Monday, December 10, 2012

The thing about writing with music.

"You should write more!" Say I to some of my friends, many of which profess to wanting to write stories, books, anime, movies, comics, videogames, etc.

"But it's haaaard!" they whine.

"Do it!"

"But I haven't had my muse for a while!"

And this is the point at which I silently sigh and rest my head in my hands, glad that most of the time this conversation is via E-mail or skype's instant messaging.

"Just start writing," I say "The rest will come naturally. Start anywhere, you'll get there."

"Okay." They eventually reply, after some encouragement. "Just let me get my playlist together." Usually at this point I groan aloud and melodramatically shift to the floor to complain to the empty aether. Writing isn't going to happen, now.

Now mind you, writing to music is awesome. I do it all the time.

"Then why complain?" You ask, probably personally offended because "I write to music all the time!"

Well, it leads to some problems.

1. It's harder to focus with some kinds of music.

Mind you, some kinds of music are GREAT for creativity. Classics, Techno, Dubstep, Jazz, foreign music, that sort of thing. Why these kinds specifically? Because they're less likely to have lyrics.

Now this might seem strange to some of you, but just think about any time you've tried to write with someone talking at you. Isn't that kinda hard? You're listening to your significant other ask you where to go for dinner, and suddenly your characters are walking into an Applebees instead of a dungeon. Why? Because you're trying to reply in your head and your hands can sometimes reply faster or more coherently than your mouth can. Music with lyrics that you can understand will distract your mind, because you're busy thinking of the lyrics. Movies and other things on in the background can also do this. Foreign music (when you don't understand the language being spoken to ANY degree) and music without lyrics won't distract as much.

2. Changing tracks/volume.

"It'l just take a second." You think as you switch windows to change music, or as you refocus your attention to alter the volume. You look back at your page and wonder "...What was I doing, anyway?" Now it takes you a few seconds to re-read and immerse yourself again. It's not as much fun when you're getting dislodged from your thoughts.

3. "Ooh, this track fits this character..."

And then suddenly you're writing a music video to your music. That's cute and all, but you're probably not writing a songfic. Songfics are a cliché and aren't nearly as clever as you probably think they are. Mind you, some can be good, some can be wildly successful, and some can be bad. I can't think of any that are particularly good, but I don't make it a habit to read them, so I can't mention any bad ones, either. Now writing things like battle scenes can benefit from listening to appropriate music. It can make the battle scenes seem more kinetic and fluid. But you also have to be careful that they don't end up schizophrenic, too. Just be very careful when you're taking inspiration from music. That said: I would suggest listening to character-appropriate music when you -aren't- writing. It can be great for getting inspirational juices flowing. But the other problems mentioned can really raise problems -during- the writing. You do have to be careful about that.

4. Sudden tonal shifts.

Not a big problem if your playlists are consistent, but if -like me- your pandora station covers everything from Dragonforce to Weird Al, you'll probably get a wide variety of music. If you're writing to music and you see your tone changing, that's a big red warning flag. You might consider consolidating your music to something tonally appropriate to what's going on. Pick something peppy for a happier scene or more active, lighthearted combat scene (characters like Nightwing or Spiderman are consistently the type to quip while they fight, they would probably benefit more from Smash Mouth or New Medicine than, say, Linkin Park or Dragonforce.), while a fate-of-the-world struggle between good and evil might need some opera or gregorian chanting or Skrillex or whatever you like for that sort of thing. There's all sorts of moods, sometimes music can be important to what you're writing. I personally have a supervillain playlist full of music that I will be using while I take over the world. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

5. Sudden jumps.

If you're switching tracks and tones and getting distracted by the words, you might get this curious habit of cutting or switching thoughts. A little bit of music-inflicted ADD, perhaps. I don't know that this is a big problem, but one must be wary of any kind of skipping or sudden changes that come from changes in music. Be warned! I hope this helps you all in wrangling that mysterious muse of yours in the future.

Be well, and good writing, my friends!