Hey, 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 Pandora.com. 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.