Monday, April 7, 2014

Music and Writing

When I first thought about submitting a sweet romance manuscript, I knew the emotions of the characters had to be  felt deeply by the reader. This was the challenge; make the reader feel every emotion we wanted them to feel using only words. 

Love, hate, fear, passion, sadness. I think I can safely say we all have gone through something in life and have felt these basic emotions to some degree to be able to express them in our writing.  But we write about so much more – Revenge, betrayal, terror, unrequited love, abandonment, ecstasy, rapture. How can we experience these at the time we need to write about them?

Enter music.

Music is an easily overlooked, yet incredibly important tool to help us write.  Music is so fundamental to us we often don’t even consciously acknowledge how much it actually affects us.  Music is sticky.  From a simple, but catchy jingle to a brilliant musical movie score, music surrounds us and gets locked in our minds to be recalled over and over again.
Would JAWS be as scary without the tension created by the theme song that signaled impending doom?  Do you immediately picture Indiana Jones running through cobwebs holding the crystal skull in his hand when you hear the theme song from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK?  Do you feel the pain when Lancelot seals his fate and Guinevere’s when he sings If Ever I would Leave You  in CAMELOT?
Yes to all of the above.  Because of the music.
Using music, we can experience emotion almost on an as-needed basis.
Music is a powerful medium to express and experience emotion. It recreates aspects of lives that are recognizable and can be experience to some degree just by listening. By recreating patterns associated with human emotion, it recreates the emotion. Then listening, we are able to grasp the emotional content, and react emotionally to it. As an embodiment of the emotion, we are able to perceive it directly.
For instance, a piece of music may be quick moving, expressing energy, purposefulness, or excitement. When we listen to a piece like that, more often than not, we can feel it.  When we feel the emotion, we are more able to put it down on paper in a way that can be felt and experienced bu our readers  through our writing.

I know you all have a particular song that makes you cry, or gets you to remember certain periods in your life. Take those songs and stash them in the USB drive in your mind. When necessary, hit the play button and use them next time you get stuck in a scene that is flat and lacking the emotional response you need to get the reader to turns those pages.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite songs that help get me from blank page to emotional genius. Well, maybe not genius; maybe just not one dimensional.

Here goes –
Abandonment - ­I Who Have Nothing by Tom Jones
Loving someone from afar – Invisible by Clay Aiken
Pain of Loss – Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
Love – Let Me Love You –Tim McGraw
Passion – Keep Coming Back - Richard Marx
Intense Attraction – Touch of Heaven – Richard Marx
Despair – Unbreak my Heart – Toni Braxton
Lost Love - Even Now - – Barry Manilow
Questioning your Heart – Measure of a Man – Clay Aiken
Losing a Love – Somewhere Down The Road – Barry Manilow
The First Time – Somewhere in the Night – Barry Manilow
Unrequited Love - – Melody for a Memory – Hall and Oates
Hopelessness – What About Now – Daughtry (Chris Daughtry)
Regret – I Go Crazy – Paul Davis

All oldies, but all I need sometimes to remind me what one of my characters need to feel.

When you have time, take one of your favorite songs and listen for the emotion. Tag it, bag it, and save it for an emergency. You’ll be glad you did.

Kathye Quick has been writing since the sister’s of St. Casmir’s School in Shenandoah, PA gave her a #2 pencil, ruled paper and taught her what vowels and consonants were.   Now she is the author of fifteen books with a lot more stories still stuck inside her head.

Visit her at .


  1. Kathye--
    Great post. You have me convinced... music truly does help us writers unlock emotions while we are writing. You are right that sometimes we need to reach deeper and music helps us do that.

  2. What a fun post and brilliant suggestions. It never occurred to me to write to music. I write to background noise, to coffee, to food, to gardening, but never thought about adding music. I'll check out some of those on your list!

  3. Kathye, great post. Writing to music has a long tradition. When John Steinbeck was penning The Grapes of Wrath, he listened to Swan Lake. Hemingway listened to Bach when writing. What's really neat is the background music contributed to the rhythm of the words on the page. The rhythm in Steinbeck's Grapes has a lyrical quality similar to Swan Lake. Hemingway's rhythms, of course, echoed the almost staccato quality of Bach. You can actually hear this if you read aloud a Hemingway passage while Bach plays in the background. So you are in great company!

  4. I've thought about writing to music. I've written to music. My problem, as a former singer and musician, I listen to the music and forget to write. Sigh. I write my best when I can concentrate on my inner thoughts about my characters and plotlines. I LOVE music. That's my problem.