While my family was small (three kids), we could be pretty loud. Even when my family moved out to the farmhouse and we each finally got our own room, my brother, whom I shared a wall with, would play his music loud enough for me to hear it, and my sister, who was right across the hall, loved practicing piano or violin. Add several dogs that were constantly in and out, a wooden floor, and a couple of goats who liked to try to butt their way through the screen doors, and at times it sounded like a dozen vocal people watching their favorite football team.
Fridays were a completely different animal. We participated in a homeschool orchestra that, at its peak, had several hundred people involved with it. You couldn’t escape the noise wherever you went on Fridays.
I didn’t mind the noise at any time, because it forced me to focus on whatever I was working on—a writing assignment, a story, an entry in my journal. This will come in handy when I have kids, I’m sure, but for now, when I’m at home by myself, I have to create my own noise. I’ve chosen music, because if I try the TV or radio, the words ‘political rally’ and ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ will randomly pop into a story about katana-wielding elvish bikers. (For those wondering; yes, that’s a real story idea I’ve had. Did a sign with the word WEIRDO just pop up over my head?)
Music, with lyrics or not, has the added benefit of inspiring me. Many times as I’m in the plotting process of a story, I chose songs for all of my main characters, the story, and key scenes in the story. I’m never more thrilled than when I find a song that perfectly fits a character, whether it’s a soaring symphony piece or a head-banging rock song. I remember the first time I was inspired by music—I was sitting at the computer, listening to my new copy of The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl, and in my head, I suddenly saw two characters on a cliff, sword-fighting and using some of the coolest moves I’d ever imagined before.
If I’m stuck, I like to close my eyes and imagine my story as a movie, with the music I’ve chosen playing in the background. Sometimes I think I’m turning myself into Pavlov’s dog. “Ooh, there’s music—I must write!”
There is one song in particular that never fails to inspire me. Years ago, I was introduced to the band Skillet by my high school friend David. It was Skillet’s Comatose album. I thought the symphonic intro was cool, but when John Cooper started singing, I almost threw the headphones at David.
“What kind of junk is that?” I yelped.
Then my brother started listening to them, and I endured it for a while. Within a couple of years, my sister was the one with her hands clamped over her ears and her nose screwed up in horror as we played Skillet as loud as our parents would let us.
When their Awake album came out, I fell in love with their song Hero. It was awesome! Here was a song that reminded me of the heroes that I wrote and the way they also need a Hero. Every playlist I make for my stories, Hero is at the top of it, keeping that thought in my mind as I write.
Music has become essential for me. I don’t listen to it every time I write, but it does help. For some reason it makes the story seem so much more real and alive. Lines from a song inspire a telling line for a character, and an epic soundtrack just might dictate the ebb and flow of a battle scene.
And sometimes, it’s just noise that drives me deeper into my story world.