Saturday, April 25, 2009

Music and Writing

When I first thought about submitting to Avalon, I knew the emotions of the characters had to be expressed more deeply in the words because of the PG-13 rating.

But how can we as writers put on paper an emotion or reaction to a situation we have never fully experienced and still make it viable to the reader? Love, hate, fear, passion, sadness. I think I can safely say we all have gone through something in life and have felt these basic emotions to some degree. But we write about so much more – Revenge, betrayal, terror, unrequited love, abandonment, ecstasy, rapture. How can we experience these at the time we need to write about them?

Enter music.

Using music, we can experience emotion almost on an as-needed basis.
Music is a powerful medium to express and experience emotion. It recreates aspects of lives that are recognizable and can be experience to some degree just by listening. By recreating patterns associated with human emotion, it recreates the emotion. Then listening, we are able to grasp the emotional content, and react emotionally to it. As an embodiment of the emotion, we are able to perceive it directly.

For instance, a piece of music may be quick moving, expressing energy, purposefulness, or excitement. When we listen to a piece like that, more often than not, we can feel the emotion. And when we feel the emotion, we are more able to put it down on paper in a way that can be felt and experienced through our writing.

I know you all have a particular song that makes you cry, or gets you to remember certain periods in your life. Now let’s take those songs and stash them in the USB drive in your mind. When necessary, hit the play button and use them next time you get stuck in a scene that is flat and lacking the emotional response you need to get the reader to turns those pages.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite songs that help get me from blank page to emotional genius. Well, maybe not genius; maybe just not one dimensional.

Here goes –
Abandonment - ­I Who Have Nothing by Tom Jones
Loving someone from afar – Invisible by Clay Aiken
Pain of Loss – Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
Love – Let Me Love You –Tim McGraw
Passion – Keep Coming Back - Richard Marx
Intense Attraction – Touch of Heaven – Richard Marx
Despair – Unbreak my Heart – Toni Braxton
Lost Love - Even Now - – Barry Manilow
Questioning your Heart – Measure of a Man – Clay Aiken
Losing a Love – Somewhere Down The Road – Barry Manilow
The First Time – Somewhere in the Night – Barry Manilow
Unrequited Love - – Melody for a Memory – Hall and Oates
Hopelessness – What About Now – Daughtry (Chris Daughtry)
Regret – I Go Crazy – Paul Davis

When you have time, take one of your favorite songs and listen for the emotion. Tag it, bag it, and save it for an emergency. You’ll be glad you did!


  1. Hey, what a heck of a good idea! I already make playlists for each of my main characters, but to label an emotion is brilliant!
    Happy writing.
    Kaylea Cross

  2. Kathye, I use music ALL the time when I am writing and I am thrilled at your idea. A definite must. I've never focused on the specific emotions engendered by the music I choose. "Ready To Take A Chance Again" by Barry Manilow is one of my favorites, and "I'll Be Seeing You" by Jo Stafford, the Cole Porter song, "Every Time We Say Goodbye" - and a great tune from the musical, City of Angels, "With Every Breath I Take". And the soundtrack for VisionQuest when I need some kick-ass emotional inspiration. Classical has some terrific options for sexy - Claire du Lune, Sheherazade (always spell it wrong). Terrific exercise and great start for your blog! You're gonna have a blast!