First of all, squiders, I want to let you know about this site called Fighter’s Block. Along with sites like Write or Die or Written Kitten, it adds in a little twist to offer some motivation for writing. In this case, you get an adventurer to go up against a monster with HP equal to your current word count goal. As you write, the monster takes damage. If you don’t write, the monster damages you. Not sure what happens if you lose all your HP, but it’s been a fun boost this past week, and if it sounds like it might help you, go for it!
Moving along with our idea generation series, today we’re going to talk about music as inspiration.
Music can inspire in a number different ways, but it works differently for different people. Whether inspiration hits is always individual to the creator–something that gives one person shivers down their spine could do nothing for someone else. But music tends to be even more so, because some people find it too distracting to use in their creative process. Some people can only listen to instrumental music, whereas others require complete silence.
(Me? I’m listening to Adam Lambert’s Never Close Our Eyes as I type this, so I’m good with whatever.)
Music has a lot of different aspects that can be used for inspiration, however. Even instrumental music can be used to help establish tone and mood. I’ve found it useful to listen to appropriate instrumental music when I need a specific mood for a story, which is essential for some genres.
Some aspects of music that can be used for inspiration:
As we mentioned above, the feel or tone of music can help provide you with the inspiration for the mood of your story. This can be very broad. Music has a lot of emotion to it, and you can manipulate it to be what you need. I find this works best for short stories, which tend to have a consistent tone throughout due to their length, but I’ve also had specific songs that have inspired scenes in novels. If you’re writing a sad scene, you can listen to music that says “sadness” to you. If you’d like a heavy, Gothic feel to your story, there’s music for that as well. In fact, if you know the tone or mood you’re going for, you can just go to YouTube and type “sad songs” or “mad songs” or whatever into the search bar, and someone’s probably made a video for it.
Lyrics are perhaps the most versatile way to use music as inspiration. A single line from a song can spark a scene, a character, a relationship. Whole songs can inspire plots or premises. A lot of them have a storytelling aspect to them that translates well for inspiration.
NOTE: Some genres may be more useful than others depending on what you’re working on and what genres you tend to write. I listen to a lot of symphonic metal, which I find very helpful for my main genre of high fantasy. If you’re not having any luck with what you typically listen to, you might try something else that may be more appropriate. I tend to switch music when working in different genres.
Sometimes a song matches the exact attitude of a story or a character even if the tone or the lyrics aren’t the best fit. These can be helpful because they can help you round out ideas and get a better feel for what you’re going for.
An example of this: This song (For Your Entertainment, Adam Lambert) matches the attitude for one of the characters from Shards even though the music genre/lyrics aren’t exactly appropriate.
If you find a song that works for you in whatever manner, write it down somewhere. You can always make playlists on services that offer that option, but these are controlled by third parties, and sometimes songs become unavailable or services go out of business, and you lose what you’ve put together. It doesn’t hurt to have a list of songs/artists somewhere. If you keep a story organization/planning document, this can be a good place to keep track of what songs you’re using for inspiration (and for what aspect of the story the song goes with, whether it’s character, plot, a specific scene, etc.). If the inspiration is unrelated to a current story, you can also make note of the song in your idea file, with a link to the song on YouTube if applicable.
Related: Music Videos
Music videos add an additional layer into potential inspiration by adding a visual aspect to go along with the musical aspects. There’s a trend now to add a story into the music video, even if the song itself doesn’t have much of a story aspect. (See Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood video as an example of this.) I’ve found that, if you like the song in general, you may find the music video may also do something for you inspiration-wise.
Music is highly variable and how it inspires you may be completely different from how it inspires me or the next writer over. Feel free to experiment and find out what works best for you.
Leaving anything out, squiders? What song has given you some inspiration?