On Writing: Music as Inspiration

Music and Prose

Guest post by Jack Croxall

writing inspiration with music

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What I’d like to reflect upon here is how useful I’ve found assigning particular songs to certain sequences, settings or even whole chapters of my novel.

I first tried this because I wanted to create a kind of reference point for the feel of some of my scenes; a way of standardising say, a certain location’s mood or the mindset of a particular character. It seemed like a decent enough idea and, once I’d decided on a suitable selection of tracks for a sequence, I always made sure to have a quick listen through any time I wanted to add anything more to said sequence, hopefully preventing myself from accidentally bolting on any tonally dissimilar sentences.

However, I soon realised music could do more for my work than just help with continuity.

I think everybody’s experienced that moment when a familiar song comes on and you’re instantly reminded of how you felt when you first heard it; I know when I hear tracks from Echo Park by Feeder, I suddenly feel as sad as I did at the end of the book I was reading when I bought the album (Watership Down). I mention this because, as I began carefully allocating scene X with track list Y, I started to realise a lot of the older songs in my music library put me in the precise mental state I’d been in when I’d first listened to them during my teenage years.

Now, a lot of teenagers have an incredible amount to deal with and dredging some of that back up could perhaps be considered a bad idea, but upon taking the plunge myself, I recognised I’d discovered a priceless writing tool.

Let me explain a little bit more. The two main characters in my YA novel are, unsurprisingly, teenagers and having not been one for a while, I was sometimes finding it difficult to work out how certain events in the plot might affect them. In rediscovering some of my older music, I realised I’d stumbled upon a valuable window into how I’d felt during the more testing times (but comparatively meagre in the grand scheme) I had gone through as a teenager; insecurity, break ups, cancelation of my favourite TV show etc.

So, the point is, I was suddenly able to construct more realistic reactions and responses to some of the more emotive events that occur throughout my plot, simply because my old music could reminded me of how I’d felt and thought during similar, albeit far less extreme, situations. It really was somewhat of a revelation.

About the Author

Jack Croxall - Author PhotoBorn in High Wycombe, Jack Croxall now lives in rural Nottinghamshire with his chocolate Labrador, Archie. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Nottingham and currently toils away as a science writer in between working on his books. A YA Victorian fantasy, Jack’s debut novel, Tethers follows Karl Scheffer and Esther Emerson as they become embroiled in a treacherous conspiracy. The book is available through Amazon and you can find out more by visiting Jack’s blog or the book’s GoodReads page. You can also follow Jack on Twitter or Facebook.

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About Jen Barry

Author of Young Adult novels. Reside in Nashville with my husband, a gorgeous Irishman. Drink too much coffee. Online way too much.

6 thoughts on “On Writing: Music as Inspiration

  1. Ensis says:

    I often use music to write, but I’d never thought of using it in this way…

  2. […] via On Writing: Music as Inspiration. […]

  3. Margaret Taylor says:

    Hi Jack,
    I’m a big proponent of music and writing…together! My shelves are filled with various CD’s (yes, I’m old school like that) and whenever I need to set a particular mood or emotion into my words, I pull out what I need, pop it in and off I go!
    I couldn’t agree more that hearing say, Def Leppard, or Bon Jovi or Poison returns me back to the days of yore when I was pimply faced, braces/glasses wearing teenager…Oh, wait, I’m still a…
    Never mind! Why did I go there? *winks*
    Anyway, thanks for posting this! Wonderful, just wonderful.

    • Jack Croxall says:

      Thanks Margaret!

      It’s so great to hear that you feel the same way, and that you work in a similar way too! There really are so many albums that take me back to various places and I still have all my CDs as well! 😀

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