cj Sez: Author Carrie Dalby craves music when she writes, and today on Lyrical Pens, she explains how it gets her in the mood to tell her stories.
I enjoy any excuse to talk about books and music—the two biggest things I geek-out over. Some people need silence to write: I’m not one of those. Granted I’ll take silence over certain background sounds—like TV shows when the family is watching something—I’d rather have mood music. And thanks to my earbuds, I can cancel out those backgrounds noises with what I need to hear. Yes, need. I crave music.
When starting a new story, I begin with characters. Usually just one, and the others blossom from the central person. Those characters tell me where they live (setting) and I get an inkling of a plot idea, but to go any further I need music. Before I write a word of the story, I start a “Mood Music” playlist in my iTunes account. It might only have half a dozen songs when I start writing, but as I get to know the characters and plot, that file grows. As I get further along in the story, I might drop songs that don’t quite fit the mood like I expected them to, but I’m always adding to it—which is easy to do from the more than 5,550 songs (and growing) in my eclectic collection.
Right now, I’m working on a Gothic read (a little bit Southern, a little bit horror) for mature readers. My Mood Music playlist has almost a day and a half of songs to it. Yes, that means I could write for over twenty-four hours straight and never hear the same song twice. It has a mix of genres, but is predominately metal and classical.
Using certain musical themes to fit the mood I want to portray in a story—or even a certain scene—helps me get into the proper mind-set and opens me to emotions that the characters are going through. It could be seen as a way to method acting, because music is one of the easiest ways to stir feelings in the right direction.
While I can write to any type of music—singing along helps keep momentum going when my words slow down (and it’s a great way to ward off writer’s block)—I can only edit to instrumentals. Hearing other people’s words gets in the way of seeing where my words stand. When I’m finished with edits, I take my mood music list and narrow it down into a soundtrack for each novel, which is a chronological expression of the story through music. Check out my listings for Corroded ( https://carriedalby.com/2016/04/12/corroded-in-the-wild ) and Fortitude ( https://carriedalby.com/2016/01/28/the-music-of-fortitude ).
How do you use music to fuel your writing time? Even if you can’t work with music, try listening to something that sets the mood for fifteen minutes or more before you start writing. I’d love to hear your results. Thanks for letting me stop and gush about music (and writing), cj!
Born and raised in California, Carrie Dalby has lived in Alabama for two decades but still has trouble with the humidity of summer. When she’s not writing, Carrie homeschools her three kids and splits her time between family, reading, knitting, concert going, and volunteering. Sharing her love of literature for young adults and children is one of her favorite things to do, and her volunteer hours reflect that. Her local church congregation, the Mobile Writers Guild, SCBWI, and the Metro Mobile Reading Council are where she loves to spend her “free time.”
FORTITUDE...Growing up with a Creole best friend, sixteen-year-old Claire O’Farrell held little regard for the Jim Crow laws and the consequences of befriending those of a different color. But once she leaves the haven of her home on Dauphin Island, the reality of racial intolerance can no longer be ignored. Though she’s underage, Claire makes the bold decision to serve alongside Loretta, her best friend, in the “colored camp” hospital tents during the Spanish-American War, but her idealistic attitude and choice of working location immediately puts her in danger. Claire gives her heart to a soldier in the camp, only to find herself caught in the racial violence besieging the area. When the intolerant attitudes and stigma follow her home, she clings to her faith to navigate through her social isolation and find the path she was meant to travel.
cj Sez: Thanks, Carrie, for sharing this unique way of getting inspiration for your stories and writing your way through the dreaded writer’s block. I usually write in silence, but I'm going to try listening to music before I start writing. All best for great sales and marvelous reviews on your novels.
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