Music is unique. It directly affects our brains, changing the release of chemicals and controlling mood, learning, behaviour. It's strangely universal.
And it makes writing better. Here are 3 ways music can be used in narration!
1. Character development:
Your favourite song tells a lot about you. Look at the huge spectrum music runs; from the hard core metal to melancholic, to classical to blues. A jazz fan might be more laid back, or more willing to improvise. An old school rock and roller might be stuck in the past. A teenager is more likely to go for hard rock, something with lots of screaming (unless he's actually head of the local marching band…)
The type of music a character prefers or listens to in the course of the story is another characteristic to expand on their personality. Don't dismiss it, or you'll miss the opportunity for depth with a few lines of text.
Consider the difference between a club filled with head-banging rock versus a country song.
Music sets the stage, lending details you now don't have to specify. Even the little details, like the elevator music being bland or the hold music being an outdated radio station no one actually voluntarily listens to, tells you about the building you are in or the company you are calling.
So, choose your music deliberately, and remember our world is filled with music. We must not forget the sense of hearing when making descriptions. But when is your world completely silent? How many songs do you hear in a day? Coffee shops, malls, dentists, car radio, at home, headphones when waiting for a bus, or riding a bus, or walking, or running, church, on websites/computer…
Even in other eras, consider the music. Folk songs, working songs, hymns…
3. Set the Mood:
Even if you're not showing a setting, music sets a mood. Who can forget the ominous organ music playing in the storm! Mystery! Intrigue! Suspense!
Don't be overt, but you can alter the mindset of your reader my choosing an appropriate song. It's more powerful if it's specific. Avoid 'a sad song'. Say George Jones singing with a harmonica background "He stopped loving her today." It gives you a kick to the gizzard!
But it's not just in the writing that music can make an appearance. I use music all the time to drive my writing as well!
Everyone is different, but if you have not tried these yet, I highly recommend them! They are great tricks to combat writer's block too!
Here are 6 ideas on how to use music to help YOU write better and more often!
1. Take a song and write new lyrics. This is a very traditional thing to do, to repurpose music to new lyrics. It's a tool for poetry, since you'll find it guiding the structure for you.
2. Listen to different things while writing: with lyrics, without, familiar, unfamiliar. If you match the music to the mood you are trying to put into the scene, you may find something that drives the scene (and the story) onwards.
3. Try to sing your work: If you think of your prose AS a song, you'll hear the beats and flow of it. If it's jarring, then find something that smooths it out.
4. Block out noise: Using music can keep focus on the page and not in the surroundings. Headphones may help make a coffee shop a prime writing environment (unless you want to listen to the people chatting nearby for inspiration too!)
5. Playlists for each story. I do this. They are in order. Since the characters develop, I will find a song that seems to match them in a moment, and I put that song there in the list. I also write out the lyrics to solidify my ideas. Sometimes the song adds depth I didn't know I had. I listen to these songs when writing, but also in between since it kick-starts my thinking about stories.
6. As a prompt: Use an instrumental piece or just use the title as a prompt, then listen, and write. Piano music is another great prompt for the emotion it evokes!
D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.