Music Behind The Story with Reedsy's Jenn Gott
Greetings and Salutations Rock 'n' Rollers! Today I'm pleased as punch to be featuring a new-to-me author who I learned about through Reedsy Discovery. I submitted my book Healer to their site earlier this year and one of their folks contacted me after coming across my profile. I'm excited about the results. If you haven't checked Reedsy
out, they've got some great resources for authors as well as opportunities for readers to get their hands on some groovy new reads.
Jenn Gott is here to talk about how music influences her writing and I thought she had some super cool things to say, so grab some snacks and a bevy and let's check it out!
3 Major Ways That Music Inspires My Writing
I’m one of those writers who always has a song playing in the background when I’m writing, no matter what my project is (yes, there’s one on now!). There’s just something about music that instantly focuses my mind and transports me straight to the place I need to be in order to get words down. And while everyone is different, I think a lot of writers also feel a strong need to listen to something while they work. But why? What is it about music that helps us so much?
Today, I’m going to shed some light on the subject by looking at three of the biggest ways that music inspires my writing. Let’s get started!
Ideas spring from a wide variety of places. I’ve had stories come to me in dreams, from spotting a cool prop in a movie, from comments I overhear in public… and sometimes, I pluck a piece of inspiration from music drifting past.
While I cannot yet say personally that a song has directly inspired an entire story, I have turned to music for a spark of magic — literally — when crafting certain elements of my work. Atlas Genuis’s song “Molecules” helped me conjure a magic system for one of my work-in-progress fantasy novels. It’s easy for me to close my eyes while listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks and envision high-seas adventures.
And I get dozens upon dozens of story ideas every time I listen to the few songs produced by the sadly short-lived steampunk group The Clockwork Quartet. Musicians like them spend their whole careers perfecting their abilities to convey specific moods and, unsurprisingly, it pays off; listeners like me empathize deeply with the melodies.
But beyond just pulling from the mood, sometimes I’ll use songs as a sort of writing prompt. What does the other party of this song’s love story think about their relationship? Will it ultimately sour, or flourish and grow? Furthermore, what inspired the weird, quirky tunes that I love, and does the band actually get along as well as they act like they do in interviews? Music and musicians are endlessly fascinating to me, and there’s so many layers to explore in even the most manufactured bop currently chewing up the airwaves.
For setting the stage
Where music really shines for me, though, is once I have the idea — that’s when the real fun begins.
We already know that music has an incredible transportive power. One measure of a song, one snatch of lyrics, and we’re instantly thrown across time and space. It’s why the music of our youth holds such long-lasting appeal: because we associate it with carefree summer days, with first loves, with the seemingly endless possibilities of the life ahead of us. And if you’re a writer, you can hack this associative quality of music and use it to your own advantage.
For example, I’m currently writing a book that takes place in the year 2000. As it’s been twenty years since those days (yikes!), I stock my playlist with old hits from the tail end of the ’90s and the Y2K threshold. It helps me remember that era better: its clunky cellphones, the TV shows that were airing, the slang we used.
Then, when it’s time to transition to a fight scene, I’ll pull up my playlist full of larger-than-life songs from Audiomachine, Future World Music, and Celldweller. You can get as specific or as broad as you like: I’ve chosen a couple’s love song before to play on repeat while building toward big moments for my characters, or just thrown on Pandora stations that fit the general vibe. Putting myself in the appropriate mindset goes a long way to getting the mental gears turning — even when I’m in the thick of writer’s block.
This can certainly go along with the previous point, but music doesn’t necessarily have to fit the mood in order to help me get work done.
Particularly in the later stages of editing and proofing, there are times when I don’t need music so much for conjuring images and ideas as I do just to keep me motivated while I’m slogging through the work. In these cases, music becomes a companion, holding my hand and encouraging me to just keep putting one foot after another.
At this stage of the game, I’ll often turn to opera or classical music: lots of sweeping arias and grand crescendos to keep me awake as I stare at all the times the word “that” was used in my manuscript. When I’m working so hard that the black scribbles on my screen no longer resemble words, music is often the only thing that can energize me and keep me going through the very unsexy business of fine-tuning my books. It’s the same study-aide trick that students have been using for decades, and it works just as well on novels, blog posts, and poetry.
In the end, I guess that’s why having music on while I’m working means so much to me. Because music, like a good old friend, will have your back not just during the initial thrill of discovery, but over the long haul as well. So the next time you find yourself stuck, pull up a song from an old playlist, sit back, and just listen for a few minutes. Even if you don’t have a burst of inspiration, I guarantee you’ll go back to work refreshed.
Jenn Gott is an indie author and a writer with Reedsy, so she basically spends all her time either writing books, or helping people learn how to write books. She firmly believes there is no writing skill you cannot learn with practice and the right guidance.
You can find Jenn on her website or on Reedsy!
Thanks again to the Reedsy crew for reaching out. I'll have SO MUCH NEWS coming next week and later this week I'll be spotlighting another authory friend, so Stay Tuned for more Rock 'n' Romance...