When writing and plotting stories, I like listening to music. (Not so much when editing… then I prefer to see how the story is speaking for itself). Listening to music helps me set the tone of the scene, and it provides inspiration while I’m plotting, whether I’m stuck in a scene, or just want something to help convey the tone. Another benefit I’ve found is that if I listen to music while plotting, then listen to the same song again later when writing, I can reintroduce that feeling, that mood I was in when I originally crafted the story. (For this, playlists are extremely helpful).
For example, I’ve used music constantly while writing and plotting The Wishing Blade series. There are certain songs I listen to when I want to be reminded of specific characters and their motives. For example, “The Other Side” by Blackmore’s Night is one I’ve recently found useful when I want to think of Shevanlagiy’s character arc (since there’s a particular character she’s trying to keep from dying again that drives her motives).
As for influences on the world of the story in general, “Shadows” by Gordon Lightfoot, and “Rainbow Connection” from the Muppet Movie (I must admit that I’m not a fan of the original recording; I heard a different version of it when I was taking singing lessons that I became a fan of), both influenced the world. “Shadows” inspired some of the longing of Daernan’s character in The Shadow War, who sees that the world is no longer what it appeared, and it influenced how he sees the war affecting Toranih. “Rainbow Connection” pushed me toward the original idea of the Wishing Blade and more importantly toward the idea of there being some unnatural call (in this case, Magic’s Lure) pulling characters in directions they hadn’t expected (though the call in the story is a bit more sinister than that of the song).
But not all of the songs that influence the story and character arcs are ones I listened to in the early stages of writing. Aside from “The Other Side,” which was a fairly recent discovery, I enjoy several versions of “Luna’s Future” that fans have covered from the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV series. When I listen to the song, I enjoy picturing it as a dialogue between Madiya and Shevanlagiy (minus the names of the ponies involved, since neither characters would wish to be caught in a musical, or as their equine counterparts…). I also enjoy “Elf Glade” by Meg Davis, which I picture as a dialogue between young Lord Menchtoteale and Shevanlagiy… despite the fact that there are no elves in the story, and that I can’t go into too much detail about why I see this song with those characters without giving potential spoilers.
If you listen to music while plotting, consider the reasons for it. Does it inspire a certain mood for you? Help you picture scenarios between characters you hadn’t pictured before? If you’re stuck on a certain plot point, try putting together a list of songs that have influenced your story, or look for new ones in a similar vein to help inspire you. (Just don’t do like I do and discover that a couple hours have passed with nothing written, but with a host of new songs added to the playlist).
Another joy of plotting while listening to music is misinterpreting lyrics. The first time I heard “The Skye Boat Song,” I heard “Carry the lad that’s born to be king, over the sea to die” rather than “over the sea to Skye.” Though the plot arc that resulted hasn’t appeared in the current version of The Wishing Blade series, it led to a concept that played in the original draft, where a young boy who was stillborn was brought back to life by the high god so that he would later become king. There was no sea involved in the plot, but the character played a large role in the original story. (And who knows… he may later play a role in the world of Cirena, even if he doesn’t appear in The Wishing Blade series). Likewise, “Kingsword” by Heather Dale also makes me think of that particular story arc.
Have you found any songs to have given you story ideas because you didn’t quite hear what was being said? Or because there are variations on the song?
There were certainly other songs that influenced the world of The Wishing Blade and helped shape it into what it is today. Most of the stories I write have been influenced in one way or another by the songs I listen to (and the songs I listen to have been influenced by what I write).
If anyone’s interested, I’m considering looking at how music has influenced the other stories I’ve written and that I’m working on. But, for now, do you listen to music while you plot, and have you found any songs to be helpful in writing a particular story? 🙂