First of all, a big thank you to Brianna Merritt for having me guest post on her blog! And thank you, readers, for tuning in. Today I’m going to talk about two passions the both of us share: music and writing, and how they both complement one another. So get that cup of tea, find a comfortable seating situation, and let’s dive in!
If a movie had no soundtrack, there would be no emotional impact. There would be no suspense, joy, or sadness felt by the audience; in fact, we might feel nothing at all except perhaps boredom and that sensation where a leak has been sprung in our interest meter. Though the absence of music in a film can be used as a technique for a different sort of impact, a whole movie without even the tiniest bit of a soundtrack would leave an overall dry, empty feeling; something is missing.
Enter film scores. This genre of music was originally created specifically for storytelling, to give the movie’s audience the right emotions needed to best interpret the film’s story. That’s the sole purpose of film scores, and the more impacting the emotion they conjure, the better the job the film score composer did.
So why not listen to film scores while writing? In your story, there are probably many scenes that express different emotions, depending on what is going on in the plot, transitions, or what the character if feeling, saying, or doing. Just like there are in movies. I’ve found that if I’m listening to a film score while I’m writing a scene, and if both have corresponding emotions, then the overall emotional impact of the scene I’m writing could be enhanced. For example, if I’m listening to Schindler’s List while I’m writing about a character slowly losing a loved one to death, the emotion will be transferred from the song, to my ears, to my fingers, and out in the words I use. The tragic emotions portrayed in my writing, therefore, will most likely be boosted and more powerful.
Now I do understand that not all writers enjoy film scores or wouldn’t consider listening to them while writing. Some don’t even like listening to music while writing at all in the first place. But I do know some writers who, like myself, have found that film scores can help improve their writing emotionally and they can even set the context, style, and tone of their story. Plus, film scores are my favorite genre, and, as a writer, I love exploring how my favorite music can help me write my stories. It’s all very exciting.
So, say you want to write a bittersweet scene. You might want to find not just any sad song, but find a track that has the specific tone, taste, and style that you’re looking for in the scene you’re about to write. Find a song that is bittersweet in the specific way you want and listen to that while you write your scene … listen to it on repeat, if needed, or find other songs have the same emotion and create a playlist to listen to on repeat (assuming your scene is rather long-ish and you don’t type 2,000 words a minute). You might be surprised at the result you end up with.
To demonstrate the storytelling power of a film score, allow me to use one of my favorite examples that portrays thus: Consider the evil, glorious grandeur of Darth Vader as expressed in “The Imperial March” from Star Wars.
Though this song is the villain’s theme song, it happens to be so epic and majestic that even though the villain is “bad,” you end up actually appreciating the villain. Vader’s theme march communicates that he’s cool (because he is, but that’s a different topic for a different post). You see, you can completely manipulate your reader’s feelings for a particular character, no matter how bad or how heroic that character actually is, simply by crafting specific emotions into your description of that character. Why, you could even make your reader think very highly of your darkest villain and they’ll just have to catch themselves later. Now that is the true power of using emotion in a story. (And it’s kind of mean and entertaining at the same time, on the writer’s part; though thankfully it’s not as bad as killing off a beloved character.)
Oh yes, now for those playlists I promised you in the title. They’re YouTube playlists and I don’t use them very often yet (I prefer my iPod or playlists on Spotify) so they’re not completely developed as I’d like, but these are just examples that I hope give you some ideas. (As a note, not all the songs I have on the playlists are film scores; there are several songs by the artists Two Steps from Hell, Piano Guys, and Audiomachine, which work just as well as film scores do.)
I have one each for epic/majestic/triumphant scenes, sad/moving/depressing scenes, and action/tense/suspense scenes. Those are all pretty broad umbrellas to place songs under, but if I want to write listening to a certain mood without paying attention to the details in the emotion, I’ll just let one playlist of that mood keep running. So, as you can see, they’re not perfect. Ideally, I would have twenty plus playlists, each with a very specific emotion that I can find and write to easily. These playlists are just examples.
I know most of you writers who do enjoy listening to music while writing already have playlists or a source for music you personally prefer, and that’s great. In fact, what exactly do you use? What site or artist or genre have you found the most helpful? What are your listening/writing techniques? I’m just one person, so hey, I’d love feedback and suggestions from you guys. In the meantime, please look around and click around on Brianna’s very pretty site. Thanks so much for reading!
S. M. Metzler
I’m a Christian writer of science fiction and fantasy. I’m also a book dragon, who consumes large amounts of tea and black licorice. Also aiming to publish a book and take over a couple planets while I’m at it.
Check out her site here: https://ateawithtumnus.wordpress.com