Monday, May 10, 2010

Music for my novel, part one

Many writers write to music. I'm not one of them. I've tried, but I get distracted from my story and start singing along.

I do, however, develop a soundtrack for each book. I listen to it while I clean house or fold laundry, and I burn it to a CD to keep in my car. The soundtrack helps me think about my work-in-progress even when I'm far from my keyboard, and I think it makes me a more creative and emotional writer.

The Sergeant's Lady ended up with a lonnnggg soundtrack, about half of it period songs my characters themselves would've sung or danced to, the other half a bit more contemporary. This post will focus on the latter set of songs--the ones those of you reading this are likely to have heard of!

If there's one single song that sums up The Sergeant's Lady for me, it's Bryan Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" from the Don Juan de Marco soundtrack. Partly for the sound--the style and all the gorgeous acoustic guitar work fit my Spanish setting just right.

But it's really about the lyrics. Allowing for sundry differences of vocabulary and style of expression, it's exactly how my hero, Will, feels about the heroine, Anna. She's the recently widowed survivor of an abusive marriage, and over the course of the book Will helps her heal not just because he loves her, but because of why he loves her. From the first he recognizes that she is above all a woman of courage and integrity. To be valued for those qualities, when in the past she'd been sought after for being pretty and rich, gives Anna the confidence to live into her strengths--and then to defy her world for Will's sake.

So. That's my core song. But there are others. I can't leave out Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers In a Dangerous Time," whose lyrics also fit my story well. My favorite line: But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight -- Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight.

I listened to the West Side Story Soundtrack a lot, because it's perfect music for star-crossed love stories even when you're writing one with a happy ending. I'd play the whole thing, but "Tonight, Tonight" got the most repeats. Also included were bits and pieces of Les Miz, mostly because I love it and will use any excuse to listen to it, but "On My Own" is the perfect song for a section of the story where Anna thinks she's never going to see Will again.

Writers, do you make soundtracks for your books? Readers, do you read to music?


  1. I started writing down a playlist for my WIP, but I've never actually compiled them and listened to them while I write. The only two songs I remember are "Uprising" by Muse and "Rat in a Cage" by Smashing Pumpkins. Since my WIP is an apocalyptic paranormal romance the songs are all angry, angsty things. I often listen to Pandora while I write, Muse or Moby radio. Moby has fewer distracting lyrics.

    At the moment I'm listening to Casper Babypants radio (kids music from the local band formerly known as Presidents of the United States of America). Perhaps that's why I'm not getting much done!

  2. Yeah, I have to say the times I get earwormed with my daughter's music aren't my best writing days!