The Other Kind of Power Ballad

I've posted here before about the importance of playlists in my writing process. And I always love reading other people's playlist posts–it's one of the reasons I like largehearted boy's Book Notes feature so much. It's a particular look through another writer's window, slightly and enjoyably voyeuristic, even though limited to the book in question. Another way of understanding both writer and novel, or just of finding new bands or being reminded about old ones. For my own part, I know a project's taking on life when I feel the need to pause and make the big playlist that I'll listen to while writing, though that playlist evolves along the way. A new draft means a substantially tweaked playlist, usually.

Anyway, I realized this morning that I also tend to find a new song sometime along the way through the draft that I come to think of as the book's anthem. Typically, it shows up right before the last third of the story, and this morning the creepy island book's came blaring out of the car stereo muse-sent from my very own iPod,* a song I'm not even sure I'd ever listened to after I downloaded it. The song is "Kick In Your Heart" by Gliss (which can be heard here, if you like). I suspect I will listen to it a millionty times in the next few weeks.

The anthem is different than the playlist. First, it gets played on repeat over and over again, and usually when I'm consciously thinking about the story, instead of while actually writing. The song tends to conjure strong visualization of big scenes, call up emotion to match, and lead to lots and lots of plot nailing-down. It begins to represent the whole story I'm working toward having told. It becomes the song of the book that will soon be written.

The last book had, I'd say, three distinct anthems: "Golden" by Sister Suvi, "Splintering" by Arizona, and "Golden Children" by Black Feelings (the last was probably the anthem).

What about you guys? Do you do this, too?

*Good thing I haven't quite figured out how to manipulate the contents of my birthday present yet (it's fancier than my old one!), or I probably wouldn't have had the song on there in the first place. Autoload can sometimes be serendipitous.

9 thoughts on “The Other Kind of Power Ballad”

  1. I have playlists and anthems, too. Sometimes, I even make playlists for individual characters. And I’m always thrilled to find other writers who do the same thing (I’m a big fan of the Book Notes series as well), pretty much for the reason you describe.
    Good luck finishing!

  2. I’m a musician and performer a well as a writer, and listening to music takes up most of the attention I have. It takes up most of the space in my head. I can write, or I can listen to music, but not both. So it’s weird to read about people’s playlists. It’s interesting, yet I could never do it.

  3. I can completely understand that, since Christopher’s the same way. He tried to write using wordless music, but even that’s too distracting for him. He really does need pretty much complete silence to work.

  4. Interesting! I haven’t done a whole separate character playlist yet, but the boy protag in my new book is really into music so I did have to think about it as being more tied to character than tone this time. I had to figure out what was on his iPod, what kind of mix CD he’d have made for his mother’s car three years earlier, etc. It was really useful, actually.

  5. Mostly wordless music for me, but that Gliss song is going into my playlist, thank you! It sounds like an update of every song I ever listened to when I was nineteen.

  6. Exactly — it has a very Smiths feel to it, to me. I also have a lot of Black Keys on this playlist, which always strikes me as very updated h.s. rock taste, too.

  7. Every time I got stalled on MAP I would play “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman. This was pretty much our theme song at the Company (for obvious reasons – we all were constantly talking about leaving) and it was able to throw me right back into what it all felt like in a second. For the current research/writing I have several songs I’m toying with but none have clicked as the right one[s] yet.
    Do you ever have songs for short stories? I do!

  8. Sadly, I seem to be missing the short story gene, so I never write them! I used to try, but not in a long time. I fear doing a good one would take me an awfully long time.

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