When in doubt, turn on the music

Music affects all of us. Whether you’re young or old, music plays with your emotions, tugging them this way and that to dance to the beat. Advertisers use this to their advantage, playing familiar tunes through the speakers at supermarkets to influence shoppers to stay longer. Current dance hits draw in the partying crowds at nightclubs and the lone trumpet or bagpipe at a war memorial perfectly encapsulates the sensations a person will feel at seeing the sacrifices of their fellow man. Everyone pictures a shark when the Jaws theme song plays and the sight of a man wearing a hat, holding a whip is remembered at the first few notes of Indiana Jones.

What then, of books? How does the author get across what they want the reader to feel without the easy manipulation of music?

Why, by listening to music while they write. I recently compiled a Writing playlist that features songs that make me feel upset, happy or excited, amongst other emotions. I found that it was much easier to convey the emotions I wanted in a scene when I felt the same way whilst writing it. In the scene where a character dies, I played ‘The North Remembers’ by Ramin Djawadi as composed for Game of Thrones. If I had been listening to ‘Baby Hit Me One More Time’, I don’t think that scene would come out as well. When I needed to feel excited I played ‘I Love It’ by Icona Pop (feat. Charli XCX). The dialogue in that scene came out snappy as a result. It helped me to enter the character when I was feeling what she was feeling.

We might not be able to play music in the background as our reader makes their way through our book, but we can make sure that the emotions are still there, printed in ink what the author felt at the time. And that’s kinda cool.