Writer’s Life Wednesday – Lyrics that Speak to Your Characters


Do you write with music?  It’s okay if you do or don’t, or if you write to classical/instrumental.  I’m one of those weird people that actually studied/works/writes better and focuses on the words in front of me better when I have music with lyrics instead of instrumental.  Instrumental distracts me because I see ballerinas and dancing hippos instead of the screen in front of me 🙂

But if you do write with music, what do you listen to when?  This post is mostly me saying what I listen to when, but it’s to give you an example of how music can influence your writing, so you can start to look for what songs inspire you 🙂  Why do you listen to heavy metal when you write fight scenes, probably has more to do with the energy than the lyrics, what about a love scene, or beaten down people planning their next move?

So, read the below and your assignment is (yes, there’s homework, got to keep you on your toes 🙂 to take a song you like and come up with a story to go with it.  Just a snapshot or an overall idea, or even a detailed scene or novel plot.

I have a playlist for The Gods Defense, and a lot of those songs are going to be reused for the next book in the series.  I have a lot of alternative poppy guy singers for this series.  Muse, One Direction, One Republic, Disturbed, along with my usual mishmash of current pop and country.  Lots of country because the series is set in Nashville 🙂

For my SDF series (which I’m going back to rewrite this month so clips will probably show up on here more and more 🙂 it’s all pop and country women because the main character is a bubble gum and sparkles girly girl.  Madonna and Shania Twain, ’nuff said 🙂

My Sphinx series is a lot more 90s and early 00s pop and alternative.  That’s where my Fall Out Boy, Jimmy Eat World, The Fray, Alanis Morissette and Bon Jovi come in.

These all reflect the flavor of the books and the characters.  My lawyers in the Gods reality are late twenties and are women in a man’s profession in the South – country and edge but too mature to be rebels.  SDF is fluffy and pink.  Sphinx is more High Fantasy way of telling the story, but set in the modern world, with a stubborn, never wears a dress MC, she’d be punk if she wasn’t too busy studying, and it requires me to go back to the mindset of a 20 year old (so I listen to the stuff I listened to at 20).

I started making up stories when I was little(r) 🙂  I’d hear a song and a story that would go with it would develop, or just see a scene.  Many a fight scene gets written to pop/alternative music.

I’ve never kept track over the years of what songs speak to me, and I’m sure I’ve lost hundreds of ideas to the black hole of ‘didn’t write it down.’  But here’s a few lines that jumped out enough for me to hold onto them.

Inspired me to kill off a character: Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Hear You Me.’

You gave us some place to go.
I never said thank you for that.
I thought I might get one more chance.
What would you think of me now,
so lucky, so strong, so proud?
I never said thank you for that,
now I’ll never have a chance.

And their ‘Kill’ inspired a scene of a couple after a breakup:

Well, you’re just across the street
Looks a mile to my feet
I want to go to you
Funny how I’m nervous still
I’ve always been the easy kill
I guess I always will

Taylor Swift songs pop up for all my series because I like them and she’s got some great lines, but mainly for my character Millie in my Gods series because her big issue is an ex that left her broken.  I could see a story playing out when I was listening to Taylor Swift on shuffle.

All Too Well:

And I know it’s long gone
And there was nothing else I could do
And I forget about you long enough
To forget why I needed to…

The Story of Us:

Now I’m standing alone in a crowded room and we’re not speaking,
And I’m dying to know is it killing you like it’s killing me, yeah?

Pretty much all of ‘Last Kiss,’ but especially:

I do remember the swing of your step
The life of the party, you’re showing off again

I love how you walk with your hands in your pockets
How you kissed me when I was in the middle of saying something
There’s not a day I don’t miss those rude interruptions

You can plan for a change in weather and time
But I never planned on you changing your mind

And then ‘Change’:

Tonight we stand, get off our knees
Fight for what we’ve worked for all these years
And the battle was long, it’s the fight of our lives
But we’ll stand up champions tonight

What do you see when you read those?  A possible story, a feeling, a snippet of a scene?  Just words 🙂  I saw a girl crying over the death of a friend; exes who were in disguises and the guy staring at the girl because he realized who she was – and that she didn’t realize who he was even after looking him in the eyes; and an entire backstory of a heart broken girl who now has to work with her ex.

I still haven’t used it, but when I hear her ‘Long Live,’ I see a graduation scene.  It was the song I associated with law school graduation even though it has nothing to do with graduating.

We were the Kings and the Queens
And they read off our names
The night you danced like you knew our lives
Would never be the same

Long live the walls we crashed through
How the kingdom lights shined just for me and you

Long live all the mountains we moved
I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you

You traded your baseball cap for a crown
When they gave us our trophies
And we held them up for our town

So, there’s my examples.  Your turn.  Happy Writing 🙂


4 thoughts on “Writer’s Life Wednesday – Lyrics that Speak to Your Characters

  1. I can’t listen to music with lyrics if I’m writing at work (this may result in reports containing snippets of inappropriate lyrics) but I do like to listen to instrumental jazz / blues / swing – it just kind of merrily chugs along without me having to pay much attention to it. I’ve not really tried writing fiction with music on, not sure I would like the distraction. I know that Douglas Adams listened to a lot of Pink Floyd when writing Hitchhikers, but then again he tended to miss a lot of deadlines too – maybe there’s a link? 😉
    It’s an interesting issue though. My planned novel (yeah yeah) will include a guy who is around 20 yrs old and has an acoustic guitar. I need to make sure he plays some songs appropriate to his age (Arctic Monkeys, Vaccines, Muse, etc.) and not just mine (The Clash, Stone Roses, etc.)!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You can make him a hipster! Then it’d be totally age appropriate to like the old stuff. You know, cuz they’re too cool for anything mainstream 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that accurately describes me & some of my mates in the mid 80s – we were still hankering after punk & new wave guitar bands that had been replaced by stadium rock and electro-pop. In my mid-teens I was more interested in discovering Motown & the Rolling Stones than new artists (like The Smiths). Nobody ever called me a hipster though… 😉


      1. Yeahhhh, in the 60s they were hippies, for my generation they are hipsters. For the 80s, wellllll, maybe you were actually original and just liked what you liked without having to label it 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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