Music Inspirations – part 2

4553096837_5cd3cebdb9_oA comment to the previous part of the Music Inspirations made me realize that I didn’t make a clear distinction between “writing music” and “music inspiration”. The first one often consists of a writer’s favorite songs or maybe background music with no lyrics if they prefer (such as classics or movie soundtracks) that helps to focus on writing or isolate from the surrounding world. The second one can be anything that the writer heard, a new hit on the radio by some popular singer or a long-forgotten lullaby or anything else, including songs outside of a writer’s musical comfort zone.

When I look at my music inspirations I realize how different this list is from what I usually listen to and from what I listen to when I write. Of course, some of the songs make it to my permanent playlist, be it the writing or the general one, while others stay forever attached to just one idea, and I don’t really listen to them once I wrote the story they inspired. If there is a rule to my musical inspiration, I have to find it yet. All I can say for sure, they happen and they come unexpectedly: just like the one that made it to the list below.

Song 5 – “Turn Loose the Mermaids” by Nightwish

You know this story already: a group that I knew, but never listened to a lot, comes back with a new album (and a new singer for that matter) and I decide to listen to the new releases. As you can guess, this time I also ended up buying the album and one of the songs inspired a story. Maybe I should be on the lookout for the groups coming back with new albums?

At the same time I also got a bit nostalgic about my childhood time fairy tales, the dark and often cruel stories by Andersen and brothers Grimm. I reflected on how Disney made them more fluffy and colorful and realized that some people don’t even know that the animated movies weren’t the originals, but just adaptations!

And out of my nostalgia and Nightwish song came an inspiration to write a re-telling of one of the classical fairy tales. “Queen’s Song” is even darker than the original, but in the end, it’s not a fairy tale anymore, it’s dark fantasy story. I wrote it all listening to “Turn Loose the Mermaids”, and whenever I hear it again, it makes me think of my story.


Song 6 – “Metaphor” by In Flames

When I was writing “Witch’s Game”, my first novel in English, the hardest thing was both finding the right words and getting over my fear of writing in a second language. And even though those right words were not always coming, I didn’t give up and succeeded in writing a whole novel (over 100k words) in English.

“Witch’s Game” doesn’t have traditional chapters and is instead divided into four parts. The first one was written almost entirely “Metaphor” by In Flames. In the end it was enough to put this song on and my brain was already switching to a “writing mode”. And whenever I got stuck, I would slide the bar of the song to 1:50 and put the volume up. As soon as the drums sounded, I could write again.

“Reroute to Remain” is one of my favorite albums by In Flames (though I can’t say I know all of them), if I can say so when I love 6 songs from it and don’t remember the remaining 8 at all. Having said that it seems obvious “Metaphor” is not the only song that inspired me, and you can read about the other one just below the video (don’t worry, the other 4 are not on the list).


Song 7 – “Dawn of a New Day” by In Flames

“Witch’s Game” had everything that a dark fantasy novel is “supposed” to have: monsters, demons, a plotting witch, a lonely hunter, a respected knight, a girl with a secret, a young hero, a magic sword, and a kind and wise old man. Of course it turns out quickly that everyone is not whom they are supposed to be (maybe except the hunter), and they don’t easily fall into their cliché archetypes. The wise old man has his darker side and when in part 3 he sits alone, trying to ensure that his plan will succeed, the singer from In Flames is signing “Bring me splinters of tomorrow, collect the parts where I win.

But in the end the whole song refers to the part three as almost all the characters are forced to make difficult choices. They have to accept their own nature, go against their own principles, decide to sacrifice their lives or act against their companions. All that to save a country from a double invasion. In epic battles they will face the enemy armies… and themselves. “Against the grain, against the odds.” as it is sang in the song.


Song 8 – “La Tortura” by Shakira

This song is a proof that inspiration can be found in an unexpected places and songs. The first and third part of “Witch’s Game” were written with In Flames playing in the background, but the second part had very different tune to accompany it.

In this part Khione, the witch, has to make difficult choices. Not only she is forced to save a life of a fanatic who loathes her, but also faces an opponent much more powerful than herself. And in this fight she will have to choose between what she always dreamed about (safe and quiet life devoted to studies of magic) and what she considers her duty that will likely cost her life. Other characters struggle as well in this part, but I think that in the end the stage belongs to Khione.

So why this song? I came across Shakira during my Youtube hopping sessions. I didn’t know the singer before and I think what sparked my interest was a mockery video of one of her songs. I got curious about the original and even though the music does not really fit my taste, I got mesmerized by her dancing. Compared to other pop-stars who often seem to be wriggling or twitching to the rhythm (and they call it choreography), Shakira is actually dancing. I am still amazed by her interpretation of flamenco for the “Gypsy” (though sadly the camera focuses on her rear parts) as dance like this is a rare sight in the pop-songs videos. Funny enough, I didn’t really like how she dances in “La Tortura”, but the song itself caught my ear. I listened to it once, then one more time and one more, and the song ended up in a loop as I thought “it was nice to write listening to it”. And since I don’t know Spanish, my imagination could match the right images and words with the melody and vocals.


That’s all in this part and again, I hope you share some of your writing music or music inspirations in the comments. Or maybe you’d like you tell me what kind of stories would the songs above make you write?

And if you haven’t checked it yet, have a look at the Music inspirations – part I or go ahead and check part III.


Joanna Maciejewska

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.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Ha, when I put on Metaphor by In Flames I immediately felt like Warhammer Fantasy again, so yeah – this music fits dark fantasy. Maybe because it’s similar to music I listened to when I was into WFRP – Rhapsody, Hammerfall and Nightwish. Besides – it’s currently raining outside, and the leaves are getting golden, and autumn is such a good setting for grimdark fantasy – taverns full of smoke, strong ale and dubious strangers with even more dubious quests and roads filled with mud and Orkz.
    Now, Shakira as a music inspiration… Maybe it’s because I’m currently working on my cyberpunk novel, and in my Shadow War 2121 RPG my players recently visitied Latin America, that I had this vision of a story set in the Favela. A vicious drug war, smugglers and musicians. Could be a nice story.
    And yes – even though she’s not my style either, she does move well. 🙂

    When it comes to fantasy inspirations I love the music from the movie Secret of Kells:

    This one I used for writing a short story set in Mythical Europe of Ars Magica (the story starts in England, so it fits perfectly). I never finished the story, but maybe this autumn…

    My favorite music for combat scenes – years ago I played the legendary Doom 2 and thought the midi there would be awesome if played on a real guitar. Years later the internet granted it:

    And finally – while youtube-hopping I stumbled upon Azam Ali. She’s from Iran and her music and haunting voice immediately draw me deep into the universe of Ahura Mazda’s and Ahriman’s war, filled with Devas and Fravashis. One year I’ll go crazy, dig through Iranian mythology and write a story in this setting.

    1. melfka

      “Secret of Kells” sounds like really cool background music for writing, though I am not sure if it would inspire any story. Maybe in the future?
      Doom II is nice, I’d definitely listen to it again! 🙂
      Azam Ali is definitely something I’d explore more, though I think it would be fitting in a particular mood and a story. Makes me instantly think of something from the Arabian Nights tales :). Arond 4:30 there is male vocal coming in with the singing technique I came across in Indian music – I don’t know whether it’s a cross-cultural twist or they use it in Iran as well.

  2. frannystevenson

    Uhh so happy you included the nightwish. Their music is very powerful. I don’t know the In Flames but I’ll check on them when I go back home! As I told you already for the moment the nightwish have the stage…they’re still digging into my brain. I think the music is having a hard time because I’m trying to concentrate on too many projects at the same time!

    1. melfka

      Nightwish indeed has a few good songs, though I was never a big fan of them and I probably never will be.
      As for In Flames: their music is quite repetitive, but if you dig long enough, you might find few really nice songs if you are in this kind of genre of music.

        1. melfka

          Enjoy then!
          I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but if you like Nightwish that much, you also might find Xandria appealing.

          1. frannystevenson

            Thanks! I’ll have a look at that as well!

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