Music has the power to transform, to bring memories crashing over us like a wave, to elicit emotions we thought long buried. This evocative medium can play a huge role in the creative process. For some writers it’s just background noise to drown out the world around them. For others, songs with lyrics disrupt their flow of words to the page. But for me, music is an essential step in getting deep into my characters’ heads and bringing them to life.
My symbiotic relationship with music started with a fascination for movie soundtracks. One of the first I remember was 1968’s OLIVER! (no, I wasn’t born then, darlings, I saw it during a rerelease in the 70’s J). After my grandma took me to see it, I begged until she bought me the two-disc album set. I spent hours upon hours listening to the soundtrack in my room, staring at the movie-stills on the cover, reliving everything the characters had gone through and imagining what might happen to them after the credits rolled.
Over the years, a diverse array of soundtracks captured my interest, including, but not limited to: The Wizard of Oz, Grease, Urban Cowboy, Xanadu, Footloose, Purple Rain, Top Gun, Les Miserables (Listened to this one until the cassette tape warped!)
Growing up, a soundtrack was always playing in my head; songs appropriate for whatever drama I was going through at the time. Maybe this is why I love shows like GLEE and SMASH. Because it doesn’t seem at all strange to me when people burst into spontaneous song in the bowling alley…since I often belted out ballads in my head as I traversed the halls of my high school.
Is it any wonder that my first young adult novel, DOON (co-written by the fab Ms. Carey Corp) is a re-imagining of the classic musical, Brigadoon!?!
So when it comes to writing fictional characters, music not only inspires me as a writer, but becomes part of who my character are. In DOON, Veronica Welling is a born optimist who’s been throat punched by disappointment her entire life. When she meets the boy of her dreams, it’s hard to let her guard down and believe in happily ever after. Two songs that personify this character for me are: The Only Exception by Paramore and Arms by Christina Perri. If I’ve been away from Veronica for a while, all I have to do is listen to these songs and I’m instantly in her head.
For my hero, Jamie MacCrae, the tortured, outwardly stoic, crown prince of Doon, getting in his head is as simple as listening to – Falls on Me by Fuel or You and Me by Lifehouse.
Likewise, I have songs that transport me into the relationship between two characters. For the angst-ridden romance between Prince Jamie and Veronica, the song that gets me there every time is the haunting ballad, Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars.
I also have songs for specific scenes; action sequences, the black moment, the climax, etc. I end up with quite an extensive playlist by the time a novel is completed. Some may see this detailed attention to music as a distraction, but the muse inside my head demands it. J
Who would’ve thought that little girl wistfully dreaming about Oliver and The Artful Dodger would now be creating soundtracks for her own characters. I *love* being a writer!
Your turn! What movie soundtracks had an impact on your life? For you writers out there, do you write to music? Create playlists for your characters? Or would that disrupt your creative flow?