Helena George, a former conference attendee, has blogged for Write2Ignite several times. Her fantasy young adult novel, Ships, Secrets and Survivors was reviewed in September. In this post, she shares some thoughts on writing and music.
One thing I’ve noticed in writers, is that we aren’t “just” writers. As creatively-minded people, most of us find other outlets for the ideas in our heads and the restlessness in our fingers.
Many writers are also artists with pens, pencils, or paints. Others do graphic designs and create beautiful book covers, blog aesthetics, or graphics.
Other writers find joy in creating…they knit or sew or crochet. Maybe they do other “arts and crafts” type hobbies. And maybe there are other outlets that don’t seem “creative” at first glance….things like cooking or gardening.
But a lot of us writers are also musicians. And I think we can find a way to work this into our stories to make our writing come alive.
Perhaps you can accurately portray a character who plays an instrument. Someone who is not musical may not know what it feels like to have fingers stinging from pressing down on the strings of a guitar for a long time, or how the calluses form and peel and reform.
I like to also go one step further and create music for my stories.
It started out when I began writing Char ne Rayft, my high fantasy series. I was heavily influenced by Tolkien at the time (and still am, haha). Characters in my books would pull out music constantly. Minstrels sang ballads in a tavern, someone shared a song their parents sang to them, friends belted out popular tunes while on the road together. There was even an old rhyme that should never be spoken except at greatest need…
I wrote words to all those songs, but after a while, I began to wonder…what was the melody? So I started exploring the music behind the words.
First, I think about the character singing the song. What is it about the song that they like? Do they like faster, quicker tunes? Something sad or in a minor key?
What about the words? Is it a sad song? Something jolly?
What kind of setting is the song written for? Is this something sung in an opera hall, or maybe belted out while dancing on top of a tavern table?
What sort of instruments would play the song or accompany the singer? I know some musicians may only play one instrument, and if that’s your case, don’t sweat this. But if you have the option to play multiple instruments (or maybe change the sound settings on a piano), give this a thought as well.
I’m not much of a violinist, but as I’m working on recording the tune to Home Land, a song from The Red War Annals, I know it will be heavy on the violin. The character who “wrote” the song in the book constantly carries his fiddle with him wherever he goes, and so in light of that, I’m making sure there will be a lot of fiddle/violin in the song recording. (As well as mandolin in replacement of the accompanying lute from the book. I have yet to get my hands on an actual lute, haha. If anyone knows where I can get one cheap, please let me know…)
While musicals are rather inaccurate (I don’t know many people who burst into full song with backup tracks and harmony when something remotely interesting happens in their life), in general, people are musical. We all have a favorite song or two. We all may find ourselves humming something now and then, or tapping a beat with our fingers as we sit at a table or desk. We listen to the radio as we drive down the road.
Characters should be no different.
But I encourage anyone (especially those who write speculative fiction) to try and write some songs for your stories.
You don’t have to share your music with anyone. You don’t need to get a full ensemble and record your new song. Just get to the piano (or your instrument of choice) and make a melody line. Don’t worry about accompaniment or chords. Just figure out how the melody goes.
You’re not doing this to discover your new future as a musician or songwriter. You’re doing it to uncover a little more about your WIP, your character, your storyworld. And even if you never share that little song to anyone, I think it will show in your writing as you describe the thoughts running through a character’s head as she sings the song, reaching for the high note at the end of each chorus…humming along with the flute between verses…and lowering her voice as she croons the last word and holds it out until the end.
Here’s a special treat! Helena George playing the song which she wrote to go along with her fantasy series, The Red War Annals co-written with Sarah Rodecker. Scroll down after you listen and read the lyrics that accompany the music.
Helena George is the co-author of The Pirate Hunter Chronicles (book two releases in May!), and her high fantasy series The Red War Annals is releasing in 2022. Helena is also the co-founder of The Order of the Pen Press, where stories have a deeper purpose and a higher calling. When she’s not writing, Helena can be found playing her instruments, conditioning for an endurance horse race, or blogging under the pen name Julian Daventry.