Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Music of my Stories

“Without music life would be a mistake.”  ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Do you listen to music when you write?  Or do you need absolute silence?
Since I started writing fiction, I write to music. When I worked as a writer and editor in offices, music was a definite no-no, though I often felt the need to put headphones on and listen to a string quartet, or something, anything, to get the office blather out of my head. But it turned out to be a great exercise in concentration. I can write just about anywhere, if I have to, and focus.
When I started writing SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS, I listened to music that put me in the mood as background music for my characters and their scrapbook crops. My scrapbookers listen to all sorts of music. DeeAnn loves the Rolling Stones, Sheila mentions Usher, and Beatrice loves her Vivaldi.
But when I’m writing about them, I don’t listen to the music they like. I listen to what puts me in the mood to connect with them. The kind of music that reminds me of the emotional tone of my book. Does that make sense?
During the writing SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS, I listened to a lot of Alison Krauss, Hem, and Sara Watkins. All of this music is sort of a folk-bluegrass mix. But it has a current feel to it. All sung by women, of course. (Click on any of the linked words and you will be taken to a Youtube  page to listen.) Of all the songs I listened to, Half Acre by Hem reminds me most of SECRETS. Interesting, because it’s about Michigan, not Virginia, but the emotional landscape is what counts.
When I was writing the second book in my series—its new title is SCRAPPED—I listened to a lot of the same, but this book has a kind of otherworldly feel to it in some sections. So I listened to Enya, Loreena McKennitt and Azam Ali during the writing of those sections.
These days, while I’m writing the third book in the series, I’m listening to the Civil Wars, a new-ish bluegrass duo that is fantastic. Their music, while decidedly modern, is rooted in old bluegrass. The feel of straddling both worlds is conveyed so beautifully in their music. And that’s one feeling I use to connect to my story—and one that I hope my readers will feel.  
Sometimes I can get distracted by the words in music. When that happens, I listen  to Vitamin String Quartet—a string group that plays a lot of popular music.  I gotta tell you, I love this group. I have a soft spot for strings. My daughter plays the cello—or should I say struggles to play the cello.
Now I can’t imagine writing without music playing in the background. It really helps to free my mind, along with give me more focus.
Do you find music helpful when you’re writing?


Linda O. Johnston said...

My writing flows much better if it's quiet around me, Mollie, so I don't listen to music. How fun that the music you listen to seems to help your mood and writing.

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

It's interesting that you need quiet. My husband is like that, too, even when he's reading. He prefers quiet. Thanks for commenting Linda.

Jason Weirauch said...

I have music playing in most of the activities I do. I am not a writer, but I do like to write short stories for fun on occasion. When I do I play music. It is usually metal. I am an avid mountain biker and I always have music playing when I ride. Naturally it is metal as well.

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

Wow, you are a guy that knows what he likes. Metal. I always have music on when I run, too. I like to listen to all sorts of music when I run--yep, even metal. (But not when I write.) Thanks for commenting.

Lynden Blossom said...

Thank you for sharing - I know and listen to most of those mentioned, but thanks for introducing me to Hem, Vitamin String Quartet and Azam Ali - Music is breath to me and is important in all I create! ;-)

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

Thanks for commenting. I am glad to introduce you to some good music. Take care!