Happy Wednesday everyone. I’m back again. Today I wanted to talk about one of the things that helps me with both inspiration and productivity.
As writers we all have our processes. Some plot, some wing it, some do a combination of the two. If you didn’t know, I’m a total wing it gal. I’ve never liked outlines, even way back in my school days. That hasn’t changed over the years. Because I don’t plot, and my characters can sometimes be uncooperative, I need to seek motivation/inspiration from outside sources when I’m stuck.
Music plays a huge role in that. On my old blog, I used to do a segment called Music Monday. I started it when I was writing my second book, Not Broken. I was looking for community, and ways to connect as I was getting the book done (which was 3 years after my debut was released). I was struggling, as evident in the time gap between the two books.
The inspiration that kept me chugging along came from the song which inspired the title. “Not Broken” by Skye. I came across the song by accident, but the lyrics, the tone, they both spoke to the overall idea I had for the story. That song got me going, and I would listen to it throughout writing to help me remember what I was after, even as the playlist grew.
The music helped me find my way.
As I wrote Not Broken, I struggled with Malcolm, my leading man. I had a terrible time trying to get a handle on his character. He was harder to nail down than my anti-hero/villain leading man from the first book. That really made me question myself. Like really.
So why did I have an issue? Well, Malcolm was your average guy. He worked, he video gamed, loved his family, and loved my leading lady. I worried, and worried that his only goal was proving his love to said leading lady. I stressed that he didn’t have enough.
She had stuff. She was dealing with being a single mom in the wake of the trauma from the first book. There was an entire healing process she needed to go through with family, and the budding relationship, and therapy, her plate was full.
Then I looked at Malcolm’s, and the scale was not balanced. The only thing he had to “overcome” was her. I stalled as I tried to figure out what to give him. I beat my head against the proverbial wall in frustration for him not seemingly being “well-rounded.” The problem was, anything I came up with and tried to add seemed forced. It was there for the sake of being there and not an organic part of the story or Malcolm.
Then I heard “Let Me Love You” by Ne-Yo. The title was exactly what Malcolm was asking of Calida. He only wanted her to let him love her. The lyrics, all about a man who wants to love a woman that’s been hurt and is jaded towards the idea of love and trust. IT. WAS. THEM. At least from his POV. I heard the song, listened to it on repeat as I do in the beginning, and let it sink in.
That song sort of gave me the “okay” for Malcolm to be who he was. He didn’t have some tragic backstory, Calida had enough for the two of them. He didn’t need to be a bad boy in need of saving or being reformed.
The song let me know it was okay for Malcolm’s main and really only goal was getting the girl, because that was no easy goal to accomplish. But don’t get me wrong, he still had growth and his own arc, even though it remained in connection to her. Malcolm, as well meaning as he was, he had his moments of cluelessness. Dating a woman that had been through an abusive relationship meant he had to rework his way of thinking and his actions, something he knew, but didn’t fully realize the weight of in the beginning.
Hearing that song, playing it on repeat during certain scenes, helped me build and shape Malcolm’s character. Would he have turned out the same way without it? Can’t say, but I do like the person he became because of it.
Renovation of Love is another story that started with a base song. “The Bones” by Maren Morris. Like if ever there was a song that was damn near perfect for a book, it was this one. Not only were the lyrics in construction metaphors which fit because Marcel, and renovating the house, but it also how it spoke to what Marcel and Cynthia had built all those years ago.
It’s a second chance romance, and even after two decades apart, the foundation of what they’d had remained. There were walls they had to tear down and rearrange, new supports had to be put in place, but as the saying (and title of the song) goes, the bones were good. From the moment the two of them reconnect, it’s clear that the love they’d had for each other hadn’t cracked. The foundation of their relationship, and what they’d meant to each other had stood the test of time. The new them had something solid to build off of which made everything stronger.
Being able to connect my characters/story so deeply with a song gives me a better emotional pull and drive to complete it and put it out in the world. Even as I was writing this post, I listened to the songs I’m talking about because the nostalgia they bring up helped me remember bits I wanted to share. The songs still invoke the feelings.
I could go on and on about the various songs for each of my books, but the post would get way too long. But y'all get the idea.
The productivity goes hand in hand with the inspiration. When I’m starting a new project, building a playlist is part of the process. I initially start with songs that fit the general idea I have for the book/characters. From there I add as I go after getting to know the characters better, or if I hear a song on the radio and think it fits the theme. Most of my books have them, and they can be found on the book’s page on this site.
Being a pantser means I don’t always know what’s next. When that happens, the music I choose for the playlist helps me clear my head and get lost in the tone. Sometimes I’ll just listen to it on repeat while letting pictures/scenarios run through my mind trying to see what’s next. I’m a firm believer that thinking about your story is part of your overall productivity. We all have to daydream a little to get the words down.
Another way music helps is to keep me hype about a book I’m planning to write. Sometimes I’ll hear a song (in this case “Lose Control” by Teddy Swims) and it will instantly click in connection with a story or character that I have in the works. I heard “Lose Control” last year on the radio and made me think about my character Sasha who will be in my second Afterglow book. Her story is a marriage in trouble and her personality is the kind that needs to be with their person. The lyrics of the song really speak to how her behaviors are influenced when she’s feeling neglected. I’ve barely started writing the story, but each time I hear the song on the radio, it makes me think of her, and I get excited to get back to writing their story.
On a more fun side, sometimes just listening to music and dancing around is a good and necessary distraction. If I’m too in my head, stressing and worrying about what’s next, or why can’t I figure out a part. Cranking up music and just vibing helps. And it gets me out of my chair to move around which is also something I need. Being an author means I’m way too sedentary most days. LOL
We writers put “blood, sweat, and tears” into our words. I add a dash of rhythm on top of that. If you’ve read any of my stories, do you have songs that make you think of the characters? If so, let me know in the comments. I continue to add to the playlists even after the books are completed because if I end up doing a short about them, going back to the playlist helps trigger my memory, especially if it’s been some years. Also, if you listen to the songs I talked about, let me know what you think of them.
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,