Thursday, September 22, 2016

freakboy muses music: Writing Soundtrack

I often listen to music while I write.  Even as I type these words, "Moment of Truth" by Dan Graham is relaxing my ears.  My offline digital songs are on shuffle, so anything could be next.  Pomplamoose, Black Sabbath, Garbage, Chairlift, Julie Brown, Over The Rhine, or a track from a soundtrack, such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pretty in Pink,  Blacula, or The Little Shop of Horrors.

This is typically how it goes with my writing music.  Random, eclectic and may have very little to do with what I'm writing.  When I'm seriously immersed in a project, the music fades into the background as I become one with the literary world I'm creating.  There have been plenty of times I come up for real world air only to realize that the music has stopped, then I'm startled as the clock tells me how long I was out of touch with the physical world around me.  (Take note.  If you want to scare the crap out of me, sneak up on me while I'm writing.)

Occasionally, depending on the project, I thoughtfully choose a particular album or genre to put me in the mindset of what I need to write.  Whether it's a specific character's soul or an overall feeling I want to connect with, the carefully chosen music assists me in finding my words while staying true to that character or feeling.  I guess you could say the tunes lead me to where I need to go, like an emotional Pied Piper of Hamelin.

For the sake of interest, and to give me something to blog about, here are three examples of this specifically music-fueled style of writing.  (WARNING: The following may contain SPOILERS of DARK EXCURSIONS, so proceed with CAUTION, just like if you were actually reading my book.)

Chapter 26 
We now take you to a group... 
("Private Idaho" by The B-52's)
Crop Hoppins, having vaguely recalled committing a violent crime, has checked himself into a sanitarium.  My stories have a history of sending characters to some sort of psychiatric institution, so I couldn't resist a brief fiction fusion.  Two of Crop's therapy group-mates, Larry and Misty, are actually characters from an old, unreleased project of mine which I've referred to in this blog as P.I.  In truth, I borrowed the title of one of my favorite B-52's songs for what became an 8-season/79-episode audio soap opera parody.  With the psychotic Misty and neurotic Larry making cameos in DE, I popped on The B-52's WILD PLANET album for this chapter, with emphasis on "Private Idaho", to remind me of how to write for these other emotionally damaged characters. 

Chapter 73 
We now take you to the common...
(Rosemary's Baby soundtrack-Krzysztof Komeda)
Xylem Smith, the latest sanitarium patient, finds the familiar face of Sister Beatrice Cross in the aptly named common room.  Together they share a violent bond with a sick, twisted man and in the common they discuss forgiveness and the uncertain future.  I felt I needed Krzysztof Komeda's hauntingly beautiful and disturbing score as background music for the one unspeakable burden facing Beatrice that is only indirectly hinted at.  I believe this music helped set the tone for the entire chapter, not just for Beatrice's difficult situation.

Chapter 86 
We now take you to an entrance...
"Goodbye My Lover" by James Blunt
What can I say about this chapter and song choice without giving everything away?  I knew while writing the very first three chapters that in the end there would be a major death.  "It's called Dark Excursions, not Light Voyages," as I once explained to a friend.  Once I understood which character would perish, I fought it, struggled to think of a scenario where this character could live and claim the happiness so deserved.  I accepted the inevitable in the end and with the painfully beautiful "Goodbye My Lover" on repeat, I wrote the final, bloody kiss between two lovers at the bottom of a perilous marble staircase.  Even after all this time, whenever I hear James Blunt's voice, I think about these characters wrapped together in tears, blood, and the promise of a tomorrow that would never arrive.

Music truly is the universal language because of the emotions it can contain, so it makes sense writers utilize this external source to enhance internal feelings.   I will continue to do so, no matter what I'm writing.  Now I end the main body of this post with "Blackout" by Garbage thumping in my brainsphere.  Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy music-related post.

Freak Out, 

P.S.  If Dark Excursions were a film or television series, I would want "The Trick Is To Keep Breathing" by Garbage to be its opening credits song and "Devil Inside" by INXS for its closing credits.  

P.P.S.  In case this post peaked your interest...


  1. Great post, and some nice eclectic musical choices, John! I totally agree with your comments about using music as a means to get into the writing zone. I find that it really helps me focus as well.

    1. Thank you, Barry! I guess music makes the world go round and the writer write! :)

  2. Excellent Post, John!! You have some very similar traits to how I listen to music and how it helps me work, and become immersed into a project and before I know it, more time has passed than I expected ... and the Music has ended long ago ... or Use it to fuel my work tempo!! As always, John, I look forward to your blogs. Keep em coming!!