Waddup Savi Crew!
Last week I wrote about Pinterest aesthetic boards where there was a main focus on the power of sight and how this can bring a character or setting to life in your story. If you missed that post, please feel free to check it out here. Well, in that same vein, we will be discussing another influential sensory tool in writing… sound.
Music is transcendent with the power to go deeper and sometimes further than most communicative devices. I have been utilising music in my writing schedule ever since I can remember and while I cannot fully attest to the effectiveness of it—at least not until my debut novel comes out, lolz—I can confirm that having a novel writing playlist is indeed beneficial and will no doubt be part of my writing routine from this day forward.
Thanks to digital music services and online audio distribution platforms like iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and Pandora in addition to royalty-free websites like Epidemic Sounds and NoCopyrightSounds on YouTube, building a writing playlist is more convenient than ever. By the way, #notsponsored.
Don’t know where to start? Well, if you’re not interested in spending time building your own writing playlists when you could be—oh I don’t know—writing your book, how about Googling “novel writing playlist” to discover the ready-made playlists where all you have to do is click and you’re ready to go.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Sio, I’m a writer, I don’t need no stinking playlist!” But please hear me out. Granted, there may be some writers out there that genuinely don’t need music to get their writerly juices flowing and I completely understand that. Established authors like James Patterson, Dan Brown and Stephen King most likely don’t pen or type their latest novel masterpiece with music playing in the background—or maybe they do. Aspiring writers such as myself can really use as much help as we can get. Music, inspirational ambience, scented candles, etc. Bottom-line, it couldn’t hurt to try.
Still having doubts? Okay, so you’re not fully convinced, I get that. How about some convincing examples?
Suppose you have a scene in your novel that appears happy on the surface but conceals a dark underbelly. Then you’d require a happy song with dark lyrics. For example, “Sugarcane” by Sleigh Bells or “Pumped up Kicks” by Foster the People. These songs sound happy and listeners might be misled by the cheerful guitar and drum sounds however the lyrics are quite depressing. The former chronicles the life of a sugarcane farmer while the latter describes the homicidal thoughts of a troubled and delusional youth’s perspective.
Are words distracting from your writerly goals instead of adding to them? No problem. There are numerous instrumentals, movie scores and soundtracks to choose from. For example, “This Land” by Hans Zimmer a.k.a. the song that played when Simba walked up Pride Rock to reclaim his throne after he defeated Scar near the end of The Lion King. Okay, so your climax doesn’t involve an animated King of the Jungle per say, however, the epicness of the score matches the mood you were going for. Then use it.
If music isn’t really your thing (I know, hard to believe but it could happen) or your novel idea cannot be easily categorised into any of the gazillion songs out there in the universe (again, it could happen), maybe sound effects might be more your speed. Is your novel set in a school or college campus? Then classroom noises, hallway background sounds and cafeteria sounds effects might help to set the scene. Is your main character whizzing down a busy highway to declare their affection to their love interest? The ambient noises of busy streets, city roads and New York traffic might help tap into your other senses. You see where I’m going with this.
Basically the sky is the limit with regard to collating a novel writing playlist. As I mentioned earlier, I have utilised this technique with all my novels so far and will continue to utilise them. My debut novel, Life of Gabby: The Drake Chronicles, is a middle grade contemporary fiction romance about a chatty African-American teenager who is eager to spread her wings in high school while dodging the social landmines of her overprotective mother and nosy younger sister. It’s light, funny with life lessons along the way. Thus, I needed to immerse myself in a light and funny musical world. Songs like “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake and “Good Morning” by Kanye West really helped to elevate my story in ways that writing in silence never could.
Conversely my current WIP, Keiji: Bloodlines is a YA anime-inspired fantasy about a plucky teenager who wants to find adventure with her reliable best friend when she is confronted by a merciless hooded vigilante with news that reignites a hundred year old rivalry and destroys the only family she has ever known. There is a lot of dark subjects like bloody swordfights and decapitation—one character is even stoned to death. Cheery songs wouldn’t cut it here. If I wanted readers to feel my character’s angst with every turn of the page, I needed to dig deep.
Songs like “Disarm” by Smashing Pumpkins, “My Own Prison” by Creed and “Battle Symphony” by Linkin Park make up some of my Keiji: Bloodlines playlist. A quick confession: I needed to take a break ever so often between scenes because this particular playlist and heck, the story itself at times, is quite depressing. Thank God, I have two months off to focus on rainbows and butterflies before I have to edit and revise that first draft in July for Camp Nano!
My point is, having a novel writing playlist is more beneficial than not. Please feel free to comment below whether or not you utilise a writing playlist and if it has helped your writerly routine in any way. Credit to YouTube for providing the links to all the songs used in this blog post.
Again, sorry for the extra-long post, music has always been a topic of immense interest for me. Please don’t get me started! Anyways, I’m rambling again which means it’s time to sign off… Toodles for now.
And remember, no matter where you live, take a little time to enjoy the island life!