don’t know what the actual song is called, but that’s the song I always remember from Urban Cowboy 🙂

    Fun topic, Jenn!

    • It is a fun topic. I was interviewed in last Novembers RWR about my musical muse because I love to make musical references in my writings. But I don’t listen while I write. I listen to music while I “work”. I do jot down song titles if I am listening and hear something I think might work for me in a scene. Sometimes a song captures the mood of a scene.

      • jbrayweber says:

        I’ll jot down lyrics that speak to my muse. Otherwise, I’ll forget until the next time I hear the song. LOL.
        I agree that a song can capture the mood. It happens all the time, while I’m ironing, driving the kiddo to school, in the grocery store. Ha!
        Thanks, Kelly!

    • jbrayweber says:

      Thanks, Liz.
      I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be listening to a song and one line or one verse inspires a scene. Lots of my ideas come this way.
      Urban Cowboy has lots of great songs, too! Lookin’ For Love by Jonny Lee & Lyin’ Eyes by The Eagles. Great tunes.

  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    I’m definitely in the listen-to-music-while-writing camp! I have several different iPod playlists, depending on what I need.

    Sometimes Job #1 is to just drown out the cartoons the kids are watching in the next room. Sometimes I want a big swell of emotion, and that’s when I go with the movie soundtracks (no distracting words….I recommend Out of Africa, the main theme from Jurassic Park, and the main theme from Angels in America.)

    I finished my first novel by putting Rufus Wainwright on repeat play….why “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” and “California” were what I needed to complete a Regency, I’ll never know. But it kept me focusing, and the right words kept flowing. Thanks, Jenn!!

  3. jbrayweber says:

    I envy that you can write while listening to music, Elisa. I get so much emotion built up in a certain beat, then the fire fizzles because I can’t write out what I’m FEELING immediately. I succumb to singing along. LOL!

  4. Love the post, Jenn! Music is a must when I’m writing the first draft. Not so much during the editing process though. I agree with Elisa, an iPod is the best way to drown out the noise when I need to focus. 😉

    • jbrayweber says:

      I’m the opposite, Missy. Music before, no music during, then music after. I can edit while jamming out. It’s almost as if editing is second nature and the music is soothing background noise (even if it is high energy rock). 😉

  5. Elise Hayes says:

    I’m not a big music person, so I don’t listen to anything while I write–and music with lyrics would definitely distract me.

    I know lots of writers who find music absolutely inspirational for their work though–particularly the sex scenes!

    • jbrayweber says:

      Music and love scenes, interesting. I couldn’t do it. When I write a love scene, it MUST be absolutely quiet. I’m trying very hard to envision every sound int THEIR world, what THEY hear. Somehow, I doubt that my historical h/h will be hearing Aerosmith or Taylor Swift while doing the deed. LOL!

      Thanks Elise!

  6. Music while I’m writing would definitely distract me. I like it quiet although I often have a favorite song–usually country–that reminds me of my hero. For some reason, my heroine doesn’t usually get a song.

    • jbrayweber says:

      It’s interesting that your heroine doesn’t get a song, Bev. My heroine in my first MS did not have a song, but my heroine of the sequel does.I’m sure there are many theories to why. Maybe we relates more to our heroines or perhaps we idealize our heroes more.

      Country songs are wonderful inspiration for heros. They tell more stories and wrench at the heartstrings with lyrics; often about feelings we all can relate to.

      Thanks, Bev!

  7. Tamara Hogan says:

    I can’t write without music. Like Melissa said, it blocks out other noise, which is absolutely essential for me.
    I definitely find inspiration in music, but it’s related to how the music sounds aurally rather than its lyrical content, if that makes sense. If I’m writing a death scene, I’m going to dial up some dirgey late-era Mozart. Fight scene? Metal or grunge. Love scene? All over the dial, depending on the mood I’m trying to set.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could claim iPods and music as business deductions? 😉

    • jbrayweber says:

      HA! We should be able to deduct iTunes and iPods!!!

      I’m with you, Tamara, on how the music sounds vs lyrics. Before I sit down to write, if I need a boost for the scene I’m about to write, I’ll pick and choose songs based on the sound. If my hero is at his wits end, I’ll pick something that audibly sounds angry. Likewise, if I need a poignant moment, the song will likely be desperate. I’ll be in the right frame of mind in no time. 🙂

      Thanks, Tamara!

  8. Another “Within Temptation” fan! I never thought I’d meet one outside of Europe. Their album “The Heart of Everything” is on my working playlist, along with other female-fronted power/symphonic metal bands like “After Forever,” and the love ’em or hate ’em grandmasters of them all, “Nightwish.”

  9. jbrayweber says:

    Sometimes I think we were separated at birth! I too, love the mix of strong female vocals fronting dark, edgy metal accompanied with powerful strings. I hadn’t heard of Nightwish before, but you can bet, I going to check them out as soon as I finish writing this. LOL!
    I bet you just turned me on to another rockin’ band.

    Thanks, girl!

    • Yay! I agree!

      Start with Nightwish’s recent “Dark Passion Play.” It’s the most radio-friendly. Then if you like it, go back to previous albums. They had a very different lead singer for the older stuff, and it’s … eccentric, let’s just say. I like it, but it’s definitely strange to hear professional-quality operatic vocals over metal.

      • jbrayweber says:

        I checked out a couple of songs on YouTube. I have to say I like the newer singer better. I always dig having a male vocal counteracting the female, too. I’m going to buy a couple of their songs on iTunes. 😉

  10. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    No music for me, at least not while actively writing. Music takes me out of myself. And the karaoke moments are many—even when listening to classical music (I know you. I waltzed with you once upon a dream . . .) or department store musak. I know. It’s sad. *G*

    In fact, to get my children interested in classical music, I used CDs with music from their favorite animated films (Orpheus in the Underworld and The Anvil Chorus are perennial cartoon favorites.)

    Music surrounds me most of the time, but not while writing. My feet need to be moving when the music plays. However, pondering a scene with the music playing, feet and hips moving, vocalizing ad nauseum has often sparked a flame that burned up a page or two.

    Time to pull out Kiss You All Over for the next love scene. YYYYYEEESSSSS!

    • jbrayweber says:

      I with you there, Gwynlyn. I love classical music, was once a violinist. I know, hard to believe. Disney music is always a favorite and one of my favorite musical tune is “The Music Box Dancer”. Love, love love that one. Make me want to put on a flowing dress and twirl. 🙂

  11. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Music is a little to distracting for me to listen to it while I’m writing. However, oldies love songs and easy listening always leave me in a romantic mood and ready to write. So while I’m brainstorming or plotting I frequently listen to music.


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