Not everything to do with writing has to do with words. Take music, for example. I know some people who have to write in complete silence — I happen to find that distracting unless I’m really obsessing on a WIP. Otherwise, the simplest way to get the writing mojo going is to find the right music for the story.
“If music be the food of life, play on,” urged Shakespeare’s Duke Orsino, assuaging his sorrow over his thwarted love for Olivia with his court musicians. Music affects our whole body whether we’re conscious of it or not. Of course, many of us use that influence deliberately to fuel the muse. When it comes to writing romance, sexy music helps. Whether we’re trying to get ourselves into the mood to write or to find the heart of a character, music can provide a short cut to the answers.
I often find that a story gets attached to a certain singer or type of music. My last novel under my own name had a lot of drumming infused through it, musicians like Gabrielle Roth, Layne Redmond and Glen Velez, whom the urban shaman at its center would have responded to quite readily. When I was writing Chastity Flame, I was listening to the Nuggets collection of sixties garage music.
When it comes to romance, there’s a lot to choose from. I wrote a story for a food-themed anthology called Ambrosia (edited by Jesse Blair Kensington) and I found that the best spark came from the matchless pipes of Etta James. The story was about two friends, one of who decided to screw up his courage and convince the woman he realised he loved that they should be more than friends. No one captures the exquisite pain of love and longing quite like James. Whether it’s the plaintive heartbreak of “All I Could Do Was Cry” or the sublime joy of “At Last,” James urges you to share every emotion as her voice glides over the notes effortlessly.
I also like playful sexy music and one of the best in that realm is the amazing Tori Amos. Her music explores the sensual from so many different angles, taking on a wild array of personas who explore love, sex, heartbreak and joy from completely different points of view. I love the vulnerable and jaded narrator of “Leather” who sings, “I can scream as loud as your last one / but I can’t claim innocence,” and the urgent thrill of “Raspberry Swirl,” with its admonition “if you want inside her, well / you better make her raspberry swirl.”
Sometimes you want to capture that sense of longing, however, and there’s few songs that capture the mood better than Lucinda Williams’ “Right in Time.” The lyrics alone convey efficiently and explicitly that yearning for an absent lover, imagining his touch:
I take off my watch and my earrings
My bracelets and everything
Lie on my back and moan at the ceiling
Oh my baby
But it’s really Williams’ voice when she moans that line, “Oh my baby,” that nails the feeling perfectly. Her desire is tangible, the hunger practically leaps into your skin. Great stuff!
Occasionally, a song itself will suggest a story. I had a most unusual one form that way recently, spawned by a Motörhead song. Not really my kind of music, generally, but somehow their album Ace of Spades suddenly kept coming up in conversations between friends. I even ended up carrying a copy of the CD from one friend to another in two different countries. When my fairy tale story, “Love Me Like a Reptile” comes out, you’ll see what the influence of that song provoked…
So, what music do you listen to while you write?