Is it possible to get inspiration from music?
Why, of course it is! And, in fact, it can sometimes be hard not to be inspired by the music in our lives. And we may even, consciously or not, try to emulate videos in what we write.
Just don’t out and out steal, okay? But an homage? It should be fine.
Inspiration from Music
Music is a rather common pairing with writing. Some people cannot write without it. Others are inspired by it. Still others are haunted by it.
Sometimes, it’s the lyrics. For me, personally, I pay a lot of attention to lyrics. As a result, I have a lot of trouble listening to tunes while writing or even editing. I have to shut it off, as I am unable to concentrate.
But I do listen when I go outside or offline. For a fan fiction piece, I created a kind of bad girl character. However, she did not come to life until I listened to Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good.
It’s not just the words, though. And it isn’t just the video. The bass line did it, too. As a result, the character snapped into sharp focus. I could not stop listening to the song until I finished the piece.
The Sound of Music (The Von Trapp Family and Others)
For a genius character addled with ADHD, I wanted his mind to be going about a thousand miles an hour. The best way to do this was to listen to fast-moving songs. Therefore, this one was a must.
The song itself is kind of silly. The words are somewhat nonsensical. But the beat is fast. It’s not rap, although speed rap could have worked as well. Either way, the sound was discordant. And that was the idea. With so much clanging going on his head, the character was simply incapable of concentrating.
A Constant Companion
So, when I was writing Untrustworthy, Pompeii by the group Bastille was in very heavy rotation on a local college station that my husband and I listen to a lot. That song embedded itself into my mind and it became the song for that book. And to this day, I can’t hear this song without thinking of the book. And, for the most part, vice versa.
When Things Go Wrong
With the character of Peri Martin, a lot of her essence came to life when I started to listen to an older song I love—When Things Go Wrong, by Robin Lane and the Chartbusters. But for the romance, it was Squeeze’s Take Me, I’m Yours.
So for the successor Time Addicts trilogy, most of the playlist was songs about time. But two of them stand out: Time Waits for No One by the Rolling Stones and Got the Time by Anthrax (a cover of the Joe Jackson tune).
The Funky Ceilidh
Of course, Ceilidh O’Malley had to have this song by Black 47. In 2022, when I was writing a prequel to Real Hub of the Universe, I also listened to a lot of Irish music. But the song that really brings me back to her is always Pure by the Lightning Seeds.
The Whole Shebang
For Mettle, I saw the separate point of view chapters as episodes in a series or miniseries on television. And much like the TV show Murphy Brown used a lot of different music, I fell in love with the idea of giving each chapter or at least each character their own tune. But since the book mostly takes place in Boston, the characters would have their own song with some form of Boston connection.
So, here’s how that shook out.
|Eleanor Braverman||I Do||J Geils Band|
|Noah Braverman||Roadrunner||Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers|
|Craig Firenze||Shipping Up to Boston||The Dropkick Murphys|
|Dez Hunter||It’s a Shame About Ray||The Lemonheads|
|Elise Jeffries||When Things Go Wrong||Robin Lane and the Chartbusters|
|Kitty Kowalski||The Queen of Suffolk County||The Dropkick Murphys|
|Minka Lopez||My Best Friend’s Girl||The Cars|
|Nell Murphy||The Wanderer||Donna Summer|
|Olga Nicolaev||Train Kept Rollin’||Aerosmith|
|Mei-Lin Quan||Voices Carry||‘Til Tuesday|
So then, for the love scene, it would be Boston’s More Than a Feeling. Of course, there are a thousand others I could add.
Because, do I want to leave out State Radio’s Counting All Crows? Or The Pixies’ Monkey Gone to Heaven? But at some point, you have to put a bow on it and say, “That’s it. I’m done.”
Enigmans and Others
For those who need songs to write, playlists are a must. And you can find several on YouTube by searching on writing playlist. However, that might not work for a lot of people. Because writing is a personal thing, just like musical taste is. If I prefer disco, and you prefer country, we’re both right, so long as we keep writing.
So one great thing about YouTube is the ability to create private playlists. If your inspirational music of choice is BTS or the Bee Gees or Britney Spears or Beethoven or The Beatles or Bobby Darin—then that’s fantastic! And no one need be the wiser.
Music and Writing: Takeaways
If you need it, then by all means listen to tunes while writing or editing. If you don’t, then don’t. And don’t let anyone tell you their way is somehow better. It’s hard to find anything more subjective than this.