Scene in a Song: How Fiction Explodes from My Head

imageHopefully, you’re one of the lucky ones whose imagination explodes into vivid motion picture when you hear good music.  Everyone has their own kind of music with which this “works,” so if you’re one of these fortunate souls, please tell me what you’re listening to in the comments section below.

Music is an integral part of my process.  When I hear it, especially songs with a lot of atmosphere, I see disconnected scenes.  I call these scenes set pieces because they are emotionally charged  whirlwinds of narration that accelerate the plot.  Here, I become my characters for the first time and then build a story around them including an immersive setting and conflict.

Well, these are the first steps at least.  By the time I’m finished with a story, it may look a bit different than the original idea (rewritten and revised TO DEATH), but the spirit of these set pieces stays in tact.  I keep in touch with a handful of anchor songs as I write, and it’s fun to return to them when I’m finished, reflecting on how much the narrative changed after being stapled down by details.

Does your imagination that move to music?

Michelle Joyce Bond

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41 thoughts on “Scene in a Song: How Fiction Explodes from My Head

  1. Oh yeah I know! I play in a band, and sing… You don’t just feel the music. You have to become the music. Soon enough, the wall between who you are and what you sing, blurs substantially… What do I think? I think you’re becoming a great writer now! BTW, I love the picture with all the stars coming out of your head! That is so cool!

  2. Mine does! I had a dream last night, where I was in an airport with a girl I like, who I was in love with in the dream, and we were running from someone bossy who in real life has tried to interfere with our relationship, holding hands and having fun being silly in the airport like the couple in Rogue Wave’s music video “Good Morning (The Future)” which can be viewed here if curious – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhZEoNWZ5fU

    I actually wrote a three-set haiku about the dream earlier, in a blog I think you liked, where I also quoted some lyrics from a song titled “Always” by BT & Rob Dickinson, that I habitually go back to for inspiration. The music video is awesome, and is like a movie (the video is portrayed as a movie reel being played back in an old man’s imagination of life with the love of his life), and goes well with the idea of what you were talking about in this post, I think. It can be viewed via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s41b4_GIdZM though I certainly don’t expect you or anyone to take the time to watch both music videos! I link to music videos often, in my posts and comments, but i get that it can take a lot of time to commit to watching them, which is why I often will just post lyrics to songs in comments and blogs, as not everyone has as much free time as me, or the same degree of obsession with music and music videos! lol

    • I loved both songs and both videos–really sweet relationship montages. The second one definitely got to me since the guy at the end is alone. The wasteland background in the first one made me think of The Shiny Toy Guns video for Stripped. 🙂

      • Any other good songs/music videos by them you’d recomnend? I’m a fan of unique sounding bands, and so many don’t stand out, but that Shiny Toy Guns song stood out to me

      • Sure–Stripped was originally a Depeche Mode song, so you’d probably like them. My taste in music is very eclectic. I like everything from The Birthday Massacre (Secret is my favorite) to Tori Amos (since we’re in the midst of it, try her song Winter). Do you have any more good bands to recommend? 🙂

      • I as well, and I liked both those songs. I recommend Zeromancer (their Tears for Fears cover of “Send Me An Angel” is one of my favorite songs), Bring Me The Horizon (their new album is softer than previous albums, and my favorite by them. The song “Can You Feel My Heart” is great), and Assemblage 23 is good too (“How Can You Sleep?” is really good).

      • Cool! Send Me an Angel was always a favorite, and I love this remake. That is the first time I heard of Bring Me the Horizon–so far they seem pretty good. Assemblage 23 seems to have that New Wave sound I like. 🙂

      • Minor Alps, a new indie band, is pretty good too. I really like their song “I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands”. Mt. Helium’s song “Where” is really eerie and good, and the song “Cornflakes” has special meaning to me at the moment, that is worth checking out. Breakfast With Amy’s song “The Uniform Tree” is good too. All three of those bands are kind of obscure. I am sad to admit that I’m a bit of a hipster when it comes to priding myself on knowing of and enjoying bands not many people have heard of :\ The zeromancer remake is really good, glad you like it 🙂 Zeromancer has been one of my favorite bands for a long time now, I’ve known about them for 12 years now, since the Eurotrash album. Zeromancer’s “New Madonna” song, has special meaning to me in regards to a girl I like, the one I mentioned I had a dream about the night before last. So many songs have special meaning to me! The girl I mentioned, I think would like Aqualung’s song “Strange & Beautiful”, it’s a song that used to have special meaning to me about someone else, but it’s lost that meaning to me. I used to think I was especially patient waiting for someone I loved who misled me about the kind of person she was, when all along someeone else was right under my nose, who was a much better match. The lyrics “You’d be so perfect with me / But you just can’t see / You turn every head but you don’t see me” and the lyrics “Sometimes the last thing you want comes in first / Sometimes the first thing you want never comes / I know that waiting is all you can do, sometimes” would have particularly meaning to her, I think. They’re lyrics that are really relatable to anyone who has “been secretly falling apart” with a crush or love that isn’t voiced, and is “unseen” as the lyrics say. It’s a really good song, I recommend it!

        I am more than a little obsessed with music, and you seem to have excellent taste, any more you would recommend? And sorry if I overwhelmed you with recommendations, as I said, I’m obsessed with music! Thanks for the pleasant conversation, and awesome recommendations, and for taking the time to check out some of the songs I recommended! I could recommend bands endlessly, so I’ll stop it with this last comment lol

      • These are great! I downloaded that album by Aqualung a couple of years ago, but Strange and Beautiful was always my favorite. 🙂 You also have excellent taste in music–I’d love to see new blogs on your page that talk about it!

      • Well, when I post blogs with music videos and lyrics, I am trying to do just that, and I intend to continue to!

        I am just about to post one, that has a song in it I really like by a guy named Wayne Static, from his old band Static-X. Something about the tone/pitch of his voice, tickles my brain in a way that made me a fan of his music the first time I heard one of his songs many years ago. He is a pretty ridiculous looking dude, the video may be worth watching just for a laugh at his theatrical get-up lol His lyrics aren’t always that great, and sometimes the music itself isn’t either, but I do like a lot of his songs. A lot of them have industrial/techno/electronic aspects to them, which is something I really like, especially when it has an 80’s feel to it (which is why I like the band Zeromancer so much)

      • By the way, if you liked that Aqualung album, I recommend getting his “Memory Man” album, it’s definitely his best! And since you liked that song “Always” by BT and Rob Dickinson, and are familiar with Aqualung, I recommen checkining out BT’s collabrative song with Aqualung, titled “Surronded”! The official music video for it is really cool and creative!

  3. Im not sure if youve ever heard of Nobuo Uematsu. He’s the composer of the music for the early games of the Final Fantasy series. His music is probably the most visual ive ever encountered. For something a little different ( for most people :p ) give your self a truly spectacular sensation, turn the lights off, volume up lie back and listen to these three songs in this order….



    Let me know what you think.

    • I love final fantasy game music and even played a couple of the games. I’m one of those weirdos for whom 8 is the favorite–despite the gunblades. 🙂 The music from that game is probably my favorite, too, but my husband is a 6 fan and would cut me down if he heard me say that. There are a lot of games out there with excellent music–I’m glad you brought it up!

      • Lol, I’m a 7 fan. Through and through. In terms of storyline, the Final Fantasy series is one of the best. Id love to read them as novels

  4. I can only listen to certain types of music while I’m writing, like classical. Otherwise, I end up singing and dancing around instead of writing 🙂

    But I do have a couple of story ideas that have come to me while listening to some of my favorite songs. In one story, each of the main character’s relationships is based on a different song.

  5. I am passionate about music (classical mostly), but I listen too intently to be able to write at the same time. However, there are times when I put the headphones on, have iTunes set to random and write madly. My current novel has a theme tune of Edith Piaf’s Milord.

    • A kindred spirit! I often listen to Pandora when writing like mad. I looked up the song you mentioned, and Edith Piaf’s voice sounded familiar…so I looked her up and discovered that she sang “Non, je ne regrette rein” from Inception. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand me when I say her voice was made to guide dreamers. 🙂

  6. I often have my characters listen to music and so while I’m writing a scene I’ll be playing the music they’re listening to in the scene. For example, from A Simple Act of Love, a crime novel I’m writing : “After, when they get up he shows her some rap dancing steps which he learned from the kids at the Youth Protection Center he works at. He puts on Sheryl Crow’s Summer Day and they practiced the dance steps for the remainder of the evening. She has never felt happier in her life.”
    I always tend to have music in my novels. When I write though it’s usually in silence.

    • I’ve played music my characters are listening to in a scene as well. More often though, I imagine music that wild play as background in a movie version of my book. I love your example with Summer Day and can picture it very clearly–good choice! 🙂

  7. I write very well when i’m listening to Marilyn Manson or Iron Maiden. They really get the creative side of me flowing :]. The Mass Effect, and Skyrim soundtrack helps too if i’m not in a metal mood which is rare because I listen to metal every single day.

  8. If I listen to the songs which I really really like, I end up thinking about what notes they are playing and how they are playing. That’s what happens when you play an instrument 😛 So, that’s why I listen to those bands which I call as ‘time-pass’ bands and play them when I’m writing something or mostly when I’ve an assignment. I listen to Galaxie 500 and Grizzly Bear mostly. And just recently, started writing while listening to classics.

    But when I start to get my momentum, I prefer silence 😛

    • I’m right there with you. I like music when I’m brainstorming, but I usually go to silence when I’m drafting. If I start listening to music while I’m drafting or if the television is on in the background, I block it out. My tunnel vision is so bad, in fact, that my husband needs to push me over (playfully) to get my attention. 🙂

  9. I love listening to movie soundtracks when I’m driving alone from my town to the city, which I do a lot. And instead of listening to my entire playlist. I end up playing the same track over and over, because a scene has popped up in my head. And I get more details with every playback.
    I have many scenes written in my smart phone, that were the result of this experience. It’s like the opposite of what happens in movie production. They make the soundtrack to match the movie, while we create a scene that matches the sound track.

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