Wednesday, May 2, 2018

How Music Connects Us to the Fictional World

Whether part of the creative process or part of the conversation after, music allows us yet another way of immersing ourselves in story.  ♦ 
One of the best tools an author has to achieve a particular aesthetic in their work—to help define character, or find a character’s voice, or set the overall tone and feel for their world—is listening to music that evokes just the right atmosphere. Music is a powerful tool that boosts focus and sets a mood, and it can be especially helpful when writing a character that differs greatly from oneself, using certain genres of music to connect to the character in order to write that voice better. Authors have undoubtedly utilized this method for some time, but now, with the advent of the internet and social media, the music authors use to help create their worlds can be shared publicly.
   Taking advantage of the accessibility to music and to fans, many authors generate playlists of the tunes they listened to while writing, sharing them via Spotify or a list on their website. Some big names in publishing have taken up this practice, including Stephen King, who created a list of songs for his book Doctor Sleep, but this trend is most common among contemporary Young Adult authors. Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park and Carry On, has a Spotify account dedicated to music playlists that represent characters from her books. She hand-picks songs either that she uses while writing or songs that simply remind her of her characters. Fans can follow the account and keep up-to-date with new playlists or new songs.
   Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series, produces playlists for each of her books that allow for fans to submit their own songs that remind them of her characters or books. On her writing process, Maas says, “Ever since I began writing as a teenager, I’ve used music to outline my novels. Before I type the first word, I’ll begin a playlist for a project.” Alexandra Bracken, the author of The Darkest Minds series, has a unique process with her playlists and writing. She says on her website, “I'm a book playlist fiend! I can't write without music. While drafting, I usually have a playlist that's between 100-200 songs long. Once I finish drafting and revising, I go ahead and whittle them down to around 20-25 tracks. Each song is carefully chosen to represent the emotional arc of the book.” Authors use music to help fill in the gaps or sublimate their writing projects, then they share their list of songs with their fans, so that everyone else can feel a greater connection as well. It’s a conversation between author and reader with music in place of the words.
   Considering this connection or conversation between author and reader, it would be useful to look through the reader’s eyes. Many create their own playlists and share them with other fans of the book. This creates an interaction that can lead to an entire community being formed around the book. It gives readers another way of analyzing a text, an analysis that works in some ways like a compilation video essay. Music-sharing sites like Spotify, Sound Cloud, and 8Tracks make these interactions possible, and they curate a space in which people can communicate with each other across mediums. In other instances, fans interact through social media or blogs about the music they connect with books. Specifically, Maggie Stiefvater‘s The Raven Cycle series has a fan-run blog committed to publishing playlists submitted by other fans or even ones Stiefvater made herself. The blog keeps up with new additions and it develops a deeper conversation around the books, contributing to readers’ understanding of this fictional world. In an article published by The Guardian written by Marta Bausells, readers share their perfect music-and-book combo. It’s an interesting look into how we can process the two mediums separately and together, the latter usually providing an enhanced experience.
   Listening to music can give readers a better connection to the fictional world the author creates and more insight into the writing process, considering how authors utilize music to their advantage while they write. Music adds another layer to the conversation surrounding books and how fans and authors use it to bond with fictional worlds. Personally, I’m intrigued to see how this relationship will advance in the future, especially as the boundaries between media and genres break down. Who knows? Maybe one day, a book could come with a soundtrack album tailored to represent it.
  • About the Author
    Emma Demopoulos is a senior Creative Writing student at Miami University. She works as a barista and a peer tutor/mentor on campus, is part of the University Honors Program and National Society of Leadership and Success, and is being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She enjoys writing wacky stories and binge-watching the latest TV show in her free time.

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