Play That Funky Music

If a picture paints a thousand words, music paints a thousand pictures.   Laura Whitcomb


By:Stacey Purcell


Good Morning Muse Trackers! I’m on my third day of NaNo and am far too caffeinated for my own good.

If you’re not familiar with NaNo, there is a minimum word count that you are supposed to hit every day of around 1700 words. That is no small feat! I’m a slow writer by nature so pushing myself like that is very difficult. So far, I’ve hit above the word count and am on cloud nine.

Yesterday, I threw out a question on the NaNoers FB page and was surprised by the number of passionate responses that popped up.

What do you listen to while you write?

Some swore by classical, others claimed silence was their auditory muse. A few liked Korn, and jazz mixed with blues filled the air with the rest of the responses. Wow- what an eclectic mix!

Laura Whitcomb wrote Novel Shortcuts and covered this topic in her wonderful book on the craft of writing. (If you haven’t read it yet, treat yourself.) She puts together actual soundtracks for her novels. It’s a collection of music that captures the mood and action of her storytelling. It’s important for her to find musical pieces that “speak directly to the real emotion driving the novel”.

This would be an interesting technique to try on my next novel. Perhaps if I had a specific soundtrack, the music might help me blast past the walls I run into that stop me dead in the water! Sounds good. I’m too far into this novel and NaNo is pushing me forward with an insistent call of the word count, so it will have to wait.

Pandora is a wonderful thing and a quick way of putting on types of music. I’ve created several different types of music stations that fit either my mood or the mood of the scene I’m writing. My Robin Trower (a blues/rock guitarist who’s been compared Jimi Hendricks) station got me through an emotional push and pull between my two main characters  yesterday. This faded into my Josh Groban station when she described the death of her father. Whew! Talk about a stretch in one day.

Laura Whitcomb ends her chapter with a recommended list of music. I’ll pass that on to you. Good luck with your writing today! Let me know what you like to listen to when you commune with your keyboard.

Laura’s List:

The Others by Alejandro Amenbar- strange, dangerous, and anguished

Ladies in Lavender by Nigel Hess- romantic, pure, and charming

Kingdom of Heaven by Harry Gregson-Williams- stark, passionate, and enchanted

Hamlet by Patrick Doyle- honorable, aching, and pensive

Gladiator by Hans Zimmer- Celtic, rueful, and heroic

The Lord of the Rings by Howard Shore- ethereal, nostalgic, and ominous

Carnivale by Jeff Beal- bleak, desolate, tender, and eerie

Titanic by James Horner- haunting, sweet, and grand

Henry V by Patrick Doyle- courtly, noble, and pastoral

Munich by John Williams- ancient, holy, and heartbreaking

19 Responses to Play That Funky Music

  1. William says:

    Interesting subject, Stacey! I blogged about this on Halloween:

    The louder the better for me….:)


  2. I missed this blog! Not sure how I did that- so sorry! You know I love your blog. Will pop over right now to see what you had to say.

    Personal note- If you can get away to come to Story Masters, please try. It is so awesome, my brain is jello now. Great stuff and my manuscript just took a huge leap forward!!


  3. jeff7salter says:

    I’m not participating in NaNo, but I pretty much need total silence as I write. Music would distract me terribly — my brain follows the music, if it’s familiar, and predicts the coming notes or changes. Or it picks out the bass line or the percussion subtleties.
    In other words: total derailment.
    Right now, I can hear a moderate rain outside. Other than that, only my keys clacking as I type. Perfect.


  4. Hey Jeff- Can you say ADD??? I know you told me you get easily distracted, but rain?? HAHAHA
    Silence is golden and there are days when I’m so productive with only my thoughts running through my head.


  5. jeff7salter says:

    LOL. I meant to say that the sound of rain was relaxing and conducive to writing.
    Like right now, I can hear the dishwasher in the next room. That’s good background noise for me.


  6. Well with a good whoosh whoosh to you tonight, I bid you adieu. May clean dishes and a clean mind keep you writing til the cows come home.


  7. jbrayweber says:

    I love to listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks. They are perfect for writing about, well, pirates.

    I, too, listen to Pandora. When I’m not writing, I rock, and rock hard! But when I’m listening to music, I have the station tuned to soundtracks. There are so many great theme music that can really help put me in the writing mood.


  8. Pandora is the next best thing to sliced bread!! I love Pirates soundtrack as well. The music is beautiful and it fits well with suspense too!


  9. Tess says:

    I tend to have a song for each book and while writing certain parts, I will play the song over and over again while I write…at other times I don’t want any music…it’s strange. It would take me a year to decide on a soundtrack though…LOL…I need to spend that time writing!


  10. I don’t think I’ll ever be disciplined enough to pull together a whole writing soundtrack, but I really like the concept. Sooo…I took the easy way out and plugged in some of her song suggestions and created stations that plyed similiar music. Voila- they do all the work!!


  11. I have to have my music! 🙂 Love anything by Hans Zimmer. Will check out the Gladiator soundtrack! I’m struggling through NaNo too, trying to find music to go along with this story. All my songs are way too action packed and scary! LOL


  12. I also have to have my music! I listen to a wide range of stuff but tend to avoid songs with lyrics that I know and like or else I start singing along. as doing great on NaNo but had to take a break for the Story Masters conference. Knew it would knock me down but I couldn’t say no to either event!!


  13. Robin Yaklin says:

    Hey, Stacey…so great to see you at Story Masters. Thought I’d offer this for interested souls to research or be inquisitive about: research has shown that classical music, we all know that music is mathematical (right?), will occupy the left side of your brain. The right side is free to be creative.

    Pachelbel’s Canon in D has been called the perfect music for relaxing the left side of the brain. Enjoy!


  14. Thanks for that tidbit of information! It was good to see you as well! My brain is jut now returning to normal- it was so swollen with new information!! Amazing stuff we learned this weekend. Thanks for stopping by.


  15. Kristen says:

    My writing clips along quite nicely to Nick Jr.’s ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ and ‘Little Bill’.

    The soothing sounds of high-pitched repetition means my 3 year old devil-child is glued to the couch. Although, those scenes do seem to contain an unusually high amount of profanity…


  16. HAHAHAHAHA I sure hope you are writing something with huge comedic moments because you crack me up with every response. Thnks for the smile, I’m stuck in a plot problem and don’t even know how to research the answer to the problem. Grrrrr.


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