Creating a playlist for your writing

I’ve always written with music in mind, even if I don’t always write to music. All my books have soundtracks full of songs that inspire me or make me understand a scene or character. Early ones were on mixed tapes, then CDs and now there is the oh so easy to change, iPod (Touch) playlist. One of the novels I’m writing now has become firmly planted in my soul now because I have a playlist for it. That’s how I usually know that a novel is working for me–when I find myself hearing music and thinking of the characters and can then make a playlist.

Last week we were listening to music over supper preparation and eating and I put my new novel’s playlist on shuffle. My husband listened and, after keeping quiet for a while (we’ve had many discussions over my odd and varied tastes in music over the years, some out loud and some said with surly looks at me), he finally said, “what is this?” I told him it was the playlist for Rewriting History and he seemed satisfied with that. A few songs later though, he spoke up again. “Um,. I don’t get this playlist at all. The songs don’t really seem to have anything in common.” I smiled and told him he didn’t understand how I make playlists.

As I’ve explained here before, I often write internally, frequently while on a treadmill or elliptical machine while listening to music. Many scenes, and almost all pivotal scenes, have a song or two associated with them, almost a music video that I can picture while I listen. But some songs on a playlist are more about a mood. They are sad and I can feel my character being sad through them, even if the lyrics don’t match a scene. Or they are upbeat and I can think of my character driving too fast while listening to them on a sunny day. Rewriting History has three main characters and the story is told through each of them so the Rewriting History soundtrack also includes songs I think each of them would like. Since the main characters are quite a bit older than me, they are not necessarily the songs I’d like but I think I can imagine my characters listening to them so that lets me understand them more. So, you can see how listening to a playlist that includes The All-American Rejects, Kris Kristofferson, Cher, the Tragically Hip, the Dixie Chicks, The Killers, and Billy Idol, (to name a few) might be confusing to my husband but for me, and for the people who live inside Rewriting History, it makes perfect sense. I just wish one of them didn’t like the Beatles so much. Maybe she’ll force me to become a fan yet if I listen to them enough. Maybe you will find that creating a playlist like this for your writing will help bring your characters new life.

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