When I was 13, my sister bought Collective Soul’s first album (Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid), and played it all summer long. As a result, every time I hear a song from that album, I am suddenly and very vividly 13 years old again. My brain has linked that music so irrevocably to my 13th year, and all the things that happened then, it’s the next best thing to a time machine. What memory my own mind has not been able to keep hold of over these years, that music has stored away for me, perfectly preserved.
I wrote a post on characterization a while ago, and I mentioned the idea of giving your characters a theme song. You can take advantage of the mental link between memory and music to help you keep your characters separate and defined in your head–very useful when you’re dealing with a large cast of characters, or you’re one of those writers that likes to story hop, working on more than one project at once.
This same technique can be used for stories as a whole. I have a specific playlist on my iPod that I listen to only when working on my current project. It’s one of the most effective things I can do to immediately get into the right “headspace”.
Here are a few songs from my playlist for Chaos, which has a distinctly gaelic (and occasionally arabian) “flavor”:
“Theme from Harry’s Game”
“Coinleach Ghlas an Fhómhair”
“Tá Mé ‘Mo Shui”
“The Mask and the Mirror”
“Marrakesh Night Market”
“Night Ride Across the Caucasus”
~ Loreena McKennit
– Najwa Gilbran
Add to that anything from the “Gladiator” soundtrack by Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard, and then a couple that might seem a little out of place, but somehow fit:
I only listen to these songs when writing or brainstorming about my project, and this has really helped clarify and preserve that mental link. While I wouldn’t say it lets me turn on the Muse like a faucet, it’s pretty darn close.
So. What would you put on your story’s playlist?