Monday, January 24, 2011

Musical Writing

If I listen to music while I'm writing, I guarantee the music floating from the speakers will be classical. However, writing itself can be viewed as a classical composition.

First are the soloists - your main characters. Each must speak with their own voice and yet blend harmoniously into the piece as a whole. I think about each character's vocabulary and speech rhythms. Is this character well-educated? Are they plain-spoken or crafty? Nervous or confident? Answers give me the right notes.

Surrounding each of your soloists are the other members of the orchestra - your supporting and background characters. Each has an essential role to play but can't draw too much attention to themselves. Tricky. Supporting characters can be loud or showy, but they can't be heard too often or they tend to drown out the soloists. Background characters need for their voices to be heard, but it is a quick moment in the sun. Think of them as striking a triangle, not a bass drum.

Every symphony has its quiet passages and its rising crescendos. Let your story have changes in pace as well, or changes in mood. No one would want to hear the same note repeated for an hour; why should a reader be expected to read the same thing page after page after page?

Composing a symphony takes time, skill and perseverance.

Sound familiar?


  1. Elspeth - Ah, you touch on a topic close to my heart - music!! You are absolutely right about the similarities between a good musical piece and a good piece of writing. And one of the things that I also find similar about them is in each case, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

  2. There's a lot of music hitting the blogosphere this week. I often listen to music when I write, but I'm too clueless about the art itself to think of a symphony. Thanks for a new way to look at things.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  3. Since I can't remember title, artist, etc I do more of a sift the cds until I find what suits the piece. A lot of time I play something and that inspires the MS.

  4. Excellent metaphor. I've always felt the connection between dialogue and music very much the way that Sorkin does, which is probably one of the reasons why his writing resonates w/ me as much as it does.

  5. Margot; You make an excellent point! But then, you always do.

    Terry; I noticed all the blog posts about music too; I love it when similar thoughts seem to wave through the blogosphere.

    Mary; I've never had a piece of music inspire my writing, but I admit I do stop writing when my classical music station plays one of my favourite pieces!

    Elisa; I know EXACTLY what you mean. Shock, surprise.

  6. Nice analogy. We must be musically attuned today :)

  7. I love listening to classical music when I write. No lyrics to trip me up, and the music itself is inspiring. :) Nice analogy, too!

  8. What a clever analogy and it makes perfect sense. I don’t listen to music when I write, but now I want to try writing with classical music in the background just for the inspiration.

  9. I prefer music with lyrics...but yeah, that can definitely be distracting if you're writing. I'm a lyrics person, so I love to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into writing a good song.


Please leave a comment as I love to hear from you!