Writing With A Soundtrack

Music has always played a significant role in my writing. Not long after I start composing the main passages of a story, a theme song will work its way into my mind. In the case of my novel, An Island Away, the song was Soy by the Gypsy Kings. For my next book, Bonk’s Bar, it was Roadhouse by The Doors. These are two very different stories as are the songs. Each one shares the tone of the accompanying story. When I read passages, I compare them to the music and see if they mesh with it. If not, well, there’s something wrong.

Lately, I’ve been working on Under A Blue Flag, which is the sequel to An Island Away. The theme song for this book is Tobaco y Chanel. (There are several versions of this song. My preference is the one recorded by Bacilos.) The song begins with a violin solo that evolves into the first verse. The violin then plays counter-point to the words, dipping into the lower regions of the instrument’s range. The same violin is played pizzicato-style for transitions into the chorus. It also punctuates key lyrics from time to time. Throughout the song the percussion instruments maintain a familiar rhythm even as the violin roams about, seemingly doing it’s own thing, but all within the context of the overall theme.

So it is with writing a novel. There are those characters and events that form the background and foundation of the narrative. Then there are others that pop up, injecting elements of contrast or surprise. When mixed together they provide tension, conflict, and ultimately a satisfying resolution. Of course, if the author did a good job, the reader (like someone listening to a song) doesn’t notice these elements as distracting parts but rather a single flowing experience that sounds right.

At least that’s how it works for me.


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