Monday, June 1, 2015

SAMBA OF THE STORY by Janice M. Wilson

(links below pics)

If only life came with background music!   I think everyone would be a writer if that was true. 
Soft lullabies woo babies asleep.   A song played and sang with a foreign beat and language puts a mind back to an unforgettable trip overseas, or in the arms of loved ones.

Understandably, certain beats and lyrics playing at a particular scene is the perfect time to write out those feelings!

Music and natural sounds (yes, outdoors at a picnic table) gets me in a ready state of mind for writing better than any movie or television show could possibly approach. 

Music is a universal language we all feel 
and move to no matter who we are. 

Music affects almost all of the brain at the same time, connecting thoughts and feelings that would normally stay in different lobes which stirs up creativity from exciting different emotions or soothing over the world’s noises or our personal problems we are experiencing.

I can believe it.  Just put the jams on all day and it’s very likely I will write (start to finish) a lengthy piece by the end of the day.  Thank God for those great collections of all genres found on, iHeart, Spotify, Pandora, satellite radio (so many others) to be played for hours in just one click!

Focus on the place

Music often transports me to another place, most often in a balmy beachy place but I can be entranced to dream of a cool shady forest as well.  The right beat can ease my writing mind into leaving sandy foot prints on the pages much better and often for a longer duration than an inspiring picture. If I play something like Brazilian Bebel Gilberto’s Tanto Tiempo, at the very least I want to drag out my second novel which started with the Florida Keys as a backdrop.

Bebel Gilberto shares Samba da Benção

Speaking of place, playing the music of where your characters need to be in your novel is where it starts to get interesting.   Yes, gaze at that picture with the right music and – you’re there in spirit!  Your refreshed description will transport your reader there as well.

Who doesn’t speak Jamaican when we hear Bob Marley’s Jammin’?  There are not too many folks who are not immediately affected by some great reggae music!  Pass me the margarita pitcher, please!

Bob Marley's Jammin' (Live)

Focus on the senses

I heard The Boys of Summer in the car the other day and couldn’t wait to get home to write.  Why?  I felt 17 again!  I could smell the Giorgio perfume I was wearing those days, Miami Vice jackets on the guys (oh, that young Don Johnson set the heart on fire!)  Right there in the prime of life, I was young, slim, tanned and very hopeful for a gorgeous life ahead!   

The Boys of Summer (Don Henley)

What did I work on that day?   My young adult novel, remembering how everything was so new and the world so big an exciting, and I couldn’t wait to dip my toes in it.   I wanted my characters Jim and Bess to experience that too in the novel – and my young adult readers.

One song can transport a person’s mind all the sensual delights from a particular time and live it again in your mind. 
This is a great time to jot down some 
showing details for your work in progress. 

Find out what song does that for you and play it a few times.  Then tell me if you don’t itch to recapture those delicious details on paper!

Focus on the mood

So I come across a pivotal danger scene or a big lover’s quarrel that needs to jump off the pages.  No problem normally.  Except that day I was in a particularly happy and sexy mood.  THAT’S a big problem.

Do I stop current project at that scene or skip ahead and write out some lovey-dovey steam scenes? Sade helps me out with that, or Whitney Houston. 

Whitney sings I Will Always Love You
(I would certainly feel safe in his arms, too!)

Classic jazz will always put me in that mood, especially.  Love those happy songs that were played before the tv era, cheering everyone up during the wars!   I do enjoy writing out a good vibe for a little while because who would want to kill off a great mood?  But if I’m not sure where the scenes are going, I might pull out another work for that kind of mood and let the lovers have their way. 

In The Mood - Andrew Sisters

In nostalgic moments, I fiddle with nature writings as John Denver shares some of that Rocky Mountain High through the speakers.  Listening to Chopin or Beethoven skillfully strummed out of my speakers and I’m mentally driving down a windy country road in autumn.  The mood is set.

Chopin's Nocturne Op 9, No. 2

But back to the epic drama scene I can’t put off forever.  If I need instant anger, let me pull out some songs that remind me of some less than favorable love affairs and breakups. For some reason, the soundtrack from Braveheart or a few of those sexy James Bond theme songs can bring out the fightin’ Irish within.  Then – I’m ready! (ding!)

Focus on the inspiration

I have this novel sitting impatiently aside waiting for a good editor (and money to pay an editor – LOL) which was written towards young adult Christian folks, with hopes to inspire thinking first before making impulsive actions, among other things.  That required a lot of action and drama to keep the young readers interested (includes smoke jumpers and big deadly fires) to show consequences.  This time I needed some pretty hip fast action music. 

One Republic came to the rescue just in time with Counting Stars

Counting Stars (OneRepublic)

I couldn’t type fast enough and finished it in record time with the positive youthful vision and energy.   

Eddie Vedder’s solo-project Into the Wild soundtrack also gave some good insight. 
A Big Hard Sun (Into The Wild Soundtrack)

I will write for hours on their positive vibes.  (Getting better at singing it too!  Lol)

Focus on the moral

My personal blog ( is usually about Christian moral lessons and integrating grace into real life using the memories from songs I had gleaned from prayer and prior life situations.

Also – when I get sick of the world and its violence and politics sometimes I seek shelter under some fabulous old hymns, both at church and home.  There are so many great messages in them and no contemporary Christian music moves me like the messages of faith and hope as the old songs can. 

Maybe your moral isn’t from a religious influence but you have one of love & revenge, justice, or grave injustices just the same.  A strong song can set that mood to write out the anger, the pain or the joy of seeing justice done.  You may be up all night writing on that tune.

Even flowing sounds that blend into each other and pique our dreamy minds (impressionists/ New Age).  It is a proven fact that playing clear and transparent (classical) music while writing or studying sharpens our memory and our logical thinking skills.   

Repetitive chords help us focus.

What else works for me is playing something patriotic - that sets my heart immediately in the right place! 
Alan Jackson's Star Spangled Banner

Focus on the impact

As far as the science of musical effects on our brains, a slower beat is considered anything under 60 BPMs, and exciting ones to invoke energy is over that.  

The best creativity invoking music is 
suggested between 50- 70 BPMs.

Songs are often written through the blood-sweat-tears experiences from musicians, and that’s not much different from us.  We put it on paper so the reader can sing and sail right through the imagines we create in their minds.  Musicians assail through their fans’ ears.  They also have to write all the words down and say so much more in such less space and time to convey their message.  This forces them to keep it a certain length for each genre of music, repetition, and the appropriate mood-invoking beat.

Eddie Vedder singing Guaranteed (live)
That point right there can be accomplished for writers by listening to that music the musician artists wrote and composed.  Focus on the point of the story and your impact by allowing the music to create a sensual and heartfelt (or exciting and dangerous) world for your reader.

Honestly, I don’t know many writers who don’t use music (before, during or after) to help their creativity soar.  Here are a few famous authors and what they listened to as they wrote their best sellers:

David Dobbs – a lot of Bach
Haruki Murakamih – Beach Boys/Springsteen

Gabriel García Márquez – The Beatles

Stephen King - Ryan Adams, Wilco, Alison Krauss, and Bob Dylan, LCD Soundsystem
J.K. Rowling – The Beatles, The Smiths

Doris Lessing: Phillip Glass

Who wouldn’t be inspired by this, one of the most popular romantic operas of all time:

I know, I know it’s just a beautiful man’s picture but he does sing!

Please feel free to share what music you listen to when writing, and what is inspired from it.


  1. Every one of my projects has a musical soundtrack. I listened to a lot of Chet Baker when I was working on Aqua Follies (set in the 1950s, hero was a trumpet player). Lately I've been listening to a lot of Adam Lambert. His song "Better Than I Know Myself" is the theme song for my current WIP. I've also been listening to a lot of K-Pop. Not sure where that fits into my writing world...

  2. You like a lot of variety like I do. Thanks for sharing that. I sometimes get into music I don't use for writing until later on. It's all good! :)

  3. Music puts scenes in my head all the time. I love music from so many different genres, and I like to write so many different things, it can be very chaotic. There have been times I have had to pull over to put a note in my smartphone (yes, I really pull over. DO NOT TEXT OR COMPOSE STORY IDEAS AND DRIVE) because I am so inspired.

    1. Thanks, Shane. I agree. Variety of music sets a variety of moods for a wide path of genres for me too!