When it comes to the arts of voice and instrument, I am not the most gifted of individuals. I can carry a tune as long as the range isn’t too extreme, and I can play a few simple melodies on the piano; however, for the most part, I rely upon more talented men and women to delight the world with song. I’ve always loved music, but it became even more special to me when I realized how important it can be to the writing process.
I still remember the first time, in a brief but life-altering moment, it came to me that I could imagine stories to go along with songs.. I was a little girl, sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s car, and we were enjoying a local station that played classical music when this thought entered my head. Of course, the thought that music is good not only for listening pleasure, but also inspiration, seems obvious to me, now, but at the time, I was wonder-struck. Suddenly, music wasn’t just beautiful – there was a kind of magic to it. Ever since then, songs have made both me and my imagination dance.
For me, story-telling is about characters. I love the fantasy genre, but if the characters who run around being wizards and fighting dragons and saving the day aren’t compelling or interesting or if they do things for the sake of the plot rather then for the sake of themselves – I just don’t care. Because of this, when I use music for inspiration, I focus on using it to try to learn more about my characters. I find songs that remind me of them: how they think, feel, and behave in certain situations. I don’t feel I really know a character until I start finding songs for them. From there, I find songs that help me visualize the places my characters will be, the atmosphere of the worlds that belong to the story. Sometimes, songs bring to life scenes of action or moments of romance. I never know what will grow out of a song once I touch my story to it, or, what will grow out of my story once I give it a song.
When I begin to brainstorm a story, sometimes all I have in mind is one person, or a general feeling I want to communicate. I listen to songs that remind me of that one person, or communicate the feeling I want to capture with my words. I know I’m getting close to being ready to write a story when I can make a kind of soundtrack for it: a mish-mash of songs, some with words, some without; some for the characters, and some for the action, and some for the stream threading through forested mountain valleys or sunrise-touched farms.
Most writers want their words to sing, one way or another. Seems to make sense that music be part of the writing itself.