Sometimes I’m asked where my inspiration comes from for my writing. Most of the time, it feels like ideas fly out of the blue. I’ll get a one or two-sentence long concept, jot it down, and then build it up into a more elaborate story. Every so often, I’ll be in the midst of writing a plot outline or perhaps even in the draft itself when I’ll get a song stuck in my head. A handful of times, a particular song has resulted in changes to the story, additions to a story, or wound up fitting the mood so well I developed a mental association between the writing and the music.
It’s been awhile since I posted something, and who am I to deny a sudden inspiration to ramble a bit. Here are some cases where a song has had an effect on my writing, inspired it, or developed a close association to it:
One More Run (Book 1 of The Roadhouse Chronicles)
Nice Shot, Filter
While I was coming up with the opening scene of this novel, a wasteland-weary driver behind the wheel of an electric Dodge Challenger flying down a desert road, the bass line from this song came out of nowhere and got stuck in my head. Add to that, a car-to-motorcycle gunfight, and the song just fit too perfectly to ignore. I wound up titling the chapter “Nice Shot Man” since the song had been playing on loop in my head while writing it. The tempo of the music and even the lyrics fit the scene so well, if I get struck by lightning and this ever becomes a film, I’m going to lobby for it to be the opening track.
It Ain’t Me – Fortunate Son major-to-minor, Chase Holfelder covering CCR
This is a case where I hadn’t been expecting a particular song to influence the story. Usually, I can’t draft with music on because it distracts me. For some reason while writing One More Run, I happened to have YouTube going in the background and this song came up on random. The baleful, minor key got into my head and changed my early conceptions of the Dallas settlement from a typical outpost to a group of surviving US Military still holding it together as if the world hadn’t stopped. The sentiment of the song fits Kevin’s attitude at this point in the story – Someone’s gotta save the world, but it ain’t me. I wound up titling the chapter ‘It ain’t me,’ and added an old man playing the song on a guitar.
A Good Run of Bad Luck, Clint Black
For the Roadhouse Chronicles, despite it being a post-nuclear apocalypse with zombies, something about it made me want to impart a sense of a western to it as well. A friend had recently suggested I listen to some country music (after I said I didn’t hate it, which surprised her). This song wound up getting stuck in my head for a while. During edits, I wound up adding an additional chapter to the end of the book to (hopefully) create a more satisfying ending of the first in this series. This song fit the mood perfectly, and also lent its title to the chapter.
Nine Candles of Deepest Black
Wither, Dream Theater
In the beginning of the story, Paige is severely depressed and struggling to find the energy to even get out of bed to go to school. I didn’t have this song in mind while writing the chapter, but later, when I heard it, it struck me how apropos it was to the story and her mindset at the time. During the blog tour for Nine Candles, one of the participants asked me to put together a playlist of songs, and this one leapt to mind right away.
Secrets, Bevin Hamilton
At one point in the story, a ghost is attempting to communicate with the girls, and does so by causing a computer to turn itself on and start blaring a song. I stumbled across this one while hunting for a song that might be appropriate for a ghost trying to call someone a liar. After sifting among the search results, I clicked on this one. The combination of title, lyrics, and the eerie harpsichord fit the mood so well I decided this to be the song. Alas, Paige doesn’t quite get the message right away.
A Ghost Among Fireflies
The Touch, Stan Bush
Okay, I’m dating myself with this one, but… While writing the short story A Ghost Among Fireflies, which is in my anthology The Far Side of Promise, this song came out of nowhere and lodged in my head. Early in the story, the main character is flying her spaceship into a gauntlet of defense satellites in an effort to reach a quarantined planet. While she’s dodging laser blasts and flying like crazy to keep from getting blown up, I had this song in my head. In this case, the scene made me think of the song, so it’s the inverse of where inspiration came from the song.
Zero Rogue (Awakened #5)
(This book doesn’t yet have a cover)
Aqualung, Jethro Tull
In the fifth book of the Awakened series (which isn’t released yet), Aaron is wandering along and winds up sitting on a bench in the park. That tripped a synapse in my brain which brought this song up. Despite the story being set in 2418, I couldn’t help but work in a few referenced lines (since both characters involved are from London). This too is a case of the scene calling to mind a song, not so much the song inspiring the scene – though it did cause a bit of banter.
Dead Man’s Number
(Book 3 of the Roadhouse Chronicles does not yet have a cover)
Burn – The Cure
In the third book of the Roadhouse Chronicles series, one of the characters gains a measure of victory over someone they’ve been quite angry at for a long time, and as a message, blasts this song in the room while the target of their anger is bleeding out. My head filled with the mental image of the character slow-walking away with this music playing.
Emma and the Silk Thieves
(Book 2 doesn’t have a cover just yet, but here’s the cover for book 1)
During the second book in the Tales of Widowswood series, the Feast of Zaravex (a harvest festival) occurs in Emma’s village. Since the image of satyrs features prominently in that holiday (the deity Zaravex is depicted as a satyr), my brain linked the scene to this song and wound up hearing it on loop while writing the festival scene. In this case it’s a matter of synchronicity – the song fit the scene perfectly, but was not the inspiration for it.
Finally, an after-the-fact case. A few months after Division Zero #1 released, I stumbled across a German band, Unheilig. Their instrumental track, Memoria, struck me as the most perfect title music to use if Division Zero ever became a TV series. The haunting tech-influenced song captured the essence of the story – a woman dealing with ghosts and spiritual beings in a world overrun with technology.
Well, there you have the most prominent examples of when music influenced my writing (or synchronized with it). If any other writers happen to read this, drop a comment if you’ve been inspired to write something based on a song.