Over the summer I reread Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester. I have all her romances on my keeper shelf, but I’d forgotten this one, so it was like reading it for the first time. What a treat! When I finished it, I picked up New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan. This book is set in modern day Newfoundland. I felt as though I’d switched the soundtrack from Mozart to Great Big Sea.
That got me to thinking about the music I might associate with my own books. For the Prospect Series, Gord Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy was an obvious choice. It combines the excitement of opening up a new land with the hardships that come with the adventure. The fact the song has three parts plays well into my storylines as well.
I’m currently working on a short read with an older couple. I don’t have a particular song in mind, but I’m thinking of a community dance. I went to many of those in my younger years. The music ranged from waltzes to square dances to The Twist — the music wasn’t the most important thing–it was who chose you for a partner! And yes, in those days the boys did the choosing and the girls did the hoping. With that image of the town Odd Fellows Hall and the homegrown band in my ears, I can stay in the story world more easily.
I tried out my idea on my author friend in Australia and learned that she had specific songs in mind when writing her books too. “Yes my books do have theme songs… although not always logical. Evil in Emerald was ‘Cat Like Tread’ from Pirates of Penzance, The Postmistress was ‘Peter Hollens Shenandoah’ and The Gold Miner’s Sister was ‘Shallow’ from the latest Star is Born movie. The oddest was probably ‘Arms’ by Christina Perri which was the theme for Gather the Bones. ”
So, why have a soundtrack for your story?
- Tone The soundtrack playing in your mind will keep the tone of your writing consistent. The English language is rich and varied. Authors have many choices for the “right” word. A song can help make those choices better. Is your book a stately gavotte or a rollicking sea shanty?
- Mood Even though stories move through light and dark times, a book can be strengthened if there is a consistent mood. War stories carry that hint of danger even when we aren’t on the battlefield. Children’s books are full of wonder, regardless of the actual scene. When the reader puts down the book, what do you want her mood to be?
- Setting I am an author who views setting as a “character” in a story. The mountains in my Prospect books, for example, played a role in the heroines’ reflective scenes. Those towering peaks gave strength and courage to Lottie and Emma and Louisa.
- Inspiration “What happens next?” is a constant question before a writer. The lyrics or the music of your soundtrack can provide some ideas. Country and western songs are legendary for telling a complete story from joy to heartbreak in only a few lines. Tammy Wynette’s Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to/When nights are cold and lonely.–might provide the nudge to take your story down a different path.
- Fun Sitting at a keyboard or holding a pen over a lined notepad, can get lonely and dreary. We all start this journey because we want to tell a story, we love words, we want to send our ideas into the world. That’s the part that makes us want to write. But the process from idea to finished work can be a slog. The soundtrack playing in our heads can remind us to have fun. Maybe we could all “Whistle While You Work.”
What about you? As a reader do you hear music in a book? As a writer do you consciously choose a soundtrack to accompany your story?
Lovely blog, Alice. It gave me something to think about. I’m not in the habit of choosing a song or soundtrack to go with my books – and I don’t think lyrically when reading other books either – but I’ll definitely try to now!
I hadn’t added music before now, either, but the two books I mentioned really brought home the idea to me. There’s always something more to learn. 🙂