I’ve been asked a number of times if I listen to music when I write. Yes…but only when I’m actually typing the story. I have a process. It’s called all or nothing.
I build a story concept in my head, then pull out a trusty yellow pad to sketch an outline. Nothing more than a bullet point or two per chapter, in a very fluid structure. That’s usually the last time I look at the outline. It is tossed aside and becomes just a soft framework for the story after that. No music involved.
Next is a detour from the process, which in itself makes it a part of the process because I do it every damned time. I open Scrivener and start typing the opening scene. At this point I have no idea who my characters are, only what I want them to be. The first scene (or chapter) is me trying to find their voice, motivation, and opening the story in the circumstances in which I envisioned it. Still no music.
After the first scene (or chapter), I have a head full of questions. Who is my protagonist? Is he really a hero? anti hero? super bad guy/girl in disguise? Who is he/she fighting against? is the fight what it seems? Will I kill him/her? Will he/she allow me to kill him/her or will it just be torture? What is the prize? Is it an object? a person? revenge? peace? overthrow of a government? What’s the back story (even if it never gets written)?
Those questions fill my universe for days or even weeks. This is the stage where you might see me walking around, stroking my mustache while staring at the ground; standing in the cold with a burned out cigarette between my fingers, chuckling for no reason; or sitting in my comfy chair, staring at the wall as a series of emotions play across my face, anger, relief, amusement… I’m a head builder. I’ve always been one–even with my furniture building. I have to understand each cut, mortise, balance, material, and purpose for every aspect before I can start. There is no music involved in this part of the process either.
The next phase is the exciting one for me. It’s the part when the last major puzzle piece drops into place in my head and I freeze. Really…Gretel has seen this. She can testify. I close my eyes as the last major piece moves into place and then clicks “POP”. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing. I stop and let the feeling wash over me…the sense of raw joy, unfiltered…completion. It’s pretty erotic.
At that point, the story is basically done. All I have to do is start typing it, letting the personalities of the characters fill in the gaps in narrative and dialog. That’s where the music comes in.
It’s a pretty personal playlist. Some obscure, some cliche, some WTF?!!! But each song was added to the playlist over the years for a specific sentimental purpose. Having a multimedia keyboard makes it easy to hit “skip” if a song pops up that threatens to derail me.
So…70 songs (give or take) is my soundtrack for writing. It brings emotion, purpose, and richness to my 1st draft. I’m going to share it with you now. Don’t get me wrong…this isn’t the only music I listen to. In fact, this play list is very light on KISS, Ozzy, Foo Fighters, and all manner of head banger metal. It’s not my only play list, and I rely on Sir Edward Van Halen a LOT when it comes to timing on fight scenes and chases. But for writing I’ve discovered over the years that my hard music preferences have more a tendency to disrupt the flow than support it.
With that, I present my Thriller background soundtrack in alphabetical order by track:
|Above the Wreckage||Dishwalla||Dishwalla||Rock|
|Alone||Ben Harper||Burn To Shine||Alternative & Punk|
|Always Midnight||Pat Monahan||Last of Seven||Rock|
|Apoligize (Remix)||OneRepublic||Dreaming Out Loud||Rock|
|Army Of Me||Björk||Telegram||Alternative & Punk|
|Ball And Biscuit||The White Stripes||Elephant||Alternative & Punk|
|Bleeding Love||Leona Lewis||Spirit||Pop|
|Blue (Da Ba Dee)||Eiffel 65||Europop||Electronica|
|Breathe Tonight||David Cook||David Cook||Rock|
|Catch Hell Blues||The White Stripes||Icky Thump||Alternative & Punk|
|Cherry Blossom Girl||Air||Talkie Walkie||Electronic|
|Closer||Kings Of Leon||Only By The Night||Alternative & Punk|
|Come Come||Hot As Sun||Hot As Sun||Alternative Rock|
|Come Home||OneRepublic||Dreaming Out Loud||Rock|
|Come On Closer||Jem||Finally Woken||Pop|
|Crawl||Kings Of Leon||Only By The Night||Alternative & Punk|
|Danklicker||Hotel Wrecking City Traders||EP Hotel Wrecking City Traders||Stoner|
|Dear Maria, Count Me In||All Time Low||Vans Warped Tour ’08||Rock|
|Deeper Into You||Trust Company||The Lonely Position Of Neutral||Rock|
|Drumming Song||Florence & The Machine||Lungs||Alternative|
|Everything You Want||Vertical Horizon||Everything You Want||Rock/Pop|
|For Agent 13||The Besnard Lakes||YPF Soundtrack||Alternative|
|Galvanize||The Chemical Brothers||Push The Button||Electronica|
|God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters||Moby||Pure Moods IV||New Age|
|Hallelujah||Jeff Buckley||Grace||Alternative & Punk|
|Hey There Delilah||Plain White T’s||Every Second Counts||Alternative & Punk|
|Hide And Seek||Imogen Heap||Pop|
|History Repeating||Propellerheads||Mantra Mix [Disc 1]||New Age|
|Hold You Down||Jump Little Children||Between the Dim & the Dark||Alternative|
|Immigrant Song||Led Zeppelin||Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1||Rock|
|In The Waiting Line||Zero 7||Garden State||Soundtrack|
|Jezebel||Iron & Wine||Woman King [EP]||Alternative & Punk|
|Kashmir||Led Zeppelin||Latter Days: Best Of Led Zeppelin, Vol.2||Rock|
|Let Go||Frou Frou||Details||Alternative & Punk|
|Look After You||The Fray||How To Save A Life||Rock|
|Love The Way You Lie||Eminem Feat. Rihanna||2011 Grammy Nominees||Pop|
|Make This Go On Forever||Snow Patrol||Eyes Open||Alternative & Punk|
|Messenger||Obiat||Emotionally Driven Disturbulence||Stoner|
|Monkey Wrench||Foo Fighters||The Colour and The Shape||Spy Thrillers|
|Murr Murr||Mugison||Mugimama! Is This Monkey Music?||Electronic|
|Never Say Never||The Fray||The Fray||Rock|
|New Soul||Yael Naïm||Better Living Unlimited||Pop|
|No Church In The Wild||Kanye West||Watch the Throne||Hip Hop|
|Plasticine||Placebo||Sleeping With Ghosts||Alternative & Punk|
|Pretty Little Thing||Fink||Pretty Little Thing / So Long – EP||Folk|
|Primary||The Cure||Faith (Deluxe Edition) (CD01)||Gothic Rock|
|Profanity Prayers||Beck||Modern Guilt||Alternative & Punk|
|Respect The Wind||Alex & Sir Edward Van Halen||Twister||Soundtrack|
|Samson||Regina Spektor||Begin To Hope||Alternative & Punk|
|Say (All I Need)||OneRepublic||Dreaming Out Loud||Rock|
|She Wolf (Falling To Pieces) ft. Sia||David Guetta||Pop|
|Ship Of Fools||Robert Plant||Sixty Six To Timbuktu [Disc 1]||Rock|
|Sour Girl||Stone Temple Pilots||No. 4||Rock/Pop|
|Taj Mahal||Sam Roberts||YPF Soundtrack||Alternative|
|The Pretender||Foo Fighters||Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace||Alternative & Punk|
|Titanium ft. Sia||David Guetta||Pop|
|Tom Sawyer||Rush||Moving Pictures||Rock|
|Vertigo||Jump Little Children||Between the Dim & the Dark||Alternative|
|Viva La Vida||Coldplay||Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends||Alternative & Punk|
|Wake Me Up When September Ends||Green Day||American Idiot||Alternative & Punk|
|What Else Is There?||
|Whatever You Became||Cold||Year Of The Spider||Metal|
|When It’s Good||Ben Harper||Diamonds On The Inside||Alternative & Punk|
|Youthless||Beck||Modern Guilt||Alternative & Punk|
Happy listening…and writing if you’re inclined in that direction. If not, grab a book and read. You may even hear the music in the pages as you pore over it.