How to Use Music as Writing Inspiration
At a wedding reception recently, the DJ played a song that was straight from my high school days. My friends and I danced along and laughed at the lyrics, while the music brought me back in time to all those high school dances.
The guys would come up with elaborate ways to ask their dates to the dance. The girls would shop for the perfect dresses. We’d make plans to get together for a group dinner beforehand. And finally, we’d dance all night long (well, until 11 pm), letting loose with that freedom only 16-year-olds can experience.
So many times, I’ve heard a song on the radio, on a commercial, during a movie, or on my iPod and found myself transported to another place and time. The lyrics and the melody remind me of a moment I’ve experienced, a memory I haven’t recalled for ages, and I’ll feel everything that I felt back then.
Music has the ability to move us—our memories and our imaginations. Here’s how to channel that power into inspiration for your writing:
Play that Song
Turn on music that you love. Listen carefully.
1. How does the song make you feel?
Tap into the emotions the song conjures up. Consider the mood that the song sets. With a focus on that feeling—joy, sadness, triumph, love, regret, whatever it is—write a piece that also conveys the same emotion.
2. What do the lyrics make you think about?
Sometimes the lyrics will tell a story; try to expand on that story by writing it in prose form. Or perhaps the song gives you a portrait of a character; use that description and fill in the blanks to create your own scene. Or finally, the lyrics may take you back to a time in your past; mine that memory for inspiration and write about your own experience.
3. What kind of story would use this song as a soundtrack?
Imagine the story you are about to write will be made into a movie (we can dream, right?) and this song will be on the soundtrack. Use the song to dream up a movie-worthy plot point or to envision a new setting or character.
What type of music inspires you? Is there a specific song that really moves you?
Choose a song to use as your inspiration. Listen to it start-to-finish, while keeping the questions above in mind.
Write for fifteen minutes about whatever the song inspires you to imagine. (You might have to play the song a few times on repeat!)
When you’re finished, please share your practice in the comments section.