It seems to me that the creative arts very often compliment and hold each other up. Of those people I know who paint, they nearly all have music on in the background while doing so, as do I as a writer.
Writing can also inspire topics to be painted, or music to be written. One of my favorite bands is ‘Blind Guardian’, who have sung about everything from The Lord of the Rings to the Dark Tower series.
As for my preferred genre of sound, you can find songs about everything from movies like The Lost Boys to mythical beasts and even murderers.
I reviewed Afraid on Monday and called it a horror movie in book form, and that particular genre of movie (and similar games) rely very heavily on atmosphere generated by the music being used to set a mood and tension.
Music to Write With
I can’t imagine writing in silence. While I often do so when out and about with a notebook, when it comes time to sit down and bash out prose linking all my ideas and notes together, I have to have something on to listen to.
I’ve mentioned in the past my propensity for listening to documentaries while I write, but even those are so enjoyable to my craft because they use gentle music to reinforce their ideas (especially nature documentaries). Between that, and a whole plethora of playlists of gentle music originally designed for studying, writing Hevna is often done to the sweet strains of Celtic-style violin, Irish drums and the sound of rushing water.
My contemporary novel I’ve been fixated on this week is another story. Modern, with a gothic flare, I simply cannot work on it with due diligence and tone without metal blasting out of my headphones at full volume.
The novel is very much born of nostalgia for my younger years, so it helps me center my tone and thoughts if I’m rocking out to everything from Megadeth to various songs from the 2000’s when we all got smashed in the face with a wave of new music styles. Nu-metal, alternative rock, nu-punk, I was blessed to grow up with such variety to choose from even if not all of it was good.
In addition to this, I was very much immersed in a tiny little series of the time, named Hellsing.
No, not that Hellsing.
The 90’s anime wave means I’ve always appreciated the amazing animated stories of the east, and when I was in my early twenties, a man called Kouta Hirano wrote a 10 book series called Hellsing. It followed the tale of the Hellsing Organization in their efforts to protect England from supernatural forces. At its disposal, the vampire Alucard.
It had a compelling and addictive storyline, plenty of horror, violence and mysticism, but best of all, the characters were just in point. Every single one well developed, to the point the ludicrous nature of where the plot went was enjoyable rather than hokey.
But that’s not why I mention it here. When Hellsing first came out as an anime, Hirano had only written the first four books, so the animated series went in its own direction for the original run. And it had a uniquely kickass soundtrack.
Later, when the series was complete, a second anime called Hellsing Ultimate animated the true version of the story and while it too is completely incredible and kickass, I have always preferred the sound of the original series (not to say Ultimate doesn’t have brilliant sound too, though.)
The original series had a bizarre jazz-gothic sound to it, mixing in pieces of classical and familiar music to new and twisted forms. It perfectly underlined the tone of whatever was happening on screen at the time and is my default go-to music whenever I’m writing something a little bit weird, a little bit dark. It is, in short, music to write by.
All About That Bass
When I write heavier stuff, fight scenes, horror, it tends to come down to that bass line. I have a nasty addiction to a pulsing beat and a real love for ‘pretty’ guitar work. I just can’t write certain things without something making my foot tap while I do it.
I think the pace of whatever I’m listening to also tends to help set the pace of my prose. Snappy, dramatic music helps me keep my sentences shorter, more to the point and direct. Especially if I want to dash the action out before the song ends.
Of course, that also means it is hypercritically important I go back over what I have written later, without music on, to edit. My lovely readers aren’t going to be listening to the same playlist I am when they read it, and while a book might let you see the inside of someone else’s head, it can’t replicate experiences on a moment-by-moment basis.
It does make me wonder though, how different some of my scenes would have been with a different soundtrack playing. And whether the same might be the case for all those famous works out there, if their authors were as keen on music as I am!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a playlist of German industrial metal waiting, with my name on it.