To me music is important as it not only inspires me, but also helps me create. I don’t need it in order to be writing (some friends of mine can testify that they saw me writing during a loud party), but I like to use it to create a barrier between the story and the world around me. Sometimes I find a song that reflects the story or the mood of what I am writing, and then I am happy to listen to it in a loop as long as I write, and sometimes it’s just a random playlist in the background.
Some time ago my Facebook friend and fellow writer – Anna “Cranberry” Nieznaj invited me to join a game for writers: for 30 days we would be posting links to the music that inspired some of our works with a short description or an excerpt. The game was fully in Polish and only available for friends, but since another person asked me about the role of music in my writing, I thought it is due time to convert that game into a blog post (or three).
Don’t fret, I did not post for 30 days as even though I listen to the music often, not many of the songs would inspire a particular character or scene. And if you are not curious about my writing, feel free to explore the music itself and maybe it will inspire you too. When we were taking part in the game we discovered that there are songs which resonate in many of us, though of course in their own way, bringing different thoughts and images to mind.
Song 1 – “Mrs. Killarney” by Guichen Quartet
It is hard to call “Białopióra” (“White-feathered”) a novel with it’s simple plot-line and meager word count, but ten years ago it was the longest piece I ever wrote. The novel never go published, though I was happy to receive some feedback from writer Anna Brzezińska about it. The story was a fantasy romance, a rather typical one for that matter: he – brave warrior, confident and (as it seemed) emotionless, and she – a sorceress with a dark secret. There was some intrigue in the background and dramatic events, but the novel focused of course on the relationship between the two characters.
I can’t say that the whole story was inspired by a song, but whenever I hear this beautiful waltz, I still can picture Arayne and Irielle dancing in the ballroom of the ruined palace.
Song 2 – “Not Strong Enough” by Apocalyptica
This song didn’t inspire any character, but it accompanied me when I was writing my favourite duo: Viyhenn and Skruntch from my novel “The Wayward Witch”.
When Viyhenn’s life is in danger, her dormant powers awake and Viy summons a creature: Skruntch, who rushes to her rescue (burning half of her belongings in the process) and claims he is her familiar.
Viy has enough problems without him and would love to unsummon him, but she doesn’t know how. Skruntch on the other hand, thinks his mistress is weird and would love to be away from her, but to gain his freedom he needs to server her. It’s not hard to predict that a bond will form between the two, and Viy will stop complaining about her familiar, and Skruntch… Well, Skruntch thinks that the best way to ensure his mistress’ safety would be getting rid of all the threats. The real ones. The potential ones. And the imaginary ones as well. “Let’s just kill everyone, this way you will be safe.”
“Not Strong Enough” would be perfect for the scenes when Skruntch has enough of Viy, when he tries to hate her, but can’t bring himself to leave her. He could if he really wanted as he is not a real familiar… but shhh! This is something from book 3 of this series.
And if anyone thinks that this is another romance story, I will just mention that Skruntch is the size of a big dog and his looks do not qualify him as Prince Charming. Have a look yourself.
Song 3 – “Butterfly” by Rajaton
This is a song that brought an idea for a whole story and if you read my blog post on finding a story in one sentence, you probably recognize this one. The inspiration came by surprise: it was in the times I attended a belly dancing course and was looking up different techniques and props use on Youtube. In one of the clips the dancer was dancing to Rajaton using beautiful Wings of Isis. The choreography didn’t catch my attention as much as the song did, so I found a non-performance version.
The lyrics quickly got stuck in my head, especially the first part:
Sweet is the sound of my newborn wings
I stretch them open, and let them dry
I haven’t seen this world before
But I’m excused, I’m a butterfly
And the words “Tomorrow I’ll die” repeated in the chorus.
As I wrote previously, I started to wonder how it would be to have only one day of life and thought after thought the story idea became more solid. The song would not let me go until I wrote “Motyl” (“Butterfly”), a science-fiction story that was later published in the final issue of “Science-Fiction, Fantasy i Horror”.
Song 4 – “Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park
This song didn’t inspire a story, but helped me to write it. I had an idea, but the words just didn’t seem to be coming, I couldn’t find the way I want to tell the story. And at this time I came across an article on the web mentioning that Linkin Park are coming back with a new album. I never was a big fan of the group, but when I was young I liked few songs, so I got curious. There was something in the “Castle of Glass” that made me listen to the song over and over again, and all of a sudden my story pieces came together. And even though the original idea stayed as it was, the concept on how to tell it changed drastically, but then there was nothing left, but to write it down. So I wrote “Słowa żołnierza” (“Soldier’s Words”), in just few days, on my holidays in Texas, with “Castle of Glass” looped all the time. Polish-speakers can check the result as this story was published as a part of an anthology.
I hope you enjoyed listening to these pieces and they brought you your own inspiration. If you have your own songs that inspired a story, a scene or a character or simply music that you often listen to when you write, feel free to share it in the comments. I am always on the lookout for the new, inspiring music.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.