Does Your Novel Have a Soundtrack?

This week’s group blog assignment poses the question: Does your novel have a soundtrack? This is not an inconsequential question for a writer, but to many readers this may seem bizarre.

In a post (Making Senses) on my other blog, I looked at the need for writers to engage the reader in the sensory world of the people in the story. In battle scenes there are bullets flying. In a maternity ward there will be mothers-to-be moaning and babies sometimes fussing. Theses are all important and basic elements to creative writing.

scoring 280This week’s group project asks if there might also be a soundtrack. I confess there’s not much of the conventional soundtrack on my end. While I do listen to music on occasion, it’s not a part of my life like it is with so many other people. It didn’t always used to be quite to the extent as it is now, but as I grew more serious about writing, I found that my preferred working environment was silence. I don’t have the distraction of some other creative work diverting me from the world I’m creating in my mind. A side-effect of this, I know, is that I don’t insert these note-filled social cues into my writing unless it’s important for them to be there.

When I think of Star Wars, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, or many other films of my young heavy-movie-going years, I of course think of the work of John Williams. He taught me how the music can shape the emotional aspect of the film. While an important component, I often prefer it to be almost subliminal. I want a soundtrack that is enough that the film isn’t dead, and when there is silence it’s almost stunning. BUT…I don’t want to be drawn out of the film because the soundtrack has been brought too much to the fore.

Perhaps these soundtracks are still there. Perhaps I’m just not listening any more. All too often I’ll listen to a TV show or movie commentary, and people make frequent note about this or that music riff…something I never even noticed was there. But again, I don’t take a radio or iPod or whatever everywhere I go. I never have.

Even so, there is a soundtrack of sorts to my work at times. You know those senses I mentioned before? They combine to form that soundtrack…not so much of instruments but of environment. You step out on the streets of New York City on a summer day, I guarantee you that you will have a soundtrack in anything you write. People talking. Cars mewing. Horns honking. Distant sirens blaring. The fight that young couple is having in the middle of a cross walk. The wheel-on-pavement sound of a pack of skateboarders surfing through the crowd. The rumble of the jet flying overhead. The beep-beeping of the garbage truck backing up. What a delightful soundtrack to a creative work…with nothing but my words and your mind.

Does my novel have a soundtrack? Yeah, I think so. I just don’t use an orchestra.


Thanks to Stephanie Faris for hosting this group blog. Her take on this topic can be read here.

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