A lot of writers like to listen to music while they write, or to help them brainstorm. Spotify is a great source of free, legal, streamable music, and if you’re the type of writer who likes to use music as a source of inspiration, I thought I’d pass on to you some different ideas for how you can use it.
The idea behind Spotify is that you can search songs and make playlists for yourself. I think the most common thing writers do with music is make playlists to listen to while writing different types of scenes. For example, if the scene you’re writing is a fight scene, you might have a playlist of fast-paced songs. If you tend to write a lot of death scenes, you’ll probably have a playlist of sad music.
My writer brother, Eli Radford, writes a lot of fantasy/sci-fi battle scenes, and for that he needs a playlist of pretty dramatic music. Here’s his playlist.
These songs are all intense and emotional, which is pretty much how he writes his battle scenes, so it fits.
I like to have playlists for the different novels that I’m working on. It helps me to categorize my brainstorming, and move on to a new project. I’ve spent a lot of time working on my science fiction novel, Sky Raiders, and I’m starting work on the sequel, Shadow Hawks. But moving on to a new project has always been really difficult for me – I tend to keep reworking old projects over and over again. A new playlist for a new novel helps me force myself to brainstorm for the new novel.
Sky Raiders is, by and large, a fairly cheerful story – it has darker elements to it, like intrigue and betrayal, but it’s also about friendship and trust. The songs I picked for it reflect these ideas and help me to focus on the essence of the novel while I’m brainstorming for it.
Shadow Hawks, on the other hand, is heavier in that the stakes are higher and the questions are harder. The main character finds himself constantly surrounded by the enemy, and it forces him to question himself in ways that he hadn’t before. Thus, the songs I picked for my “Shadow Hawks playlist” are a little more angsty and bitter, but with a few other more lighthearted songs thrown in to preserve the underlying nature of the story.
Both of these methods are totally legitimate, but my favorite type of playlist to put together is a character playlist. Essentially, I think of it as a list of “theme songs” for my most important characters. The songs reflect their personalities and the challenges that they deal with.
This playlist is for my female lead, Gadget Zodiac, who deals with a lot of internal conflict, represented by songs like “Demons,” by Imagine Dragons, and the instrumental cover of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Vitamin String Quartet. But she’s also snarky and tough, which is where songs like “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine and “Renegade” by Styx come in.
There are a lot of ways to use Spotify, and music generally, to help you write. I love these methods because they help me really gear my listening experience toward being more productive as a writer.
How do you use music to help you write? Do you use Spotify, or are you more of a Pandora person? Let me know in the comments below.
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