Thursday, 27 October 2011

Music Always Holds the Key! by Alivia Anders

As we inch closer to November 1st, things begin to fall into place for the next thirty days of insanity. Maybe you've pre-planned what will be made meal-wise for the family to shave a few hours off your schedule. Maybe (unlike me so far) you've cleaned your room and desk space as a ritualistic 'Cleaning of the cobwebs from the brain' thing. 

Maybe you're like my friend Lorca from Twitter (@lorcadamon) who's prepping her glittery plot poster, or Jennifer who's also from Twitter (@jennifergracen) getting her pom-poms ready for a Cheer Fest, or maybe you're like Lyn over here running a bajillion blogs and being one of the best NaNoWriMo preppers and friend ever (like you know, her main blog Against The Odds and her Twitter (@lynmidnight).

Or maybe you are like me. Your room isn't clean, your plot feels like it's dying for air, and your characters aren't in the pretty little harmony they're supposed to be. So what's a writer to do when you can't find the voice you need to get things running in your head?

Listen. I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

Hear that music? It could be the song playing in your head, on your iPod, iTunes, maybe your dog is even howling to some god-awful tune. Hear it now?

That's what you need.

Wait, so basically I'm telling you to listen to music? Yes I am.

Your characters are strong little pieces of yourself (not to be confused with Mary Sues where you make the character you only super-perfect) squirming and leaping and screaming for life. It's your job, as the mighty controller of the body and brain to give them that chance at life. And just like we feel like every song on the radio perfectly describes us and our moods, it does for our inner voices too!

Per example. When writing Illumine I was having the most impossibly difficult time hearing Essallie. It didn't matter what I did, meditation, donut making, random overdoses of coffee and egg whites, compulsive Twittering, nothing did the trick. And then I picked up Evanescence's new CD. 

Like a light switch flicking on in my head, I heard and saw everything down to the very blades of grass this girl was standing on. My character had found her voice. It was with this idea that I took the step further and decided to apply it to my NaNo project, mixing different bands and artists to convey the moods Alex goes through over the course of her stay.

So maybe come November 1st you'll start pounding out keys, sure of the voice in your head. Or maybe you'll turn up the tunes and crank out words like that, your character's voice loud and clear over the speakers.

One thing is definitely for sure. My next thirty days will be more than writing, it'll be head-bashing screaming-music goodness, too. 

What do YOU do when you get stuck? Have you ever found inspiration in music?

Born in the middle of nowhere PA, Alivia Anders is frequently called different, insane, and a little creative. Inspired by just about anything, she began writing in 6th grade after joining a Harry Potter-inspired RPG forum. She says she loves salads, but really likes them only if they have taco meat on top. The oldest of five, she currently lives at home, enduring peak levels of insanity enough to drive a rhino to spontaneously combust. You can see her chit-chattering on twitter or plotting her evil plan at the NaNoWriMo site.


  1. Two thumbs up!

  2. This is my first ever NaNoWriMo and I'm (not surprisingly) a little scattered. Normally I can't listen to music when I'm writing, but two days ago it felt like I NEEDED it. I think I'm going to hop around iTunes as part of my prep-work the rest of this weekend to see if I can find my characters' songs!

    Great post!!

  3. Yes! I had the tiniest seed of an idea, and after listening to a particular album, I had a story arc for a novel. Each song seemed to represent a character and/or a scene - everything came to life. When in doubt, press play.

  4. Yes! I have a playlist that I break out every November and just put on repeat. Actually, I have two: a low-gear playlist for exposition and dialogue, and a high-gear playlist for when I'm writing action scenes and such. Since I write fantasy, I gravitate toward symphonic movie scores, and so I have a ton of them.

    Fun post!

  5. You sound like me, Daniel! I mesh it all into one giant playlist on my iPod, plug it into iTunes and let the music do the talking. Sometimes I have to shuffle around to find the one I need but for the most part the music's right on the same page with me. Is this your second year doing NaNo or have you done multiple?

  6. I agree, Lee! Press play and let the music call out to you. It's so weird how we can sit there and not really know what we're writing, but pop into some music and like a movie the pictures come to life in our heads.

  7. Hi Nicole! A first time NaNo'er, eh? Don't let the first time jitters chew you alive like an alpaca chewing in grass (or hay, I think they like hay too. The ones in my head like birthday cake) and remember above all to have fun doing this! It's no fun if you go bald trying to write a story (wigs are expensive!) Cruise through iTunes or Spotify or even Pandora- I use them all and it gives me a wide range of diversity for when I need it.

    Bst of luck for NaNo!

  8. This will be my ninth year, believe it or not.

  9. Thanks so much! It's all for the fun of it! Crazy-hairbrained fun!!

    I've been jumping between iTunes and Pandora - I keep forgetting about Spotify.

  10. My story has not only one soundtrack, but three! One for my heroine, who like your character found her voice in Evanescence; another for my hero, who's got more of a jazz vibe, and another for the overarching theme of the novel. And yes, they're on my iPhone

  11. Kickass post, baby!!!
    Music helps tremendously to those who use it. Good for you that you found what you needed with it. I tend to form soundtracks for a piece as I write; songs for scenes present themselves in my head. A side effect from growing up in the MTV generation. (They used to play music videos, you know...)

    As for me, YES! I've got my NaNo pompoms READY, people!!! If you want me to check in on you every few days simply to see how you're doing and offer encouragement, shoot me a tweet saying so with the hashtag #yesHC - and this self-proclaimed, possibly insane Head Cheerleader for NaNo Tweeps will cheer you on through November. I know that sometimes all you need is that little push saying YOU CAN DO IT!!!! and it HELPS. That's what I'd like to do for whoever needs that nudge. Okay? Okay.

    *does gravity-defying double backflip* *shakes pompoms wildly* :D