Monday, October 19, 2009

Music Monday: Music and Writing

Hi! This is Amanda from The Zen Leaf doing a Music Monday guest post over here for Kailana. I want to talk about the way music has influenced my writing. I'm a semi-published author (meaning I've had some stories and poems published in literary journals, but have yet to publish a full novel), and have been writing since early childhood. Since my teen years, music has played an integral role in my writing. Its influence takes two forms: either I gleen ideas from misheard lyrics, note fragments, or the tone set by a song; or a band or album can help me get in the mood for writing.

The band that has influenced me the most is Stiffs Incorporated. Yes, I know I've talked about these guys more times than I can count, but I can't help but gush over them. Stiffs Inc was a small band with a cult-like following that existed in the 90s. They put out two very different albums, Nix Nought Nothing and Electric Chair Theatre Presents. I can't explain why, but for some reason, just listening to this band makes my brain churn out ideas. I've written numerous stories with their albums on in the background, and when I'm feeling in a writing-rut, a quick listen to a few of their songs helps to re-energize me. I also always listen to them if I'm working out a plot problem. For some reason, they untangle my mind. The video below is of their song Chelsea, from Nix Nought Nothing.

Not all my writing influence comes from Stiffs Inc, however. Many times songs set the tone or mood of a story/novel, or help spark an idea. I have two examples of this. Two years ago, while listening to Lifeless by Stolen Babies (below), I had a vision of a girl sitting on a hill in her pajamas, looking out over the ocean, her arms wrapped around her knees and the wind blowing her hair back. The image had little to do with the words of the song, but a lot to do with the atmosphere. That image blossomed into a novel called MatchMakers Incorporated - a dystopian novel about the world as run by a matchmaking corporation, and one woman's struggle to find happiness and love in a society where everything is planned out by the government. The penultimate scene has my main character sitting out on that hill I originally saw. I listened to Lifeless all the time while writing this novel.

Sadly, an actual video of Lifeless doesn't seem to exist on youtube, but this has the song itself. I could have used a live version, but I liked this better.

Second example: I completed my most recent novel, Phantom, last month. It has a miriad of songs connected with it, including a whole soundtrack of mid-90s alternative music (REM, The Cranberries, Pearl Jam, etc) and the original cast recording of Music of the Night (from Phantom of the Opera). These songs are all touched upon in the text itself, but in the background, only visible to me, is another song which helped set the tone of the painful climactic scenes: Ordinary Life by Elizaveta. Listening to this song on repeat helped put me in the place I needed to be in order to write out the sufficient level of pain in those scenes. Writers: We're masochists.

(Sadly, this is another non-video...but at least you can hear the song.)

I guess I should quit now. Music means more to me and my writing than I can ever possibly put into words, but I hope this post can give you some idea.


  1. Thanks Amanda, this was great! I love all the different topics people have came up with for this. It's been fun!

  2. You're welcome. I think jason came up with the topic for me. Is he guest-posting for you at some point?

  3. Interesting songs/bands that I've never heard of! The first one would have to grow on me, but I love the second two. The few times I've tried writing, I had to have music too. I can't imagine doing it without.

  4. Hi Suey! Yes, the first band is a little different. Their music sort of varies from punk to industrial, depending on the album, and most people just don't understand them. I convert as many people as possible though! :D


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