If Deb Erika Could Make Mix Tapes for her Novels

Let it be known: I love music. All kinds. Not just, you know, these kinds:

But when I write, I tend to narrow that down a bit. For starters, I can’t have music in the background with lyrics. It’s instrumentals all the way, baby. But that said, I MUST have music when I write.

Which brings me to Pandora Radio…

At the risk of sounding like an endorsement (which this isn’t!), I recently discovered I could select channels for my writing and it changed my writing world. Turns out you can tell Pandora Radio a song and it will build a whole channel/catalog around that artist!

Wow, right?!

I learned this a third of the way through my recent WIP and I was hooked. In all my years of writing, I had never before imagined a catalog of music to accompany my writing. Sure, oftentimes that meant hearing Danny Elfman’s wonderful Edward Scissorhands score five times in a single hour (the catalog can be somewhat small when you narrow your choice down too much) but I couldn’t complain. And I won’t lie: writing with background music that swells is, well, swell. Since writing can be, and often should be, a visual experience, having music that evokes a certain setting can only, in my experience, enhance the textures of a story.

Then it occurred to me: It was like making the perfect mix tape for my novel!

(I know many of you remember those days of carefully coordinating the perfect soundtrack of songs to commemorate our angst of choice of the moment. The break-up mix was my personal favorite; I might even have one or two still hanging around and I can guarantee you they all contain The Smiths, Meatloaf and Kate Bush. And yes, I would still listen to them, and yes, I would still bawl my eyes out as I called out the lyrics line-by-line.)

So tell me, friends…Have you ever thought of a novel you were reading or writing as having a soundtrack? And if it did, would it enhance your experience to listen to it?

13 Replies to “If Deb Erika Could Make Mix Tapes for her Novels”

  1. That line from The Blues Brothers always cracks me up!

    I wish I were musically inclined enough to mentally apply a soundtrack to my books–that would be so cool! Alas, my poor mind doesn’t work that way. I AM sometimes inspired by a song I’ve heard, and convert the inspiration to a scene in a book, but that’s about as far as it goes.

    But I do love listening to other people’s mix tapes. 🙂

    1. Isn’t that line the best??? (Of course, it made me want to watch the whole movie again–darn you, youtube.com!!)

      Your comment has me even more eager now for YOUR post, Linda, dear…

  2. Great post! I make a soundtrack (with words) for each WIP. I find it extremely helpful. Pandora is good in a pinch, as is stereomood. Oh, and um, Kate Bush may or may not have been on my first novel’s soundtrack.

    1. Thank you, Delia! And I love that you make your own soundtrack for your WIP–you’ve inspired me for my next ms to try that. Music is as much a texture to a story’s development as anything–setting, scents, whatever. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a song and found myself rethinking (or inventing!) a scene as a result.

  3. I love Pandora! Just the other day on my John Mayer channel (and yes, I was terribly disappointed when he cancelled his tour), I discovered that he has a version of Gold Digger. It was awesome!

    Would love to know what music is inspiring your WIP!!!! Not even a hint for us?

    1. Hello Miss Missy! Did you have John Mayer tics for one of his performances? I would bet he does a great live show…

      I’d love to share, yes! This new WIP is a lot of acoustic guitar and some bluegrass. It has a summer, coastal setting so I wanted something sort of slow and relaxed. Let me tell you, it makes me crave a beer and a crawfish boil (or a lobster bake–I’m not picky!)

  4. It’s funny you say this, Erika, because the first draft of my post yesterday was actually a video playlist I had made for my YA novel, RULE OF NINES. I decided it was probably more relevant to do a post about a book that people can actually read, but I’ve done playlists for a couple of my YA books.

  5. A lot of times what ends up happening for me is that whatever music I happen to be listening to at the time becomes the soundtrack of a book for me. And sometimes in a really powerful way when I hear the song later, I’ll remember the book!

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks so much for your comment–I agree. As I was saying to Delia, music has a huge impact on my story and character development. Oftentimes I’ll be listening to a favorite song (or maybe one I’ve never heard before) and a scene in my WIP will unfold as I hear it. I LOVE when that happens!

  6. I feel like I don’t have enough grasp on a huge musical library to be able to come up with a really good soundtrack to my books. If I made an MWF Seeking BFF soundtrack it would probably be full of Dionne Warwick, James Taylor, and The Golden Girls theme song. Or lots of Glee.

    Hey. wait. That sounds AWESOME.

    1. Are you kidding? I HAVE that tape! JT? Dionne? THE GOLDEN GIRLS THEME SONG??? You pretty much summed up my top ten right there. Rachel dearie, consider that tape made.

      Now in other news…I’ve never seen Glee!!! Have I been missing something fierce?!

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