Thursday, August 31, 2006

Writing to Music

I was going to call this "Writing Music" until I realized that could be taken two ways, and wasn't necessarily what I meant :-).

As Cheryl and Margaret mentioned in previous posts, I also write with pictures nearby. I try to find pictures of my characters (or close to what they look like, in some cases), and also any pictures that capture the times, the places, or the feel of my story. These often act as my touchstones, keeping me grounded in my story when I'm stuck, or having a tough time making the mental journey back in time.

Just as important to my writing, however, is the music I write to. I have a small collection of cassette tapes and cds that I constantly play in the background while I write. Many of them are movie soundtracks (talk about some dramatic stuff!), but I also have some with vocals. Generally if I can hear the lyrics clearly, the music distracts me, but there are several vocal artists whose work actually helps me stay in the mood and "in character."

At the top of that short list is Loreena McKennitt. The music is wonderful--it flows over and around me as I write; it's evocative and emotional. It also, imo, captures the flavors of the past, very important to a historical romance writer. The lyrics are often from the past, as well--"The Highwayman," "The Lady of Shalott," "Bonny Portmore," to name a few.

Works for me :-)

At the moment I'm back in the medieval era, so I've been playing the soundtracks from "Kingdom of Heaven," "Tristan and Isolde," and "King Arthur," along with Loreena McKennitt's 2-cd set "Live in Paris and Toronto." I may switch out several of these soon, or dip into my stash of cassettes, for the soundtracks from "Last of the Mohicans," "Robin Hood," the two recent "Zorro" movies, or "Gladiator."

I look on the music as a type of soundtrack for my writing. When I hear it, I get into work mode--it's time to write. It's also helpful for brainstorming.

I've been tempted at times to include composers and artists in the dedications for a couple of books. They've certainly helped me get from blank page to finished book!


Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Sharon,
I love the ROBIN HOOD soundtrack. Have you heard THE PIANO by Michael Nyman? It may be the most emotional CD I have. Being a western writer, I'm partial to country, bluegrass, anything Americana. Right now, I'm playing all five of Johnny Cash's "American" CDs.

Sharon Schulze said...

Vicki, I haven't heard that one, but I'll definitely check it out. I'm always glad to find a new addition to my mood music :-)

CherylStJ said...

I love soundtracks, too, but for me background music is more distracting and irritating than helpful while I'm writing. I find myself listening or becoming impatient. Even nature sounds distract me. The only sounds that blend into the background while I work are those of tides, running water or rain.

There are CDs playing 24/7 in two rooms of my home, one in my 7-yr-old grandson's room and one in the dining room. They are background music for our lives. From my office I can barely hear them, but the sounds just blend in because they're always there.

My hubby bought native american flute music recently, and it's incredibly beautiful. The artist was at the home and garden show last spring and we heard him perform live.

You just gave me an idea -- that's one I haven't tried working to, yet.

I haven't heard Loreena McKennitt. Will have to give her a listen.

Sharon Schulze said...

I hope you like her, Cheryl!

Even if her music doesn't work for writing, it's still beautiful for relaxing listening.

Terri Brisbin said...

I listen to certain music while writing, too, and learned during my last book not to change that music! I was stymied for weeks, struggling to tell a story I knew by heart, when I went to a presentation by a social psychologist. He said that we train our brain to work under specific circumstances and when we change those circumstances, our brain doesn't want to work the same way! UH DUH! I put my old favorite music back in the CD player and the story flowed...

I won't mess with success again! It's Celtic and Scottish music for me....

Janet Kendall said...

Hi Everyone!
I can vouch for Sharon's Loreena McKennitt and her beautiful voice and music. Sharon and I were at a Romantic Times conference a few years back and they played her music during the cover model contest. When I commented on the music, and that I wished I knew the artist, Sharon rattled off the names of every song and the CD's! Since then, I've become a fan, too. Unfortunately, I can't write and listen to music with lyrics, but I do listen to music...lots of Celtic and artists like James Galway (celtic flute) and Phil Coulter on the piano - they make a great team to put me in just the 'write' mood.