“Got something to live for, I know I won’t surrender.” –Bulletproof, Black Veil Brides
I know I usually end with a quote—and I still will—this just felt right.
This blog post will be about the importance of music while writing and for writing.
I never really just listen to music. I learn from it, in a way. I hear a song and either love it for what it is or love it because my characters do, or love it because I know it will help me during a scene.
“All the greats are the ones remembered.” New Year's Day, Black Veil Brides. I know I am taking that line out of context from the song, because BVB was not talking about writers. But how true is that line? The greats are remembered and their works with stand time. In this song they also say “Legends never die.” Which is true. Stoker, Frank, Shelley, etc., and some modern day writers are going to be the greats, and even when their physical bodies pass their works will remain. But what makes them great, I mean besides withstanding time and having great stories? I can’t say for everyone, but some writers listen to music while writing and some even say which songs they listened to while writing, and what songs helped inspire them.
I do. I am in no way calling myself a great, but I can tell you this music has shaped my writing:
(I wrote this in 2009 about writing and posted it as a note on FB, I will expand on it after)
Music plays such an important role in everyone's everyday life. Without music in life, in each day, life would be boring. Seriously, think about it. In a grocery store, or in any other store for that matter, without music, it would be an eerie quiet. More than just in places of shopping think about movies.
In any movie especially thrillers music plays a larger and bigger role than even the most famous actor. For example, look at the movie Disturbia. Even if someone has watched this movie four or more times the thriller, the intense scenes still will get to that person. The music begins with a steady drum like a heartbeat, that soon signals the bass to come in and play a few cords, which then signals the guitar to come in and screech out some high suspenseful notes, and so on. Try to watch a thriller movie muted, or any movie for that matter, it will not be as intense. The reason it will not be as intense, is the music is key to get the heart beating faster.
I am writing books and once I got my iTunes account up and running and got my songs (many thanks to my cousin for helping me with my account) I made playlists for all of my books. Each song has a key element in the books becoming movies. Listening to Version 1 playlist while typing Version 3 helps, because I know what should not go into the book, as well as listening to Version 3 playlist while typing Version 3, because it helps me to know what needs to be in the book.
It is truly amazing how one song, or one word, or one line, or one sentence, or one verse in any song can say all that is need to be said. It is amazing that either a whole song or a little piece of a song can sum up all of anyone's emotions, and it is amazing how music can help someone heal (emotionally, mentally, physically).
I did edit the above a little just now, but it still applies today.
My taste in music has changed a lot from 2008-2009 era until now. Back then I would only listen to Lifehouse, Switchfoot, Natasha Bedingfield (still love them, still listen). Now I still listen to them but I also added, Evanescence, Black Veil Brides, Automatic Loveletter, Juliet Simms, Imagine Dragons, We are the Fallen, Ben Moody, David Hodges, and of course others but those most often. Now, yes some of these bands weren’t around back then, but if they were I don’t think I would have listened to them, because I didn’t understand the full importance of music while writing, until BVB and Evanescence.
Here is a funny story, I cannot tell you for which book but one day I was on the treadmill at the gym and listening to music and I remembered that I bought BVB’s “In the End” so I put that on and fell off the treadmill. From the first notes this beautiful scene played in front of me for the end of one of my series. I literally forgot how to walk, I just froze in awe, and got thrown from the machine. I had listened to other songs before and had experiences where I saw scenes I already thought about, but this time it gave me a scene. Black Veil Brides was already a character favorite in the book and from that their music has helped shape that book. I have to thank them for that.
Juliet Simms music from Automatic Loveletter inspired the epigraph for one of my books (if we are FB friends there are a few chapters of It Started on a Thursday up if you are interested in reading some works of mine). And from that I actually want characters to meet through her in that book, I just have to go about it legally, like get permission. I feel like I am rambling and not getting my point across, but music is so important in writing, for writing.
I am not the typical bands fan. And with saying what I am about to say please don’t get offended. A lot of bands have fans that call them “heroes” because the band saved them. I get it, I do, but I am not that fan. I personally don’t think it is not fair to put that label on a band, because yes they helped the kid, but it is a big burden for the band to carry. For me, I like bands because my characters. There are very few bands that I just like because I discovered them. For example BVB I love you and am not labeling you, this was Google. I have this one fantastically gorgeous boy named Jake in Life’s not a Fantasy. He originally was going to be this emo character, like full on emo. So I Googled “emo” and Alex Evans came up as the first result, then I was looking through pictures, (I already had a face for Jake, just wanted to fine tune character traits,) then this beautiful face was on the screen so I clicked on it and it said “Andy Sixx” so I was curious and looked up him and found out that he was a lead singer in a band called Black Veil Brides. I listened and fell in love. Since then Andy and the band have gone through image and sound changes and Andy no longer goes by “Andy Sixx” but rather “Andy Biersack”. Actually no band I like was my choice it always has something to do with my books. Yeah, so I am not the typical fan. Huh, that’s weird…well this just loops back to my post about writer/character relationships. I wouldn’t like any bands probably if it wasn’t for my book.
Music helps keep me focused in writing. I sometimes listen to other books playlists while writing so I remember what goes where and don’t repeat scenes from book to book. I already have a repeated name in two different books, but the gender and spelling changes so I think I can get away with that. Ugh, I feel like this isn’t coming out right and for some reason I am having a hard time writing this. I’m listening to music right now, writing this and it is wonderful, I am having flashes of scenes coming to me, so maybe I should just give you an excerpt, yeah, that sounds good. Oh! Oh! and I will associate a song with it. Yes!
* * *
Here is a scene from a WIP (to be completed December 2013):
Que the music: Just drums, rolling a beat of various rhythms, but all letting you know something is about to go wrong.
Screaming. A girl screaming. A girl screaming and clenching her hair in her fists. A girl screaming and clenching her hair in her fists while falling to her knees on the ground.
This wasn’t any ordinary scream. No. This wasn’t just fear. This was anger. This was sadness. Harper was your ordinary school girl. She was at the time fifteen years old.
Here is where we begin.
Que the music: quiet and slow the drums some, add violins and flutes playing just a few ominous repeating notes/chords.
I felt like I was stuck in a hall of mirrors. I could see myself and other people’s reflections, but I was frozen in my terror. I could not find my way out. Every turn I made took me further into the maze. I felt like I was staring at myself from two mirrors that were directly across from each other. Every motion echoed infinitesimally, but I could see how fake it was. It was me, but it was my reflection. I started the motion and my accursed doppelgängers mimicked my every motion. I couldn’t break free. I wanted to crash through the mirrors. I wanted to watch them tumble to the ground in a chain reaction like large silver reflective and distorted dominoes.
It wasn’t my fault, but it kind of is. It is all of our faults. Possibly mostly mine. I didn’t see it. I should have. I remember Jessica aimlessly pulling me to my feet. I remember grabbing onto her shoulders just in time for the both of us to fall to the ground. I was a mess. I never cried so hard in my life. April 11 a Thursday. I will never forget. This was the day I walked into the school gymnasium for a shortcut because I was running late to school. I kept my head below the windows and walked in the shadows that when I heard it. It sounded like a belt being slapped on itself but duller, then came the awful gurgling. (Que the music change again: take away the flutes and a bass playing a low and repeating note, just one, sometimes it is held out, other times it is short) I looked towards the sound and saw his body swinging from the rafters. I started screaming/I started to scream.
Que music again: add in a symphony.
Parker was struggling. He was stuck between life and death. He was slowly dying in front of me and fighting with every ounce of strength he had left in him to reverse his previous action. He now wanted to live. I started screaming and his eyes flashed to mine. He reached his left hand out to me. I touched his hand and his finger nails scratched my skin, leaving small red marks. I pulled my phone out and dialed 911. I said nothing to the operator I just screamed.
* * *
So I don’t officially have a song for this scene, for other scenes, yes, but that is further in the book, and they are not written yet and would give away too much.
30 Seconds to Mars is another favorite of mine, and thank god I wasn’t driving, I had the BVB experience with them. A song of their newest album, Love Lust Faith + Dreams, made me freeze. I saw a character rising from something, while another fell to their knees screaming. Can’t tell you the song specifically, the scene, or the book, mostly because it will not be in the book. This will be something that is a movie exclusive only once I’m published and have movie rights, so fingers crossed!
Peace, Love, and Inspiration
Keep writing and remember
Quotes: “Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can't.” –Johnny Depp
“Music is the universal language of mankind.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Where words fail, music speaks.” –Hans Christian Andersen