Music is a powerful force, evoking strong emotions and reviving half-forgotten memories.
I recall how, as teenagers, a friend and I walked along a road in our town, singing ‘Manic Monday’ by the Bangles. And I remember sitting on the edge of the town pool, feet dangling in the water, as the cast of the school musical sang the songs of Grease. I also lay on the floor of my bedroom singing (off-key) Olivia Newton John’s ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ after an adolescent breakup. Embarrassing, but true. These memories are now thirty years old, but I can visualise them as though it was yesterday.
I’ve been thinking a lot, too, about the way music conveys emotion, mood and atmosphere in story telling. This is particularly evident in film, but I’m interested in exploring how it can be used for effect in my writing.
I’ve created a few musically-inspired prompts in case you’d like to join me. Although they’re technically writing prompts, feel free to adapt them for your preferred creative form.
Turn on the radio, or your favourite playlist. Find out the title of the song currently playing. Write for 15 minutes, using the title as the first phrase or sentence.
2. Story creation
Select a song that tells a story. Write that story in narrative form.
3, 4 & 5. For your work-in-progress
3. Find a selection of music from the time period in which your work-in-progress is set.
- Which of these pieces would your protagonist listen to?
- Which would s/he dislike? Why?
4. Choose five scenes from your current work-in-progress (fiction or non-fiction). If these was a movie, which song or piece of music would form the sound track for these five scenes.
5. Create chapter or scene titles for your work-in-process using the titles or lines from songs.
6. If writing a memoir:
Identify five key moments you hope to write about.
Identify a song from each time period; this could be one that meant something to you at the time, or one that tells the reader something about the wider social/historical context of the time.
If possible, listen to the songs. What memories are evoked of the time period you’re writing about?
7. If writing a family history:
Select a time period or a person, and research which songs, musicians, performers or composers were well-known at the time. With a ‘light touch’, incorporate some of this information into the story of your ancestor/s.
Over to You
Which ones will you try? Let me know how you go!