Wednesday, October 05, 2005

DR: Music to Write By

I love to listen to music while I write. I’m picky though. It can’t be just any music. Anything with vocals is out, lest I suddenly find myself typing lyrics instead of my story. Anything with too distinct a beat gets my foot tapping, and that messes with the rhythm of my fingers on the keyboard.

But when I find the right soundtrack for the scene I’m working on, it’s amazing how music helps me get in touch with exactly the emotions I need to express my characters’ melancholy mood or sense of elation.

My favorite CDs to write by have turned out, not surprisingly, to be movie soundtracks. Not only are they usually mostly free of vocals, but they seem to have the perfect ebb and flow between loud dramatic themes and quiet, contemplative melodies.

I’ve always wished there were some way to set my own novels to music for my readers. Wouldn’t it be incredible to buy a novel that came with a soundtrack that could somehow be programmed to play jungle music when your characters were trekking through the Amazon, switch to violins and flutes while your characters fall in love, and beat out the drums to up the tension during the chase scenes.

Maybe it’s already been done and I just haven’t discovered it yet. I have listened to a few audio books that had little snippets of music to introduce the chapters, but I’ve never seen an entire novel set to music.

I have no clue what it would take to pull off such a feat. Maybe the CD would contain four or five distinctly different themes and the reader could simply play the track suggested at the beginning of each section or chapter of the book, repeating the same themes every time the novel is in a particular character’s point of view? I don’t know, but I’d volunteer to be the guinea pig on such a project in a flash!

I’m not holding my breath, and while I wait, I’ll continue to turn to these favorite composers and soundtracks to write by:

€ James Horner (Searching for Bobby Fischer, Legends of the Fall, Braveheart)

€ Dave Grusin (Bonfire of the Vanities, The Firm)

€ James Newton Howard (Dying Young, Snow Falling on Cedars)

€ John Barry (Dances with Wolves)€ Michael Convertino (Children of a Lesser God)

€ Stephen Warbeck (Charlotte Gray, Shakespeare in Love)

€ Hans Zimmer (The Last Samurai, Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, Spanglish)

€ Michael Kamen (Band of Brothers)

€ Danny Elfman (Black Beauty)

€ John Williams (Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and scores of others)

€ Jan A.P. Kaczmarek (Finding Neverland)

Deborah Raney COMING IN OCTOBER, OVER THE WATERS, a Steeple Hill special release>From WaterBrook Press, A NEST OF SPARROWS, HOLT Medallion Winner


At 7:56 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Deb, I remember you saying that you wrote to instrumental music before and so if my Deb did it, I was going to try too. :) Oh my goodness, I put in the cd and began typing, stopping every few seconds to tell the computer to "shh, I'm trying to write!" Doesn't work for me. I can listen to my boys rough house and type but music, nope, I love it too much and want to keep stopping to enjoy it. Neat how different we all are.

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, ever heard of Ted Dekker? This one group put music to his books, Black, Red, and White. It's weird, because Ted and aforementioned music people got together and the music fits SO well! I heard some of it on Ted's website and I felt like I was reading the book all over again. So maybe you can bribe some random music group to give you a discount price for designing a music score to go with your books - who knows!!

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't remember the name of the group. Pity.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I listen to gospel music to put me in the right frame, but I play certain movies as I write to help me create atmosphere. I watch a Grisham for suspense, a Sparks for romance...

At 4:54 PM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

I had a song recently that helped me change the direction of my story. I was listening to this intense piece and I realized it was perfect for a chase scene. I've since decided to change my scene to reflect that song. Other songs I picture my characters singing about aspects of their lives. It's amazing the power of music.

At 10:57 PM, Blogger Paula said...

Hi Deb! Just finished your class in Nashville where you talked about this idea. How fun to read about writing to music in more depth. Thanks for all your work and help!

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Gina: I had to laugh that your boys roughhousing didn't faze you, but music was a no-go. : )

Joanne: Thanks for the heads-up on Ted Dekker's novel "soundtrack" I'll have to check it out.

Dee: Interesting idea about playing movies to create atmosphere for writing. But do you actually have the movie going WHILE you write? How does THAT work?? You must have better powers of concentration than I do! : )

CJ: Your post reminded me that one of the attributes I always have to discover about my characters before I really know them is what kind of music they listen to. As in real life, I know MUCH about a person if I know they love classical music, or country, or rap... Yes! Amazing power there...

Paula: I had a blast in Nashville. Fun to see you over here on Charis Connection! Thanks for posting.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Dineen A. Miller said...

Deb, You are so cool! LOL! I thought I was the only nut case that used music to influence the way I wrote a scene or created a mood. Sometimes I even incorporate the title or a phrase of it in the character's thoughts. Music has always spoken to my spirit and influenced me. So, I'm careful what I listen to, too. Blessings!


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