Bringing Back the Mixed-Tape

mix-tapeHey, remember cassette tapes? Good times. Back in the day, mixed-tapes were all the rage. What better way to say “I love you,” than a tape filled with your loved one’s favorite tunes? When I was in high-school, the mixed-tape was a required prerequisite to asking anyone out. And while digital media has made the mixed-tape a thing of the past, the concept can be super valuable in writing.

Here are some things that music can do for your writing:

1. Better inform you of your characters: Just as you have taste in music, so do your characters. Imagine making a mixed-tape for them. What tracks would be included? Why? Remember, these won’t always be similar to your taste (though mostly they will). Try picking a character that enjoys a different type of music than you. What genre do they prefer? Why? Study the music, and listen to it with their ears. Find the ways to appreciate what your character appreciates.

2. Prepare you to write the difficult scenes: When you have a particularly challenging scene to write, perhaps one wrought with pathos or drama, or heavy with action, and you find yourself struggling, music can help push you through the scene. It can better inspire the emotion within you that you’re trying to formulate on the page.

3. Inspire you through writer’s block: When I get stuck in a novel, I’ll often turn on my MP3 player and tune the world out. While I listen, I move my fingers over the keys of the keyboard and imagine typing. Sometimes, I’ll type nonsense until something comes out, something that makes sense. This can often jump start a challenging scene or help me figure out where the story must go next.

Aside from your MP3 player, there are several options to broaden your musical horizon. The one I like best is It’s a staple of my writing. I like it because I don’t have to choose a particular playlist. I can have it shuffle through several different “stations” and hear something new, rather than the same songs twenty times a day.

Spotify is another quality program. You can listen to virtually any song on demand, freely and legally. This is great when you’re looking for a particular tune. And speaking of tunes, there’s always iTunes. I’ll go ahead and assume you know what that is.

7 thoughts on “Bringing Back the Mixed-Tape”

  • Aaron,

    I love using music to inspire my writing. When I was working on my first novel last year, I created a novel soundtrack that I played while I was drafting certain scenes or even in my car when I was driving back and forth from my day job to keep the story in the front of my brain (so to speak). I recommend the Skillet station on Pandora for supernatural fiction. 🙂 Love the other ideas in this post as well.

  • Music is the way we can all express ourselves, focus , and become inspired. when stressed, many turn to music to wined down. Usually when I start to become overwhelmed while writing a novel and/or poem I turn to music for guidance . Either I get stuck and need to be inspired, or I need to get in touch with my character. Like in one of my story’s, I have a character that is into goth, and even though I am very fond of goth I just couldn’t embrace her without the help of music.

  • Music is my inspiration, it inspires me with what my stories are going to be like. The lyrics in songs sometimes are very important parts to the story i am currently writing. Also whenever im stuck on what to write next i turn to music. i listen to my iPod and try and see if a story comes into mind. Music usually helps me when i try and make up good chracters.

  • That is so true Gansky! So many of my major scenes have been greatly influenced by the music I had listened to at the time. I find myself every time I go back to a certain scene to tweek it, I end up not feeling the emotion I wanted to evoke, since I hadn’t been listening to the song when I went back. Sometimes I wish the song could be played while the person is reading, just to give it that umph. But it’s definitely a big factor when it comes to writing, like you said, because it builds character and pulls a couple strings of the reader.

  • My brother and I are actually working together on a story but he doesn’t care much for writing. The story he told me is actually sad but I never wrote a sad story before so I listened to sad music to help me describe what is going on in the story in a depressing tone to help set the mood. Not only does it do that, it also help me develop some ideas that I really think will fit. Music is wonderful way to inspire you on what to do a certain scene. Sometimes when I’m done with that scene, I will reread it without the music and I began to say, “Wow! I did this?” I just type on youtube and other places what kind of music I want to listen to and it there for me to listen.
    I already have pandora for me to use but I’ll try spotify.

  • My current novel project was actually inspired by music. I enjoy taking the lyrics of certain songs and writing scenes or characters based on them. Sometimes I don’t even need the lyrics–I just need the feel of the music. Even if the scenes or characters don’t make it into the story, it’s still a good exercise to use when it doesn’t seem like the main storyline is going anywhere.
    …Unfortunately, this computer is remotely stupid. Actually, it’s ridiculously stupid. The soundcard inexplicably broke earlier this year and has not yet been fixed or replaced. In other words, my computer is more or less mute. I’ve found myself relying on my very limited CD collection, but its slight, ah, size issue makes things significantly more difficult…

  • Music and writing go hand in hand, just because there is always a specific set of songs for a certain scene. There’s songs that inspire sadness and ssome that inspire action, the great thing is that no matter what you are writing, there’s always at least one song you can use for motivation.

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