The Sound of Inspiration

Today I thought I’d chat about something that, for me at least, is very important to the writing process, but one that readers never see—or hear, in this case. That something is…



Nothing gets me in that special place where the characters come alive better than listening to my favorite tunes. If I’m stuck or need to get that next scene rolling, I pop in my earbuds and let the music take me somewhere else.

I don’t typically write with music playing. I prefer quiet for that. But if I’m in a noisy environment, I will let my tunes drown out the distractions. Most of the time, music serves as a catalyst to get the creative juices flowing. I can use it in a controlled manner, or just let it take me where it will. For example, if a scene is giving me trouble, I will put on a song that gives me the feel I’m trying to capture, then force myself to imagine that particular scene. It doesn’t work every time, and sometimes it helps to change songs, but eventually the block will break free and the story movie will start rolling in my mind. Other times, I let the music take me to a new place in the story I haven’t yet imagined. In this case, I’ll choose a song at random, zone out, and let it take me where it will.

I choose songs more for the feel it gives me rather than the actual lyrics. That’s not to say that the lyrics don’t influence me. Some remind me of a certain scene in a story, or a particular character. But I don’t get hung up on what the song is saying. Often, I’m so caught up in my imaginary world that I don’t even hear the words anymore. It’s just the pure feel the song inspires that carries me forward.

Now you’re probably curious about what type of music serves as the soundtrack to my Final Formula series—or maybe you’ve figured that out already. Obviously, it’s not happy songs, sung in a major key about flowers and sunshine. I like it dark. I’ve always been a metal head—much to my co-workers’ amusement. (I’m the quiet, nice girl who rarely cusses or causes a stir. Yep, Addie is my alter ego.) I prefer songs with driving drum beats and melodic guitars, sung in a minor key. Those songs that give me the feel that the dark is closing in, and my back is against the wall. I love songs like that.

I know some authors create playlists, making a soundtrack for each book they write. That sounds really cool, but I have yet to do that. Color me lazy. Depending on what I’m trying to do (force a scene or let the music inspire me), I’ll just loop a particular song or let the whole album play. If I can get in the zone, the music will just become background noise, setting the feel for the piece I’m working on. I don’t consciously hear it anymore. But I still think the book soundtrack sounds like a neat idea. I’ll have to try that some day.

Well, I’ve rambled on a bit more than I expected. How about I wrap this up with a few examples? Lemme grab my iPod and I’ll share some of the tunes that served as inspiration for the Final Formula series. My favorite band is Avenged Sevenfold, so most anything of theirs works. An oldie but goodie is Metallica’s Black Album. I’m also a big fan of Disturbed and Godsmack. But here are some specifics…

“Not Ready to Die” by Avenged Sevenfold – This one is a double whammy. The feel works for any action sequence, but the lyrics are sooo Ian. (The chorus: I’ve stood in the dark, been waiting all this time, while we damn the dead I’m trying to survive. I’m not ready to die. The bridge: Through the madness we find, loyalty is no match for power. Say goodbye to your life, left to rot in your darkest hour.) It also makes me want to go slay some zombies in Call of Duty—which was what the song was written for (it’s the Easter egg song in one of the maps).

“Something Different” by Godsmack – This one is more for feel than a particular character or book/scene. Godsmack always seems to have great in-your-face, I’m-not-going-to-take-your-crap-anymore kind of songs, lol. Great inspiration for confrontations and standing up to the bad guy. This being a newer song, I was listening to it quite a bit while writing The Heir of Death.

“Wrong Side of Heaven” by Five Finger Death Punch – This isn’t a band I listen to much; they tend to be screamers. But when they slow it down and sing, I usually really dig it. Since the Final Formula tends to drift into the gray area between right and wrong (characters doing the wrong thing for the right reason), this song fits. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit while writing FF4.

So, there are a few examples of songs that have served as inspiration for the Final Formula books. How about you? Are there any songs that make you think of Addie and the gang? Or for the writers out there, how big a part does music play in your creative process?

Thanks for reading. Now I’d best get back to FF4. Just let me pick out a tune…


  1. Okay, I love it that you listen to metal. : ) Most people look at a mom and say, “Oh, she listens to the oldies station.”

    Yeah, no.

    I’m one who has to put together a book playlist. I don’t feel like my characters really have identity until I know their music.

    • Heh. Nope, I am so not an oldies station mom. (Maybe because it bothers me that the songs I listened to in high school are now considered oldies. That is so wrong.)

      Are you saying you put together a playlist of songs your character would listen to? That’s a cool idea.

  2. Avenged Sevenfold and Breaking Benjamin tend to get my creative side going, and I agree with you about the darker music, it’s pretty awesome 🙂 When I listen to a really good song, it always inspires me to write, so when I’m stuck on something, I also try to find a song that fits what I’m writing.

    • Oh yeah, Breaking Benjamin is another good one. Very black moment, especially their album Dear Agony. 🙂

  3. One of my characters is a bard, and one. ..would be, were it an option, so though I haven’t a musical bone in my body I have had to be on the lookout for the kind of songs/music that would be such a big part of how they view their world. Occasionally I find songs that work as-is, but for most it’s like you say – just the general feel of the piece.