How music helps you write

How music enhances your writing

Imagine a movie without soundtracks – something would just be missing. And often soundtracks are just the supporting role for what is going on to set the mood of something either relaxing, or something important. Sometimes music also foreshadows that something bad is about to happen.

So why not set that mood for yourself when you’re writing stuff, or working on any project? Especially in writing, you’re literally seeing a blank piece of paper with moving words as you’re typing them, and you’re hearing the slow voice in your head read these words out.

I often talk in my other posts that the best way to write a book is to immerse yourself as if you’re watching a movie. Feel what the reader would feel in real time as you’re writing it, but make it so much more by having a list of tracks ready at your disposal. I have an abnormal amount of music in my folders, mostly from movies, games and sometimes anime, because those types of soundtracks are the ones that do best at playing the ‘supportive’ role of merely enhancing your own experience.

I’d abstain from songs because if the lyrics are too bright it might conflict with the voice in your head that’s reading what you’re typing. However songs are totally fine when you’re working on non-typing related things. I listen to songs all the time while doing any sort of Photoshop work. Back when I first wrote my fourth book, Merge, it was a story about how the old fantasy worlds (like Elves and Wizards) merged into our current world and it was chaos and a total mess. So for the cover I was experimenting with this idea, which I ended up changing completely later.

After I was done compositing it (left), I had a sudden change of mood for my music and listened to some dark and heavy metal. I ended up with the result on the right, and what I was listening to truly reflected on my work.

You can see that besides filling in some more details, I went with more robust, darker and redder colors to truly try to portray that the story wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, which was the case on the left side due to me listening to peaceful music, which conflicted with what the story was supposed to be.

This isn’t it though! I take it to as many levels as I can. When my character is having coffee, I’m having it right with him. When my character is crying, I end up crying with him. When my character hit his head too hard, I hit my head with my knuckles a bit to make sure I don’t forget in a few minutes that my character is still in pain. With music, my pace, my atmosphere and my way of writing shifts and flows differently. Dialogue is peaceful, smooth and keeps going in one straight line. Action is fast paced, often with a conclusion of either victory or defeat, and so my writing takes a more urgent turn. Like, oh frick! Bad stuff is happening! Quick!! Do something!!

My second most favorite thing to do apart from music, is sound effects. Rain, fireplace, next to a river, creeks on the floor of a haunted house, I’ve listened to it all. If your characters are sitting somewhere specific, there’s probably sound effects for that type of area out there.

It all works!

Give it a try if you haven’t already, and if you’re already doing it then good job!

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