Writing fiction can be one of the most exciting and rewarding endeavors out there—you get to sail to far-off lands, fly through the air on the backs of dragons, and rocket off to space without ever leaving the comfort of your office chair. And unlike when you’re reading a book, you get to run the show. If you want to populate your story with little blue aliens who have an affection for Earl Gray tea, then bam! There they are. Writing a book allows you to frolic in a fantasy world of your own making.
But as wonderful as it is, writing a novel is also very, very hard. With creating an enthralling plot, compelling characters, and an inventive setting to contend with, you can often end up feeling like you’re spinning plates on a dozen poles. Sometimes the stress of it all gets too overwhelming and the blank page in front of you seems unconquerable.
I have a method that might help next to time you fall into one of these states of overwhelm. And the method is fairly simple: Create your own special playlist for your story. Think of it like your book is a movie and the songs on your playlist are the ones that would be on that movie’s soundtrack.
But now you might be even more overwhelmed than before. There’s a whole world of music out there! How are you supposed to choose the specific tunes that fit your story best?
Here are some tips that can help you to create a truly epic soundtrack for your story.
Play Your Hits
If you’re not sure where to begin with your playlist, you can start with your favorite songs. I personally have a long, rambling playlist of roughly 800 songs that I enjoy, and this is the first place I turn when working on a new story. I walk around (moving always helps to get my creative gears turning) and listen to my Favorite Songs playlist on shuffle. I always manage to find at least a few songs that fit the themes and tone of my novel.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t already have a gargantuan stack of curated songs to choose from. If you just sit down and make a list, you will be surprised how many of your most beloved songs come to mind. Considering that you love these songs, and you love your story, it’s not too big of a leap to assume that at least a few of these tunes might mesh well with your book.
It is more likely than not that some of your favorite songs elicit some kind of strong emotion. Maybe a song makes you feel nostalgic for good times you’ve had with your friends, or reminds you of the early days of your relationship with your significant other. Or perhaps the emotions you feel have nothing to do with your own life—something might just seem particularly unsettling or sad about a certain melody.
Songs like this are perfect to listen to when you’re writing emotionally-charged scenes. It can be difficult to get yourself into that sort of headspace, and having a playlist makes it all so much easier.
I personally have go-to songs for certain types of scenes. I always end up listening to “Fotografia” by Yiruma whenever I’m writing something sad and wistful. And when I’ve got two characters on the cusp of falling in love, “Do You Realize??” by the Flaming Lips will inevitably come blaring through my speakers.
One helpful thing to try as you’re making your first story playlist is to create other playlists that make you feel a certain way. I personally have “Sad”, “Making Friends”, and “Falling in Love” playlists that are good for scenes that evoke those feelings. You can also pluck songs off those playlists when making playlists for future novels.
Steal from TV Shows and Movies
Say you’re having trouble coming up with songs that pack a big emotion punch for you. No worries! Often there is no better place to look for songs for your soundtracks than other soundtracks. The music supervisors on TV shows and movies choose the music for their shows for the same reason you are—to provoke an emotional reaction.
“Wake Up” by Rage Against the Machine is a favorite for me to listen to when writing about a cool, rebellious character since it reminds me of The Matrix. If I’m writing scenes with a lot of tension, I turn to the Inception soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. The Pan’s Labyrinth soundtrack by Javier Navarrete is perfect for something with a creepy and melancholy sort of mood to it.
Sometimes TV and movies can even change the original tone of a song. “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol is a sweet love song, but a particular episode of Grey’s Anatomy has permanently made it one of the saddest songs I know. And even though the song has an upbeat tone, “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel has become an ideal song for evil characters thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s use of it in Reservoir Dogs.
So start trying to pay attention to the soundtracks of TV shows and movies you enjoy. You could also seek out shows and films with a similar tone to your story. Between your favorite songs, emotional tunes, and music from TV shows and movies that you love, it is likely that you will be able to construct a soundtrack that will help you get in touch with your novel’s world.
Once you’re equipped with your story’s playlist, you can go a step further and start making playlists for each of your main characters. You will probably be able to use plenty of the songs from your overarching playlist to do so. You can also create playlists that evoke the feel of certain locales and scenes.
It’s hard to say if this method will work for you—every writer is different. But it’s worth giving a try, even if you’re not particularly musically inclined. You never know how much it might help you to sink deeper into your plot and characters’ psyches.
Author’s Bio:- I am the author of a plethora of novels. I enjoy the word “plethora”. Follow my blog posts about books and writing advice, read books and publish them for free at: https://www.fictionate.me.