Music is important to me. There is little that can change my mood as effectively, and almost nothing that will do that as cost effectively. In fact, music has so much power over my mood, that I will avoid certain songs when I am “feeling sad” because I’m not ready to feel happy again, and there is no doubt the song will work its wonders with my soul.
When I write characters, part of what makes the character more real is the music they listen to. The sort of music you listen to says a lot about who you are. Think about the signature songs of the following characters, and see what I mean:
“Let it Go” in the Disney film Frozen sung by Elsa on the mountain top.
“As Time Goes By” and the effect it has on Rick and Ilsa, and even Sam in Casablanca.
“You Never Can tell” as danced to at Jack Rabbit Slims by Vince Vega and Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction.
“Unchained melody” in Ghost – remember the pottery scene with Molly and Sam? Need I say more?
“You can’t always get what you want” played at Alex’s funeral in The Big Chill.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” head banging in the car in Wayne’s World.
“Old Time Rock and Roll” as mimed/danced by Joel in Risky Business.
“The Sounds of Silence” when Benjamin and Elaine stare at the camera emotionless on the back of the bus at the end of The Graduate.
Then think of the music and they way it changes films like Manhattan (Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin), The Exorcist (Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield) Blue Velvet (In Dreams Roy Orbison) Doctor Zivago (Maurice Jarre) or Ryan’s Daughter (Maurice Jarre).
Music is enormously important to mood and characterization, and this is no less important when we think of books. And yet, even though music is extremely important to books like High Fidelity and Fifty Shades of Grey, it is something we don’t usually categorize. But you can hear music playing in books like The Great Gatsby that use music style specifically to arouse a certain mood that belongs to a special time. In fact if the music wasn’t so clear in your head through Fitzgerald’s descriptions, then the book wouldn’t be as powerful.
I like to build soundtracks for the books I’m working on. Sometimes Its music that is used in the narrative, and other times it simply retains the mood and style I need for the book.
When writing the 1960’s erotic spy novels, White Flesh Black Market, I relied on old 60’s funk to keep me in touch with the novels style, even though no music is used in the novels.
For example, in one erotic scene, Jack uses the PJ Harvey song “To Bring you my Love” to enhance their lovemaking. What does this tell you about the sort of man Jack might be?
It’s worth noticing the music used in books, because it will enhance your experience of the story, as well as bring you closer. Perhaps you can think of some good examples where music has been used to great effect in novels?
Barbara Novac is a Sydney based writer of erotica, erotic romance and sexploitation humour inspired works.