Musical Musings

26 Sep

A while ago, I blogged ( about how making dialogue count gives the reader an indelible memory about books or movies they like.  The same can be said about movie theme songs, and even whole soundtracks.

I know writers who take careful time to make play lists for their WIPs to inspire their writing processes. The music sets the mood and tone for the scenes they write. They don’t use the same songs for each book because each book is different. Go to any number of author websites and they might have posted the play list used for a book.  It can be a very useful way to immerse yourself in your book quickly and effectively.

Do you remember THE BIG CHILL? Released in 1983, it told the story of seven friends from college who attend the funeral of a mutual friend from the same college (Trivia: Flashback scenes with Kevin Costner as the dead friend were filmed, but cut. He is still visible as the body being dressed at the beginning of the film). The characters take the weekend to catch up and reconnect. Here is one of my favorites from the soundtrack.

The soundtrack was fabulous and instantly transported the audience back to the 60’s. “A Natural Woman,” “Good Lovin’,” “Wouldn’t it Be Nice,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Joy to the World,” all were perfectly matched to the tone and memory of the movie. And that’s just a few songs from the soundtrack.

How about JAWS? Do you even want to get in a swimming pool when you hear Duh Duh, Duh Duh, Duh Duh Duh Duh Duh Duh? Do you look in the deep end just in case? 🙂

The theme song “The Way We Were” in the movie of the same name tore at my heartstrings. The lyrics told of love discovered and then lost. Two people who weren’t right for each other, but loved nonetheless. The lyrics and melody were haunting.

I tried using music in my writing once. One of my favorite soundtracks is from LAST OF THE MOHICANS. The strings portray both a sense of urgency and power. The main theme song is here. I sat down at my computer, prepared my mind for what I wanted to write that day, and turned on the music.

And I sat there thinking about the movie, Daniel Day Lewis (yum), Madeline Stowe, her dumb, tragic little sister, and the sweet guy (Uncas) who died for her. Yeah, it didn’t much work for me. All I wanted to do was re-watch the movie!

Do you listen to music while writing? Is it the radio or your personal favorites? Does what you listen to depend on what your scene is that day? Please share your thoughts on using music in your writing process.


Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Idaho, writing craft


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22 responses to “Musical Musings

  1. ramblingsfromtheleft

    September 26, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    Thanks so much for this post, Janis. You only mentioned some of the sound tracks I love. I also watch The Big Chill about twice a year. Music inspires and stirs my memory or it puts me in the mood. I don’t keep on the radio as I get crazy with the chatter of the DJ or distracted with commercials … ONLY 9.99 FOR A LIMITED TIME … doesn’t rock my boat. Still I have music programed on my computer and especially if I am doing something retro, I love to “turn on.” 🙂

    • Janis McCurry

      September 26, 2011 at 7:05 AM

      The Big Chill soundtrack won awards, I believe, for its pure awesome-ness. Nice writerly word, huh. Thanks for dropping in.

  2. Liz Fredericks

    September 26, 2011 at 6:17 AM

    Interesting post Janis! I confess abysmal ignorance when it comes to music. I’m not sure I could recognize but a handful of songs. I listen to classical – usually strings – when I write. Not necessarily for the inspiration, but it drowns out household sounds. Now, I’m inspired to hit the store for a few of these soundtracks (sorry, no IPOD).

  3. Janis McCurry

    September 26, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    My drown-out sound is the TV. Weird, but it’s true. I’m writing and it’s background noise.

  4. Meredith Conner

    September 26, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I don’t. It can be either a great mood setter or a total distraction and I’m singing and dancing in my chair. I do know what you mean about the TV as background noise though. Don’t tell my father-in-law, but when I want to take a nap or tune out everything else I put on the golf channel.

    • Janis McCurry

      September 26, 2011 at 11:14 AM

      Funny about the golf. You sound like a “when the spirit strikes me” kind of gal, which is good for the imagination.

  5. Ryan Dalton

    September 26, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I listen to music during the concept-development and outlining stages, mainly. It helps me establish the mood and rhythm of a scene. Mostly, I listen to film scores for inspiration. When I actually write, it varies – sometimes I do, but not always.

    • Janis McCurry

      September 26, 2011 at 11:14 AM


      Interesting about the concept-development stages. I can see how that would set the scene. Thanks for dropping in.

  6. Swift Scribbler

    September 26, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Nice post Janis! I love the LOTM soundtrack–that theme song is one of my favorites.

    Absolutely, I have to listen to music–can’t write without it. I have a “writing” playlist on my Ipod, that changes depending on the book, and all my characters have their own theme songs. Right now I have a wicked anti-hero protagonist who’s song is Invincible by OK GO, and another book where the heroine is a timid little abused thing with a stutter and no self-esteem–her song is Breathe Me by Sia.

    • Janis McCurry

      September 26, 2011 at 11:49 AM


      A great example of strengthening your writing using music.

      I won’t lie, DDL is hot in that movie and very romantic. Thanks for dropping by Gem State Writers.

  7. Marsha R. West

    September 26, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    I’ve heard of others who use music to set the tone for their writing. I’m not one of those. Since I can never remember names of songs or even all their words, I’d waste a ton of time on research. LOL It’s not that I’m not moved by music. I am. Just saw another production of The Sound of Music. Doesn’t matter how many times I see the show, “Climb Every Mountain” sends chills down my arms and brings tears to my eyes.

    The TV provides background noise and a since of time passing as shows on HGTV change. Boy, I’d have loved that channel when I was a young, stay-at-home mom. 🙂 Great post, Janis. Marsha

    • Janis

      September 26, 2011 at 8:58 PM

      Marsha, there are some songs that trigger deep emotions every time. Thanks.

  8. Peggy Staggs

    September 26, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Music is wonderful and mystifying. I love listening to it, and singing along with it, but I can’t keep the musicians any kind of straight. When someone talks about a group I always turn to my husband and ask, “Do I like them?” He knows music.

    • Janis

      September 26, 2011 at 8:59 PM

      As long as you love, the deets don’t matter.

  9. Clarissa Southwick

    September 26, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    I do have a “soundtrack” for each novel, at least in my mind. I rarely listen to it when I’m actually writing though. I’ll just have it playing in the car, which is where I brainstorm new scenes. It does help keep my mind in the story. Thanks for another great blog, Janis 🙂

    • Janis

      September 26, 2011 at 9:01 PM

      Thanks, Clarissa.

  10. Carley Ash

    September 26, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    Great sixties music can totally make a movie. I love it even more than my own era’s music.

    • Janis

      September 26, 2011 at 9:00 PM

      I have to agree. Great songs.

  11. Mary Vine

    September 26, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    For Maya’s Gold, I listened to Jim Brickman a lot, in particular, My Valentine with Martina McBride. Brickman has a classical sound. For Wanting Moore, I listened to the Eagles Greatest Hits. And I was listening to Train sing, Marry Me, when Gabriel asked Isabella to marry him. Lately, I’ve had the music off when writing.

    • Janis

      September 26, 2011 at 9:02 PM

      I love the Eagles. Glen Fry and Don Henley are great.

  12. Lynn Mapp

    September 26, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    I love music! There is no way I can write and listen to music at the same time. I get carried away with the music.

  13. Janis

    September 26, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    As our friends can attest when we break into song at the drop of a hat!


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