Listen to the Music: Using the power of sound to influence writing

Once upon a time, I was a serious music snob. All through my school years, I shunned the groups to which my peers gravitated (yes, I was a major geek). My only connection with anything remotely modern was through the school band (I played the baritone saxophone) and my parents, whose rather eclectic tastes ranged from Neil Diamond and Englebert Humperdinck (my mother) to Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, CCR, the Ventures, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, the Beatles, Johnny Horton, and some hideous country things that I still cannot stomach to this day (no offence to country fans!). Left to my own devices, however, it was classical all the way. See? A serious snob. *

My scorn for all things musically modern remained well into my adulthood. When I met my husband, we came to an understanding in a hurry: no AC/DC or KISS when I was within hearing distance. Fortunately, he also liked classical. J It wasn’t until I started writing with an eye to potential publication that my tastes changed. I was working on a romantic suspense and had reached an intense car-chase scene that simply was not working. No matter how I struggled with it, no matter how many times I rewrote it, the scene was slow as molasses in January, as my grandmother would say. Then it dawned on me. The pacing of the scene was exactly the same as the music to which I was listening as I tried to write. And as much as I loved Bach’s Violin Concertos, they just weren’t the stuff of action and suspense.

I switched to one of my husband’s hard rock CDs (Richard somebody-or-other), put my fingers to the keyboard—and the car chase wrote itself. It was a revelation . . . and the rest is history.

Now that I know the power of music in my writing process, classical has become the exception rather than the rule. My writing tends toward intense, and so my listening choices do the same**. Nowadays, my playlist includes artists such as Metallica, Adele, Incubus, Billy Talent, 30 Seconds to Mars, Aerosmith, Alice in Chains, Nickelback, Evanescence, Linkin Park, Muse, Nirvana, Our Lady Peace, R.E.M., Seether, The Tea Party, Three Days Grace, and my all-time favorite, Apocalyptica (I mean, really, cellos and rock? Heaven! J).

So what’s on your playlist? And if you’re a writer, does what you listen to affect your work?

  • Just how bad was my distaste for modern listening? When our twin daughters were five years old, we bought a second-hand piano. On the day of delivery, they began playing with potentially damaging enthusiasm. I warned them that, if they kept banging on the keys like that, the piano wouldn’t play nice music anymore. Round-eyed, one of them asked in horror, “You mean it will only play rock and roll?”

**I still haven’t embraced AC/DC’s music, but at least I can tolerate it now. My husband seems happy with that. J

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2 responses to “Listen to the Music: Using the power of sound to influence writing”

  1. Paul Anthony Shortt Avatar

    My playlist is made up of load of film scores and songs I find either encouraging or appropriate to the theme of whatever I happen to be writing at the time. I always work better when i have my music playing. Aside from it helping the flow of writing, I also find it helps me come up with major scenes that, in my head, would suit the music if the book were a movie.

    1. lindapoitevin Avatar

      And, once Junior arrives, it will help drown out the background noise. 😉

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