I know for a fact that I’m far from unique among writers as a big music fan. Almost every writer I know has some sort of writing playlist; many have the same habit I do of making a new playlist to fit the tones of new books or stories.
But just because I’m not unique doesn’t mean that music isn’t worth talking about in the context of writing. It’s indispensable for me. I simply cannot sit down and be productive on a manuscript without music.
On top of that, I get a lot of inspiration just listening to music. Often, it will be the tone of a song that gets me; others, it’s a line that I particularly enjoy or a really cool song title. In this vein, I thought I’d talk about some of the songs and the stories (that you can read right here on Dcafwriting!) that they inspired.
This was one of many short stories I started because of a mood that struck me. I was in a particularly melancholy mood one night, and the writing bug bit me hard. I tossed on a playlist of about a half dozen songs to see what felt right, and the answer popped out right away: “Ghost Song” by Disarmonia Mundi.
This song has long been one of my favorites from one of my favorite metal bands, particularly because it’s so different from every other song they’ve written. The versatility DM shows with “Ghost Song” is great, and it really helped me set the scene early on in Ghosts. The story took it the rest of the way from there, and I love the finished product.
All Those Yesterdays was a completely different animal from Ghosts. For one, it’s among the longest short stories I’ve ever written; for another, I really wanted to tell the story and worked on actual notes for it, which is exceedingly rare for my short fiction. The last thing I needed was a good song that would really kick things off, and Trivium—another of my favorite metal bands—was kind enough to drop a new album at just the right time. “Of All These Yesterdays” is the penultimate track on the album, and their best and hardest-hitting ballad to date.
While All Those Yesterdays took me several drafts to get to an acceptable state, I always tried to keep the tone of this song in mind. On top of that, I really struggled titling this story, and the song title was too great not to use as inspiration there, too.
Originally and poorly titled “Watching Over Waves”, Solitaire turned into another of my favorite short stories. I got to play with surrealism for the first time, and I had a visceral scene to work from due to the folky but melancholy “The Islander” by symphonic metal giants Nightwish.
The pipes and strings really make this song great. Marco Heitala, the bassist, steps up and delivers one of his best vocal performances, as well. It was a lot of fun working on this story with “The Islander” blasting from my speakers.
Okay, so this one is kind of cheating. No one song inspired All Flames Cast—not by a long shot. But there were two songs in particular that I listened to a TON while working on this book.
The first is “Green and Blue”, from the Halo 4 Official Soundtrack. Now, if you haven’t really given the Halo soundtracks a listen, I highly recommend them. All of them (with the exception of Halo Wars) are top-tier work. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori established a truly iconic sound with the chanting and horns on the original Halo themes, and Neil Davidge took things to another level with Halo 4. “Green and Blue” is very much a mood piece, starting light and airy and building to haunting crescendo.
The second song was literally on repeat for the last two hours I spent writing the manuscript. Without spoiling any plot points, I think you can get a pretty good idea of what sort of tone I took with the ending of All Flames Cast by listening to “Sail Into the Black” by Machine Head.
From the deep chanting at the beginning, to the heartfelt and beautifully written verses, the first half of this song is perfect mood writing music. I positively love the second verse:
And all those footsteps, washed in the tides
And all those droplets, blood into wine
And all those heartaches, tears that you’ve cried
And all those mistakes, washed in the tides
Washed in the tides
The second half of the song hits like breaking waves, in keeping with the imagery so far, and the guitar solo is perfect. Finishing with the raucous “whoa-oh-oooh”s and then back to the dark chanting just puts the icing on the cake. “Sail Into the Black” is now inextricably linked to AFC, and Chronicle of the Sons in general.
And I love it for that.