Writing With Music: We All Do It

You know that song. That one song that created vivid thoughts and ideas in your head. Did it contribute to a story? It happens all the time, we writers find inspiration everywhere. Some while mediating after Yoga or breaking into their own house after you forgot your keys. “That would make a great story.” Most of the time it’s almost uncontrollable, but if you manipulate your surroundings I believe you can set yourself in the right mind set. It’s like a rockstar listening to music before the go out on stage. That’s what you are a writing rockstar. Besides a little exercise the right music is also essential to clearing the mind and focusing.

What I listen To.

Depending on the genre I find different music useful. For example, a good sci-fi story with the ambiance of some techno perhaps some dubstep really let’s my dive into those scenes, especially those cyber punk clubs with the insane dj’s and rockstars. The UK makes the best dubstep and I’m also a huge Dillion Francis fan.

Now speculative fiction seems easier to write with some poppy punk music for me. Throw me some MXPX, The Offspring or even some Ramones. Why? I have no clue.

Horror, is usually heavy or violent. Combichrist, Three Days Grace or The Misfits.

I started writing noir. Seems like everyone is doing it and everyone keeps sending my pulp fic and noir books to read. So now I’m there, typing about a man who’s a total jerk, but he’s gotta win, well very few people win in my stories. Anyways, Alkaline Trio or Tom Waits.

Why It Helps.

That constant mood, it’s not always there. I’ll write 1/3 of my story in the john and another while I watch television. Days later it’s finished throughout the day, either between waiting for someone or something, eating, or doing who knows what. But every time the mood is different. I always regret not writing in one sitting. It’s not always possible, but if you started an album or genre of music and used it every time you began to write again, it has a better grip on that mood you were in.

Everyone is different, but I think you should try it and let me know. Perhaps give me a tip on writing other genres.

-L. Vera



  1. I find that video game music suits virtually all my needs — and because I know them so intimately, I can usually come to a scene, think “All right, I need to listen to THIS song,” and keep up the momentum thanks to those songs.

    I find the Trauma Team soundtrack to be particularly useful; the songs are varied enough to capture a multitude of tones, but I regularly fire up “The Dead Shall Speak” for…well, just listen for yourself.

    • That’s genius. I need to find my final fantasy 3 soundtrack. I bet that would be awesome for fantasy stories.

  2. I have been inspired by music, but I don’t write with music on. On the odd occasion I do, I don’t hear it. I honestly couldn’t tell you what just played, and I just get annoyed if I missed my favourite song. I like to sing when I listen to music, and writing and singing are not really possble at the same time (or at least not for me). Music, for me, is not a writing aid, but a completely separate passion.

    • For me it becomes background noise until a lyric or two jogs me back to it.

  3. For creepy or tense scenes, I love Kajiura Yuki. Pandora Hearts or .hack//SIGN is great for that.

  4. Luis, what a great and timely post. Music is such a huge part of everything I write. It’s magic seeps into my novels. In the back of my first novel I’ve posted a full discography of what I was listening to as I wrote it. I discovered Spotify this spring and have actually set up a Playlist at my web site (down the right column) associated with my novel. See it here: http://formalityoccurrence.blogspot.com/

    Spotify is great too in that anyone (FB Friends) who wants to see what I’m listening to can track it on FaceBook. I get comments on that all the time (right now I’m listening to Miles’ “In a Silent Way”).

    I’m trying to find an app that allows me to add a soundtrack to each section or chapter of a book. Anyone know anything like that?

  5. I know a few people who can write in quiet places but I absolutely cannot focus on my story unless I’ve got my earbuds in and spotify going. I’ve noticed too that my most sharply focused stories often have playlists that go with them, either specific songs or artists I always tend to put on when i’m writing. Whereas there have been several stories I struggle with, thematically, and it’s generally because I don’t have a good, cohesive listening playlist established for them.

    My playlists definitely tend to be geared more toward lyrical content that fits the mood of the piece rather than musical style. For example, the playlist for my current urban fantasy ranges from Lia Ices and Cat Power to Tiesto.

    • I use to study the same way. I use to think that I had to have something playing or on the television so that the part of me that didn’t want to study would have something to do. 🙂

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