There’s no question, when I’m writing I love having music on. Last August, when I was writing my first published story, Kuntilanak, I had a system for determining word counts. I’d load up music from YouTube, play it, note the time spent on each song, get my word count totals for the listed time. I was very crazy about this, and did it throughout NaNoWriMo as well.
These days, I’m not as nutty about that, because I’m writing now, and I don’t need to be as anal about my word counts as I once was. But, I still like music. I need to listen to it while writing. I need to have it on so that my mind has something to keep it from wondering, “Why is it so quiet?”
For my stories, however, I don’t think of them as being associated to a particular song or songs. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t think of music when I’m writing.
Take my novel—or should I say, “Trilogy”?—Transporting. When I began working on that novel, I saw one of the main characters as having a love with music, and as such, they’d play those songs a great deal. Over time, I began thinking of what songs the character would listen to at certain segments of the story, because it felt like the music fit—
If one were viewing the story like a movie, and you required a soundtrack.
That’s not to say music isn’t played. It’s mentioned that Close to the Edge is played while flying over a volcanic island. While doing some other flying, my main character is listing to, at various time, Turned to Stone, by Electric Light Orchestra, and Vacation, by the Go-Gos. They put on Rocket Man, by Elton John, while orbiting a planet. They have a full-on meltdown while Bridge Over Troubled Water plays in the background. And lastly, they invade a planet while blasting out songs from the Japanese OVA Bubblegum Crises—which is something no anime has probably done.
So there is music in my novel. And there’s even more. Back on my computer, I have a list of songs, maybe 25, that would totally set the mood were this story to ever be made into a movie.
However, that has nothing to do with the music that defines the work.
Because, to be honest, I would never use music to define this story—or any other story.
I’m torn with music in movies these days. I grew up watching a lot of films from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, and while music was using, in a lot of movies there would be huge stretches when you heard nothing
but dialog. When there was music, it was usually swelling violins (for romance), or bombastic orchestrations (for fights and chases).
These days, it seems like there are a few composers who spend a lot of time writing music that sort of “tells” us how we should feel when we are viewing a scene. Music can be so particular to the scene, in fact, that you instantly hear the notes playing even if viewing a still.
So what music defines my work?
I want my readers to have their own soundtracks. I want them so listen to the cadence of the dialog; feel the tempo of the paragraphs; absorb the work as a whole and create their own music. If I define my work by a series of songs, then I handcuff the reader into hearing that tune all the time.
I’ll supply the reader with a vision—
Let them supply their own soundtrack.
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