AW Blog Chain: Music and Writing

I’m taking part in Absolute Write‘s May Blog Chain, and this month’s theme is: What does your story/character(s) sound like?

I listen to music a lot. My iPod is a permanent fixture on my way to and from work, and I usually have music on in the background when I’m at home. I write to music and I make playlists for my writing on iTunes. Each book gets its own general playlist, but sometimes when I’m on a second or third draft for a book, I’ll make a smaller playlist of music that most inspires me for it and focuses on characters or specific scenes. The music can have lyrics or be instrumental; all that matters is that it fits the character or scene.

I’m going to focus on the werewolves–THOSE WHO FAVOUR FIRE–in this post, as I have two playlists for that book and I’m still putting the finishing touches on the first playlist for the steampunk Alice book. (As you can tell, I have a habit of referring to my books through nicknames rather than their titles.) I’m going to be putting direct Youtube links in for the songs, but if you like any of them, I would definitely recommend you support the artists through iTunes or wherever you get your music.

The werewolves centres around three main themes: at what point can the idea of lying to people for their own good be taken too far; a girl realising her family has been lying and keeping secrets from her; and the same girl learning the double-edged sword of embracing her sexuality.

In terms of characters and specific scenes in TWFF, here is some of the music that I associate with them:


Dark Secret – Matthew Sweet

Yup, this is one of the songs from The Craft (I still love that film so much!). The obvious secret aspects of this song was one of the reasons I was drawn to it as potential option for my TWFF playlist. The creepy vibe is another–there are many instances in the book where it’s obvious that Violet wasn’t raised as a human girl. Her automatic dislike of humans is something that is challenged throughout the book. A lot happens to Violet, the main character, and her world gets thoroughly turned upside down, especially when her dark secret isn’t so secret anymore…

Smells Like Team Spirit – Tori Amos (cover)

This is THE ultimate teenage song, but this particular cover–quiet, deadly and defiant–of the Nirvana song makes me think of Violet.


For Your Entertainment – Adam Lambert

Sabine is Violet’s best friend, Packmate, and general bane of her existence (in a good way. Mostly). She’s also kind of her girlfriend, if either of them could figure out what’s exactly going on between them. Sabine is popular and kind, but also manipulative and careless.  She’ll twist Violet’s arm into doing something she doesn’t want to, then ten minutes later play Monopoly with Violet’s younger sister. But Sabine is loyal to Violet, even when she’s pissed off with her. And let’s face it: neither of them complains about having to kiss the other. 😉

I bought Adam’s album right when I was in the middle of some important Violet and Sabine scenes, and the more I listened to For Your Entertainment, the more it turned into Violet and Sabine’s ‘song’. They’ve been friends for years, more-than-friends for over a year when the book begins, and they are attracted to each other even when they also frustrate each other. Violet (mostly) keeps Sabine from doing stupid things, while Sabine makes it clear to her followers, who dislike Violet (dislike that she returns in full force), that Violet isn’t to be touched.  Of course, none of this means the relationship is healthy for either of them…

(Random fact: I played this on loop so much for a certain scene that the song’s tone almost made me rewrite what I knew had to happen. Another random fact: Adam Lambert is one of the artists I listen to while I’m revising.)


Enjoy the Silence – Tori Amos (cover)

Ava is the third in the strange and complicated Sabine/Violet/Ava situation. Ava is human, connected to something that could get the Pack killed, and doing her best to become Violet’s friend (mostly because she’s had a crush on Violet for months, poor girl). She represents everything that Violet doesn’t have in her life: stability and honesty with the potential for a relationship that doesn’t involve manipulation. Pity she doesn’t know that Violet’s a werewolf–among other things she’s been keeping secret from her. (Anyone think Violet’s picked up a couple of things from her family… such as lying for what she considers the greater good? Hmm.)

Tori Amos’ cover of the Depeche Mode song is quiet and gentle, which signifies a lot of the moments Violet has with Ava, but it also hints at something darker, like the secrets Violet are keeping that could potentially backfire if Ava learns the truth.

When Everything Goes Very, Very Wrong

Howl – Florence + the Machine

Machete – Moby

When I was writing the third draft of the werewolves, about 80% of it was written in three Starbucks in Dublin. I tried to write every day, which meant working the writing around my various shifts. It got to the point where most of the full-time staff recognised me by sight (though they assumed I just never did any university work at home, not that I was writing a book).

One particular day, I was 10,000 words from the end and had reached the tipping point where everything was about to go crazy wrong. I wanted to write as much of these 10,000 words in one sitting, if I could, to keep the pacing and flow going. So I went into one of the Starbucks before noon and basically asked could I keep a table if I kept buying coffees and food for several hours. They agreed, so I spent about seven hours there and wrote almost 7,000 words. (Yup, my brain was mush for the rest of the evening.)

These were the two songs I played constantly on loop. Howl was already on the playlist anyway, for obvious reasons, but its fast-paced and almost frantic lyrics helped me keep the momentum going as everything fell to pieces around Violet and she struggled to keep it together. Machete was chosen for the same reason.

Stefanie Gaither:
8thSamurai: (previous)
vfury: (me)
CScottMorris: (next)
Hayley E. Lavik:
Aimée Laine:

41 thoughts on “AW Blog Chain: Music and Writing”

  1. I definitely like this mix; it’s highly versatile. and I admit, I’m ganking a couple to use for my own.

  2. I want to read this and I love The Craft movie as well! The soundtrack to the movie is great! Have you tried some of the songs played on Charmed the TV show? They are really good and have the same feel as The Craft soundtrack, especially since both have the same theme song “How Soon Is Now?”…just a thought.

    1. I’ve tried some of the Charmed songs on and off–mostly the ones that they play after the opening credits–but I’ll definitely take a closer look at the soundtracks, thanks!

  3. Great post, Helen! I love your musical selections, and even though I only know what I’ve read in this post (about your writing), they seem to fit well. 🙂

  4. Moby is so much fun. though i do find i have the problem of getting up from the computer when i listen to something so dance-inspiring.

    1. Thank you! I guess writing in Starbucks has become so second-nature to me that I don’t notice it anymore. 🙂

  5. Nice choices on the Tori Amos and Moby.
    I’ve read a bit of your blog before, and was hoping for some glimpses into your steampunk Alice.
    I guess I’ll just have to wait…

    1. Thank you! Once I’m more into the current draft of the steampunk Alice, I might be talking more about it. Things are too likely to change with it right now. 🙂

  6. What a truly cohesive and igniting relationship you have with music and your characters. It’s interesting but though I have never come across your story, I can sense what the characters are like just by the way you describe them and in relation to the music that you chose for them. Excellent descriptions, and good way of connecting yourself with them.

  7. Love the two songs under when everything goes very wrong 🙂 I hadn’t heard these before, thanks for introducing me to them!

  8. I think I’d buy the soundtrack to your book! I love Tori Amos, though I haven’t listened to her stuff in a long time. And any characters whose list would include her in their soundtracks must be interesting. I don’t normally read this kind of stuff, but you’re characters sound so interesting and FULL, if that makes sense, that I’m curious. I want to know Violet’s secret (even if she hates us humans!)

    1. I love it when authors post the songs they listened to as they wrote, it adds a whole other level to the reading experience. And Tori is amazing! 🙂

      Thank you so much for your comment, especially about the characters as that’s a wonderful thing to learn.

      Hee hee, well, can’t blame a werewolf for looking down her nose at us mere mortals! 😉

  9. I’m digging your music list.

    The Adam Lambert video is HOT. Very vampiric, and since that’s what I write about, I thought it was awesome. I have several nightclub scenes in my main WIP…

    And I’m loving Machete by Moby…

    Not to mention I want to read THOSE WHO FAVOUR FIRE! If the music is any hint, it’s probably a rockin’ story!

    1. I thank everything in existence for Adam Lambert’s sparkly fierceness, haha. He is amazing. 🙂

      Thank you! Hopefully the querying will go well.

  10. I am not a particular fan of Amos, but her Smells Like Teen Spirit is an interesting one in terms of characterization — I have a very clear picture of your character based on that alone.

  11. I completely forgot about that song from The Craft! Thank you for bringing it back into my memory. *Goes off to iTunes*

    1. You’re welcome! I forgot about it for years until that scene on the beach popped into my head, and I had to go and buy the song immediately. 🙂

  12. YAY for Tori Amos—love her, and esp love that version of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Also dig Matthew Sweet and Moby! Your book sounds awesome and so layered–best of luck with your revisions! 🙂

    1. Thank you! I love that Smells Like Teen Spirit cover a lot. And thank you for the revision luck!

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