It does not surprise me that nearly every author jumps to the creation of a playlist, sometimes even before writing the book itself. Coming up with a set of songs to listen to while writing is often an integral aspect of the writing process and one which only further connects your intentions with the audience.
Depending on the type of person you are, this may come as a stressor. “You mean I have to pick songs for my book, and the list is limited?”
Well, if you’re like me, making book playlists is a whole lot of fun, and has the crucial role of helping you set the tone of your story. But if you find yourself wishing for a bit more guidance, here’s my method:
- Choose a medium
Will your playlist be made on a streaming service like Spotify, or would you rather go physical with a CD or cassette? I like to use Spotify for personal use as I create the playlist, then I can transfer the playlist to more shareable sites like SoundCloud. This makes it easy for me to listen to, and easy to share as a fun connection with readers.
- Start with your gut
You might be tempted to go to genre-inspired playlists that already exist. Resist that urge, and begin with your own tastes. This is critical because your music taste will intermingle with your authorial voice in a beautiful, genuine way while writing. More importantly, you want to listen to music you like! You can add some of those genre songs in later.
- Adapt to character
Once you’ve added some of your favorite songs that just make sense, step into the mind of your characters. What music would they listen to? What do they like dancing to, or love to hear performed by a quartet? This helps you to develop an even stronger setting. Keeping in mind the period in which you are writing will create a much more immersive atmosphere.
- Consider specific tones
When your book is a work in progress, you will have ideas of when certain scenes will occur. Having specific songs to set the tone for an action sequence or heartbreaking betrayal will help you to convey the same tone through your words. This could even be a diegetic choice, allowing you to elicit the same emotions in the characters. What song is playing when they dance, and what does that feel like to the characters?
- Don’t be afraid to keep adding
It is inevitable that you will find the perfect song that you missed. I continued adding songs to mine until well after the book was finished, as I picked up on tones that I had not previously recognized.
With your playlist ready, you will have a compilation of moods, scenes, characters, and settings, all ready for you to work with. Get to listening and start DJing your book process!