Writing to Music


So the holidays are over and its back to business! Today I’m thinking about the joys of writing to a playlist of awesome, mood setting songs! Many of us writers have an idea of the direction we want our stories to go, especially when it comes to the atmosphere of the setting. We all have some sort of playlist that we keep handy, maybe more than one, probably more than one. So I’m going to touch base on a little bit of the styles of music that I like to listen to as I write.

Most of my books are fantasy, although I do have one traditional science fiction novel out, the vast majority of my books deal with traditional high fantasy or epic fantasy themes. This ranges from dwarves, orcs and elves, magic and medieval settings. Oh and dragons, though I haven’t written much about them…yet. So for this sort of context my mind generally shifts to the prog side of music, especially heavy metal. Not so much to inspire but ore so to set a mood. Dio is one of the first that comes to mind. His work in Rainbow, Heaven and Hell and then his solo material is almost too perfect of a fit for my writing environment. With subtle nods to magic and themes of good verses evil I get a feel for the emotion around the music. To be honest Man on the Silver Mountain is such a vivid song that the imagery almost writes itself.

One of the other aspects of prog metal that helps set a writing mood for me is that many of the songs are set as ballads, stories told through song. This is exactly what we as writers are doing ourselves. Often I think how cool it would be to have one of my books made into a concept album by a prog metal band. While bands like Hammerfall and Manowar certainly belong in this category as well, some of the more modern bands have taken a lesson from the bands from the 70s and 80s to fine tune the craft. Their songs almost always have a fantasy theme driving their lyrics.

Symphonic metal bands like Nightwish, Xandria and Epica also provide a deeper atmosphere around the medieval/fantasy theme. If you’re writing about powerful emotions then the three aforementioned bands are three of the best at conveying that sense of feeling. Almost operatic in the delivery, these bands will fill the room with a sound that can transport you away to another place and time, perhaps another realm completely.

Tenggar Cavalry, a Mongolian/Chinese/American heavy folk metal band, is another band whose music is very powerful in terms of developing an atmosphere. Their song War Horse invokes another culture while shifting from heavy metal to traditional Mongolian style. Sadly, their frontman, Nature G, passed away recently but his music still lives on.

Heavy metal isn’t the only style that drives my brain juices, however. I’ve found that folk music, sometimes of the Nordic or Celtic persuasion helps to set a mood as well. I’d say too that there are many great bands coming out or that have been out for a while that are helping to set the right atmosphere for melodic fantasy writing. Fuan and Ataraxia are two that come to mind right away that are perfect for creating medieval soundtracks and scores. Blackmore’s Night also give an ambiance to writing with melodic tones of a medieval quality and a few Rainbow covers.

I’d say last but not least, Rush has been a big inspiration as I continue to write. Much of this is because Rush and a few of the other bands that I’ve written about, were there for me during the years as a teen trying to navigate social life and being awkward. Listening to a band that could create an album based on a theme and sing as if their words would be enough to uplift the masses, they were. While songs like Subdivisions painted an almost exact picture of my teen years, it has made me realize as of late that I’m not alone in those experiences and that in fact there are many fans out there looking for something greater to inspire them. Within the writing and within the songs there is a kinship that will always be hand in hand. Bands like Dio, Nightwish and Rush set a standard for quality music and having the ability to show and not just tell you what is going on.

For me Rush was the beginning of it all. They helped me to see beyond what I heard on the radio so I could find a new voice and that’s why they will always be in the first slot of my writing playlists. Thank you and Farewell Neil.

You can check out some of my favorites on my YouTube channel!

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