Few creative mediums instantly set the tone and affect our emotions so immediately and powerfully as music. Think about the Indiana Jones theme. Now the Imperial March from Star Wars. You’re humming it, aren’t you?
How did they make you feel? Were they different emotions, or the same? Now think about Lily’s theme from the last Harry Potter movies. How do you feel now?
Music has a mysterious, yet undeniable power to transport the listener to a particular place or time, play on their memories, and stir up emotions and imagery. I find it an extremely useful tool to mentally “set the stage” for whatever type of scene or culture I happen to be writing.
Here are a few of my favorite scene-writing songs to get you started:
Sad/poignant scene: “Lily’s Theme” from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2; “The Grey Havens” and “Breath of Life” from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King; “Now We Are Free” from Gladiator.
Culture and setting plays such a critical role in establishing the mood and personality of a character or place. I use these songs or soundtracks to “cue” my brain to write from a particular cultural perspective and to evoke imagery.
Arab/Middle Eastern: The Prince of Persia soundtrack, especially, “Journey Through the Desert.”
Appalachia/Historical: “The Hunger Games,” “Katniss Afoot” and “Rue’s Farewell” from the first Hunger Games movie; “Hanging Tree” by Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1; “Kingdom Come” by The Civil Wars, Songs from District 12.
At the 2016 Realm Makers conference prolific writer T. Davis Bunn/Thom Locke spoke on “cue-ing” yourself to help your brain transition into the right mindset for your story. He told how he used music, a particular book that he always read from before starting writing, and other cues.
Music works for me. Something else may work for you. But if you’re struggling with immersing yourself in your story’s characters and culture, musical cues might just be exactly what you need.
Have you tried listening to certain types of music as you write? What are your favorites? Share so we can all enjoy!
Feature photo by Clem Onojeghuo.