Archive for July 13th, 2008

Score your novel

Score your novel, and no I don’t mean grade it. I mean give it a soundtrack.

One of the things I do to get myself into a creative frame of mind is listen to music. It really limbers up the creative muscles and opens out the emotions. It has another useful side effect too: it can actually help you assemble the pace, mood, tone and structure of the story narrative. Here’s how.

One of the things I tend to do on a new project, particularly at the very beginning of the creative cycle when my imagination is most rampant, is to assemble a playlist of some favorite tracks on my iPod, which can be considered the ‘soundtrack’ to my novel. They can be pieces of music or songs that I am very familiar with and have a deep connection to, or they could be brand new tracks that I heard when starting the novel, or ideally a mixture of both.

It works this way. Imagine you are scoring a film, choosing music to suit particular moments, transitions, or themes. Just pick out pieces that have a particular emotional resonance with you for certain scenes in your story, or music that evokes a sense of place for certain scenes, or lyrics that match the sub-text of what is going on with a character. Anything – just listen to music and let your head roam. Once you have the film ‘soundtrack’ in your mind, it can help you picture the sights, sounds and feelings all the way through the story, as if you were looking at a movie of it. It’s handy to be able to listen to the whole thing, or just listen to a single track to re-evoke the feelings you need to call upon when writing a particular chapter. No one else will ever hear the soundtrack but you.

Give it a go – it really works.

Oh, and one other thing I have found: in doing this, it creates a whole new relationship with your old music, and individual pieces might never be the same again to you. When a novel is done, you’ll need to find some new pieces for the next one.

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