Scribbling to a Soundtrack

Someone on Twitter asked if playing music while working was helpful or hindering to one’s writing. My answer boiled down to “it depends” (I know, so helpful). Frequently, music can be a huge distraction – having the radio on while I work is typically not helpful for me. However there are times when I’m trying to write something specific and, in those cases, having a sound-track to write to is actually a big help.
I’ve played mixes of Florence + the Machine, combined with bits of SJ Tucker’s “Quartered” album to take me into heady, club-land sensory overload, so that I can see the swirl of strobe-sound-smell-touch that my characters are being swallowed by as I drag them down the rabbit hole. I’ve played jazz, big-band, and classic torch songs when I’m writing stories like “In the Pink” (about a soft-butch seduced by her burlesque dancer bff/crush); and buckets of Ani DiFranco (am I showing my age?) when writing about queer-femme-punk girls hooking up at a rock show (“Rock Star”).
In these situations, yes, music also has a hand in the actual story – Miss Kitty Velvet dances to “Love Cats”, but gives Jessie fever later on; fangirls swoon when Jane Cherry howls into her mic, but Bikini Kill is playing in the background when they get it on at the after party. You get the idea. But that isn’t always how things work out. For example, when I wrote “Wolf and Scarlet” (about misfit teens from rural Idaho being all grown up and finding each other – now both openly kinky dykes, and both still carrying a bit of a torch for each other – at their highschool reunion), I spent days listening to a mix of Dixie Chicks and Taylor Swift combined with Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album… and it worked. Equal parts “bad kid”, “mean”, “heavy metal lover” and “not ready to make nice”, mixed with “cowboy, take me away” “you and I” and “mine”.
Do you write to a soundtrack?


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Filed under prose, writing

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