Updated: Dec 28, 2020
To say I love music is a bit of an understatement if the 17 GB’s of music on my PC are anything to go by. Music has always been a big part of the creative process for me. Back before I started writing my stories down, I would create them through custom playlists. By linking the story ideas to music, I could remember them better, and by putting them in a playlist I could keep the story going longer, instead of each thought being a one-off.
To this day, I still use music to help me plot out and write my stories. Sometimes I’ll just hear a song and suddenly see a scene in my head. If I’m struggling with a particular section and it doesn’t have an assigned song, I can find one to help me figure out what happens next. Lastly, music is simply a great way to block out the rest of the world and focus on whatever I need to focus on at the time.
Building the Story
My favorite genre of music is soundtracks for movies, TV shows, and videogames. This kind of music lends itself to storytelling amazingly. This is largely due to the fact that the scores were composed to help tell the story in question. If they can help tell those stories, why can’t they help me tell my own?
Since high school, I have used music to build the groundwork for my stories. Back then, it was a fun way to keep myself entertained during lunch, or on the bus coming home from school. Nowadays, it’s a plotting tool. I use the music to plot out basic structure points within the story, especially at times where I can’t write for the particular story idea because I’m focusing on another project. With a playlist, I can build the groundwork for a story so I can come back later and really work on it.
There are some times where writing to a song doesn’t work. There are tricks that movies and musicals can do that are a bit hard to successfully pull off in written work. Primarily, that would be montages. A montage to a good song can work out fine in a movie or TV show, but on paper, not so much. The amount of times I’ve caught myself trying to throw a montage into my writing because a song made me think it was a good idea is far too high. I’m sure with enough effort it could be done, but I’ve yet to figure out the right way to do it.
Getting out of a Tight Spot
Writer’s block, the struggle all writers fear and a lot of people are looking for a way to get out of it. There are two ways I can get past a writer’s block wall. One is by reanalyzing my story’s beat sheet. The other is through finding the right music for the section.
I’ve got several playlists for different types of music, though probably not the types you’re thinking of. Some are based on emotions, such as anger, happiness, and sadness. Others are more feelings-based, such as fear or friendship. Then there are playlists for the seasons and different types of weather. Doing all of this sounds like a lot of work, but it has really helped me. With the right music, I can help guide my thoughts through a scene so that I know what to write.
Understanding story beats can help in finding the right song for a scene as well. You can use the beats to break apart the movie or TV show, identify what songs go with what beats, and then choose the right one for the part you are writing.
Don’t Talk to Me, I’m Writing
One of the great parts of using music to write is that it helps block out the rest of the world. This is especially true when using headphones. The headphones not only play the music but help completely block out anything else going on, which is very beneficial. This way, you can focus on the music and your writing.
Combine this with the fact the music can help guide my emotions, and I can get a whole lot of writing done. Once I put my headphones in, I know it is time for work. Now if the rest of the world could catch on to that fact.
Find What Works For You
Music is fantastic on its own, but when used as a tool for writing, it can become incredibly powerful. From helping me plot out my stories to getting past rough patches, music has done a lot for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without music.
There is the fact that not everyone is the same, and things that work for me, may not work for you. I know of plenty of people who find music distracting. I also know plenty of people who listen to podcasts and YouTube videos while working. The point is, find what works for you.
If you want to give music a try while writing, but are worried it might be too distracting, I’d recommend video game soundtracks. This music is designed to play on repeat and fade away into the background during gameplay. Personally, I’d recommend:
Minecraft. Both volumes Alpha and Beta have soft, easy to listen to music. They have a few songs that are a bit more active, but nothing super exciting due to the nature of the game. I’ve created a Spotify playlist of the two albums without the more exciting record songs here.
Slime Rancher. This is another fun, but relaxed score with a bit of a western feel to it. The game’s music breaks down by map regions, and each region has a different version that plays depending on the time of day in-game.
Stardew Valley. This has a wide variety of sounds, with most of them being pretty relaxed and enjoyable.
Fallout 4. I personally love this soundtrack, it can be calm and hauntingly beautiful, perfect for wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland. However, it does have a lot of action songs for combat moments that you may need to weed out to keep the music calm. I’ve created a Spotify playlist without the fight songs here.
Nightsky. This one isn’t actually a soundtrack, but I love this album by Tracey Chattaway. The whole album is beautifully calm and great for rainy days. I cannot recommend it enough.
I love music, and as I figure out how to use Wix’s website builder more and more, and get closer to the release of The Dead World, I plan on sharing some of the playlists I’ve created for the book, its world, and my characters.