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#NaNoWriMo Prep: Soundtracks and Soundscapes for Your Characters, Story, and Imagination | #amwriting #NaNo2018

Friday, October 26, 2018

NaNoIt’s Friday, so it’s time to focus on some of the more fun and creative aspects of prepping for NaNo—and that’s the music and soundscapes for our characters, story, and writing time—to spur our imagination.

In my years of experience hanging out with both published authors and unpublished writers, it’s not unusual to hear writers talking about the “soundtracks” of their stories—the music they listen to to help them get into the world of their stories.

After all . . . there’s a reason TV shows and movies have music.

Music helps set a mood, evoke emotion, and recall imagery.

The Soundtrack Songs Work Their Way into the Story

It’s no secret that when I was writing Stand-In Groom, I had a very specific soundtrack that I listened to to get “in the mood” to write—and very specific songs I listened to over and over as I crafted certain scenes (most especially Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” and “Return to Me”—and if you’ve read the book, you know which scenes I’m talking about!). These songs became so indelibly linked with Anne and George that they’re mentioned by name in the book. I even still have a playlist featuring all thirteen that are mentioned (if you are an Amazon Prime member, you should be able to listen to it).

For Menu for Romance, it was less about specific music and more about specific movies—and all about one specific song from one specific John Wayne movie.

With A Case for Love, it was all about the Waltzit’s one-two-three, one-two-three, Forbes.

While I was almost always listening to music while writing the Matchmakers series, it was more just to have something in the background that matched the mood of the scenes I was writing—predominantly instrumental, usually movie soundtracks.

Music that Evokes Setting, Time Period, and Story

For my historical series, especially The Ransome Trilogy, I set out to find music I knew would evoke the setting and characters I was writing about. I started with movie soundtracks I already owned, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Jane Austen adaptation movies, and the classical pieces used in Master and Commander.

From those, Amazon suggested a whole host of other music that fit into the same general sounds, including soundtracks from the age of the swashbuckler movies (Captain Blood and The Seahawk, among many more). Again, here’s the playlist listened to while writing The Ransome Trilogy.

For the Great Exhibition series, it was a little harder to find soundtrack music that fits. The tracks from the Austen film adaptations were okay—though they did call to mind the empire-waisted white gowns of the early 19th century and not the bell-shaped skirts and long, pointed waistlines of 1851. The two I listened to the most were the soundtracks of The Young Victoria and North & South. Follow the Heart was the first book I wrote for which I chose theme songs for each character and for the book itself. I also researched the music that would have been popular at a country-house ball. You can read more about it in the post FOLLOW THE HEART: The “Soundtrack”. As you’ll see, I didn’t limit myself to music written in the era or for something about the era. I chose music based on what inspired my imagination.

Evocative Soundscapes

In researching this prep series, I’ve come across a whole lot of new-to-me technologies that today’s young writers are using to spur their creativity and expedite their writing. Most of them aren’t things I’d find helpful—I’d spend more time trying to learn how to use them than I would writing.

But one website that I’ve now heard mentioned several times is Ambient Mixer. This site is all about sounds—not music. For example, here’s a soundscape I wish I’d had when writing The Ransome Trilogy:

There’s also one of a Victorian street in the rain, which might have been helpful for me with writing certain scenes in the Great Exhibition series. I highly recommend checking it out!

Assignment:Spend some time this weekend choosing the theme songs, soundtrack, and/or soundscape(s) for your characters and story—and create a playlist that will inspire you to as you write.

  1. taylorsl83 permalink
    Friday, October 26, 2018 4:55 pm

    Just fell in love with that ambient mixer! Thanks for sharing! I’m going to try to spend my weekend creating my soundtrack since it’s harder for me to write on the weekends. Thinking since I may lose some writing days in Nov (or even just not get as much written) I might try starting on Monday with a 500 word goal…but we’ll see, might not start until the 31st. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Friday, October 26, 2018 5:02 pm

      Creating the soundtrack helps me to think about my characters (in my contemporary stories, anyway) in a different way than doing all the on-paper prep work. I kind of have to get inside their heads to figure out what kind of music they grew up with, how they listened to it, and what they listen to, and how, now they’re adults.

      For example, at the original location of my heroine’s restaurant, every Thursday night is Family Friendly Karaoke. I’ve featured other characters in the series singing specific (to them) songs. So what would be the one or two top songs that Jenn would choose, if she were forced to get up and do it? When I worked in a restaurant in high school, one of the indelible memories I have of it is the boombox in which we had the cassette of Bon Jovi’s album Slippery When Wet playing all the time—the first rule of the kitchen was that if you were closest to the boombox when the side ended, it was your job to flip the tape and start the other side. With Jenn being a chef and working in restaurant kitchens for more than 20 years, what was the music playing in the kitchen that stuck with her? What kind of music does she have playing in the restaurants—if any?

      For the historicals, I did learn a little bit about the characters’ emotionality/personality by choosing theme songs for them. But choosing the music I’d listen to while writing was more about putting me in the right mindset for them and the historical setting.


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