Music Inspiration, behind the scenes of the Talent Chronicles with Linkin’ Park

I thought this might be kind of a fun feature to do every once in a while…

I’m really big on song lyrics as inspiration. I don’t usually listen to music while I write because I find it distracting, but I do a lot of plotting to music. I love songs that seems to tell a story. A lot of my stories, characters, and scenes are pulled directly out of songs I’ve heard. I even named my blog “Hunting High and Low” after a-ha’s first album, because the story I was working on at the time, working title WEST OF THE MOON, was very much inspired by their “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” album.

So I thought it might be fun to occasionally post some of the songs that have inspired things I’ve written or songs that speak to me but I’m not sure what they’re saying yet.

Today I’m going to give you a pretty obvious choice: Linkin Park’s “Numb,” which basically inspired all of Joss’s and Gene’s interactions in HEROES ‘TIL CURFEW.

I didn’t set out to purposely make Gene what he is. When I sat down to write HUSH MONEY, in my head he was still just a dad with a military background who was a bit overprotective when it came to his daughter. But the first time he came onto the page, something happened–one of those amazing, unexpected things that make writing so addictive. Gene pulled all kinds of crap out of my life and became more than I had intended. And what he made of himself had a big impact on Joss’s character and the story.

But since Gene’s mental illness was something I didn’t plan, I didn’t know where I was going with it. Then one day, as I was washing dishes and listening to my A Walk In The Dark station on Pandora, this song came on. Not like I hadn’t heard it before, but that was the day that it snagged me and said, “this is what their relationship is.”

And I was like, “Whoa. Joss is a lot more angry about this than I realized.”

Because, you know, why shouldn’t she be? It’s not fair. In HUSH MONEY, with regard to how she deals with her dad, I wrote her as someone I could admire. I made her loyal. I made her protective when she could easily have been something else. I made her willing to make sacrifices in order to support someone who needed her. I wrote her as kind of person I want to be.

I think this song helped me understand that she couldn’t continue to be that without some internal cost. It helped me feel the frustration that must be welling up inside her. That day I really listened I knew they’d have a confrontation in the next book. I knew that Joss would be pursing a course to become something that wasn’t going to fit within the safe confines of what her father wanted for her and what he needed for own sanity, and that, at some point, this was all going to come to a head.

And I knew there would be consequences to that. Any time you set up rules which a character knowingly breaks, there have to be consequences. Joss knew that her father was unstable. She chose to tell herself that it would be okay to continue on her path of defiance. She thought he was getting better. She saw what she wanted to see, the way people do. Giving her consequences for her choices gave me another big chunk of plot.

I listened to this song a LOT as I planned out the Joss/Gene scenes in book 2. And then one day another line in it, the significance of which I hadn’t thought about it before, spontaneously sparked for me and set off something completely new. Something that’s filling in some backstory and giving me a big chunk of HEROES UNDER SEIGE.

So what should we talk about today? Does music inspire your writing? How? What kind? Any thoughts about Joss’s relationship with her dad that you’d like to share?


Filed under writing

10 responses to “Music Inspiration, behind the scenes of the Talent Chronicles with Linkin’ Park

  1. I always wish music inspired my writing a little bit more, because it’s stories like the one you told here, where you just understand your characters so much more deeply than before, that I really envy! It’s such a great feeling to just find something that emotionally connects us to our characters as much as a perfect song can do.

    I do have a few songs that are like that. “All These Things That I’ve Done” by the Killers will always link me to my sci-fi space academy series; every time I listen to it, I visualize so many strong, emotional moments for all the characters involved there. “Light Up My Yard” by the Barenaked Ladies can bring me practically to tears with how it seems to encompass the emotions of one of my other characters, so much so that catching it on Pandora recently caused me to reverse the decision to actually cut that character and I completely revamped her storyline and my approach to her! That song, whenever I listen to it, will now additionally remind me of how the power of music can even have the ability to save a character.

    What a great post, Susan! I totally want to go pull out some of my favorite songs and just write to them later!

  2. First of all, I LOVE that song. I love Linkin Park. And I can definitely see why that song could inspire you.

    I really haven’t let any music inspire any of my stories. But maybe I should. It’s a really interesting thing to think about.

  3. The whole reason my short story “Mad” in “20,001: A Steampunk Odyssey” has airships in it is because of Abney Park’s song “Airship Pirates.” Though, I didn’t do pirates. I did another form of a wacky yet competent crew. Additionally, it has time travel in it because of “Post Apocalypse Punk” (again by Abney Park).

    I always write with music to set the mood (tone of songs match tone of writing), but I don’t often pull inspiration like.

  4. Lol! This is so exactly the same thing that I do. I started out every writing session of Between the Heaves of Storm by listening to first Arcade Fire’s “Ocean of Noise” and then GNR’s “November Rain.” Those songs ARE that book, as far as I’m concerned.

    Between this post and Stacey Wallace Benefiel’s on watching television shows for inspiration the other day, the two of you have completely encapsulated my ideas process. It’s kind of cool to see in what ways we all work so similarly.

  5. I always need music! It helps if it’s not in English though – easier to listen to in the background as I write, while the mood of the songs inspires me. Celtic band Runrig are great for that.
    But I love listening to DH’s band, Whisky Trench Riders, too!

  6. Music is usually my number one inspiration when I write. It inspires my writing by giving my imagination nudges so I can figure out what to write. The music I choose to listen to depends on what I’m writing.
    If I write a poem about a teen issue, I’ll listen to a combination of symphonic metal and slow-paced angsty songs from bands like Nirvana, Evancescence, Nightwish, Apocalyptica, Xandria, and the solo musician Adrian von Ziegler.
    I didn’t really start writing short stories about teens until very recently, but I discovered that I listen to different music for brainstorming and writing the story. For brainstorming, I’ll either shuffle my ipod or listen to Coldplay. For the actual writing, I listen to a combination of slow-paced angsty songs and piano music.
    Also, if I feel like a worthless poser YA writer, then I listen to a playlist called the Reason for Writing in order to remind myself WHY I aspire to be a young adult author in the first place. It feature social/political songs such as Pink’s Perfect, P.O.D.’s Youth of the Nation, and MJ’s Man in the Mirror.
    At the moment, I have six different writing music playlists that features combinations of the aforementioned music for poetry and short stories. I’m a young writer still figuring things out and learning to write, so I’ll be trying different music combos to see what works for me.

  7. Love that song and Linkin Park. I tend to use playlists to put myself in the mood, varying from character to character and book to book. And sometimes when I’ve been writing for a long time, I take a break and rock in my chair and listen to music. It seems to use a different part of the brain and it can be sort of cleansing.

    Thanks for your insights.

  8. Adriana Ryan

    What a great post. I never could write to music either, but plotting to it might be a really cool experience! I love how Gene evolved and, in the process, Joss did, too. I think if you’d kept her the same, you’d have run the risk of a wooden character. I just bought Hush Money this morning–can’t wait to start reading! 🙂


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