Posts Tagged ‘music’

Where to Find Story Ideas: Music

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:

  • Melody/musicality
  • Lyrics
  • Attitude

Melody/musicality

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

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.

Attitude

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?

Mid-December Music Interlude

We’ve talked previously about writing and music, Squiders, and I thought the lot of you might want some alternatives to the never-ending Christmas music.

Last Thursday my husband and I braved below freezing temperatures to go to a Sonata Arctica concert (and were up past midnight on a work night! Madness). Anyway, because so much of this year has been dedicated to marketing and revision, I haven’t had a lot of chance to listen to long swathes of music, and I haven’t gotten much of a chance to listen to my beloved symphonic metal (excellent for writing epic fantasy–not so good for the more left-brained activities).

Anyway, I was inspired, and I thought the lot of you might like some music recommendations as well, since the last post went over so well.

Sonata Arctica was touring with Omnium Gatherum and Leaves’ Eyes. Omnium is melodic death metal and is not particularly my cup of tea (too much growling), so I’m not recommending any of their stuff. If they sound interesting to you, feel free to check them out.

Leaves’ Eyes is symphonic metal, but I haven’t listened to them in some years. I was very pleased to see they’ve gotten quite a bit better. They were fun live as well, with the male vocalist coming out in full viking armor for the last few songs. This was one of my favorite songs from their set:

Leaves’ Eyes – Sword in Rock

Sonata Arctica is more power metal than symphonic, but I am fond of them, especially their earlier stuff from the early 2000s. Their more modern stuff is less to my taste though there are still songs I enjoy. Hard to pick one to share. Here’s one that falls between the older stuff and the newer stuff.

Sonata Arctica – I Have a Right

And now some off the radio to round out the post:

There’s a riff in the chorus that gets me every time.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Fire Escape

This one has a nice message, plus an interesting twist on things.

Alessia Cara – Scars to Your Beautiful

And to go back to the symphonic metal for a minute, here’s a song that got me through the climax of the third book of my high fantasy trilogy. (And the music video has spawned a novel-length plotbunny of its own.)

Within Temptation – Paradise

(Seriously, though, if you’ve not checked out symphonic metal, you are missing out.)

Anyway, Squiders, hope this tides you over for a bit! Let me know if you’ve heard any songs that have really stuck with you lately! (Also love symphonic metal? Let us geek out together.)

Musical Interlude

Let’s continue our never-ending attempt to see if I can get YouTube videos to embed here.

You guys know that I think music is an excellent way to help you get tone and mood when writing, and depending on what you’re listening to, can also help inspire scenes, characterization, or even whole plotlines.

I’ve got a ton of work on my hands at the moment, so today I’m going to share five songs that I’ve recently heard on the radio that have caught my interest (not necessarily from a story-telling point of view). Some of you guys may find some inspiration in them. Let me know in the comments if you’ve heard these and what you think of them.

First up: Cheap Thrills by Sia

I like the beat but this one is sadly starting to enter “overplayed” territory ’round these parts. Oh! I also take absolutely no responsibility for the music videos.

Next: Just Like fire by Pink

It’s sad that this song is linked to what I hear is a terrible movie, but alas.

On to: Critical Mistakes by 888

My husband tells me this video is sad though I have not watched it myself. This is a local band, as is the next one, I believe.

Onwards: Your Love Could Start a War by the Unlikely Candidates

This one is the most plotty for me, personally.

And finally: Tell Me Baby by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

I know this is an older song, but for some reason it’s been getting a lot of airtime lately, which reminds me that I like the chorus.

Any good songs you’ve heard lately? Share!

When Things You Love Betray You

Have you ever really loved something, only to have that thing/person/band/television show/etc. do something that so completely turns you off you have to just cut them out of your life?

And you feel silly about it, because it’s just a band/movie/fandom/etc. and in the great scheme of things it’s not really all that important, but at the same time you’re really upset, because you put a lot of time and effort into whatever, and even though you know it has absolutely nothing to do with you, you can’t help but feel a sense of betrayal.

I was ditzing around with my trilogy playlist again this morning, and I came across some Nightwish music. You guys have probably heard me talk about Nightwish before. They’re a symphonic metal band from Finland, and they were the first band I truly loved. I knew all the members’ names and stalked every new single and album. (Of which I own a lot.)

Nightwish has been since 1999 or something. I found them in 2006, while they were between singers. They’d apparently asked the first one to leave, had an open letter explaining why on their website, and they’d yet to announce a replacement. So I found them and fell in love with them in this lull, and then they hired a new singer and released a new single and I loved her and I loved the song and I loved everything.

I saw them in concert every time they swung through the States. The latest time was in October 2012. I’d talked some friends into going to the concert, but the whole thing turned out to be a whole mess. Apparently the singer had had to go to the hospital because she was so sick, so they decided to play the set without her, recruiting the back-up vocalists from the opening band to sing. Now, these girls are excellent singers in their own rights, but they didn’t know the music (and at one point weren’t even singing the right song). It was painful. And I was embarrassed, because it was honestly the worst concert I’d ever been to, and I’d dragged my friends along and they will probably never go to a concert with me again.

One bad night doesn’t equal betrayal. But the next day, after she recovered, the singer expressed some disappointment that they’d decided to go on without her or without even asking her, and the band fired her.

It’s entirely possible that they were already having issues, but that was what did it for me. Firing one singer might have been a fluke, but two seems like just part of a horrible trend. I was so appalled at their behavior that I haven’t been able to listen to them since without this horrible feeling sinking into my stomach.

(I did listen to a couple of songs this morning and damn if the music isn’t amazing. Still upset about it, though.)

Has anything/anyone who’ve really loved ever done something that’s turned you off?

The Progression of Playlists

While we’re on writing processes this week, I’ve run into an interesting issue with my playlist for my current project. (We’ve talked about story playlists¬†before, but to sum up, I tend to make playlists for each story project with songs that fit based off lyrics, tone, and whatever floats my boat at the moment.)

I’ve had a playlist for the trilogy forever, with songs that reflect different points of all three books, and some that are reflective of characters. Occasionally I add songs, but I’ve never taken a song off.

But now, when I’m working on the third book, the playlist suddenly isn’t working. It turns out that, while listening to book three songs while working on books one and two worked just fine, I can’t listen to books one and two songs while writing book three.

On one hand, I guess it’s good that the books have gone through enough of a progression that the songs don’t work, but on the other, I don’t have enough book three-specific songs to keep me going for more than about twenty minutes.

Writing a trilogy is a bit like writing a longer novel. The points that you hit in a novel–the initiating point, the turning point, the dark moment, the climax–all happen in a trilogy as well, just on a bigger basis. (Well, and each individual novel still needs to hit them too.) So I guess it makes sense that, while a single playlist might work all the way through a single novel, it might not work for a trilogy.

But, for now, I’m going to need to spend some time trolling the airwaves. Anybody have any artists to recommend?

The Music of Shards

A few years back (oh, 2009 or so) I started making novel playlists. These are songs that, somehow, evoke a character, a scene, or the overall story for me. A lot of times it’s related to lyrics, and I find that different stories tend to work better with different genres of music. For example, for my high fantasy stuff I listen to a lot of symphonic metal. With my urban stuff, I find a lot more dance music sneaks in.

Shards is a urban fantasy novel being released December 1st from Turtleduck Press. I made a YouTube playlist just for you guys, so you can listen to the whole thing, or you can pick and choose which songs you’d like to listen to.

Shards Playlist (whole thing)

  1. Good Girl (Carrie Underwood)
  2. Mi Amore (Velvet)
  3. DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love (Usher)
  4. Chemistry (Velvet)
  5. You Give Love a Bad Name (Bon Jovi)
  6. Like a Prayer (Madonna)
  7. Take Me Away (Globus)
  8. Fix Me (Velvet)
  9. In This Light (Queensryche)
  10. If I Lose Myself (OneRepublic/Alesso)
  11. Fight For You (Jason Derulo)
  12. Higher Love (Steve Winwood)

I’m curious, do you feel like you get an impression of the story just by listening to the music, and if so, what is it? I’d love to know if your mind works the same way as mine or not.

Add Some Symphonic Metal to Your Writing Playlist

Man, I apparently cannot get my Thursdays together this month. New plan: write them on Wednesday.

Are you familiar with symphonic metal? It is a fantastic genre of music, especially if you write fantasy like I do. If you’re someone who can listen to music when writing (with lyrics or no, both are readily available in this genre), then you should definitely look into it. It has all the things I like about metal (heavy bass, somewhat tribal drums) without the growling and screaming that some other metal genres feel the need to incorporate. Plus, as the name implies, oftentimes you have a full symphony present performing.

Add to that the fact that some songs have fantastical lyrics, and it’s great plotbunny fodder.

It’s closely related to power metal and epic metal. I’m not quite sure what the defining lines are between the genres.

I thought I’d provide you some bands to look at if this sounds like something that appeals to you. I came across the genre purely by accident, and it has been the best random thing to come into my life.

Symphonic bands to look into (almost all of these are European bands; for some reason we don’t put out a lot of this genre here in the states) – I’ve included a song for each for easy exploring:

1. Within Temptation Our Solemn Hour
2. Sonata Arctica Flag in the Ground
3. Nightwish – (two different vocalists, so you get two songs) End of All Hope, Escapist
4. Dreamtale Lucid Times
5. Amaranthe Amaranthine
6. Van Canto – (a capella metal) Water, Fire, Heaven, Earth
7. Symphony X Out of the Ashes
8. Rhapsody of FireEmerald Sword
9. Xandria Sisters of the Light
10. Bare Infinity Always Forever

What do you think, Squiders? What’s your favorite genre of writing music? Any symphonic metal band recommendations?