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Tip Tuesday #106

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where writers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Happy Tuesday! Today's tip on music comes to you from Alexandra Loewen. Alexandra doesn't blog, but she does have a Twitter @alexandraloewen. Please consider following, and to read another tip from Alexandra see #75. Cheers!

Add Music to your Writer’s Tool Box

We all know how powerful music is in evoking emotion and enhancing mood, whether it be in a movie, a wedding, a restaurant, or at a sporting event. I have found the same is true when I am writing. The right music can help me craft everything from high energy adventure to tension-filled emotional dialogue. My personal rule is that the music must be lyric-free. Instrumental music works best for allowing me to capture the right feeling.

Finding music for your writing is by nature personal. If you need a starting point, I suggest trying some movie or television soundtracks. I favor them because their tracks have been chosen to support a rich variety of moods, and often you can get a nice mix of fast-paced action, lighthearted songs, slow romantic ballads, suspense builders, and songs evoking any feeling you can imagine.

A terrific place to find soundtracks and other CDs is your local library. Borrow a few and see what kind of muse you can conjure!

If you already have a playlist of inspirational “writing music”, please consider sharing it in the comments!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Anything by John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Alexandre Desplat
  • “The Painted Veil”
  • “Memoirs of a Geisha”
  • “The Piano”
  • BBC’s “Planet Earth”
  • “Pearl Harbor”
  • All the soundtracks for “Harry Potter,” “Chronicles of Narnia,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “Star Wars”
  • “Pride and Prejudice” (Dario Marianelli’s version)

- Alexandra Loewen


Ian Hiatt said...

Anything by Two Steps From Hell. They only have one commercially available album that you can find on Amazon or iTunes, but a quick YouTube search will likely turn up the hundred or so tracks to their name.

All instrumental, crossing every possible mood/feeling/theme you can imagine.

Dan Powell said...

Great tip. I use writing music a great deal. My top selections would have to be anything by Explosions in the Sky and the Amelie soundtrack by Yann Tiersen (great for writing magical realism). Most recently I have been writing along to the superb album by A Winged Victory for the Sullen.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't list to music in my writing. That's a great idea to pic a movie soundtrack because they're so into setting the mood of the scene. I'll have to try it. Thanks for the great tip.

Kristin Lenz said...

I'm like Natalie, I don't listen to music when writing, but I know lots of writers who swear by it. I never thought about TV/movie soundtracks though - great idea!

Alexandra Loewen said...

Thank you, Ian and Dan, for your music suggestions- I will look those up today.

Thank you, Natalie and Kristin, for your comments!

And thank you, Casey, for posting my tip!

Sean said...

Great tip. I use music when writing, but only instrumental music. Lyrics distract me, so soundtracks are perfect.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Good tip! I can't really write to music, but I do use it to get in the mood. I choose music that I think would put my character in the right mood for the scene I'm writing, and I go from there.

I can't use movie soundtrack music, though - all I can see in my head is the scene from the movie it was from. LOL! To each his own, I guess.

Casey McCormick said...

I usually go the play list route and hunt songs that fit my scenes, but I've been listening to classical and soundtracks for my current WIP.

I love Pride and Prejudice and Amelie! I have Pirates but the songs are too intense sometimes. : p

Thanks for the tip, Alexandra!

Matthew MacNish said...

I personally can't write while listening to music, but if I could, I would add the Lord of the Rings soundtrack to that list.

Shilpa Mudiganti said...

So true. Music has always helped me make up stories but cannot write at the same time. Its - listen to it first and weave stories at the same time. Then write at a later time. Relieved to know others feel the same!

Swift Scribbler said...

Thanks for the post! I can't write without music and am always looking for new songs. Actually, I just asked some authors yesterday on Twitter "if your protagonist had a theme song, what would it be?" I got some really interesting results! The hashtag is #characterthemesong

Kris Atkins said...

String quartets Bond and Escala are great too. If you haven't heard of them, they revamp classical music. It's fun stuff.

Angela Brown said...

I can recall the evocative leanings of the music when I was watching Memoirs of a Geisha. Sounds like I have somethig to add to my "borrow from the library" list.

Thanks for this tip.

Jessie Humphries said...

I love this tip because I just started doing it. I cant listen to pop music or heavy lyrical stuff. It needs to be non-distracting, pro-inspirational kind of stuff.

Cambria Dillon said...

I LOVE listening to soundtracks to get me in the right mood for a particular scene. Some of my favorites are the Braveheart and Last of the Mohicans soundtracks, but right now I'm writing a sci-fi story, so I'm digging the Transformers and Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Alexandra Loewen said...

Thank you for your comments, Sean, Ishta, Casey, Shilpa, Angela and Jessie!

Thank you for your music suggestions (and comments!), Matthew, Kris, and Cambria. I am really excited to have some new (to me), recommended music to try!

Swift Scribbler- thanks for your comments, too. I'm intrigued by your Twitter question and I'll be going over there to check out that hashtag. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa Nowak said...

I've heard it suggested to have a playlist to listen to while you write, but I'd never thought of using movie soundtracks. Great idea.

Jennifer R said...

I've never thought about listening to music when writing, but using instrumental music to guide your writing muse sounds like a great idea. I will have to try it!

Alexandra Loewen said...

Thanks very much, Lisa and Jennifer!

Martha Ramirez said...

This is a great reminder on using soundtracks. Thank you!

Jessica Brody talks about how she uses white noise when writing. Which I enjoy as well


Elizabeth Pettie said...

I like to listen to 'young folks' by peter bjorn and john. For some reason listening to the same song over and over again really helps me focus.

bfav said...

I'm almost always plugged into my ipod when I write because it blocks out the world.

my playlist I'm loving has:
Someone still Loves you Boris Yeltsin
Passion Pit
Does it Offend You, Yeah?

TimJasonWallis said...

Music plays such a huge role while I'm crafting my outline. It gives me an opportunity to envision a trailer for my book and hit some of the big action and dramatic conflict.