Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday Talk Time - Soundtracks & Theme Tunes

This Thursday Trish Wylie is back with us to talk about soundtracks and theme tunes for books... do they add to your story, drag you out of it? You tell us...

When I first decided to use music to go with a story I was writing, I guess it was a natural progression from seeing my stories as Movies in my head. I mean, just think of all the great Movies that have a soundtrack or theme tune that sticks with us?

What would Doctor Zhivago be without Lara's song? Or the Ryan O'Neill and Ally McGraw movie Love Story without that plaintive theme? Breakfast At Tiffany's without Moon River? Working Girl without Carly Simon? When I hear any of those pieces of music I'm immediately transported into the Movie. And I've found since I started choosing a theme song or making up a soundtrack for one of my stories, those pieces of music can do exactly the same thing even after the book is done and dusted and out on the shelf; I'm transported into the story...

Maybe part of it is that I just plain love music. Always have. It's probably in my blood to a certain extent because my father toured Canada and the States as part of a barbershop quartet back in the day and long before I was so much as a twinkle in his eye. Then there's the fact I spent nigh on a decade in the music business, surrounded by it every day and going to concerts and listening to new bands. I worked for a recording and distribution company for a while. Then I was on the road selling for another company and listening to music while I drove. If that wasn't enough to do it then how about eight months touring Ireland as co-ordinator of a music tour? It's been a big part of my life, I have eclectic tastes - mood music I call it.

And then of course there's that whole 'soundtrack of your life' thing that people talk about.

Like great events in world history (yes I remember where I was when I heard Elvis died - though obviously that also goes to show how you can remember things from when you were very, very young), pieces of music can transport you back to a place and time in your life, be it good or bad. I remember the dreadful songs I danced to in a circle of friends around a pile of handbags at my first disco. I also remember the kind of thing I was wearing back then and shudder at the memory. I remember all the words to a Black Crowes song (Too Hard To Handle) that a group of people I worked with and I would sing at the top of our lungs as we re-stocked shelves in the music store after hours at Christmas when we were all exhausted. I remember the Tina Turner track that played the week I first had my heart broken in a big way. And we all have songs like that don't we? Ones that, when randomly played on a radio station we happen to be listening to, can transport us to a time and place in our lives and form such a vivid image we can almost smell the same smells and see the same faces. C'mon - who hasn't danced around their kitchen singing out loud to something they loved in their teens? Am I the only one that does that? I like to hope not.

And what couple doesn't have a special song they play at their wedding reception for that first dance as man and wife? (Though if I'd heard Bryan Adam's Everything I Do ONE MORE TIME at a wedding in the nineties I think I might have SCREAMED)

So keeping all that in mind I guess there was always gonna be a time I started incorporating my love of music into what I do. Some writer's love it and swear it helps, others can only listen to instrumental music, some can only work in silence. I'm a big lyrics girl myself. Lyrics can often add a sprinkle of fairy dust to something I'm working on - the singer repeating a phrase or asking a question or presenting a heartfelt plea that may even make it into the finished book. Anyone eagle-eyed enough might even be able to spot my personal version of a Da Vinci Code, so that later on in life I can re-read one of my books and look back on where I was in my life when I wrote it... Oh and I love songs that have a big 'feel' to them too - that epic feeling you'd get from an actual Movie soundtrack. I can close my eyes and practically see the credits rolling and then an opening scene unfolds and... ;)

When I'm working I like to detach myself from the real world and mentally travel into the world my characters live in. So I don't just listen on a stereo system - I plug in my IPod or plug my earphones into my laptop and literally shut out any ambient noise that might distract me. Just to give you an example of the kind of thing I listen to, here's a playlist of some of the recent songs I've used when writing. Maybe, if you're read some of my books you can guess which ones they belong to, or maybe you can picture a scene or two in a story of your own from them. I'd kinda love it if they gave birth to new stories too. The first track, World by Five For Fighting, is one I play every single time I think about starting a new book. The lyrics of the chorus in particular might tell you why.

So are you pro or anti music when writing? Do you have a soundtrack for your book or just the one song? How about tracks you would have on the soundtrack of your life? Maybe you still dance to that first song from your wedding? Or how about famous songs from movies that make you want to run out and rent the DVD?

I've recently become a huge fan of ITunes, so any that I take a fancy to from your comments I can now have on my computer in a matter of seconds. And who knows what inspiration I might get after that? Anyhoo, as a reward I'll offer a special Christmas pressie of a £20 or $25 Amazon voucher to one random commenter. I'll draw the name at the weekend and list the winner in the comments.

H's & K's

Trish's latest release is the first of two linked books for the Harlequin Presents line. His Mistress, His Terms is out right now and Romantic Times said:

"Trish Wylie's His Mistress, His Terms (4) starts as a fun, sexy romp and turns into a sensual love story. There's humor, flirty banter, oodles of passion and terrific secondary characters, which make for an entertaining read."

To find out more about Trish and her books, you can visit her Website or her Blog.


  1. I am very much pro-music when doing the first draft. I've found it doesn't work for me so well during revisions. Depending on the sing or part of the book it can be a whole list of music or one particular song. Some scenes in my latest mss were written whilst listening to a track over and over. One was Corinne Bailey Rae 'Like A Star' for a particular heart wrenching love scene.

    I think you should try Keith Anderson 'Every Time I Hear Your Name'... I want to write that story :-) Or Gary Allan 'Life Ain't Always Beautiful' *sigh*

  2. I couldn't pick just one song from the soundtrack of my life but Silent Night brings tears every time. It was the song my mother sang to me at bed time, regardless of the time of year and to this day I still love it. They're good tears by the way! Iris is the first slow number that I shared with hubby so that's in the old memory pile. I Hear You Knocking takes me back to the days when my sisters used to spend hours getting glammed up for a night on the town and I can actually feel myself back in the bedroom sitting on the bed watching with fascination as they plastered their faces with Elizabeth Arden, fun times.
    I'm writing a story at the moment centred around one very sexy alpha and to get in the mood The Rolling Stones are a must. One song in particular captures everything the book is, (If you) Start Me Up. I think it's a pretty hot song and it never fails to transport me into the world of my characters.

    Great post Trish,

  3. I don't usually have music playing when I write but I think I'll start! I read your postings on the progress of His Mistress, His Terms on your site ages ago and listened the the band you used for inspiration - Take That - and found a new band that I liked - so thanks!

    I get inspiration about characters and stories from songs - like Seal's "A Kiss from a Rose" - can't you just you just see a man madly in love with a woman but tortured in some way about that love?
    "There is so much a man can tell you -
    So much he can say -
    You Remain -
    My Power, My Pleasure, My Pain -
    To me you're like a growing addicition I can't deny -
    Won't you tell me is it healthy, baby."

    Can't wait to read the the story!

  4. Great post Trish!

    So we know one particular Ryandan song that puts me smack in Richmond, right?

    And our first wedding dance - even though it was the 90's...was to the Eagles. :-) I'd claim I had great taste, but then I'm sure we did the macarena at least twice. ;-)

    Lori Borrill did a post over on eharl about music that makes you cry and I mentioned a few over there that have made books just work for me. And it makes no sense musically, it's what fits the book. I've had theme songs that range from Nickelback to Bing Crosby to Rascal Flatts to State of Shock to Josh Groban.

  5. Thanks for your great post today. It brought back such good memories of when I went out every Saturday night and got dressed up for the sock hop or the movies. When I listen to any music now it is from the 50's mostly and my ultimate favorite is Paul Anka. Love his music and songs.

  6. I write better when I have my iPod on. Then again, I iron better, vaccum better, and mop better as well!

    I have THOUSANDS of songs on my iPod, and many of those I like to write to. It depends on my mood. I could be looking for something slow and meaningful or fun and fast. It really depends on the scene.

    Some of the songs that keep repeating on my iPod when I'm writing are:

    * 'More Than Words' – Extreme (soppy and romantic, but you can't help loving it!)

    * 'Why Can’t This Be Love' – Van Halen (A bit of a rock love song that gets me every time)

    * 'Wow' – Kylie Minogue (a funky song about a girl who meets a guys who is so hot, she's just blown away)

    * 'So Emotional' – Whitney Houston (classic eighties song about a girl who is overwhelmed by a man)

    * 'It Had to Be You' – Harry Connick Jr (need I explain?)

    * 'Power of Love' - Huey Lewis and the News (you can see I'm a child of the eighties!)

    My list could go on and on, but I don't want to bore you :-)

  7. I enjoy music when I am working since it motivates me and inspires me greatly. Most of the music is light classical and soft rock.
    Anything by Sarah McLaughlin, Jann Arden, Alanis Morrissette, and Celine Dion gives me goose bumps and is what I need daily.

  8. What a great post Trish. When I write I have my ultimate sound track playing. The Il Postino soundtrack takes me away to far off places. This provides me with the necessary incentive to work.

  9. I love listening to Nature music when I'm sitting in my recliner, lights down low and trying to relax. The sound of the ocean waves, birds singing, trees rustling in the wind, etc. is very relaxing.
    For day listening I listen to Country music. I also love The Statler Brothers and Alabama. 'She and I' is a great favorite of mine.

  10. Enjoyable post trish. Thanks. When I feel in a lighthearted mood I listen to music that is going to make me dance and sing like anything by Andre Rieu whom I adore. But when I feel a little thoughtful I love to listen to the soundtrack from Cinema Paradiso. Makes me cry but feels good afterwards.

  11. Thanks for all the comments and music tips gang! I can see ITunes taking a hammering fairly soon ;)

    Anyhoo - the winner out of the hat for the Amazon gift voucher is... drumroll please...


    Just email me through my website Diane and I'll send you the voucher. CONGRATULATIONS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!