The Role Music Can Play in the Writing Process

By Sarah Gorman, a professional writing student at Taylor University

Maybe it was growing up with two noisy brothers, but I need some sound to get my mind going. If things are quiet, I grow sleepy, and the moment I start thinking about my bed the battle is already lost.

The same goes for plotting stories. Long before I ever step up to the blank page, I’ve toyed with my scenes, mapping them out and trying on different events for size. I love outlining, but before I even enter that stage, I want to live the entire story in my head, beginning to end. I want to have experienced it in full before anyone else does.

To do this, I construct a soundtrack. Imagining a story is like watching a movie—albeit a disjointed, ever-changing one. To make it all the more cinematic and to thrust myself even deeper into the context of each scene, I find a song or songs to go with defining moments, creating a playlist (Spotify, anyone?). I come from a music-focused, instrument-playing family, so perhaps this is where my love for thematic music comes from. There is something about finding a song that fits your story ideaa song you feel was composed for this very scene and character—that brings a deeper meaning to you as the author and a deeper understanding to your scene when you sit down to hash out the words. It’s widely researched that music can influence your mood and finding an intense song to get your heart rate going might be just what that difficult to write fight scene needs.

Something else I’ve found is the need for motion while plotting. It’s one thing to find the perfect song to go with my scene, but if that song is, for example, Flight of the Silverbird by Two Steps from Hell, chances are I’m going to be thrashing and itching to move up to speed with the rising intensity of that song. I’ll want—or accidentally make—the same expressions and gestures as my characters in the scene, and I want to feel free to experience it in full. I can’t do that on the couch or in a public space.

My solution for this has been one of two things. The first is rollerblading. If you really want to experience an intense fight scene, I highly recommend finding a tennis court and zooming around the edges of it while listening to Battle of the Bewilderbeast from the movie How To Train Your Dragon 2, Roundtable Rival by Lindsey Stirling, or Light That Fire by Oh The Larceny. However, rollerblading is not always an option—or everybody’s cup of tea—and so my usual fallback is walking. The best time for it, in my opinion, is right before sunset.

Taking a walk is good in many ways, but taking a walk to plot stories is its own thing. If you have the proper music, you’ll be surprised how little it takes for you to forget your surroundings and become one with your story. You’ll walk faster with the escalation and slow with the de-escalation, you’ll pantomime your characters and mouth words, and you’ll experience your world in a way you could never do sitting on the couch. All I can say is, give it a try, because there is something about the crisp evening air and a path to yourself which opens a level of imagination I haven’t been able to unlock any other way. Catch me walking to class with earphones in every day, lost in another world. If I don’t see or hear you, sorry!

Happy music hunting, and if you ever need a song recommendation, feel free to drop me a line!

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